Category Archives: Jay Jay Pistolet

International Markets: The Upside for UK Music

Music royalty orgnization PRS for Music published its annual Adding up the UK music industry report today, presenting dismal figures for 2010. Even live music revenues, which had been on an impressive rise over the past several years, fell 11.8% between 2009 and 2010. UK industry revenues overall fell 4.8%. Yikes.

Is there anything good in a landscape that seems as bleak as London fog? Well, yes. Will Page, the chief economist for PRS for Music, advises in his report that the UK industry should ‘get small’ and ‘get abroad’. The first theme involves “reducing the transaction costs of managing metadata”, which I won’t pretend I understand. I’ll leave that topic for the grown-ups.

The second nugget of wisdom, though, I will happily discuss. The report found that royalties societies in the UK (like PRS for Music) did significantly better than those in the US (like ASCAP) over the 2010 year. Page acknowledges the huge potential for growth in exports, including in emerging markets like Brazil, India, and China. Page writes: “According to the BPI, UK artists’ share of global sales is estimated to be 11.8 percent in 2010, with one-in-ten sales in the US being a UK act and up to one-in-five in markets like Germany and Australia.”

While the report doesn’t talk about folk/new-folk/acoustic music specifically, I’d like to think that some of this growth has to do with the very artists I write about so frequently. While Adele may be queen in terms of sales figures (she was “responsible for almost 10% of all artist albums sold in the first four months of the year”), it shouldn’t be ignored that Mumford & Sons’ Sigh No More hit number 2 on the Billboard 200. (And performed at the Grammys. And graced the cover of SPIN.) Their rise to the top is the gift that keeps on giving, through both their exposure-building US tours (bringing along artists like King Charles and Matthew and the Atlas) and the efforts of label/club night Communion. Even buzzy indie rock darlings the Vaccines grew out of the same tiny music establishment in southwest London, Bosun’s Locker (back when Justin Young was Jay Jay Pistolet, and shared a flat with Marcus Mumford).

While other UK folk acts have yet to reach the same status as the waistcoat-wearing Sons, they are certainly on the way. Noah and the Whale grabbed attention for their polished new sound and teaming up with director-photographer Autumn de Wilde on “Life is Life”. Alessi’s Ark made the New York Times at SXSW. Matthew and the Atlas and James Vincent McMorrow recorded for Daytrotter. Emmy the Great’s Virtue got a review in Pitchfork. Slow Club made waves (and Mashable) by debuting new material on (with Paste magazine).

These are just the things that came to mind, but the fact remains that these artists are much closer to US recognition than they’ve ever been before. I can casually talk about Laura Marling or Johnny Flynn without getting blank stares, and I can buy the Communion compilation in Mojo magazine at an airport. I no longer have to scour Youtube for new-folk material–I can just click on iTunes (or Spotify). Back when I first found this whole ‘scene’, things like the Black Cab Sessions, Bandstand Busking, and even Jeremy Warmsley’s Welcome to Our TV Show (and the later version, Jeremy Warmsley’s New Thing) were about all I had. From my perspective, the rise in popularity since those early days (three-ish years ago) seems massive.

Furthermore, another BPI survey found that 83% of people are proud of the achievements of British music. While I’m sure they were dealing with Brits proper, I’m pretty proud of those achievements, too. For even though these new-folk artists often acknowledge American musical influences, there is something quintessentially and inescapably English (or Scottish, or Irish, depending) about them. So by all means, UK music industry–follow the advice of Mr. Page and ‘get abroad’. I’ll welcome you with open arms.

Exactly What I Expected.

What did I expect from the Vaccines? A band that had been so hyped, positioned as the second coming of good ol’ British guitar rock, and just as quickly trashed—reviled for being ‘posh’, for being clean and ‘mum-friendly’ (although “Norgaard” is a touch creepy). Where was the edge? The Clash-style grit and vigor? Certainly not on tracks like the diminutive “Wreckin’ Bar”, which throws in a reference to F. Scott Fitzgerald before declaring “I know you’re your Mother’s daughter, Well brought up; royal blue, I haven’t got the time for you!” Feels a little false, right?

