Tuesday, May 13th, 2008


Photo via www.iamduffy.com

I had thought that after seeing Duffy twice in three days in March that I had a good handle on the Welsh soul singer. With good pipes and solid material but rather low charisma at the moment, I saw a talent that had a lot of upside that I didn’t think was fully realized yet, but considering the’se sold a shit-tonne of records, what the hell did I know?

But after getting a copy of said shit-tonne-sold album Rockferry, available everywhere for some time now but officially released in the US today, I was a little amazed at how much it kept finding its way into my CD player. Going down so easy and without any overly-contrived aftertaste, it’s an eminently listenable record that deftly balances pop and soul, retro and modern, and comes out as one of those rare collections that can cross over enough audiences to sell, well, hundreds of thousands of copies.

As much as I’d like to credit Bernard Butler with this – given my druthers, I’d give Bernard Butler credit for everything, ever – a read through the liner notes reveal that his influence on this record might be less than I’d presumed, with co-writing and production credits only going to him on four songs out of the ten, and not even the best ones. The rest of the record was handled by two other producers which makes the cohesiveness of Rockferry as a whole all the more impressive.

What I find most remarkable is that though Duffy’s vocals are right up front throughout, she’s not the overt centre of attention. Her voice is in complete service to the song and every piece of the production, be it the strings, a guitar vamp or a bass line, is as crucial to the end product as the singing. The songs are just so well-crafted as recordings that it might explain why I found the live show somewhat lacking – on stage, Duffy IS the centre of attention and that’s not necessarily a role she’s ready to take on. But on record, everything is exactly where it should be and it’s that big picture that makes it a triumph. Time will tell if Duffy the individual will catch up with Duffy the musical entity (which is to say her, her band, her producers, her songwriting) but even if it doesn’t, as long as she keeps turning out records like this (or better), I’ll have no word of complaint.

The Globe & Mail talks to Duffy about her music and upcoming show at the Apollo in Harlem, which You takes a more tabloid-y approach and digs for dirt on her childhood and personal life. The Philadelphia Inquirer considers the current crop of one-named British soul singers.

Video: Duffy – “Warwick Avenue”
Video: Duffy – “Rockferry”
Video: Duffy – “Mercy” (US version)
Video: Duffy – “Mercy” (UK version)
MySpace: Duffy

So Much Silence has helpfully ripped Elbow’s recent session for KEXP into MP3 form. I’ve never managed to be quite as won over by Elbow as many others have, but I picked up their latest The Seldom Seen Kid this weekend to see if this is the record that’s going to click for me. For a while it seemed like Leaders Of The Free World would do it for me but it just missed the target. I will report back with my findings.

The Tripwire is offering one of the new tracks to be found on the reissue of Rob Dickinson’s solo record Fresh Wine For The Horses. The new edition will feature redone versions of the original album tracks, this one new song and a second disc of acoustic renditions of Catherine Wheel classics. It’s out June 10.

MP3: Rob Dickinson – “The End Of The World”

Also out on June 10 and accompanied by bonus material intended to entice those who’ve already got the record, The Charlatans’ latest You Cross My Path. They’re hoping those who downloaded it for free with the band’s blessing will think highly enough of it to shell out for the physical goods which will be accompanied by a bonus disk of non-album and live tracks as well as some videos. Details at NME.

The release of The Futureheads’ new record This Is Not The World has been pushed back a couple weeks until June 3.

Some new videos of note, starting with a clip from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ new one Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, a record which has finally gotten me to investigate Cave’s back catalog beyond just his best-of. Cave and Seeds are at the Kool Haus on October 1. Yes, it’s a ways off but if you’re planning on going and don’t get a ticket soon, you will be sorry. Yes you will.

Video: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Night Of The Lotus Eaters”

Next there’s a new vid from R.E.M.’s Accelerate, a record which isn’t quite living up to the “return to form” hype that preceded it but which is eminently more listenable than their last ten years’ output so I’ll happily take it. They’re at the Molson Amphitheatre on June 8.

Video: R.E.M. – “Hollow Man”

The Kills have made a vid for the best song off of Midnight Boom while MPR has an in-studio session with the duo. And if you missed their scorching show at the Opera House last week, take note that they’ll be back on August 3 at the Phoenix as support for The Black Keys. Two bands, four musicians, no basses. Rock.

Video: The Kills – “Last Day Of Magic”

There’s a new video from Portishead’s Third. I just got a copy of this but haven’t spent much time with it as of yet.

Video: Portishead – “The Rip”

And finally, I find the fact that a Canadian band like Tokyo Police Club should choose to debut their new video for “In A Cave” at MTVu, a site not accessible to Canada, more than a little ludicrous. Americans, you can watch it via the above link. Canadians, you can stuff it. Or just read this inspection of David Monks’ iPod at The AV Club and this interview at The Globe & Mail.

Sad news, but totally expected and understandable – Jonathan Meiburg has formally left Okkervil River to focus on Shearwater. This move follows Will Sheff’s departure from Shearwater before the recording of Palo Santo and thus dissolves what had been an amazing pairing of bands and creative talents, though inevitable given the successes and demands on both bands over the last few years. Meiburg’s final contributions to Okkervil will appear on the Stage Names companion disc due out later this year and Shearwater’s next opus Rook is out June 3. They will be in town on June 23 for a show at the Horseshoe.

PopMatters contemplates the musical world of Neko Case.

The Faint will release Fascination on August 5 and will follow it up with a tour that stops at the Opera House on August 21.

And one from the rumour mill – I have word that one more band will be car pooling with Animal Collective and Dizzee Rascal from the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago to the Rogers Picnic in Toronto on July 20. Who? Let’s just say that it’ll be a Vampire Weekend road trip… Well that wasn’t very cryptic, was it. I will confirm when I can.

By : Frank Yang at 8:35 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. jen says:

    Aye, Duffy has come a long way since her days as runner up on the Welsh version of X factor (UK American Idol): http://www.thelipster.com/a

    Or do they not advertise that over there?

  2. Frank says:

    it’s talked about in that You interview and also mentioned in the Globe piece, so it’s not swept under the rug or anything. Just not the most salient point in the discussion.

  3. Griff says:

    The Welsh version of X factor? That was just a little Welsh language TV show watched by, at most, a hundred thousand people …. nothing at all like the big talent shows you get in the US and England. Nobody auditioned, they just invited some young singers on to the show, there were no big prizes, no newspaper coverage, just a low-key show on local TV

    Of course English people have no idea about Wales so they think this show was like their Simon Cowell shows. It wasn’t. Not that it matters but that’s the background.