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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Don't Tell Me That It's Over

While we can safely assume that the newness of 2010 is behind us, some of us may not be back on the grind in full throttle quite yet. Speaking from a personal perspective, I'd say that it was only last week that I really got back into the swing to things properly, but this is not to say that the days before that were filled with hours of lounging around doing nothing.

One way I gauge whether we're back to "normal" at this time of the year is by the announcements I start receiving for upcoming album releases during the first quarter of the year. Two of these contribute to the contents of the 198th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast, so I'm pretty sure that we're firmly on our way now.

After playing a track form the recently released Tea compilation Reloaded, it's a great pleasure to have the opportunity to have Marc Storace's voice heard on the MMI podcast. Krokus have just announced the release of their new album entitled Hoodoo, which is due out on the 26th of February. This new album features ten new tracks by the band and a rousing cover of Steppenwolf's classic Born to Be Wild. To promote the album ahead of its release Krokus have issued a single called Hoodoo Woman, which is undoubtedly destined to become a favourite with their fans.

Staying with overseas-based bands sporting a Maltese singer this week we turn our attention to Fraser. This London band is fronted by Fraser Gregory who Malta music fans may remember as a founding member of the Beangrowers. Last summer we heard a track from Fraser's upcoming album A Garden at the Top of the Tree, which is set to be released on the 27th of March. The single chosen to promote this album ahead of its release is called Lay It On The Line. Aside from being included on this week's MMI podcast, it was also been selected as a single of the week by IndieLondon for the past week.

Bark Bark Disco have just released a video for their Song for the Lovers from the 2009 album Your Mum Says Hello. The new video is a tribute to 70s Scandinavian porn star Brigitte Lahaie, featuring sequences from her classic film Six Swedish Girls in a Boarding School. Centre of My Heart is the track I've picked to play on this week's MMI podcast. The album remains available as a free download from the band's official website.

This week's MMI podcast is heavily slanted towards acts that are either based outside Malta or have a strong overseas connection; Bark Bark Disco is actually half German. Mark Axiak is based in Norway and I've played his music on previous editions of the MMI podcast. His guitar-driven tracks are very untypical of what most people would expect from the quintessential rock 'n roll musical instrument. Somewhere in Between is delightfully different from what anyone who is not keen on exploring experimental sounds may have heard so far this year.

For those who prefer guitars to sound like guitars, I close this week's podcast with a track from the hard-to-find 1994 Norm Rejection EP Subtly Mesmerized?, which has just been reissued on their MySpace page. As you listen to Distorted Visions you may be amused to figure out that this song was recorded 16 years ago. Expect new releases from Norm Rejection later this year, including the highly anticipated Kemm Hawn Dwejjaq fil-Pajjiż.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010


My ears are still buzzing from last night's concert by The Prodigy at the Bridlington Spa's Royal Hall. It's almost incredible that this band has been around for 20 years and it was simply amazing to see young people in the audience who weren't even born back when they started out. The Prodigy is simply a massive band and their music is undoubtedly anthemic for a whole generation. There's a direct connection with The Prodigy in the 197th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. I'll came to that when I get to the fourth track in this week's MMI podcast.

Prolonging the shelf-life of their debut EP Your Head Is Too Big For Your Crown, released a couple of months ago, Skimmed have now released the song Shitty Jobs on their MySpace page along with some new band photos. This bodes well in terms of what seems to be a plan to ensure that people don't lose track of Skimmed's EP in the torrent of new material that's due out this year.

Bletchley Park have just released their follow-up single to last year's debut Alien entitled Hold the Trap. This new offering is a solid pop rock song but I believe that this band is still to make a significant impact on the local scene, by which I mean to say that their best work is still ahead of them. They strike me as a hard-working band, so I don't doubt that we'll be hearing more from them this year.

Wayne Camilleri and Errol Sammut seem to have great plans for this year. They've come together as a new duo called K.O.I. (Knowledge Over Intellect) releasing Tears in My Eyes as their debut song. Their sound has delightful 1980s undertones, which makes me think that they're (craftily) tapping into the retro groove de rigueur, as others have beautifully demonstrated in recent years.

Back to that concert by The Prodigy. The reason I made it to the concert last night was thanks to my cousin Keith who is half of the duo South Central. How could I turn down an Access All Areas pass to such a great gig. It was an added bonus to be able to hear South Central do their live DJ set. The crowd truly enjoyed the music they provided and their affinity with Prodigy fans is enshrined through their official remix of Warrior's Dance, which was the second single of The Prodigy's Invaders Must Die album from 2009; the South Central remix is available on disc 2 of the special edition for this album. Their UK tour continues the rest of this month as they head to the south coast in the coming week (Plymouth and Bournemouth) followed by a stint in Scotland ending at the Glasgow O2 Academy. Watch out for them in Malta this springtime.

