IMOGEN HEAP

Airing on Jan. 13 at 11:00 p.m. ET/PT, “Embedded” goes behind the scenes with the UK’s queen of ethereal electro-pop, Imogen Heap, as the singer/songwriter performs her new album “Ellipse” live for the first time.

More info at Embedded.

Imogen Heap will be performing at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Monday, 29th March at 9pm. Tickets available at SISTIC.

LIVE IN SINGAPORE

The first quarter of 2010 is going to be a mad time for Singaporean rock music fans with the sheer number of quality gigs available.

Take a look…

January

12 – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Esplanade Concert Hall)

13 – Cat Power (Esplanade Concert Hall)

14 – Green Day (Singapore Indoor Stadium)

19 – Patrick Watson (Esplanade Recital Studio)

24 – The Killers (Singapore Indoor Stadium)

26 – Andrew Bird (Esplanade Concert Hall)

February

7 – Florence + the Machine/the xx (Esplanade Theatre)

8 – Echo and the Bunnymen (Esplanade Theatre)

March

7 – Paramore (Singapore Indoor Stadium)

15 – St Vincent (Esplanade Recital Studio)

16 – Dinosaur Jr (TBA)

19 – Kings of Convenience (Esplanade Concert Hall)

29 – Imogen Heap (Esplanade Concert Hall)

*Whew*

Tickets from SISTIC.

KEN STRINGFELLOW LIVE IN SINGAPORE

The mark of a truly accomplished singer-songwriter is the ability to win over an audience totally unfamiliar with said singer-songwriter’s work. I’m pretty sure that most of the audience at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre were the usual weekend casual visitors who had no clue who the gaunt gentlemen with the black-painted fingernails was.

But the crowd exhibited its appreciation when Ken Stringfellow (best known as part of the 90s powerpop band The Posies), stood on the bleaches (instead of the stage) to belt out his intricate pop tunes without the benefit of a mic. Demonstrating an impressive set of pipes, guitar technique and superior songcraft, Stringfellow entertained the largely neophyte audience with his passion, talent and good humour.

Drawn mainly from his three solo albums, Stringfellow’s two sets were a sheer pleasure to behold. The musicians amongst us, were fixated on his chord shapes and structures, nodding our heads in unison with every nuance. Indeed, 2010 has gotten off to a magnificent musical start, with more to come…

Official Site

Myspace

OXFORD AMERICAN

“The Oxford American is a national magazine out of Conway, Arkansas, dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South.” Or so it says on their website. But every one issue per year, the focus is on Southern music and this is where PoP comes in, of course.

The Oxford American #67 features 2 free CDs, one CD titled “Southern Masters” and the other CD titled “Arkansas Masters”. The bulk of this issue is dedicated to detailing the background and providing a critique of each track of the CDs. I am pretty amazed and impressed by the love and craft poured into both the magazine and the selection of songs on both the CDs.

Highlights of the “Southern Masters” CD include Barbara Lynn’s You Can’t Buy Love (“a performance as electrifying and breathless as many as Janis’s best”), Linda Martell’s Color Him Father (“Martell delivers the voice of the child with a chilling, Oedipally inflected, yet innocent tenderness”), Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jacksons’ Shut Um Down (“classic funkpit, fierce politics cradled in a spectral chorus”), Henry Flynt & the Insurrections’ Uncle Sam Do (“avant garde hillbilly and blues”) and the Feminine Complexs Run That Thru Your Mind (“a pop comet”).

Highlights of the “Arkansas Masters” CD include Maxine Brown’s Take It Out In Trade (“sly and indomitable”), The Esquires’s Sadie’s Ways (“lusty rave-up psychedelic pop”), Sleepy LaBeef’s Treat Me Like A Dog (“a fresh, bright sun in a dark universe”), American Princes’ Auditorium (“if rock lives in fear of the past, the Princes show it still has a future”) and the Gunbunnies’ Water Tower (“Big hooks”).

So a blend of undisovered treasures and fine music writing awaits in the new issue of the Oxford American. Go get it!

