About The Cold Cut...

The musings of a teenage audiophile. Indie, Rock, Hip-Hop, Rap, Dance, Dubstep, Garage, Metal... music crosses all boundaries. The Cold Cut is devoted to giving you a taste of what's going on in music at the moment.

About Me

A 17 year old taking his first tentative steps into the world of blogging. In my first year, its been up and down, from the slow first months to a busy time around the one year anniversary.

The Fugees: 10 years on

It's a unfamiliar feeling, when, at the tender age of 17, you encounter the feeling of nostalgia. But its almost 10 years to the day since the Fugees broke up, and I can still remember the day when I first heard 'Ready Or Not', and "The Score" brought the Fugees into the limelight. For those of you who don't remember them (where have you been?), the hip-hop trio were on the top of their game before they decided to disband their multi-Grammy winning project in 1997 and go their separate ways. But where are they now, after their short-lived, unsuccessful, reunion in 2004? Check out some tracks from the reunion, their respective solo careers and some old stuff, throughout the post.

Fugees- Take It Easy
Fugees- Foxy
Fugees- Killing Me Softly

Lauryn Hill- Well, what can I say? Hill is an unbelievably talented woman, rapping, singing her heart out and generally excelling in every path available to her. She was, and still is, a unique talent, one which the Fugees built their sound around, for understandable reasons: how many other women tick the boxes? And yet the rumours say that Hill was the reason they broke up in the first place, after going a bit 'crazy', and ramming horns with Pras. Yet why has she yet again removed herself from the public eye after her critically acclaimed solo album, "The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill"? Sure, she released an MTV Unplugged album, but other than that, her only output has been a song with Joss Stone and a new single, 'Lose Myself'. I have to be brutally honest and say that I believe that the ball lies in her court. Hill seems to have an issue with the industry, claiming that the world can't deal with the prospect of a successful, black, female artist. Hopefully she can get over her issues and release her new album, which has been in post-production for a long while now.

Lauryn Hill- Doo Wop (That Thing)
Lauryn Hill- Lost Ones

Wyclef Jean- Whereas Lauryn and Pras have both become recluses, Jean is still very much in the public eye, with his sixth album-"The Carnival II: Memoirs of an Immigrant" coming out on December 4th. The 6 albums have been met with glistening reviews, and suggest that Wyclef might be the Fugee with the longevity. Last year, he even found his way onto the Shakira record, with 'Hips Don't Lie'. Whereas the Fugees are the best-selling hip-hop group ever, Wyclef's solo offerings move in a completely different direction, harking back to his Haitian roots. This isn't a bad thing by any means, but might explain why Wyclef's popularity hasn't peaked since going solo.

Wyclef Jean- Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)
Wyclef Jean- Take Me As I Am (ft. Sharissa)

Pras- Prakhazal Michel was the founding member of the Fugees, but following their breakup he's been the one with the least success, and seemingly the least talent. The scenario is this: Pras is in grave danger of being eclipsed by his cohorts. But lets get things straight: he was the one with the ideas, and although he hasn't really found his way as a solo artist, I wouldn't count him out just yet. His latest album, the unfortunately titled "Experience Magic" comes out March 2008; maybe it will be a case of 3rd time lucky, for Michel, who has twice promised that his latest album will be the one we've been waiting for...

Pras- Haven't Found

So there you have it... 10 years on, and all three artists have carved out their own niche, or not, in Pras' case. But with Wyclef's album coming out in a couple of days, and Lauryn and Pras's both on the cusp of being released, the Fugees are still very much making their mark in the music world. If only Lauryn can sort out her 'problems', maybe they could have a reunion which lasts longer than a couple of weeks. But do you want one? Do you have any memories of the Fugees which you think could be spoilt by them reforming? And what do you think made them so special in the first place?

Mood mix

Admittedly, I'm not in the greatest of moods this evening after having been rejected from the university of Cambridge this afternoon, something which I wasn't really expecting. I've been building this university up for a long time now, and to be honest, being rejected is probably the best thing that could have happened to me at this moment. In the end, Cambridge is just like any other university: bricks and mortar. Its put things in perspective, shall we say. Anyway, I feel a little hurt inside, and these are the tracks that have been getting me through this afternoon. The observant ones of you will notice a theme with the song lyrics(*hint hint*). What are your musical weapons of choice for the bad moments in your life? Any tips? I could do with some...

