Category Archives: Musical Digest

The Best of 2012 (Part Two)

Happy New Year folks. Dramatic Internet issues in late 2012/early 2013 has delayed this somewhat, so sorry about that. I thought I would embed the entire album for each of the top 10.  How about that then?  Also see the footnote below, regarding some of the other albums that didn’t make the top 20, but have still made very good listening this year. So here we are:  numbers 10-1.

 10: Alabama Shakes – “Boys and Girls”.  Having closely monitored this band, since August 2011, I am thrilled to buttons that the release of their debut album has made such an impact this year.  Not that they have produced a new innovate sound, but that there vintage country rock soul blues knees up hootenanny sound about partying, loving, fucking and fighting has a tremendous energy and grit with Brittany Howard’s drawl and prowess to croon and snarl with the greatest ease.  “Hold on”, “Heartbreaker” “You Ain’t Alone” “Hang Loose” and “Boys and Girls” will give you a sense of what this lot are all about for starters. Not to be missed, and the next stage is to try and catch these cats live, where the party will undoubtedly come to life even more. So get down and sweaty at your nearest barn dance, grab a beer, and your partner and enjoy this, boys and girls.

 “Oh why can’t you see/that I’m not trying to be/No kind of bother/I’m just trying to save what was left between you and me”

9: Paul Banks – “Banks”.  Having set aside his Julian Plenti moniker, the release of Paul Bank’s new solo album under his own name hears a fresh selection of sound and influences.  With one of the most interesting voices in music, it’s impossible not to associate the Interpol front man with… Interpol, surprisingly.  Just as well I love Interpol then.  Yet “Banks” cements Banks as a solo artist of his own accord, with an awakening of swelling guitar lines and beautiful arrangements. He sings about the passing of time and missed opportunities (“Over My Shoulder” and “Young Again”) but also interspersed with hope and optimism (“Arise, Awake” and “Summertime is Coming”). As well as an insanely intense instrumental “Lisbon”, the album boasts “The Base”, one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year.  The guitar hook alone, will make you melt, but the four plus layers to this song with bass, violins and keys blending beautifully together as Banks hypnotic tones sets fire to this delightful solo effort.

“Now and then I can see the truth above the lies/Now and then, oh I feel, you’re truly anesthetised”

8:  Bat for Lashes – “The Haunted Man”.  Natasha Khan’s highly anticipated third outing draws on a variety of influences.  The connections to Bjork have been abundant since the release of “Fur and Gold”, but the spirits of Bush, Harvey, Smith, Joplin, Goldfrapp and Merchant shine through in this LP. Khan, while wearing these icons on one sleeve demonstrates her most compelling music to date up the other. Naked album sleeve aside, the tracks are striking in themselves, each offering a different sound and energy.  “All Your Gold” – an angry and relentless tribal drum backed with spooky synth and an increasingly powerful set of Khaaaaaaaaaan lungs. Compare this with the stripped back (naked almost) “Laura”: one piano, one voice (and a few horns here and there) – heart wrenching and beautiful, it remains a simple but no less startling single.  “Winter Fields” hears her sing fondly of her roots on the Sussex Coast, filled with a complex arrangement by contrast, with pipes, violins and some mega bass drum action, while “Marilyn” and “Rest Your Head” (the latter is very Kate Bush) are both awesome examples of Khan’s abilities to deliver some seriously intense rhythmic synth pop. The Haunted Man” is a slick and rich return to the fray for Bat For Lashes.

“Drape your arms around me and softly say/Can we dance upon the tables again?”

7:  The xx – “Coexist”.  It was always going to be difficult for any band, let alone The xx, to top their masterful debut, and let’s be clear, while “Coexist” certainly is not an improvement, it delicately demonstrates a quiet and subtle evolution.  Lyrically, the subject of love loss and separation is evident, sung to breathtaking perfection by Romy Madly Croft and the increasingly prominent and confident Oliver Sim.  Working tirelessly in the background, Jamie Smith offers, at times, less minimal and more BPM on tracks like “Ficton” and “Sunset”, just one glimmer of the band’s tantalising progression.  The electrifying signature suspense of their sonic soundscaping (too much) remain with “Missing” and “Unfold” offering us “oh classic xx darling, classic”, not to mention that xx guitar sound which cannot and must not be replicated elsewhere on “Angels” and “Reunion” (the latter featuring a fetching set of steel drums, no less).  Aesthetically pleasing on the ears, and rich in atmosphere, The xx are going to keep on doing this, you know that right?