Drowned in Sound perhaps raised the question of the title most succinctly, pondering: “Is it a snarling piece of punkish rhetoric? Or is it a more an resigned throwing of hands in the air, a What Did You EXPECT from the Vaccines?”. I’m inclined to think it’s more of the latter, that Justin Young and the boys are nodding their well-coiffed heads in acknowledgement of the ridiculous media frenzy. If you examine the album through the lens of rebellious punk or old-school rock’n’roll, it comes off like a little girl trying on her mother’s make-up. But the Vaccines aren’t either of those things, and shouldn’t really be judged by the million ready comparisons (the Strokes, the Ramones) that keep being offered up. It’s true that the Vaccines wear some of these influences on their designer (or overpriced vintage, more likely) sleeves, but I think they’d be the first to admit that they are not rock’s new Messiah.

Being a long-time listener of Justin Young’s singer-songwriter alter ego, Jay Jay Pistolet, I wasn’t surprised by the eleven tracks of What Did You Expect. Although the styles are obviously quite different, Jay Jay was to folk as the Vaccines are to indie rock. Those songs are also easily digestible, sweet and simple, not changing the game so much as providing a pleasant escape. That all may sound harsh, but I don’t mean it that way–not everything needs to rock the boat. I fondly remember listening to JJP’s “We Are Free” while walking around London on a sunny day, and I enjoy infectious tunes like “If You Wanna” and “Norgaard” just as much. The Vaccines are most successful when they hit their beachy, sun-drenched stride, more Wavves than Jesus and Mary Chain.

While some songs on the album are weighed down by their glossy production and dragging tempos (“A Lack of Understanding”, “Family Friend”), others truly perfect summer escapism. Say what you want about “Wreckin’ Bar” and its lack of profundities, it gets stuck in your head and makes you tap your toes. Such is the case with much of What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?: it’s not earth-shattering, but it’s a good time. When you’re bobbing along to “Blow It Up”, you won’t really care that the band is more well-to-do than working-class. You’ll just want a dance floor.

I Love London

In preparation for the Royal Wedding, I am currently drinking London-imported tea from my Union Jack teapot while wearing a Union Jack t-shirt and a Cambridge sweatshirt. I tried to find crumpets today, but Safeway didn’t seem to have them, so I’m stuck with English muffins. And did you know England’s favorite dish is actually chicken tikka masala? Guess what I had for dinner.

If this all sounds crazy and/or pathetic, you’re entirely right. I haven’t gone far enough into wedding insanity for it to be legit and slightly impressive, but I’ve probably thought about it more than the average Californian. As my Facebook news feed gets filled with other study abroad “I miss London” statuses, though, I feel a bit validated: for this one day, we’re all allowed to feel like pseudo British expats.

As such, I’d like to honor the couple (and my own fond memories) by compiling a short England playlist. These songs may not have an iota of meaning for Will and Kate, but they do for me.

“Goodbye England, Covered In Snow”–Laura Marling
“Eyeless In Holloway”, Johnny Flynn
“Say No!”, The Agitator
“Oh England”, King Charles
“Mistress England”, Emmy the Great (duh)
“I Love London”, Crystal Fighters
“Monsters Under the Bed”, Eugene McGuinness
“A Foggy Day (In London Town)”, Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass
“Mornington Crescent”, Belle & Sebastian
“London Town”, Laura Marling
“Memory of a Free Festival”, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros (David Bowie cover)
“A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square”, Vera Lynn
“Bad Things Coming, We Are Safe”, Emmy the Great
“Queen of the 21st Century”, Golden Silvers
“Wayne Rooney”, Johnny Flynn
“London”, Ben Howard
“We Are Free”, Jay Jay Pistolet
“Bonkers”, Dizzee Rascal (this will not make ANY sense unless I studied abroad with you)
“Winter Winds”, Mumford & Sons

And finally…“London Calling”, The Clash

Enjoy the festivities!

Festival Envy

As I sit here writing papers on things like copyright law and public opinion polls, the rest of the music-loving world is journeying to Austin, Texas. The interactive/film/music powerhouse that is SXSW draws everyone from industry insiders to spring breaking hipsters because of its sheer awesomeness. I’m going to be living vicariously through all the music bloggers and tweeters taking over Texas this coming week, and I’ll try to post some of my findings on here. In the meantime, here are some suggestions for SXSW bands and artists to check out.

Admiral Fallow
The Scottish band formerly known as the Brother Louis Collective released their debut, Boots Met My Face, on March 28th in the UK. They have the Scottish vigor of a band like Frightened Rabbit, but have added a bit of softness and a lovely wind section. Their lyrics are clever and evocative, and standout track “Squealing Pigs” is the cheeriest ode to that “sinking feeling of being alone” I’ve ever heard.

