Tag Archives: The Penelopes

The Penelopes – “Time To Shine” (free download)

25 Apr

The Penelopes Time To Shine

Ever have the feeling that your life has been building up to something? Have you ever had the sense that everything that has happened to you has been to bring you to this one particular point? The universe has been guiding you and that now you are here; it is your time, your future and your moment. From the sounds of their new single, The Penelopes certainly have.

Their love of pop and a burning desire to make people dance has seen them journey from their humble beginnings just outside Paris, travel around the world putting on storming live shows and release a vibrant and infectious debut album. With that and a stonkingly popular remix of The Cure having created momentum, the universe has delivered Axel Basquiat and Vincent T. exactly where they need to be. Now it is their “Time To Shine”.

Capturing the effervescent and energetic spirit of their live shows, this new single perfectly captures that feeling of being ready to step up, the confidence and swagger of knowing this is it. Everything starts now. “Time To Shine” is five minutes of uplifting and powerful electro-pop. Like a rallying cry before battle it is rousing, it inspires belief that anything is possible. The synths and guitars drive forward, pulsating and pushing you on to greatness with the passion filled Bonnie Tyler-eqsue backing vocals just adding to the feeling that your dreams are within your grasp.

It is a fantastic morale-boosting tune. Balls to looking in the mirror and calling yourself a tiger before an interview, stick on “Time To Shine” and as your confidence rises you’ll be ready to take on all comers. The world is your lobster, go get it!

”Time To Shine” is available as a free download from the Soundcloud player below.

Stalk The Penelopes: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Gig Review: The Penelopes, Norwich UEA 11/12/12

12 Dec

The Penelopes Live

They say you should never meet your heroes but that’s something The Penelopes clearly don’t subscribe to as they have spent the last three weeks in close proximity to theirs. The Human League’s UK tour is coming to an end this evening and for the two kids who grew up outside Paris listening to Phil, Susan and Joanne, supporting them has represented a dream come true. Not that it has left them in anyway overawed.

From the off it is clear that confidence is not an issue for the band, or singer Axel in particular. It is quite possible that Almost Famous has been on repeat on the tour bus as he kneels to the side of stage, directly engaging those at the front while he sings. “I look for the guy who isn’t getting off, and I make him get off” indeed. Looking eminently stylish in his suit jacket over a basketball vest combo topped off with aviators and a giant hair band, he sweeps across the stage like it is his own, air kicking at will and flexing the mic stand above his head.

The tracks are incessantly energetic; bounding along with the kind of dexterity that, alas, the majority of this Norwich crowd has long since forgotten was possible. Laura’s assertion that “The Sweet Song” will make them want to jump up and dance falls on deaf ears and replaced hips, despite it sounding massive.

The show is coming to an end and so is the tour. Thank you’s are said and the finale of “Now Now Now” begins. To the side of the stage Axel is crouched down where he started, engaging the crowd in his own indomitable and entertaining, Cantona-esque even, fashion.

It is a headline worthy performance from The Penelopes and one that is surely destined to be oft repeated at the top of their own bill in the near future.

2012 Albums of the Year: Part One #15 – #11

12 Dec

2012 Albums of the Year 15 to 11

After counting down our favourite tracks and favourite EPs of 2012, it’s high time we started our look at the albums that we fell in love with over the last 12 months.

Last year we listed 50 albums over two days, which was frankly bonkers, so this year we are aiming for something much more manageable. Having looked at 20 tracks and 10 EPs, we thought we’d split the difference and go with 15 albums. We will countdown five albums each day over the next three days and reveal our choice for number one on Friday, when we will also list out a few albums that didn’t quite make the final 15, just for fun.

As with the tracks and EPs, this is a list of favourites and reflects our somewhat eclectic tastes. Trust us when we say, you are unlikely to find a list like this anywhere else. It’s one reason we love music as much as we do, everyone has a different opinion and we can introduce each other to new sounds all the time.

Here are numbers 15 to 11 on our albums of the year list.

15. Professor Penguin – Planes

Professor Penguin

Melody is King of this soundscape and the horns, strings, keys, drums, vocals etc merely subjects sworn to its allegiance. The 10 tracks swim effortlessly along and each arrangement is as soft and dreamy as the last. It is no wonder the guys have been attracting the attention of 6Music and Brian Eno. With each listen more and more of the depth and beauty is revealed, the subtly and emotion of the lyrics unfold before you, drawing you still deeper into its warm and inviting embrace. Take your time with this, listen properly and without distraction and you will be rewarded.

Buy it from: Professor Penguin

14. Save The Clocktower – Through The Glass

Save The Clocktower - Through The Glass

We love good pop music, our tracks and EP lists show that much, so it pretty much goes without saying we love Through The Glass which is dripping in psychedelic pop dancibility. Save The Clocktower have created rich and bold sounds that holding their head high, big smiles beaming on their faces. “Better Than Ever”, for example, which features guest vocals from Company Of Thieves’ Genevieve Schatz, has a sweet hook and a chorus that borders on anthemic. It embraces the best of pop, from across the genres. At every turn there are wafts of half remembered melodies or beats from the past. This element of familiarity no doubt helps the record get under the skin of the listener but it is the never ending mobius-groove running throughout that will get you. Even on slower jams like “It Happens” there is still enough to have you swaying from side to side, if not singing along loudly and joyously.

