New Year, new music

This is a commandment for myself more than anything, as I’m guilty of keeping the same artists on my iPod since I got it three years ago. What is it about updating an iPod that is so unappealing? In order to get rid of the zillions of duplicate tracks that have cluttered the thing up since my fabulous idea to install all of my flatmate’s music in one fell swoop, I need to wipe iTunes clean and re-install the whole lot again. Which, for a techno-phobe like myself, is a somewhat scary endeavour that can always be delayed by something more pressing. Ahhh, the Christmas holidays, I’ll have time then. Nope. Sundays? Never.

It’s now time to take action. Anything has to be better than some music-forward stranger picking up your iPod at your party to select a track and saying, ‘Wow, you really like the Magic Numbers don’t you?’ No! It’s a software glitch!! When I considered taking my iPod jogging with me this morning to stop the onset of boredom, I realised that I’d only get more bored listening to the same On the Go playlist than I would running in silence – a depressing state of affairs!

Without further ado, here is a selection of music I’ve recently discovered, along with recent releases recommended by staff at Bristol’s revered independent music store, Rise Music.

  • Penny Penny – Shaka Bundu. This infectious disco tune actually became a hit in South Africa back in 1994, but in a Searching-for-Sugarman-like twist, it’s previously incognito artist, Penny Penny, is suddenly gaining international recognition. Hailing from Limpopo, Penny Penny was a music studio cleaner who approached Joe Shirimani, the studio’s producer, asking to have a go. The result was Shaka Bundu – a joyous piece of grooving Tsonga that sold 250,000 copies in South Africa but stopped short of foreign success. Now a councillor for the African National Congress, Penny Penny’s rebirth came nearly 20 years later when Brian Shimkovist, author of Afrobeat music blog Awesome Tapes from Africa, heard the cassette and recognised it’s potential. Championing Penny Penny’s distinctive mix of Afrobeat with American club rhythms, Shimkovist released the Shaka Bundu LP in America and on iTunes in November 2013. Penny Penny himself describes his music as a combination of “breakdance and Michael Jackson, mixed with African style.”

Read more on Penny Penny’s story at Rolling Stone magazine

  • Agnes Obel – Aventine. Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel made her mark in Scandinavia with her first album, Philharmonics, which won a total of five prizes at the Danish Music Awards in 2011. Obel spent her childhood playing the piano, bass guitar and singing; inspired by artists like Portishead and Swedish jazz pianist Jan Johansson. After her song ‘Just So’ was used on an advert by Deutsche Telekom in 2009, Obel was snapped up by a record label. Released in September 2013, her second album, Aventine, echoes the purity, elegance and playful melancholia of her first. A great choice for relaxing at home on a cosy winter’s afternoon.

  • The Boxettes – No Strings EP. Unsigned & unmanaged, The Boxettes are navigating the independent music scene with inspiring prowess. This is a vocal group of five powerful ladies with a point to prove – they make mind-blowing music using only their mouths. Having met at music college in London, the world’s undefeated female beat-boxing champion Bellatrix teamed up with four gifted singers to produce a honeyed blend of soul and R&B drifting atop a dirty dubstep beat. Their second EP, No Strings, was released today!

(Taken from The Boxettes’ self-titled first EP)

  • Tennis – Mean Streets. What I love most about Tennis’ new single is that in contrast to what the title suggests, it transports me to a hot, hazy summer afternoon, lying in a flower-scented park. A most welcome sensation on January’s Blue Monday! It may be the strongest track from the Denver husband and wife duo’s new EP, Small Sound, but for me this easy breezy indie-pop tune manages to slow winter down.

  • Daniel Avery – Drone Logic. Named long ago as ‘one to watch’ by techno legend Andrew Weatherall, Fabric resident Daniel Avery has produced a debut album that flawlessly blends trippy acid-house with smooth Detroit techno. Avery has triumphantly succeeded in his efforts to avoid making ‘computer music’ – this record moves from hedonistic club hits (Free Floating) to emotive, transcendental journeys into sound. Whatever you think of techno, this confident debut reveals huge talent from the Bournemouth DJ/Producer who calls Erol Alkan his ‘kindred spirit’.

  • Jungle – The Heat. You’ve probably heard of Jungle by now as they’ve been on virtually every ‘Hotly-tipped for 2014’ list around. But the pair behind the effortlessly cool singles ‘The Heat’ and ‘Platoon’ have still managed to maintain a closely guarded secrecy around their identity – all we know is that ‘J’ and ‘T’ are two best friends from West London. The strength of Jungle’s crisp, soulful grooves has been compounded by two strikingly stylish videos – one featuring 6 year old break dancer Terra, the other retrolicious moves from rollerblading street crew HighRollaz. Both have helped Jungle’s two March London shows sell out before the pair have even shown their faces – if you got tickets, I’m jealous.

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