Alessi’s Ark
There’s really nothing about Alessi’s Ark that I can add to what I’ve said already. If you haven’t climbed aboard the Ark, you’re missing out–big time.

Bombay Bicycle Club
There’s nothing new or small about Bombay Bicycle Club, but these guys do give a great live show. I saw an acoustic set at London’s Old Queen’s Head pub, and was instantly sold. That they followed up their 2009 debut I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose with an acoustic album (Flaws) made me pretty darn happy. Word on the street (er, in NME) is that they’re returning to electric for album number three, which will be released in June.

Goldheart Assembly
Goldheart Assembly released 2010’s Wolves and Thieves to positive reviews, and by all accounts their live performances are even better. NME called their on-stage sound “an explosion of energy”, and the band’s energetic California-esque harmonies seem built for live audiences.

The Head and the Heart
I love these guys. As I previously wrote, I discovered the Seattle band at a Stornoway concert–and they blew me away. Now they’re signed to Sub Pop, touring with everyone from Dr. Dog to Iron and Wine (later this spring), and are certainly going to keep climbing. Check out their official video for “Lost In My Mind”, which has been circulating MTVU:

High Highs
The lush music of High Highs strikes the perfect balance between ethereal and energized. Their songs are simply beautiful. I was first wooed by this dreamy cover of Wild Nothing’s “Live In Dreams”:

James Vincent McMorrow
See my post at For Folk’s Sake on the husky Irish singer-songwriter. Seems like just the type to create a hauntingly intimate live show.

Matt Corby
Gotta give a Communion shout-out to Australian Matt Corby, who morphed from Australian Idol contender to scruffy folkie. The transformation seems to suit him well, and got him signed to Communion after a placement on one of their Compilations.

Matthew and the Atlas
Matthew and the Atlas truly takes my breath away. Do yourself a favor and check them out, as soon as possible. Like, stop reading this. Go.

Noah and the Whale
Though I’m not crazy about their brand spanking new third album, Last Night On Earth, my love for NATW still knows no bounds. I’ll be officially reviewing the album later, but for some great and heartbreaking tunes, check out The First Days of Spring.

Summer Camp
I think I’m beating a dead horse on this one. They’re great, we already know that.

The Vaccines
Ohhhh, the Vaccines. I’ve yet to fully make up my mind on this straight-up guitar rock project from Justin Hayward Young and co., but it is unquestionably fun pop music. Their EP was released in the US on March 8th, and their debut album will be available May 31st.

Also: Alex Winston, The Antlers, Birds & Batteries (San Francisco bands FTW!), Bobby Long, Caitlin Rose (who I’ll be seeing with Johnny Flynn in May!), Cheyenne Marie Mize (who I saw with Johnny Flynn in November), Hunx & His Punx, John Grant with Midlake, Maps & Atlases, Nathaniel Rateliff, Pepper Rabbit, Rural Alberta Advantage, Sea of Bees, Smith Westerns, Trampled by Turtles, Tune-Yards, Wye Oak. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Vaccines: New Videos Released

Justin Hayward-Young, known in the world of London folk for his project as Jay Jay Pistolet, is in the buzziest of the UK buzz bands: the Vaccines. Having been together for less than a year, the group has quickly and mysteriously garnered vast amounts of press attention. They’ve already performed on Jools Holland and scored a slot on the NME Awards Tour in February 2011, alongside Crystal Castles, Magnetic Man, and Everything Everything. It’s clear, however, that the band is still in its early stages: their first London show (with 300 in attendance and another 200 turned away) lasted only 25 minutes.

The Vaccines are currently touring the UK, and single “Wreckin Bar (Ra Ra Ra)”/”Blow It Up” is out November 22nd.

The Return of Jay Jay Pistolet

Jay Jay Pistolet was a bit of a crooner. With a (dare I say) sultry voice and vibrato, the singer-songwriter added a bit of sweetness to the London folk scene. To my immense sadness, Jay Jay (real name Justin Hayward-Young) retired his moniker last year with only vague statements about new projects and directions.

For Folk’s Sake has finally revealed Justin’s new ‘project’: a London-based rock band called the Vaccines. Their first track, “If You Wanna”, is already being hyped in the UK by Zane Lowe (Radio 1) and more. I must say, it’s pretty darn catchy.

If You Wanna by The Vaccines