Johnny Cash- Hurt Buy
Athlete- Wires Buy
Howling Bells- Low Happening Buy
Massive Attack- Teardrops Buy
Captain- This Heart Keeps Beating For Me Buy
Travis- Why Does It Always Rain On Me Buy
Arcade Fire- Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) Buy
Fugees- Ready Or Not Buy
Longwave- Tidal Wave Buy
Feist- One Two Three Four Buy
Elbow- Ribacage Buy

Radiohead: Headcams and all

I was flipping through the MTV channels today and saw the new Radiohead video for their first "In Rainbows" single, "Jigsaw Falling Into Place". I'm not completely won over by the idea of this as the first single (Reckoner or Weird Fishes/Arpeggi would have been better bets IMHO), but you have to admit that this is a good idea for a video. It pretty much proves that everybody look weird when wearing a helmet camera, and fortifies my opinion that Thom Yorke is a fairly weird looking man... albeit one who writes brilliantly creative music. Here's the original song as well, for those who can't be bothered to download 'In Rainbows' in full:

Radiohead- Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Sufjan Stevens: 2 down, 48 to go!

People generally like to set themselves challenges. Some are reasonable, whilst some might be stretching reality. A great example of the second is Sufjan Steven's attempt to write a concept album for "the 50 states of America". Yes, 50 full albums. Ambitious? Hmm... Foolhardy might be a better way of describing it.

However, as ridiculous as this is, the results have yet to be less than brilliant: Stevens is a sensation, and his latest state album- 'Come On Feel The Illinoise!'- received rave reviews across the board, whilst picking up a myriad of awards. Each of these albums (Illinois and Michigan) is a masterclass in songwriting: Stevens immerses himself in the cultural and historical differences of each state, and writes context heavy songs which really do paint a picture. Take 'Illinoise!', for example: songs include "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.", "Chicago" and "Jacksonville", the first of which is about the notorious Chicago-based serial killer who murdered 33 boys and was later executed. Put bluntly, this isn't easygoing stuff, but if you make the effort to listen, you will be rewarded.

The man himself is a bit of a mystery, although his music illustrates that he is a talented multi-instrumentalist. Just check out the sleeve notes on his albums: you will see that by all accounts Stevens plays at least 20 instruments on his records (through multi-track recording). One of his most powerful tools as a musician however, is his fey-voice and lyrical prowess. Artists nowadays have a tendency to write increasingly vague lyrics in attempt to appeal to as many individuals as possible. Not Sufjan. You don't get much more forward than the following when referring to a murderer:
"Rotting fast in their sleep of the dead
Twenty-seven people, even more
They were boys with their cars, summer jobs
Oh my God "

I foresee a long and illustrious career for Sufjan, who will have to write these albums into his elderly years in order to complete his epic task. As impossible as the challenge seems, I wouldn't put it past him. If he becomes more focussed (aka stops writing 5 disc Christmas Medleys!), and concentrates on the 48 albums remaining, those of us still alive when he finishes could possess one of the most diverse collections of music ever committed to disc.

Sufjan Stevens- Chicago
Sufjan Stevens- John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
Sufjan Stevens- Seven Swans

Short: Unsung heroes of the music world

Just a very short post today... How frustrating it must be to produce consistently good music through many bands without receiving much credit for it. A tribute must go to the following:

- Damon Albarn: Albarn has been the driving force behind many successful projects over the last few years. After Blur broke up and Brit-pop dissipated, Gorillaz came out of the ashes. Face it: Gorillaz are original, a blend of rap and more mainstream indie... a daring combo, but it really works, and the records sell. Not content with one multi-million selling side-project, Albarn also assembled a group of legends with The Good, The Bad & The Queen (containing members from The Verve, The Clash and Afrobeat band Fela Kuti) , whose self-titled album is brilliant, if unassuming. With a Blur re-union on the cards, the grass couldn't be greener for this man.

Blur- Song 2
The Good, The Bad & The Queen- History Song
Gorillaz- DARE

- Billy Joe Armstrong: Lead singer and guitarist for Green Day, Armstrong has been a member of many bands over the years, even (supposedly) playing in a masked band called 'The Network' with the other members of Green Day. And lets not forget the Hurricane Katrina relief single 'The Saints Are Coming' which the band recorded with members of U2 for the aid appeal. After political album 'American Idiot', Green Day have claimed they already have 3 albums worth of material which is being cut into a new album as we speak... busy people!

Green Day- Basket Case
Green Day- American Idiot

- Jack White: You can forgive Jack for leaving The White Stripes for a bit- he probably got frustrated with Meg's mediocre drumming. Instead, he searched out some real talent and found Brendan Benson, with whom he formed The Raconteurs, penning 'Steady As She Goes' and a hit album. Okay, so rejoining Meg for 'Icky Thump' wasn't the best move, but I'm sure he'll come to his senses again soon...