Buy it from: Save The Clocktower

13. Jack Robert Hardman – Jack Robert Hardman

'Jack Robert Hardman' Artwork

Our very own letter ‘H’, Jack is currently gathering a great deal of attention from the music world for his track, “Plymouth”, and with good reason. Its feather-soft, ethereal feeling washes over you and soothes your soul. Before “Plymouth” though, came the eponymous debut album from which it is taken and quite the superb piece of song-smithing it is. Building on the classic 3minute pop song mantra and using his musical magpie tendencies to pluck elements from the world around him and craft them into something entirely new. Stylistically he is able to jump around without ever jarring or leaving the listener confused. Be it “Famous”, a Simon & Garfunkel-esque ballad of cracked beauty, or “Lights of London”, a light near-dance track that is full of bounce, or even the playful and utterly charming “Conveyor Belt Of Love”, Jack takes us gently with him leading us along his musical mosaic.

Buy it from: iTunes

12. The Penelopes – Never Live Another Yesterday

The Penelopes Never Live Another Yesterday

Never Live Another Yesterday is an album crammed with futuristic jams built on retro foundations. Full of energy and effervescence, our French heroes have taken their 80s electro influences and blitzed them with a soupcon of Gallic flair and vibrant pop hooks. “Sally In The Galaxy” and “Now Now Now”, in particular, are fantastically catchy and danceable, the kind of tracks that you can’t get enough of on a summers day, driving in the car with the windows down and not a care in the world. The male/female harmonies are rich and infectious, with lead singer Axel’s quiet gruffness complemented perfectly by the sweetness of Laura Kidd’s backing. In a year of many great pop records, The Penelopes have produced a cracker that stands up there with the best of them and which deserves multiple and repeated plays.

Buy it from: Amazon

11. Adrian Younge – Something About April

Somthing About April

Recorded as if it was the soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist, Something About April is modern soul at its very best. It’s crammed with reference points that ring out across the generations of what would now be called urban music. Crooning 50’s vocals, 60’s Motown, deep and fuzzy beats, 70’s funk, hip-hop and dance, all are bursting from within this multifaceted and deeply wonderful album. We also love picking out some of the melodious homages within the tracks ( The Godfather theme and The Beatles are our favourites). Originally released last year in the US and beyond, it earns its place on our list by virtue of its summer 2012 release here in the UK. We may have got to it later than everyone else but that just makes us appreciate its soulful grooviness even more.

Buy it from: Amazon

So that was part one, come back tomorrow for part two where we will reveal who made it to numbers 10 – 6.

Stepping up to The Big League: The Penelopes Interview

23 Nov

Throughout history, the relationship between England and France has been the very essence of Love/Hate with both nations falling in and out with one another at the drop of a hat. We are like friends whose primary form of communication is taking the piss out of one another. Both admire and enjoy aspects of the other but equally dislike and mock many others. One recent export from France that we are really enjoying at the moment is The Penelopes.

Originally from just outside Paris, much less glamorous than it sounds evidently, the duo moved to England just over a year ago to flee the stagnant music scene in France and to establish themselves as part of the vibrant indie-pop culture in London. It is obviously working for both Axel Basquiat and Vincent T as, following the release of their latest album, Never Live Another Yesterday, earlier this year, they are about to embark on a UK tour in support of The Human League. When we caught up with Axel last week, he was in the middle of programming lighting sequences for their sets and understandably excited about the chance to play with one of his childhood heroes.

While it may appear that their success and burgeoning reputation have come about quick smart, it has been a long journey for the pair who lived two floors apart, ” I was living on the second floor in the council estate and Vincent was living on the fourth floor”, in a depressing, industrial suburb just north of Paris. Friends since childhood, Axel and Vincent have known each other since the age of two and have pretty much hung out together ever since. ” We grew up together we were listening to the same music together; we were neighbours, and good friends you know. We are almost brothers”, Axel explains, his English spoken perfectly through his thick French accent.

”We want to make people dance”

Their love and appreciation of English music, specifically the music of New Order, The Human League and Depeche Mode, has been well documented. It was born in part from an affinity they felt with the grey and depressing industrial nature of northern English cities, particularly Manchester and Sheffield, and the ”working class heroes” of these bands. It was the kinship they felt and their fascination with the English that led them to start playing music, that and a significant amount of ennui.