Official Site

MAPLE MARS

This is a video of New Day from Maple Mars’ forthcoming album Galaxyland, due out in March on Kool Kat Musik.

Written by Mark Radice in the 1970’s, Maple Mars’ version features Mark playing piano, arranging strings and co-producing with Rick Hromadka.

Enjoy!

KEN STRINGFELLOW

Ken Stringfellow – out of the legendary powerpop band the Posies – will be performing two sets at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre on Sunday, 10 Jan 10 at 7.30pm and 8.45pm respectively. Malaysian singer-songwriter Mohd Jayzuan will be opening. Do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime gig. Especially when its FREE. Brought to you by the great folks at Walk On Music.

Myspace

LING KAI

The lovely and supremely talented Ling Kai will be doing a mini-tour of Starbucks outlets in January. Her first performance is today, 9 Jan. Check out the schedule below and make your way to a Starbucks outlet for coffee and great music…

Sat, 9 Jan, 4pm: Liat Towers

Thu, 14 Jan, 1pm: Capital Tower

Sat, 16 Jan, 4pm: Tanglin Mall

Thu, 21 Jan, 12.30pm: Singapore Land Tower

Sat, 23 Jan, 4pm: Raffles City

Thu, 28 Jan, 12.30pm: OCBC Building

Sat, 30 Jan, 4pm: ION Orchard

Exclusively at Starbucks:

Purchase a copy of Ling Kai’s debut EP “Honestly” for the price of $11.95 (U.P. $13.95) when you buy Ling’s favourite beverage: a Grande Triple Shot Caramel Macchiato.

Official Site

Facebook event page

SHERLOCK HOLMES

What happens when two polar British icons collide?

In one corner, we have Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is of course a literary creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a brilliant London-based “consulting detective”, famous for his intellectual prowess and renowned for his skillful use of astute observation, deductive reasoning and forensic skills to solve difficult cases.

In the other corner, we have Guy Ritchie. Ritchie is of course a film director, best known for his movies about the British crime underworld, which involve hyperkinetic editing, different narrative perspectives and extreme quirky characterizations. Films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and the recent Rocknrolla.

So what do you think happens when Guy Ritchie makes a Sherlock Holmes movie? What, indeed.

My own memories of the celluloid Sherlock Holmes are derived from two sources. First, we have the 14 films from 1939 to 1946 starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson. Rathbone plays Holmes as a debonair, suave detective and very straight. Note however, that the stories are set during World War II, and were thus updated for modern times. Good old-fashioned fun, with my favourite being the Scarlet Claw. Secondly, we have the 80s British TV series starring Jeremy Brett, who portrayed Holmes as an arrogant, stand-offish, know-it-all.

Obviously, whilst Ritchie bases his movie firmly in Victorian times, he has had to update the characters for a modern audience. Thus, there is considerably more action here than any other Sherlock Holmes film in living memory. Yes, boys and girls, welcome to the blockbuster version of Sherlock Holmes!

The plotline is as hackneyed as they come – maniacal evil mastermind schemes to take over England and hence the world & Holmes and Watson must stop him. Alright, so its a little more than that. Ritchie presents his take on Holmes with some post-modern story-telling techniques. For example, before Holmes encounters a foe, Ritchie freezes the frame and goes slo-mo as Holmes projects his thoughts concerning his plan before execution. Which is fine but then, Ritchie actually repeats the sequence in real time, which is a waste of time.

Ritchie tries his best to balance the hi-octane action set pieces with the obligatory Holmes deductory passages, which tends somewhat – maybe unintentional – to slow down the pacing of the movie. This makes the movie seem overlong, towards the end I actually began to yawn as Holmes launched into another explanation. And after that, at the end, the movie feels like an extended prelude to the sequel, which will feature arch-enemy Professor Moriarty.

Comeback kid Robert Downey Jr. is quite clearly reveling in this role, even though for the first half of the film, it can be rather challenging to decipher his English accent. Jude Law comes across well playing Dr. Watson as a hard man. There is a good chemistry between the two and after Iron Man, its easier to buy Downey Jr. as an action hero, even if you have trouble accepting Holmes as one.