The White Stripes- Blue Orchid

Writing A Song, Lesson 1: 'Featuring'

A few of the best 'ft.' tracks on rotation in my iTunes:
Richard Ashcroft ft. Coldplay- Bittersweet Symphony
Kanye West ft. Dwele- Flashing Lights
Talib Kweli ft. Kanye West, Mos Def & Jay-Z- Get By (Remix)
Sway ft. Pyrelli- Up Your Speed
Nas ft. will.i.am- Hip Hop Is Dead

In the age of Timbalands, Chris Browns and Kanye Wests, songs are no longer a demonstration of an artist's respective talent, rather a closely fought game of who can get the best names to 'feature' on their track. I challenge you: take a look at your iTunes library and count how many 'ft.'s are present. I wouldn't be surprised if a good 10 to 15 percent of your library was made up of songs with the 'ft.' suffix attached to them.

As weird as this trend is, it hasn't always been this way... whereas in past days guest artists might appear on 1 of the 10+ tracks on a album, now they dominate, with almost half of every hip-hop/RnB album devoted to guest artists and producers. Take a look at Kanye West's 'Graduation' for example, where 5 of the tracks feature guest artists. And, further to this, Kanye has the audacity to leave some contributors unmentioned, such as Daft Punk on the hit-single 'Stronger'. It seems stupid for West to claim that he wrote the 'Harder Better Faster Stronger' sample, don't you think? So in actuality a large proportion of 'Graduation' includes some significant contribution from an outside party.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this? On the positive side, you could argue that more variety is never a bad thing, and this is evident in a few of the current crop of 'ft.' songs, such as 'Umbrella' and 'Stronger'. However, for the most part, the implications of this new tendency are negative. Just to name a few of the major disadvantages to this developing bias: as the saying goes, 'having too much of something stops it being special'. Well, unsurprisingly, the same thing applies to music: where once guest artists were special, they are now becoming the norm. The success of songs and albums now depends on name-dropping/connections, and some artists are noticeably on autopilot (Chris Brown, for example), relying on the strength of their guest artist/producer to ferry them through each track. And don't even mention Timbaland... 'Shock Value', his latest offering -whilst mostly good- is 17 tracks long, and Timba is only alone for the opening song.

I wasn't too aware of this until albums like 'Shock Value' started cropping up all over the place. It saddens me to say that nowadays when you buy a hip-hop album you rarely get to hear the artist by themselves. Hopefully the genre can obtain a more reasonable balance before albums like 'Shock Value' become commonplace.

I am, however, only one person in a world of billions. So what do you think? Are you aware of this, or do you just take the music for what it is?

Control: Review

"Existence well what does it matter?
I exist on the best terms I can.
The past is now part of my future,
The present is well out of hand."
Joy Division- Heart And Soul- Opening Quote To 'Control'

A few weeks ago I went to see Control, a brilliant film which thus far I haven't felt capable of talking about. Why, you might be wondering? Sometimes in life you have to take a longer look at things before opening your mouth and making rash statements: I feel I've now had enough time to mull this one over. Control, Anton Corbijn's debut film, has been highly recommended in manyy film magazines and has already won a host of awards... needless to say, I was not disappointed: For the uninitiated, Control is a biopic of Ian Curtis (1956-80), front man of post-punk band Joy Division, a band whose influence is still present in the music industry today, almost 30 years after Curtis' suicide- even finding their way into song titles (such as the Wombat's latest, 'Let's Dance To Joy Division', and The Killers 'Shadowplay' cover).

You would struggle to find another man more qualified to make this film than Corbijn, a Dutch photographer who spent many hours around the band, taking photographs and even recording one of their music videos. With this two hour black and white film, Corbijn sums up Curtis' (and Joy Division's) depressingly short life, from their first meeting at a now-legendary Sex Pistols concert to Ian's suicide following depression and the reality of fronting a famous band. Unfortunately, I wasn't fully aware of Joy Division before Control: I knew the basic story of Curtis' suicide but I hadn't actively sought out their music, something which I really regret.

Control evidently isn't, shall we say, a happy film; the sense of dread is evident from the start. The few laughs on offer here are generated through the black humour which offers temporary relief: be it Tony Wilson signing their first contract in his own blood, as promised (not true, it turns out- according to my brother, a veritable musical encyclopedia) or Curtis and friend Kevin visiting old aged people to steal their prescription drugs for the "effects". But the black comedy isn't what makes this film, in fact, Corbijn deliberately orchestrates things so that the funny moments are few and far between.

