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    Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    Electric Picnic 2009: the Verdict

    A shame to see the company behind Electric Picnic, Pod Concerts is going into liquidation. 'Taxman could pull plug on Electric Picnic promoter' says the Irish Indo but they quote a press release from POD concerts saying the Electric Picnic is now owned by EP Republic Ltd, which is 61pc owned by UK promoter Festival Republic so Pod's financial troubles won't lead to the plug being pulled on the festival. Em, I hope!

    Jim Carroll says there's 14 more acts being announced this Thursday but so far this year's EP lineup is the weakest in years. It's short one or two more major league acts but also short on what used to be its strong suit - hot new, brilliant but not very well known acts. Oxegen has continued the trend of sweeping up some of the best new artists that previously would have been more likely to play EP, last year Vampire Weekend and Yeasayer playing Oxegen were a good example of this, this year Passion Pit spring to mind.

    For major league acts EP 07 had Bjork, Beastie Boys, LCD Soundsytem, 08 had MBV, Sigur Ros and Wilco but 09 has the Flaming Lips alone in that sphere.

    Having said all that, i am still really looking forward to EP - there is still a lot of quality acts due to play over the September 4-6 weekend in Stradbally.

    Really lookin forward to seeing the Flaming Lips live for the first time and Fleet Foxes are one of the best bands in the world so those two should be the highlights.

    I saw Royksopp do a great festival set at Witnness many years ago and their new album is strong - Lykke Li guests on that and she's also playing, her Youth Novels album last year was brilliant.

    Amadou and Mariam
    should make for great pop festival fare, saw them at the Olympia and Amadou is one of the best guitarists ever.

    Plus MGMT should be good.

    Bat for Lashes'
    second album is superb and a step forward from her debut so she could be one of the highlights.

    Jape, Lisa Hannigan and Bell XI are bankers for good gigs.

    Julie Feeney's
    new album Pages is one of the albums of the year and i read good reports of her recent Crawdaddy gig.

    Liking what i've seen of Imelda May, even if she is rockabilly.

    Should be entertaining to see if Fionn Regan still thinks he's been reincarnated as Bob Dylan circa 1966 and Blonde on Blonde.

    Marina & the Diamonds
    - don't have a proper album out yet but the stuff from her EP sounds great - (think Kate Bush meets Lykke Li meets Fiona Apple).

    There's some strong techno/electronic acts on the bill with Orbital, Moderat, The Field and Four Tet playing.

    Other acts i'm lookin forward to catching

    The Walkmen
    - a fine American band that sound a bit like the Strokes and the National having a baby.

    Tunng - an excellent folktronica/electronic folk (?!) act

    Bell Orchestre
    - an instrumental 'post-rock' band who do strings for Arcade Fire, they're a bit like a Canadian Jimmy Cake

    Efterklang - are more 'post-rock' - like Sigur Ros meets Arcade Fire meets something more experimental

    Villagers sound like a promising young Irish band.

    Low Anthem
    - are a good American Alt country act

    Other stuff worth checking out - Roots Manuva, A DJ set from LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and Pat Mahoney, and on a nostalgia trip, 80s rockers - Echo and the Bunnymen, 80's pop Madness, 60s legend Brian Wilson, and Disco stars Chic.

    Monday, June 29, 2009

    Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest, Album of the Year

    I've been listening to Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest for about a month now and my brain is still reeling with pleasure and wonder everytime i play it. It's not just the album of this year, it's one of the best albums of the last few decades, a Pet Sounds, an Ok Computer, a seminal record, its thaaat good.

    Grizzly Bear have the classic folk stylings of Fleet Foxes or Sufjan Stevens but married to the experimentalism and sonic adventure of Animal Collective and Radiohead, the melodies and harmonies are extraordinary but so too are the subtly and complexity in everything else here - the strings, the production, all very prog rock to be honest, but in a good way. This year surely marks the return of respectable Prog rock in the shape of this, the Animal Collective and Patrick Watson album!

    It's hard to believe if John Lennon or Arthur Lee could hear this, or more realistically Brian Wilson or Paul Mc Cartney, they would not recognise their worthy successors. And well, we know Radiohead adore Grizzly Bear anyhow.

    Yellow House

    Veckatimest is so good it sent me back to reevaluate Grizzly Bear's last album Yellow House - and it's a very different beast of a record, much more introspective, avant garde, downbeat, very eerie, sad, haunting, oppressively so for many i imagine, reminiscent of the Beatles White Album in places. It's the Grizzly Bear album that people who don't like their bands selling too many records will point to as the 'true' classic should 'Veckatimest' go on to sell a bucketload. But they'll be wrong. As excellent as Yellow House is, and i'll admit i didn't stick with it long enough when it first came out, deeming it too 'difficult' and 'impenetrable', its not the raging masterpiece Veckatimest obviously is.

    Department of Eagles, In Ear Park

    Looking for more Grizzly Bear material i belately came across Grizzly Bear singer Daniel Rossen's project with his mate Fred Nicolaus - Department of Eagles' In Ear Park came out last year - a quieter, more reflective record than Veckatimest and it's also really excellent. So all in all a talented and mildly prolific bunch of buggers!

    Really looking forward to their Vicar St show, November 1.

    Here's the wrly amusing video for Two Weeks from the Veckatimest album

    Grizzly Bear, Two Weeks

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid, Aid Blogs, Aid Debates

    Unsurprisingly as someone who works for an aid agency, i don't think Dambisa Moyo's idea that pulling the plug on all but emergency aid to Africa within five years is a good idea. Her notion that aid is only helping to perpetuate patterns of corruption and dependency in Africa is unconvincing and as several reviews of her work have pointed out, her thesis argues with a strawman version of the case for aid.

    But following the debate on her book i've stumbled across some blogging and you tube clips of excellent vigorous debates between Moyo and others. These debates lead me to hope that the main effect of the media spotlight on Moyo will not be buttressing the argument for turning our back on aid to africa but reinvigorating the case for its defence. I find Bill Easterly a much more constuctive and powerful critic of bad aid so its great to see he's not just regularly blogging but twittering too. Duncan Green has also weighed into the Moyo aid debate, Green's from poverty to power blog has to be the best blog from an NGO type on the issues of aid and development, bar none, and his post on Moyo has a rake of links to strong rebuttals of the Dead Aid argument.

    Elsewhere Paul Collier's Bottom Billion is possibly the best general introduction to the problems of aid and development i've read, and refreshingly he lies somewhere between the polarised extremes of Moyo's 'aid is the problem' and Sach's 'aid is the solution,' what Collier calls 'theatrically opposed polar positions'. He falls more in to the 'aid can do some good, it can be more effective, but cannot be expected by itself to produce major economic development.' school. And this clip of him debating Moyo is worth a look.

    Collier's follow up to the Bottom Billion reviewed in the New York Times here.

    Finally, in this clip of Moyo's debate with Alison Evans on BBC's hard talk , Evans goes a long way to discrediting the idea that aid is actually responsible for African poverty.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    Local Natives

    The Guardian's new band of the day - they say they sound like Vampire Weekend meets Fleet Foxes. They're not wrong there. I likee. No album out. Three songs on My Space.