So like many other of the big films released 2009, Sherlock Holmes is a bit of mixed bag. That said, the pictures look fabulous and Ritchie’s vision of Victorian London is sumptuous. Which makes Sherlock Holmes, despite my reservations, an enjoyable movie. Expect the sequel in two to three year’s time and if its half the film that the Dark Knight, then it deserves to be made.

MOVIES OF 2009

I didn’t watch enough movies in 2009 to put together a top ten list but here are the six movies that I did enjoy in the last year of the 2000s.

DISTRICT 9/MOON

Probably my joint top movies of the year share a few key elements. The debut films of promising new directors and movies produced on a limited budget. Despite these seeming constraints, the story-telling had attitude and heart.

WATCHMEN

Not exactly a crushing disappointment but neither a roaring success, the Watchmen movie is something in between. For the first third of the film, I was left in tears in witnessing the almost faithful adaptation but when the movie veers from the comic, its power begins to diminish. I guess its the best one can expect. Good enough for me.

STAR TREK

I felt similarly mixed about JJ Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise. It started out powerfully but seemed to lose its way halfway through, only to deliver a listless denouement. Chris Pine (as Kirk) and Zach Quinto (as Spock) performed admirably despite the pressure of re-creating such iconic characters. I’m reminded that it is the first movie and establishing the background can always get in the way of story telling. Hopefully the sequel will soar.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

Not quite sure what to make of this movie. Its not your standard war movie and contains enough arty quirks which would turn most casual viewers off. Tarantino takes his time to develop set pieces through dialogue and in truth there is not as much action, as one might expect (which is fine with me). Christoph Waltz’s movie stealing performance is worth the price of admission alone.

UP

You know what to expect from Pixar movies. Great story, compelling characters and ground-breaking visuals. Again, I felt that Up was not quite the genuine article that the Incredibles, Nemo or Wall-E were. Still, Up was enjoyable viewing and its always good to see old folk and Asians in starring roles (yes, I know its all animated but you know what I mean). Good family fare, as usual.

… DRIBBLING …

THE LONG GOODBYE

And so Bolton manager Gary Megson becomes only the third Prem managerial casualty so far in 2009-2010 after the sackings of Paul Hart (Portsmouth) and Mark Hughes (Man City). Well, it seemed only a matter of time before Megson – hugely unpopular with Bolton fans – would be given his marching orders.

But were the fan’s expectations a bit too unrealistic?

To be fair, these fans will remember how Bolton, under big Sam Allardyce, finished in the top 6 a few years ago but such success seems a distant memory now. Of course, Big Sam decided to manage a “bigger” club erm Newcastle (and we all know how that ended up), Sammy Lee took over and flopped before Bolton surprised everyone by bringing in Megson, not exactly a Prem success himself.

I recall when reading about Megson’s appointment that it was a disaster waiting to happen and with Bolton languishing in the bottom three (only on goal difference and with games in hand), I guess that there were enough grounds to warrant the sacking. But c’mon, this is Bolton, we are talking about and basically a small club and the fans need to forget about the golden age of the Big Sam era. It’s over.

So what now for Bolton? There are a couple of out-of-job managers who might fancy the challenge e.g. David O’Leary, Alan Curbishley, Ian Dowie et al, who have had the prequisite Prem experience. So no shortage of candidates. With the Prem table being very tight (only three points separate Bolton from 12th placed Stoke!) and the January transfer window opening, it seems a good time to bring a new man.

Only question is who? Time will tell whether this decision was the right one. Personally, I’ve always found Megson’s teams to be one-dimensional and lacking flair, so I don’t begrudge the Bolton fans’ feelings towards Megson. Now they must hope that the club appoints someone better.

ALBUMS OF THE 2000S

(In alphabetical order, not in merit)

BECK Sea Change (Geffen)

Produced by Nigel Godrich, Beck’s rich songcraft, which runs the gamut from country-folk to pop-rock, absolutely shines on this, possibly, his finest album so far. Favourite song – The Golden Age.

