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Photo: Parklife.uk.com

Parklife Festival 2011

Manchester’s own end-of-exams summer festival returned with a sterling line-up, including names such as Chase and Status, Kelis and Mark Ronson.

In only its second year, High Voltage has certainly targeted the dads market. With a line-up relying heavily on classic rock, prog and metal, as well as none of that tiresome camping malarkey, it’s not difficult to see why. Two days of legendary acts however, means that students shouldn’t shy away from a fantastic festival.

2011 has been a year of Britpop revival. Oasis-esque Brother are set to release a hotly anticipated debut, Liam Gallagher’s new band have just released theirs and a reformed Pulp are about to take this summers festivals by storm. Now, 15 years on from its original release, the too often forgotten Ocean Colour Scene are re-releasing their classic album Moseley Shoals.

Musical re-inventions don’t come much more drastic than that of rapper turned crooner Ben Drew (aka Plan B aka Strickland Banks) who tonight plays host to an evening of retro-soul at Manchester’s Apollo. Liam Bailey prepares the crowd perfectly for the main event with his deep husky tones, performing a short set of bluesy tunes including the raw and beautiful ‘It’s Not the Same’, and soon to be hit single ‘You Better Leave Me’, demonstrating exactly why he’s tipped to be the next big thing in contemporary soul.

As a plethora of female artists dominate the charts, another joins the party in the form of Jessie J and her recently released debut, Who You Are. Much like everything else in the music world, it’s divided our writers into opposing camps where, on the one hand, this new pop sensation deserves the ever-expanding success thrown her way. On the other, Who You Are is a painful attempt to be different, rendering her another generic pop princess.

Ke$ha has been one of the rising stars of 2010, most notable for her “sing-talk” method and catchy songs, but being seen as a “metalhead”, it seems almost unspeakable that I enjoy listening to her music. The lyrics may make very little sense whatsoever, yet Ke$ha contributes a large amount to the writing of her songs, as opposed to many other pop stars who rely on professional song-writers to compose their hits.

Ten is the new album from the Manchester Aid to Kosovo organisation, with all proceeds going to community projects and the construction of the Manchester Peace Park in Kosovo. Marking the tenth anniversary of their first compilation, Cohesion, this second release is an assortment of gems from Manchester’s alternative and indie music scene; compiled by The Travelling Band’s Jo Dudderidge.

With their latest effort, this all-female trio from Brooklyn seek to surpass their ordinary, hastily executed kitsch in pursuit of a more exploratory sound. Emerging from the noise-pop scene of New York that has manufactured the equally derivative Crystal Stilts, the Vivian Girls have reveled in their unpolished and hurried style, stubbornly sticking to their uncompromising, primitive clatter. In Share the Joy these achingly hip darlings of Pitchfork, in some ways succeed in going beyond their familiar C86 like jangles.

For a new Mancunian rock band, bringing out a debut is normally a difficult process; yet one that happens in droves. If, however, that band is actually a successful old band, minus one member, it’s a walk in the park. Though Different Gear, Still Speeding was set for scrutiny and controversy from the offset, Liam Gallagher and his tribe of merry men have, surprisingly, exceeded themselves.

West Palm Beach-based indie rockers Surfer Blood brought with them a little bit of Florida sunshine to Academy 3 on Wednesday night, as they powered through a set that lasted just shy of an hour, but for what it lacked in quantity it more than made up for it in quality.

Christmas Day 1999 was a day of contrasts for me. On one hand, I finally got a PlayStation and a BMX scooter, which made my nine-year-old head explode. I’d have been happy with these, more than happy in fact, but there was another present to open, which had a distinct, CD shaped look about it. “Great”, I thought to myself. I’d just started getting into music and I was happy to think that my sister had noticed my growing interest in AC/DC, Motörhead and Metallica.

Returning to Academy 1 in support of their seventh album, the wonderfully-titled Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, post-rock veterans Mogwai deliver a stirring, two-hour set that spans their entire career. They showcase a whole host of tracks from the new record, opening with the chirpy and upbeat ‘White Noise’, with ‘Mexican Grand Prix’, ‘I’m Lionel Richie’ and new single ‘Rano Pano’ also aired, the latter brilliantly blending grinding guitars with subtle synths. This is a band capable of conveying an incredibly wide range of emotion in their music, which is all the more remarkable when you consider that the vast majority of it is purely instrumental.

Feeder have had a mixed career, from the low points of the unfortunate suicide of drummer Jon Lee and replacement drummer Mark Richardson leaving to rejoin Skunk Anansie to creating their own label, Big Teeth Music, and over 20 Top 40 singles.

White Lies return to Academy 1 tonight after a near two year absence, suffering from a severe case of ‘second album syndrome’. Their sophomore effort, Ritual, has been in stores roughly a month and was met with decidedly mixed reviews; I certainly wouldn’t recommend picking up a copy if you’re hoping for a major departure from their 2009 debut.

“It seems like everybody’s smiling tonight,” notes frontwoman Ninja after opening with the frenetic T.O.R.N.A.D.O., “is it a Northern thing?” You can’t really blame her for forgetting – after all, it has been a full three years since The Go! Team’s last UK tour and even longer since they last played in Manchester. Judging by the quality of their superb third album, Rolling Blackouts, and the way it translates live tonight, it certainly seems to have been time well spent.

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