Archive | January 2011

soundCHECK 83 – January 27th 2011

Amazon. They’re a behemoth. A whale of an online retailer. An e-whale, if you will.

They allow you to pick up cheap CDs, cheap books and cheap DVDs. They even probe their binary fins into electronics. And then sell them for cheap too. They retail pushchairs. They flog outdoor lighting, indoor lighting and chandeliers. There’s everything from pyjamas to power drills. And if they don’t have what you’re after, they’ll usually link you to a private seller who does.

Sociophobe’s-favourite Amazon may very well allow its customers to treat their nearest and dearest to well-considered gifts without them having to get off their backsides. And it’s amazing for blitzing the Christmas shopping. Even when it snows. But most would share the opinion that Amazon represents little more than a convenient way to buy stuff.

So it may surprise some that they have now cast themselves as pioneers of new music. They have already spouted their predictions for the artists that will find success in 2011, a list that includes the usual suspects such as Radio 1’s new plaything The Vaccines, daytime-playlist-bothering, love-limiting James Blake, and the already-annoying Jessie J.

Yet their predictions also contain more unexpected and considered tips like The Joy Formidable and Anna Calvi, adding a semblance of credibility to a foray into musical commentary that might otherwise look like little more than bandwagon-jumping and shameless, self-satisfying marketing. Pats on backs, Amazon!

Their predictions game is pretty strong too. In recent years they have successfully plotted the upward trajectories of the likes of The Drums, Ellie Goulding and the notorious spellcheck-dodger, Tinie Tempah.  “We’ve picked a diverse selection for our top acts to watch and hope our customers will discover something new to add to their collection, whatever their personal taste in music” tooted Julian Monaghan, head of bigwigging and music buying at

Now the online retailer has sculpted a new way to up the ante on their musical championing for 2011. It’s good news for go-getting, off-the-radar music-makers across the land. And that includes those in North Devon. Yep, artists from all over the UK, signed or unsigned, can nominate themselves to appear in the New Artist of the Month spot on

Each month a different artist will be picked by Amazon to be featured. Winners will receive their own online store where they can upload their images, banner, biography and Twitter feed. Perhaps most significantly, the successful artists’ music will be made available for Amazon’s millions of visitors to purchase. For real money. So not only will artists receive career-igniting exposure, but they could make a few quid too.

The only condition is that artists must have an EP or single ready for Amazon customers to purchase but must not have released a debut album. Simple, right? If you want more information on how to get involved, type the following inelegant string of numbers, letters and symbols into your web browser of choice:

Best of luck.

soundCHECK 82 – January 20th 2011

New Year’s Day is now far enough in the past for ‘2011’ to start rolling off the tongue. You know, those numbers are starting to sound a bit less weird.

But before our conscious minds become completely deferential to the fact that this alien number is in for the long-haul, let’s not completely forget that psychological discomfort that’s ushered by the transition from one haggard old year to a spanking shiny new one.

Because in that simple moment, when one digit ascends to the next in line, there unfurls a pant-ruiningly harrowing truth that we seem determined to ignore: we are constantly flying into the unknown; unnervingly unaware of what will happen in the next second, minute, hour and day. With every breath we fly blind into a foreign future with nought but a foglight on the past in a never-ending, ever-enduring arc across time.

You know when you stay overnight in an unfamiliar bedroom, maybe that of a relative or a friend? And you need to get up in the night to go to the bathroom? Oh, the terror! You only have a rough idea of where sweet night time relief can be found. And all around is pitch black and silent. So you grope about in the dark, with trailblazing arms ahead of you that perform mystical dances as you slowly scan for obstacles. You’re reduced to what looks something like a freshly conscripted and very confused zombie, and all you can do is hope that Lady Luck finds matrimony with your half-baked navigational skills. That’s us. That’s how we journey through time: blind, stumbling and uncomfortable.

What to negate this terrifying reality?

The familiar embrace of routine, of course! Sure, finding a rhythm for life’s various pursuits and follies has its critics. But it does a damn fine job of keeping the cruel clutches of chronophobia at bay. For all we know, if the binmen stopped coming at the same time each week the whole universe could slip into some wild black hole of nervous future-fear. In fact, that’s pretty much what started to happen in Exeter and a sprinkling of other English cities at the start of this year. All them uncollected bin bags gave people a right fright. So yeah. Routine. Give it some credit.

With that in mind, here’s this week’s instalment of gigs for you to think about going to: the runaway gig of the week happens on Saturday (22nd) at The Aggi in Braunton as The Dead Atlantic take to the stage for their virgin performance. This is the new band that has risen from the smouldering ashes of Johnny : Black, featuring past-members with Scott Xander Linn as frontman. Support comes from The Confused and the enthralling shoegaze of Spectres. Don’t miss it.

Also on Saturday: The Dead Betas support Boomtown Rats at The Palladium in Bideford. Yes, you read that correctly.

Here’s to the future.