BRIAN WILSON Smile (Nonesuch)

You might say that this is a sentimental choice but Smile stands as a fine musical work even without the backstory, history and yes, baggage. Favourite song – Heroes and Villians.

CHAPPAQUIDDICK SKYLINE s/t (Sub Pop)

Joe Pernice was definitely one of the most consistent singer-songwriters in the 2000s. This Pernice Brothers’ side project features gorgeous chamber country-inflected pop that has stood the test of time. Favourite song – Everyone is Evolving.

DAVID CROWDER BAND Can You Hear Us? (sixsteprecords)

A worship album that totally works as a straightforward pop LP. That’s what distinguishes Can You Hear Us? from the multutude of cookie-cutter worship albums out there. Favourite song – You’re Everything.

THE DECEMBERISTS Crane Wife (Capitol)

Colin Meloy & co decide to get more arty and obstuse on their first major label album and it is probably their finest hour. Prog-rock pieces sit well with pure pop nuggets – ambitious! Favourite song – O Valencia.

FLEET FOXES s/t (Sub Pop)

One of the best debut LPs I’ve ever heard (and I’ve listened to many), this album brought the alt-folk movement home as the Fleet Foxes proved that less is always more and that Brian Wilson had more country-folk in him than most people realized. Instant classic! Favourite song – Ragged Wood.

GRANDADDY Sumday (V2)

Gone but not forgetten, Grandaddy mixed Neil Young, Weezer and ELO into a heady concoction that was always a thrill. Sumday was the one that hit the spot. Favourite song – I’m On Standby.

GREAT SPY EXPERIMENT Flower Show Riots (Riot/Universal)

I guess many S-ROCK unbelievers will probably scoff at this but for me, the sublime Flower Show Riots represented a turning point in the S-ROCK zeitgeist. Favourite song – The Great Decay.

NEAL MORSE ? (InsideOutMusic)

Combining biblical concepts, prog-rock virtuosity and amazing tunes, ? is one of those albums that give you the best of everything – spiritual themes and awesome instrumental passages. Favourite song – Into the Fire.

WILCO Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch)

Leaving behind the minimalist Krautrock experiments of the last two albums, Sky Blue Sky finds Wilco evoking classic country-folk-pop that always gives you a sweet, warm feeling. Favourite song – Walken.

XTC Wasp Star (Cooking Vinyl)

Another sentimental choice. Wasp Star is XTC’s final studio album and for that fact alone, it deserves to be on this list. Nuff said! Favourite song – Stupidly Happy.

Here’s to another great musical decade.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

… DRIBBLING …

…AND THEN THERE WERE THREE

What a difference a week makes in Premiership football! Not long ago, all the talk was about Aston Villa challenging for the title, Liverpool’s Champs League’s chances being written off and of course, Mark Hughes’ dismissal at Man City.

Well, over the Christmas fixtures, Villa lost both games and Liverpool and Man City secured maximum points making the top eight a pretty tight affair. Significantly, the title race is now a three-horse race, with fourth-placed Spurs eight points away from leaders Chelsea.

If nothing else, this makes for exciting viewing and the race for the title, Champs League and Europa League qualification is hotting up indeed. Simply put, that 4th place is up for grabs and its difficult to put any daylight between Spurs, Man City, Villa or Liverpool.

Just like the title race, its too close to call but with the January transfer window opening soon and key African players missing in the same month, there should be further surprises to come…

U2

U2 The Unforgettable Fire Deluxe Edition (Interscope)

1984. The year Orwell warned us all about, proved to be an excellent year for rock music.

Amazing albums like the debut Smiths album, Psychedelic Furs’ Mirror Moves, Born in the USA from the Boss, Madness’ Keep Moving, REM’s Reckoning, Ultravox’s Lament, The Pretenders’ Learning to Crawl, Ocean Rain by Echo & the Bunnymen, Bruce Cockburn’s Stealing Fire and of course, the Unforgettable Fire.