“It’s a kind of common story in rock and roll, because we were just bored, you know?” Growing up with ”nothing to do in our city”, the pair turned to music and started copying and playing like their new idols. Soon though their horizons were broadened and they cast their musical net further afield, no longer happy just to sound like the records they grew up with or tell the stories they had told. We started to investigate, we started to listen to more music, disco music, dance music as well. We started to put these influences inside the music because for us, it’s silly to repeat exactly the same thing. You know it’s really silly, The Pioneers, we love them but we didn’t want to do the same thing. We just wanted to incorporate new electronic things in this, referencing the older influences [but] we don’t want to be revival (sic)”.

The references are certainly there but not as overt as you might imagine. There is a lot of bounce and energy to their music, ”We want to make people dance”, while retaining the sometimes dark and melancholy undercurrent in the words, ”I like when the lyrics are a bit twisted”, Axel explains. He likes to counter positive and uplifting music with a darker message, ”People maybe don’t realise at the time […] in fact it’s more about loneliness and revenge and this kind of thing.

“I don’t like when things are black or white. You are dancing but there’s something a bit melancholy inside, it’s a bit weird. I like that”.

In France on the radio, they only play shit

The pair found that recognition came early for them, they were named 2007’s Best Discovery at the French Qwartz Electronic Music Awards, but they still didn’t feel as though they were connecting or that they fit in the French scene. It is a subject that many would be wary of discussing, for fear of causing offense. Not Axel, he speaks freely and with a refreshing honesty, as if we were old friends catching up after a long time apart. We are talking on the phone but it is easy to imagine him speaking with stereotypical French nonchalance, offering a dismissive shrug of the shoulders as he assesses the French music scene, ”[In France] on the radio, they only play shit you know?”.

The move to England came as they felt their options and opportunities were limited by the conservative nature of the French music industry. While they were liked and revered by the ‘hipster’ and ‘taste maker’ community, it was never going to be enough to provide them the success they craved. ”We want to be more popular” and in France, it was not going to happen. According to Axel, ”for 30 years, the music on the radio is the same” and for all the popularity of the likes of Depeche Mode, there was no French equivalent as they could not break through. The likes of Air and M83, he argues, have had to leave France to become successful. So they set sail for England, where they already felt like they belonged having grown up on our music and where the chance to cross over may be increased as”the frontiers between the underground and the mainstream is a lot [smaller]”.

Since arriving in London, the pair feel their sound has evolved further. The writing, Axel says, has become more structured and precise and the sound is better than ever thanks in part to the higher standard of studios in England. Mostly though, it is the way we work and write that has helped the most. ”It’s in the DNA of the British. How to write good songs, how to write the harmonies. We don’t hear this kind of thing in France, you know? We don’t have that in our DNA. For you guys it’s really natural”.

There are, says Axel, ”a lot more professional people” in England. ”In France a lot of people pretend to be able to do things but we are, you know, we are a Mediterranean country, so [there are] a lot of big mouths” He is keen to stress that his negativity towards the music industry in France is not symptomatic of how he sees the entirety of his homeland mind you. ”I love France, I love the French food, and the wine, but in terms of production they are less good, that’s obvious”.

One of the ‘professional people’ the pair has been working with recently is Alphabet Bands favourite, Laura Kidd, aka She Makes War, who provided backing vocals on the album, features in the video for “Now Now Now” (above) and is joining the band on tour. Like us, Axel is smitten, “She is incredible. She’s just perfect. She works fast, faster than me; she is a lot more professional than us.”

“Laura is very important for me on stage, in terms of the energy that she brings; I’ve learnt a lot with Laura”.

On stage of course means supporting The Human League, which came about entirely by surprise. Axel still isn’t entirely sure how it came about, he believes that a producer in Sheffield thought they would be a good fit for the band and sent some material in. The Human League and their management liked what they heard and soon after an email dropped into The Penelopes inbox, inviting them to join the tour.

For Axel, whose sentences tend to trail off as if his mind can speak English a lot more quickly than his mouth, talking about it makes him giddy and excited. ”When I was in my suburb in France I never think that I would… I’m a fan, you know? It’s the kind of band I love, they are modern you know, they were avant-garde, that’s the point. I like the fact that they reinvented pop music, I love this thing, so yes it is a huge honour for us to… When we received the email we were literally crying, to tell you the truth! You know…. it’s impossible! We are fans. They are in our top six or seven bands you know? We love them!”

It is quite the story. Two kids from a poor, depressing suburb north of Paris who grew up listening to, empathising with and loving The Human League. They start to play music of their own, broadening their horizons and experimenting with their own sounds but never forgetting those bands they loved as children and they let their influence seep into their new sound. Excited and desperate for greater exposure and recognition they cross the sea and work to become successful. Then, as they strive for the big leagues, their wildest dreams come true as another league entirely comes into view and now they begin a new journey in support of their idols, The Human League. They may now be adults, professionals, making their own music to entertain audiences across the world but deep down they are still those two excited kids from just outside Paris, having fun listening to the music that they love.

The Penelopes tour, supporting The Human League, begins tonight (Friday 23 November) in Brighton and culminates in Norwich on 11 December. Dates and ticket details are available at The Penelopes website.