Album Review: He Was King - Felix Da Housecat

Long time BP readers will probably be aware of the BlackPlastic love affair with Felix, dating back to his glorious Kittenz and Thee Glitz album. Last album, 2007's Virgo Blaktro & The Movie Disco failed to live up to the expectations set by both Kittenz and its follow up Davin Dazzle and the Neon Fever - fast forward to 2009 and new album He Was King is set to drop in a few weeks following little fanfare.

Part of the fun of an album getting released from one of your favourite artists is in the anticipation. As such it is actually almost disappointing that felix's new album is already here but one thing is clear - He Was King is a return to form following Virgo.

Opener 'We All Wanna Be Prince' splices together lines from Prince records to create a love letter to everyone's favourite purple king of pop and from the off Felix is revisiting the best parts of his own catalogue. Not since Devin Dazzle's glorious 'Ready 2 Wear' has Felix created something as gorgeous as this album's opener.

And whilst the album opens on a pure pop moment there are some dance-floor gems too, recalling the dark 'Strobe' from Virgo and some of Felix's earlier, pre-Kittenz albums. 'Kick Drum', all empty-space, distortion and repetitive vocals, is a dubby love letter to the dancefloor and those girls that get lost on it. More than anything though it is 'Elvi$' that will provide He Was King its lasting dancefloor hit - a tweaking acid epic that would slot right into to many DJs sets to provide a suitable climax... It's long, wonky and just a bit nasty.

The highlights probably come in the form of the pop-couplet formed by 'Do We Move Your World' and 'We'. Not connected except for in their proximity to each other in the album's flow and the fact they both aim for a similar melodic sound, they are the tracks on this album that are most reminiscent of Felix's Kittenz era. 'Do We Move Your World' builds nicely to a hook before blasting off the launch pad whilst 'We' is pure-synthesized joy - sassy and cool, sleazy and honest, it is Felix at his best.

He Was King may not top either Kittenz and Thee Glitz or Devin Dazzle but it certainly comes close to equalling them. There are moments here that easily stand-up with the best on either of those albums, all He Was King lacks is the overriding sense of experimentation those albums boasted.

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He Was King is released on Nettwerk on 24 August, available for pre-order from on CD and MP3 [affiliate links].

Album Review: LadyLuck - Maria Taylor / Light of X - Miranda Lee Richards

Female singer-songwriters are a bit of a tricky one for BlackPlastic... Whenever a new album drops on the doormat from one, and in this case we are tackling two, a little sweat breaks out because they are just such dangerous territory. It would be easy, but cowardly, to just write them all off - Jewel is just bland and Dido is enough to make BlackPlastic want to chew off our own ears, but then you also have the likes of PJ Harvey, Bjork, Kate Bush, Cat Power and recently Polly Scattergood, along with BlackPlastic's personal favourite, Gemma Hayes, whose combination of dreamlike melodies and stripped back production just lets the beauty of her voice shine through.

And out of these it is Hayes whom both Maria Taylor's third solo album and Miranda Lee Richard's Light of X are most reminiscent of.

Formerly one half of Azure Ray, the dreamlike quality of Maria Taylor's previous act's music is still present here. Miranda's album has a similar feel but also sounds totally sun-drenched. If you want a slow-paced, well considered, relaxed folk album then you could do much worse than taking a listen to either of these albums but it is worth pointing out that neither is reinventing the wheel. These are not particularly experimental albums.

Both albums have their charms though. As with Gemma Hayes' and Cat Power's work by focusing on doing something simple well the songs, and each vocalist's voice, are given room to flourish.

Maria recommends listening to the album on the horizontal and it is certainly a perfect soundtrack to unwind to. The album doesn't attempt anything groundbreaking so it is at it's best when the songs come together to make perfect pop music - the haunting melodies of 'It's Time', where Taylor sings "Careful I'm barely here..." and genuinely sounds like she may be disappearing, and the soaring '100,000 Times'. Best of all is the album's closer, co-written and featuring REM's Michael Stipe on backing vocals 'Cartoons and Forever Plans' captures a timeless feeling and brings the curtain down on the album perfectly.

Light of X is more like the audioequivalentof a sun trap - it's a little tricky to hear the wandering piano of it's opening track, 'Breathless', and not want to curl up on a blanket spread out on the lawn on a sunny day. Miranda received her very first bit of guitar tuition from Kirk Hammett of Metallica, and as someone that has collaborated with Tricky, Tim Burgess (of The Charlatans) and toured with Jesus and Mary Chain (and provided duet to 'Sometimes Always' and 'Just Like Honey' in the process) you could reasonably expect something a little edgy from Miranda.