A year before, U2 broke big time with third album, War, which hit #1 in the UK and #12 in the USA. War was a strident anthemic rock album, easily identifiable for its huge drum sound, a signature motif of producer Steve Lillywhite. However, with the next album, U2 elected to change course somewhat and enlisted the aid of avant garde producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. The result – the experimentally accessible Unforgettable Fire.

I remember how shocked I was when I first put needle to the vinyl and out came A Sort of Homecoming with its unusual drum patterns and soundscapes, as Bono sung lustily on top. Magic! A memorable moment. The rest of The Unforgettable Fire sustains this edge as U2, Eno and Lanois pushed the envelope and more or less set the stage for the world conquest to come in the shape and form of The Joshua Tree, three years later.

25 years later, the remastering of this classic stands up pretty well, together with a 2nd disc of b-sides, live tracks and remixes and a 3rd disc (DVD) of videos and documentaries. Add to that a glossy book and prints and what you have is a Deluxe Edition that lives up to the name.

I would say that this is highly recommended but I can’t imagine anyone who is remotely interested in modern rock music who isn’t into U2 and wouldn’t already be interested in picking at least the single-disc version of the album. I guess this Deluxe Edition is for longtime fans like yours truly but its an acquisition that is certainly worth the expense.

Official Site

SPURS 2 WEST HAM 0

At the end it was a comfortable win over the Hammers, completing a satisfying double – the first of the season. But truth be told, Spurs failed to kill off the game for 70 minutes, after the early goal from Luka Modric, spurning chance after chance but keeping West Ham in the game.

As the match wore on, Spurs fans were getting a little nervous with each West Ham attack but Jermain Defoe showed why he is currently the top scorer in the Premiership, as he blasted a rocket past Robert Green at the second time of asking – a sweet instinctive strike!

The other notable record was the fourth consecutive clean sheet, which bodes well for the rest of the season.  If Spurs can stiffen their defence from now on and continue to be deadly in front of goal, then 2010 promises to be an exciting year for Spurs’ fans. This win moves Spurs back into the Top Four, with their competitors Villa, Man City Liverpool still to play. Good time to be a Spur!

COYS!!!

FULHAM 0 SPURS 0

Point gained or two points dropped? With Fulham having thrashed the reigning champions 3-0 in its last match, I suppose that keeping a clean sheet at Craven Cottage was an achievement. Still, Spurs were unable to find its usual attacking rhythm and apart from the excellent Peter Crouch posed little threat to the Fulham goal. The home team on the other hand, did their best to try to prove that their success against Man Utd was no fluke but were in the main ineffective. On the couple of occasions where they seriously threatened the Spurs goal, they found Gomes in fine fettle, denying Fulham with a string of top class saves.

The primary reason for Spurs largely toothless performance, the inclusion of Jermaine Jenas and Robbie Keane in place of Tom Huddlestone and Jermaine Defoe, basically weakened the side and Spurs can count itself fortunate not to have lost this game, despite that.

Perhaps Harry Redknapp figured that the West Ham game on Monday warranted resting Defoe and Huddlestone in the hope of taking maximum points. But in light of the victories earned by Man City and Liverpool, it does appear that Spurs have lost ground on their competitors for that Champs League spot.

AVATAR

Frankly, I had pretty low expectations about James Cameron’s Avatar. I was not disappointed. As soon as the movie begins, you more or less know how its going to end. I mean, its Pocahontas in space, isn’t it? The Na’vi are based on the Red Indians and African tribes, the RDA corporation represents the colonial masters of days of yore and Pandora is every new age tree huggers’ dream of what the Earth should be like. So obviously, our hero Sully (Sam Worthington) is going to become a Na’vi, fall in love with the Na’vi princess (Zoe Saldona), RDA will attack the Na’vi, Pandora will rise up to defeat RDA and so on. Simple, yeah?

What about the special effects? Sure, 3D has certainly come a long way as a gimmick but that and the CGI performance capture effects (all outstanding by the way) are no substitute for good old story. And in that department, Avatar’s plot is wafer-thin.