To close off this week's podcast I've squeezed in a new release by K1nk featuring Thea Saliba. Luigi Lusini's music works well with Thea's vocals and it makes me think that this is possibly a better way for this young Maltese singer to break into the international dance scene than any of her previous attempts. I suppose only time can really tell whether this is the case or not.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Empire State of Mind

Between the horrific events in Haiti and the banal nonsense emanating from Malta, I find myself considering what may actually be in store for us in 2010. More precisely I'm also thinking what's ahead for me personally as a continue with my AHRC sabbatical, which at the very least will yield a book I've written on Franklin Furnace.

There was a time when I would have gone on to blog about these thoughts at length. For better or worse, my blog has clearly turned into a place to present the show notes for my weekly Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast. I don't really mind this and I'm sure many of my blog readers wouldn't even have notice this if it wasn't for the fact that I tend to bring it up from time to time. Still, there are times when I wish I still was in the frame of mind to blog about more than my weekly podcast.

The 196th MMI podcast opens with the first music video released in the Maltese music scene for 2010. Harry is a song from Cable 35's EP Hygene. Their youthful energy is infections and if they keep this up I believe that they will strengthen their fan-base considerably this year. While I imagine they have aspirations to reach new followers outside the Maltese Islands, I would love to see them somehow embrace their national identity. That would give them the edge of difference that can make them stand out from the plethora of other guitar-driven bands like them.

One of the few Malta-related releases from 2009 that almost passed me by comes all the way from Switzerland. Marc Storace's old band Tea have released a compilation album of their best loved songs. Guilded Cage, originally off the band's third album Tax Exile from 1976, is possibly one of Marc's most heart-felt belters with an autobiographic bent. The 13 tracks on Reloaded show that this Swiss band should have done even better then they did in their day. In my opinion, the reason they're not better known is not because they weren't any good (quite the contrary, of course!) but because they didn't play up their difference in a rock scene where being different was greatly appreciated. Almost 35 years after they stopped recording and touring, this compilation will undoubtedly introduce them to new fans who will appreciate what was undoubtedly one of Europe's better rock bands in the seventies.

Speaking of Maltese connections to European bands makes me want to play something by Polish ska masters Skambomambo. Regular listeners of the MMI podcast will remember that Skambomambo's singer is Mario Cordina, who was first featured in a special edition in the series in 2007. The band is set to play several gigs around Poland in the coming weeks into February. As it happens I'm visiting Poland later on this year and I'll certainly be looking at their show dates while I'm there. It would be wonderful to see them live, not only because they sound like a fun band to watch but also seeing Mario sing live would certainly be an opportunity I wouldn't want to pass up.

Foreign acts play in Malta from time to time and one such gig is coming up at the MITP in Valletta on Saturday 6 February 2010. It features British singer Adem with new local band Stalko supporting. Sylvan Borg is set to open the show with a new acoustic set. He has just recorded a new song entitled Soft as Stone to promote his first gig for the year. I happen to like his songs, possibly for the same reason that drives radio stations to stay away from them: they sound quite different from anything else on the airwaves these days.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

I Like It Rough

I'm amazed at the recent developments on the case of young Mark Camilleri who is looking at the prospect of facing jail time because of Malta's outdated obscenity, censorship and blasphemy laws. Mona Farrugia (Malta's number one food writer) has published a very articulate reflection on the situation. She has also started circulating an online petition addressed to Malta's lawmakers asking for the following:

1. For Malta's censorship, obscenity and blasphemy laws to be changed to reflect the year we are living in (rather than the Middle Ages)
2. For our politicians to take their heads out of the sand (in general, but especially with regards to the above)
3. For the Police to drop the case against Mark Camilleri, 21-year old student Editor of Ir-Realta', a University newspaper in Maltese. When he published a particular piece of fiction in Maltese, Camilleri was prosecuted through laws that make it possible for him to be imprisoned.
4. For the University of Malta Rector and Chaplain to apologise in public for causing such ridiculous hassles and wasting Police time.

It's undoubtedly the first remarkable petition in Malta for this year. I can fully see why some people may be offended by works covered by these ancient laws (and seriously doubt there will be any apologies coming from Tal-Qroqq) but it really is about time that Maltese lawmakers do something concrete to protect freedom of expression in Malta.