“I always thought it was sad/The way we act like strangers/After all that we had/We act like we had never met”

6: Richard Hawley – “Standing at the Sky’s Edge”. Holy hell, Richard.  A storm. A beautiful, dark shimmering storm thou hath released.   Hawley embarks on a dramatic departure from the likes of “Trueloves Gutter” with an explosion of euphoric noise, psychedelic reverb and wavy Eastern strings and drones.  This album has to be played extremely loud.  Sky’s Edge hears a tremendous release of energy with Hawley breaking out some serious amps and mega power chords. The anger on tracks such as “Down in the Woods” seems removed from the soft crooning seductions we know and love.  The psychedelic “She Brings the Sunlight” is a wonderful opener, that slowly builds and builds, and a strong indication of the album’s direction, but Hawelites will be pleased that a couple of familiar sounding tracks exist on “Seek It” and “Before”.  Interestingly, “Don’t Stare At The Sun” bridges the gap between the two styles very well, containing one of the sweetest melodies you’ll hear this year (and the guitar line at 4.30 is just epic).  The title track as with most of the album also proves once again that Hawley can tell a good story. In that familiar, comforting, rich baritone, Hawley offers us ominous tales of love, loss, redemption, anger, hatred and outer body experiences, making it a certain highlight this year.

“He was standing at the sky’s edge/And out there who knows what he’s thinking/He was sliding down the razor’s edge/And watched his life slowly sinking”

5: We Are Augustines – “Rise Ye Sunken Ships”.  Nothing has come close to capturing such a euphoric sadness than the debut offering from Brooklyn’s We Are Augustines.  It’s proper heart on sleeve music, as Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson channel their similar traumatic family upbringings, with the main subjects surrounding McCarthy’s schizophrenic and institutionalised brother, James (who killed himself during recording) and alcoholic mother (who died in a homeless shelter when McCarthy was nineteen).  He also never met his father, so one can see that life hasn’t been too kind on McCarthy. Unlike albums, which centre around heartbreak, and remain focussed on the tragedy itself, “Rise Ye Sunken Shapes” is more exultant and seeks redemption, and focuses on hope through lively guitar lines, propulsive drums and strained, howled vocals.   “Book Of James” is heart-wrenching account of a moment between Billy and James, while “Headlong into the Abyss” sounds like the car journey Billy drives to rescue his brother, his voice hoarse as if about to, or having just cried his eyes out.  All songs conclude with a sense of light at the end of a murky tunnel, even “The Instrumental” which tales off the album.  This will really have a go at your heart, and has done so to mine throughout the year (Note: the UK release was 2012, despite it coming out in the US in 2011).

“Well call the police, go ahead call your shrink/Call whoever you want but I won’t stop the car/Well call the police, go ahead call your priest/Call whoever you want, call in the National Guard”    

4: Grizzly Bear – “Shields”.  Oh sweet hells yeah.  The triumphant return of Grizzly Bear was joyful this year.  The General Managers’ of Expectations, the album is a chaotic departure from “Veckatimest” and utterly enthralling. Flourishes of the word of the year (or so it would seem for these past two posts) psychedelica and distortion, stamped with classic Bear manoeuvres like Daniel Rossen and Ed Droste’s melting falsetto harmonies, as well as the inventive fusion of folk and pop. “A Simple Answer” is delightful, marching and upbeat, while “Yet Again” is about as pop as the band will go, and stands out as one of the best songs I’ve heard this year, from start to end, this is quite special.  “Gun Shy” is awesome and demonstrates an inventive variety of instruments and shimmers along a hallucinogenic trip, while the concluding songs “Half-Gate” and “Sun In Your Eyes” are both wonderfully expansive and comforting. “Shields”, demonstrates the band’s relentless energy and craft, combining familiarity with new directions. “And I can’t help myself” sings Rossen on the swirly soundscape of opener “Sleeping Ute”.   It’s a powerful return to the fore, as I wrote here.