So, watch it strictly for the effects, whilst not as bad as Terminator Salvation, Avatar isn’t going to tax your brain cells too much.

… DRIBBLING …

CH-CH-CH-CHANGES

Well, its the halfway stage in the 2009-2010 Premiership season and what have we learnt? That the Premiership is the most exciting, most open football league in the universe? Or something like that. The main talking point on every fan’s mind is of course a change to the status quo – has the Top Four’s (i.e. Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool) domination of the league come to an end?

At Christmas, Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal remain in the top three with Aston Villa, Spurs and Man City threatening to fill in the vacancy currently left by the out-of-sorts Liverpool (who lie in an uncustomary eighth!). Even unfancied sides like Fulham and Birmingham are looking to gatecrash the party with recent successes.

So seriously, folks, are we expecting real change to occur come the end of this season OR will the status quo be maintained? Its hard to say but based on the results so far this season, we can expect more shocks and more surprises in th emonths to come. I’m going to stick my neck and make some “educated” guesses about the eight clubs who will have a major say in the Premiership this season.

First up, the traditional “Top Four”

CHELSEA

The Blues looked too strong for the rest of the field at the beginning of the season but are rather being found out of late, being held to draws by Everton and West Ham with unconvincing performances. Ancelotti must be wary of the treatment of Scolari last time out when Chelsea faded after a bright start and Chelsea have already sacked managers in mid-season in the last two seasons, so there is precedent. This is compounded by the absence of ALL his main strikers in January either due to injury (Anelka) or international duty (Drogba and Kalou). It’s hard to imagine how Ancelotti will deal with this problem without diving into the transfer market. Elsewhere, Ancelotti will be without midfield dynamoes Essien and Mikel whilst his other midfielders (Lampard, Ballack, Deco) – as excellent as they are – are clearly showing signs of aging and slowing down. Not only that but even Petr Cech is now more error-prone with the defending not as resolute as it used to be. Still, Chelsea is probably the team to beat and will be heavily involved in the title chase.

MAN UTD

The Champions are going through a defensive crisis, with ALL their first choice defenders missing. Certainly, the main problem for Sir Alex is that – despite his protestations – Man Utd has not adequately replaced Ronaldo. Add to that the poor form of strikers Berbatov and Owen, too much has been placed on the shoulders of Rooney. Whilst Rooney is indeed a top player, he’s not in the same class as Ronaldo. In the creative department, Sir Alex is left with the average talents of Valencia, Nani and the tiring legs of Scholes and Giggs. Sure, the likes of Carrick and Fletcher will work hard and graft but will not provide the spark to turn games around. The fact is, Man Utd need to get a big name player in January like Ribery or Villa to strike fear into the opposition as the 0-3 loss to Fulham has certainly boosted the confidence of other Premiership sides and strengthen the belief that Man Utd is not as invincible as it used to be. Too good to be written off but Man Utd might find themselves coming last in the three-way title race.

ARSENAL

How does Arsene Wenger do it? The Arsenal manager ignores conventional wisdom, choosing to nurture obscure youngsters and added the odd “name” player to forge a collective unit that is greater than the sum of its parts. I believe that there can be no doubt that Arsenal is chock full of talented players that on their day can play any team off the park. But where Arsenal is still lacking is attitude and mentality – when they are ahead and everything is going right, they can be an unstoppable force but if opposing sides get into their faces, or if a couple of decisions go against them and they need to fight and scrap their way to win, then this brilliant Arsenal team can be taken down. Lack of strength of depth is also the other issue. With Van Persie out for the rest of the season, Wenger is relying on Eduardo, Vela and Bendtner (?) to deliver the goods upfront and that must be a major concern for Wenger. However, in Fabregas, Diaby, Nasri & Arshavin, Arsenal do have midfielders with an eye for goal. In the final analysis, whilst Arsenal will certainly press Chelsea and Man Utd all the way, how Wenger deals with the mental strength of his young charges will determine whether Arsenal can go to the next level and win the Premiership with “kids”.