From start to finish, the love of those around Ian is right there up on screen: Anton Corbijn has channeled his experience with the band whilst Tony Wilson and Deborah Curtis (Ian's wife) both produced. The screenplay is based on Deborah's autobiography 'Touching From A Distance' (an apt title), and the film highlights how difficult her life was: through Ian's epilepsy, his affair with music journalist Annik and Ian's insular attitude (locking himself inside rooms for hours on end), their marriage was not as it should have been.

There are brilliant performances across the board: Sam Riley is a fully convincing Curtis (my Dad was taken aback at how similar they looked), pulling off the look, voice and movements to create a fully accomplished performance (which I hope will be lauded at the Academy Awards). Samantha Morton gives a strong performance as Deborah Curtis, a woman who suffered much through the years, whether watching Ian perform 'She's Lost Control' (a less than complementary song about herself) or becoming aware of Ian's affair and his claim that their marriage was a "mistake".

So what of the music? One of the most memorable scenes takes place when the band perform 'Transmission' on Wilson's radio show, after which he signs the band, now with the moniker Joy Division as opposed to Warsaw (a reference from a David Bowie song). We see the recording of many songs, and the live performances are brilliant. Riley has a hard job cut out for him, but he pulls off Curtis' baritone and 'different' dance moves (which bear a strong resemblance to the epileptic fits he often suffered). The other actors who make up the band give brilliant support, and they've obviously worked hard with their respective instruments. The use of 'Atmosphere' in the ending scene (where Curtis' hangs himself on the clothes rail) is poignant, and those watching will leave the cinema with a chill withe Deborah Curtis' screams of 'Will someone please help me?'.

Control will always remain as a record of Joy Division and their their talent, if nothing more. If, however, you love their music, this is a testament to the band, who have had a huge effect on the music industry. This slice of pop-culture will ever remain to show how special Joy Division were, and as a cold reminder of how great they could have been.

Joy Division- She's Lost Control
Joy Division- Shadowplay
Joy Division- Transmission
Joy Division- Love Will Tear Us Apart
Joy Division- Atmosphere
The Killers- Shadowplay (Cover)
The Wombats- Let's Dance To Joy Division

Some other cool things to check out:

The official website, with trailer and more information
An article written by Natalie Curtis- Ian's and Deborah's daughter- about Control.

Britney doesn't like being White Trash anymore? No Shit!

Britney Spears- Toy Soldier
Britney Spears- Gimme More
Britney Spears (ft. Pharrell)- Why Should I Be Sad?

When you spend a lot of time on the Hype Machine it's hard not to notice who's popular, and who isn't. One name I didn't ever expect to see on their front-page was Britney Spears, a woman who has been to hell and back. As the last bastion of consistently great music, I found myself laughing when I saw Gimme More on the Hype Machine popular page. Imagine my surprise, then, when I reluctantly opened my ears on the first listen and found myself thinking: "Hey, this isn't too bad!".

You would struggle to find someone who has been more persecuted over the last year or so, and not without fault on Spears' part. First she was too thin, then she divorced, then she shaved her head, then she was too fat, then she couldn't sing, then she couldn't dance, finally she was a bad mother etc etc...

Given this, Blackout (her latest album), comes as a bit of a kick in the teeth. Not only can she actually sing, but this album suggests that there may be a person under that newly bloated skin. She comes out with her fists raised, and amiably talks about her problems, ultimately winning some sort of victory. Blackout is a triumph, both for her in order to reclaim her place in the music industry and to talk about her own issues (K-Fed, child custody, body-weight and more). Admittedly, I've never been a real fan of hers: in her 'Hit Me' days, Britney was a bit more of an object than a musician, a distinction which she is obviously unhappy with, and one that is destroyed with this album. Guilty-pleasures abound, Blackout is a solid-pop album if nothing more, but I see it as Britney proudly flicking off the world and proving that she's famous for a reason. Check the tracks out (by following the links), and please tell me what you think: are you a fan of the hip-hop tilted songs? Do you like 'Gimme More'? What did you think of her (IMO Terrible) VMA's performance? Finally, 'Toy Soldier': potentially a brilliant single? You decide...

Amy Winhouse's 3 Step Course: Lose The Plot

Last night's EMA Performance of 'Back To Black' was an obvious sign that things still aren't right with Amy Winehouse. Throughout the song she looked bewildered, as if she didn't know were she was. Whilst not being a particularly demanding song, Winehouse struggled to find the notes, and seemed to have lost 'that voice' which everyone used to talk about. Oh, and don't forget the moment earlier when she went up to receive her 'Artist's Choice' award, only to walk off the stage without any speech whatsoever. Great one, Amy. Way to win over the fans... Looks like the beehive, booze and drugs program isn't going so well for you.