Process seems to be the one word that describes most of what I'm doing and/or thinking about these days. The latest censorship petition in Malta and my weekly podcast are certainly clear examples of this, at least for me. The 195th Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast features some of the first releases for 2010. If this is the shape of things to came this year, this could turn out to be quite an interesting year.

The year's first release comes from metal rockers Fire who have issued a single from their album Thrill Me. Come with me is available as a free download on Reverbnation, which is sponsored by Microsoft. I must say that Kenneth Calleja's voice has never sounded better.

The first album announced for release in 2010 is Xammar, a 13-track CD of new Maltese songs by Freddie Portelli. The CD will be officially launched in February to coincide with Freddie's next tour of Australia. These 13 songs now brings the veteran singer's total number of tracks released in the last 45 years to 257. This new album is therefore quite appropriately titled as anyone hoping to be as prolific really needs to roll up your sleeves to catch up with Freddie. The title track from Xammar is uniquely crafted to bring together rough classic rock 'n roll and the singers love for his dog Nina. In my book, Mojo Nixon has got nothing on Freddie Portelli.

I'm always grateful whenever Maltese artists send me their CDs. One the ones I received over the Christmas break is With Stings Attached by For Strings Inn. I played a track from this EP before it was released last autumn, but now that I've actually received my own copy of the disc I couldn't pass up the opportunity to play a track from it. I've picked one called Strada Bar, which shows this new band as a force to be reckoned with on the local alternative rock circuit.

As regular MMI podcast listeners know, one of the things I cherish most about the Mużika Mod Ieħor series is the prospect of discovering and promoting new acts. So the first podcast for 2010 featuring new music must include something from this category. As it happens I recently came across a young new band called Bridget Bone. As a debut release (available via their Facebook fan page), What if signals great potential for this band, particularly if they manage to start gigging regularly in the coming months.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Shout to the Top

Happy New Year! Let's hope it's a good one.

Now that the brief Christmas break is over, the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast returns with a special edition featuring music from the 2009 Listeners' Picks poll. Here are the entries voted as the listeners' top picks from the poll we conducted on Facebook throughout the month of December 2009. This year, the poll was facilitated by Kenneth J. Vella.

2009 Top Album:
The Rifffs - Moonstomp

Maltese music fans have been waiting for more than 25 years. It's truly a case of better late than never. Pity it had to come out the same year as the fabulous Stejjer tal-Bandli (tal-Mosta) by No Bling Show, which was the absolute runner-up in this category this year.

2009 Top Single: (tied)
The Rifffs - Champagne Charlie's Ghost
Relikc - Mindwreck

Releasing another single from the Moonstomp album in 2009, The Rifffs managed to land a draw at the top place for this category, along with newcomers Relikc. While the old masters are clearly at the top of their game, the little youngs are obviously highly in tune with the new generation.

2009 Internet Release:
Relikc - Tomorrow

It's quite fitting that this band should grab this category for themselves. Danjeli's Kolla was a close second and could have possibly won if we had been given more than an unofficial release on Facebook by the winner of the 2007 Top Album in the MMI Listeners' Picks poll.

2009 Overseas-based Release: (tied)
Joe Mizzi - Age of Decay [Album]
Airstrip One - Into the Silence [Online release]

Although there were no best selling acts in this category during 2009, I am please to see that Joe Mizzi's most recent album has managed to grab the top place. It is surely remarkable that Airstrip One retain their place at the top of this category for the second year running, even though they must share the title with Joe Mizzi this time around.

2009 Top EP:
Chasing Pandora - Running in Circles

Chasing Pandora more than deserve the top spot in this category this year. Airport Impressions managed to attract a very respectable number of votes as runners-up with their EP Seeing With Eyes Closed. In the end, the beloved Gozitan duo managed to outshine every other EP released in Malta in 2009 by a factor of at least two to every one vote awarded to the other nominees in the same category.

2009 Top Video:
No Bling Show - Lucija u Samwel

The same luck that befell No Bling Show in the Top Album category has fallen on Carrie Haber in this one. Her video for Me Oh My! would most certainly have garnered the largest number of votes (in all categories and not just this!) if it wasn't for No Bling Show's exception short film for Lucija u Samwel. As it is, NBS have clearly raise the bar higher than it has ever been for the local music scene.

There's also an enhanced version of this podcast...coming soon.

The RSS feed for the Mużika Mod Ieħor podcast is available here or you can simply click here to subscribe directly with iTunes. You can also follow each new episode through the MMI Podcast: Facebook Fan Page or on MySpace. If you have no idea what any of this means, just click here or listen to the podcast on the player right below this text.

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