LIVERPOOL

What more can we say about Liverpool? When Spurs beat Liverpool on the opening day, I was over the moon, considering that the Merseyside side only lost 2 games last season. BUT since then Liverpool has lost to Aston Villa, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Fulham, Chelsea and Sunderland, which rather diminishes Spurs’ achievement, don’t you think? But seriously folks, Liverpool is in deep doo-doo and unless results improve very soon, we might just see the end of Rafa Benitez’s reign at Anfield. It boils down to Rafa’s attitude and his obstinance regarding his selection. His decision to stick with two holding midfielders continues to be mystifying to Liverpool fans as he leaves creative players like Benayoun and Babel on the bench. Then of course there’s the Aquilani saga, which remains unresolved. Rafa must realize that losing can become a habit too and the Liverpool fans will not accept a mid-table finish for their beloved club. This outcome looks a certainly unless Rafa pulls a rabbit out of the hat and fast. His big name players are getting frustrated with the poor performances and his mediocre selections will continue to drain the confidence out of players who displayed the winning mentality so resolutely last season. Frankly, I don’t see Champs League football for Liverpool next season and maybe not even Eurpopa League.

Comments?

Stay tuned for part two where I assess the “wannabes” viz. Aston Villa, Spurs, Man City & Fulham.

… DRIBBLING …

YOU’RE SO VAIN

In his maiden press con as Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini declared, “First, we must think about this season and the target of reaching the top four. There are 20 games until the end of the season and this is our target, but next season the target changes and we want to be first in the Premier League.”

Bold words. Ahead of his debut match against Stoke City on Boxing Day, Mancini has gone further to undertake to win FIVE Prem titles for City!

Is Mancini setting himself up for the fall? Rumors abound that if he does not bring City into the Champs League at the end of this season, he will be sacked. So is he merely echoing the expectations of his new employers, basically to throw down the gauntlet to the other clubs challenging for the available top 4 spot (i.e. Liverpool, Aston Villas & Spurs)? Or is it the kind of arrogance that Mourinho displayed when he arrived in England talking himself up as the “Special One”.

On the plus side for City fans, Mancini does have a good track record having won the Italian Cup in his first seasons with Florentina and Lazio, and of course the big one (Scudetto) three times with Inter Milan. Despite the latter success, Mancini found himself booted out when Mourinho became available to the Inter bosses. And … despite what the City owners may have thought of Mark Hughes’ achievements (or lack of), he has left City in 6th place, six points away from 4th placed Villa with a game in hand. Thus, Mancini seemes to have a good foundation to build on.

On the minus side, Mancini has to deal with players who have been unsettled by the dismissal of Hughes. Not only that but City’s shambolic defending will be of concern to Mancini, with the injuries to Bridge and Lescott leaving a void that Mancini has to address. Mancini could not ask for a more challenging task than Stoke, with their muscular style and route one football. How the City defence copes with the Stoke set pieces will be an intriguing sign of whether Mancini can manage the high-tempo hustle and bustle of the Premiership.

Vaunted foreign coaches like Ramos, Eriksson and Scolari have all found the going tough and have paid for their failures but of course the likes of Wenger and Mourinho have proved themselves to be wildly successful. How will all turn out for Mancini and Man City? Will Mancini be able to withstand the scrutiny and the pressure? Will his players be able to?

Watch this space.

PREVIEW: FULHAM V SPURS

In any other season, Craven Cottage would be a daunting place to visit for the Spurs team. However, in a season where Fulham has emphatically beaten the likes of Liverpool and Man Utd at home, you can understand the concern Spurs fans are feeling about this fixture.

That said, the professional manner in which Spurs dispatched Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park last week should at least give Spurs fans a certain measure of confidence that maybe this season, Spurs can actually get something from this away day.

Add the fact that Ledley King and Luka Modric have been pronounced fit for the match is definitely a boost. Bascially, Spurs have to ignore & forget the matches that Fulham has won and concentrate on our own game.

Which means that defensively, Spurs have to play it tight and offensively, to move the ball fast when they have it. Cut out the sloppy passing and the ponderous build-up play and I am sure that Spurs will surprise Fulham.