“The sky keeps staring at me/Frozen in my tracks/Nothing else to see/And when I move my face left/You’re always standing there/A shadow I can’t see/And even then I can’t trace/You’re walking away”

3:  Django Django – “Django Django”.  Trendy trippy time-warped avant-garde robot psychedelic (!) rattle and roll science fiction cowboy pop – in sum. From intense harmonies, tickly guitar, glitches, blips, synth and tribal drumming, this fine debut offers much. “Default” will seal the deal with a choppy guitar line that goes straight into your eardrums. In fact the whole album is toe-tapping and infectious, full of irresistible and rhythm centric melodies. “Waveforms” captures the essence of the band’s creativity, a whirlpool of sound and inventiveness exploding from one’s speakers, but the menacing opening to “WOR” – the first song I heard way back in September 2011 gripped me into a Django death grip. “Firewater” and “Love’s Dart”, provide further proof of a band pushing boundaries with this confident and heady eponymous debut, and well worthy as one of the innovators of 2012.

“Take one for the team/You’re a cog in the machine/It’s like a default”

2: Alt-J – “An Awesome Wave”.  What a fitting name for an album.  Alt-J have taken over this year, with a debut to savour.  Worthy winners of a strong shortlist of Mercury nominees, the band from Leeds and or Cambridge have demonstrated an endless cascading creativity and a sign of change (literally: ∆).  Intelligent, sophisticated lyrics are matched with an exciting variety of sounds, samples and instruments. The music is an exciting concoction, which often builds from a quiet intensity to an explosion of electricity and passion.  There is a lot going on, but rather than overwhelming, it is absorbing.   You can dance to this; you can sit on a beanbag; wake up or fall asleep to the likes of “Tessellate” or “Matilda”.  The energetic “Fitzpleasure” or “Breezeblocks” cemented their name on blogs, and began the hype, and rightly so, but the brilliance of the ‘folkstep’ “Dissolve Me” and “Taro” must be experienced.  Each song offers something different, maintaining the album’s elegance.  References to life experiences abound from childhood (special mention must be made to “Where the Wild Things Are” on “Fitzpleasure), escapism, love, passion and loss.  Alt-J have successful produced one of the most rewarding sounds of recent times, and we can only wait for more.

“She bruises, coughs, she splutters pistol shots/ But hold her down with soggy clothes and breezeblocks/She’s morphine, queen of my vaccine, my love, my love, love, love”

1: Beach House – “Bloom”.  Every now and then, you need to remain loyal to those you love.  Despite Django Django and Alt-J, producing two innovative sounds in 2012, my soul became entombed to the sounds of Beach House and their fourth album “Bloom”.  It is impossible for me to not to love this album, and while you may think that I’m not looking at this objectively, and I’ve not given the nineteen who preceded any justice because of bias or blind loyalty, you’re probably right.  The album remains fixed in its dreamy ways, but delightfully sees an added texture, not previously heard in Beach House records.  The husky vocals and epic lungs attached to Victoria Legrand are matched with a spine-tingling combination of synth and shimmering guitar from Alex Scally.  Yet closer inspection reveals more surface and layers to their music, including some seriously heartfelt lyrics, an aspect often overlooked on dream-pop as a genre.  From opener and soothing “Myth”:  “You can’t keep hanging on, to all that’s dead and gone” to “Troublemaker” both discloses a fading relationship: “In the night we stick together/the walls are shaking in their skin” while “Wild” takes your breath aware, with surprisingly brazen guitar from Scally and lyrics such as: “Our father won’t come home/Because he’s seeing double”.  Each song contains flickerings of utter beauty, and is difficult to isolate individual songs which make the album complete and oh so charming.  The songs are tightly woven to work off or through each other, and indeed the ways in which each song could probably tumble on forever, is certainly no coincidence.  Filled with an atmosphere suitable for all occasions, Legrand and Scally have produced their most complete albums to date.  You could spend an eternity listening to it, and it might feel like time has suspended itself on your behalf.  There is something entirely comforting about a band who continue to do what they do, so very well and as closer “Irene” suggests, Beach House selflessly create a “strange paradise” for us all.