On the whole however Light of X is a slow moving, yet striking, album. It's a perfect soundtrack to a lazy sunny Sunday. Things do get a little more edgy at the album's close however - stick around after the last track proper, 'Last Days of Summer', and the album actually descends into it's own dark winter on a ghost track that has Miranda perform a spoken vocal about standing naked in the snow to a moody, bluesy baking that sounds like it comes from the same world as David Lynch's brain. It's not often BlackPlastic gets to say this - the ghost track is not just worthwhile, it's fantastic - better than the rest of the album - and the contrast it gives the rest of the album makes Light of X a much more worthwhileexercise. If Miranda's next album includes more of such experimentation it just could be great.

Both albums are out now on Nettwerk. Available at LadyLuck - CDand MP3; Light of X - CD and MP3.

Miranda Lee Richards is on tour in the UK in May:


  • 09.05 BIRMINGHAMThe Rainbow
  • 10.05 NOTTINGHAM The Social
  • 11.05 GLASGOW King Tuts
  • 12.05 LIVERPOOL Academy 2
  • 13.05 WINCHESTER The Railway
  • 14.05 BRIGHTON The Great Escape
  • 18.05 LONDON The Borderline
  • 20.05 LONDON The Windmill


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Album Review: Red - Datarock

Following up on their début, one of 2007's most under-appreciated gems, Datarock's new album Red is a celebration of technology and culture.

From the opening track 'The Blog', complete with samples of Sir Tim Berners-Lee (creator of the World Wide Web) and Steve Jobs, one of Red's core themes is established straight away. This album is a polygamist's love letter, divided between this love of geek and the love of eighties culture, demonstrated through the music itself and much of the lyrical content.

Red is drenched in clever eighties references, whether they come in the form of the 'Heat Is On'-esque opening of 'Give It Up', the lyrics to 'True Stories', which are composed entirely of the titles to Talking Heads songs, or 'Molly', itself a ballad to the Breakfast Club's Molly Ringwald.

Last year's Saturdays = Youth from M83 dealt with similar inspiration and there is always a danger that an album that attempts to re-capture the spirit of another time can suffer from simply becoming tired regurgitation of the past or, even worse, an ironic laugh at its expense. As far as Red is concerned the juxtaposition of modern technology and eighties fanaticism has a point.  The album is an attempt to comment on the tendancy of our culture to be viewed through rose tinted glasses: the eighties and the culture from that period is often now placed upon a pedestal by our current culture. When it comes to appreciation of cultural periods it is the modern age that gets most overlooked yet, as the birth of the Internet and changes in the way music is consumed show, it is just as exciting and culturally rich. Unfortunately it is just much harder to forget all the bad things of the current age than it is with the past.

It's a viewpoint BlackPlastic certainly empathizes with.

Musically Red tones down some of the excessiveness of Datarock's début and the result is a little mixed. There just aren't the same level ridiculous pop records and BlackPlastic can't help but miss the exhuberence and fun of songs like 'New Song', 'Princess' and 'Bulldozer' off of the previous album. There is still a lot to like about Red - the standout being 'Fear of Death', with its spoken verse and vocals reminiscent of Morrisey it's as good as anything on the last album.

It is a shame after the dayglo execessiveness of the last album. Red is enjoyable, it just feels like it gets too caugh up in trying to be clever when sometimes all the listener wants is a bit of stupidity.

Red is due for release in the UK on Nettwerk on 8 June.  Pre-order at on CD.

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Album Review: Blood From a Stone - Hanne Hukkelberg

Hailing from Noway, Hanne Hukkelberg's latest album is a perfect soundtrack for the coming of spring, with the sounds of winter still in the background but a playing melodic side breaking through. It sounds like it was made in response to the later evenings we are seeing in the northern hemisphere, and in Blood From a Stone we have an album that begs to be consumed with a bottle of wine of a summer's eve.

Hukkelberg has declared Blood From a Stone her straight up rock album, and whilst many of the vocals were done in one take and there may be hints of death metal in the dread and foreboding of 'Salt of the Earth', to call this album "straight up" anything is to dramatically under-sell things. Inspiration may be taken from PJ Harvey, the Cocteau Twins and the Pixies but it is taken in the form of a desire to never repeat or be pigeon-holed as much as anything else.

Blood From a Stone takes musical inspiration less from other bands and more from nature itself. With the kind of kitchen-sink approach to instrumentation that sees many of Iceland's finest achieve such unique sounds (indeed Múm's in particular have become known for using whatever they can get their hands on), Hanne has utilised bicycle spokes, clogs, a Vaseline box, flag poles, train doors and seagulls amongst many other things to create a melodic sound all of her own.

The result is an album full of surprises - the title track, for example, has a beautiful catchy chorus and yet combines this with a wonderfully tactile and percussive backing - and every track does something a little different.  What makes Blood From a Stone wonderful is that all of these differing components slot together like something made to be together.

Blood From a Stone is released on Nettwerk on 20 April on MP3 and 12 May on CD.  Available to pre-order on Amazon (MP3  / CD).

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