Sounds easy, eh? But its never that simple with Spurs, is it?

COYS!!!

BITESIZE: INTRO TO SONGWRITING

Yes, folks, here’s some shameless self-promo. The Esplanade has been kind enough (thanks, Chloe!) to invite yours truly to give a 2-hour talk on songwriting. The date is Saturday, 6th February 2009, time is 2pm and venue is Esplanade Rehearsal Studio. Oh and it costs a mere $15 to get a piece of my brain. Cheap, huh?

You can get the tickets at SISTIC.

… and there’s more …

FLORENCE + THE MACHINE

FLORENCE + THE MACHINE Lungs (Universal)

Electro-alt-R&B. Something like that. Kinda like Yazoo, y’know the duo of Alf Moyet and Vince Clarke in the 80s, if anyone of you can remember that far back. Dynamic, muscular and forthright – Florence Welch and friends present “in-your-face” pop music that challenges perceptions both lyrically and musically.

Howl is a prime example as the song threatens to overwhelm with over the top strings and screaming vocals as Florence sings – “If you could only see the beast you’ve made of me/I held it in but now it seems you’ve set it running free/The saints can’t help me now, the ropes have been unbound/I hunt for you with bloody feet across the hallowed ground”.

The violent imagery is carried on into Kiss with a Fist, a rockabilly number where Florence recalls Chrissie (Pretenders) Hynde with lines like “A kick in the teeth is good for some/A kiss with a fist is better than none”. Good stuff.

The rest of Lungs is just as intriguing as Florence + the Machine brings diverse musical and lyrical ideas to the table with a firm foundation in 80s post-punk, which is perfectly fine in my book. An emerging artist to watch…

Florence + the Machine is performing live in Singapore (supported by the xx) on Sunday, 7th February 2009 at the Esplanade Theatre at 8pm. Tickets available at SISTIC.

Official Site

MySpace

ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN LIVE IN SINGAPORE

Post-punk legends Echo and the Bunnymen finally make their way to our shores in 2010. Having seen 80s favorites Elvis Costello and Lloyd Cole in Singapore already this year, catching Mac & Will will be a perfect start to 2010.

Having been reduced to the core of singer Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant since 1999, the Bunnymen have continued to record and release new material, with 2005’s Siberia a standout. Now on tour to support latest record, The Fountain, the Bunnymen will be performing at the Esplanade Theatre on 8th February 2010.

PoP visitors can expect loads of covergae leading up to this momentous event. In a first quarter that is jam-packed with exciting gigs, the Bunnymen concert promises to be extra-special.

Tickets available now at SISTIC.

… and there’s more …

BEST OF 2009

Alright… here’s the deal. What I thought of the works of music listed below may be found somewhere on the Power of Pop. Use the search function if you wanna know more…

1. WILCO Wilco (The Album)

2. THE FIRE FIGHT Henri

3. DAVID MEAD Almost and Always

4. THE OBSERVATORY Dark Folke

5. YEAH YEAH YEAHS Its Blitz!

6. DAVID BAZAN Curse Your Branches

7. ELIZABETH & THE CATAPULT Taller Children

8. ROBYN HITCHCOCK & THE VENUS 3 Goodnight Oslo

9. BRYAN SCARY & THE SHREDDING TEARS Mad Valentines EP

10. CLARE AND THE REASONS Arrow

11. As Tall As Lions You Can’t Take It With You

12. Trentalange awakening, level one

13. Tony Cox Unpublished

14. Paul Steel Moon Rock

15. Chris English Dreamtown

16. Kevin Hearn and Thinbuckle Havana Winter

17. J Tillman Year in the Kingdom

18. Cove Red Awaken the Dreamer

19. Michael Carpenter Redemption #39

20. For this Cycle s/t

21. Marykate O’Neil Underground

22. Black Moth Super Rainbow Eating Us

23. M. Ward Hold Time

24. Inch Chua The Bedroom EP

25. Andrew Chen You Just Might