“All I wanted, comes in colours/Vanish everyday/I keep these promises, these promises/ Stranger things will come before you/Always out of the way/We keep these promises, these promises”

And that’s the year that was.  I’ve already heard some forum murmurings about the sort of comebacks, which may be gracing us for 2013, as well as some breakthrough artists to enjoy, so I confidently look forward to what the year holds in store.  Well done, 2012, you did me proud. Be sure to check out Radio Juan shortly for more on the top 10 albums.

Footnote: Those who didn’t, but deserve mention:

Jesse Ware – “Devotion”

The Black Keys – “El Camino”

Best Coast – “The Only Place”

Friends – “Mainfest!”

Dogtanion – “Japan”

First Aid Kit – “The Lion’s Roar”

Tame Impala – “Lonerism”

The Maccabees – “Given to The Wild”

Beth Jean Houghton And The Hooves of Destiny – “Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose”

Paul Weller – “Sonik Kicks”

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The Best of 2012 (Part One)

As I casually toasted 2012 in last year’s digest, I could not have forseen the quite brilliant variety of sounds, styles, comebacks and arrivals this year has provided.  Here are 20 albums which defined my year through good times and bad, though in the interest of time, there have been so many more, which I will happily write in a lengthy footnote on request. Also, in the interest of suspense and amazement, I’ve chosen to break it down into two, mainly because the top ten will be featured on Radio Juan across two shows in late 2012/early 2013.  Sorry for a lack of action since August.

20: The Mystery Jets – “Radlands”.  Maybe I’m just a sentimental old fool, but Blaine and the boys have squeezed into the final list because of consistently producing music, which I cherish without much thought.  Ever since “Making Dens”, The Mystery Jets have been a consistent player in my music collection, and while the trip to America on their fourth outing is by no means their best album, it demonstrates a progression, which I feel I have been a part of.  People will remember the clever lyrics of “Greatest Hits”, and the slightly marmitey lead single “Someone Purer” but spare a moment for the sheer brilliance of “The Nothing”, the vocal harmonies of “Take me Where the Roses Grow” and the Pixies inspired “Lost in Austin”.  The American influences are there for all to hear, but stamped with that striking London poetry I have always admired.

“I never said I was a fallen angel/with a halo and a broken wing/but I’m not like all the other people/ with their skinny coffees and their Nurofen”

19:  Of Monsters and Men – “My Head is an Animal”.   HEY! WOAH!  We all like a bit of boy/girl singing, a bit of brass and a good old chorus, which rouses you from your beds in the morning.  Step forward the Icelandic six-piece Of Monsters and Men.  Having made it pretty big in Scandinavia and most of Europe, it seems the Brits have arrived late in the day, but my how we have embraced the feel good euphoric mountain sounds.  Even the most hardened pessimistic pretentious music junky will be tempted to turn this album up when feeling blue, with tracks such as the bouncy “Mountain Sound”, “Little Talks” or “Six Weeks” complimenting the slightly softer numbers such as “Lakehouse” or “Yellow Lights”.  Even the more atmospheric ballads, while mega cheesy like “Slow and Steady” have its appeal. Cuddly, whimsical and filling up the feel-good feeling in summer and beyond, Of Monsters and Men have already got to you, you just need to acknowledge it so.

“There’s an old voice in my head that’s holding me back, Well tell her that I miss our little talks/ Soon it will be over and buried with our past/We used to play outside when we were young/ And full of life and full of love”

 

18:  Yeasayer – “Fragrant World”.  Be patient, and you will slowly succumb to the sound of Brookyln’s Yeasayer, with their third album “Fragrant World”.  Though creeping forward with slightly new sounds, which sadly feel incomplete and insecure at times, they retain their famous electronica experimentations.  Unlike the euphoric “Odd Blood”, this offering is dark and twisted, with chaotic bursts of synth and drum beats overlapping fraught and tense vocals from Chris Teating.  Surprisingly the references to historical figures such as Henrietta Lacks or Ronald Reagan on “Henrietta” and “Reagan’s Skeleton” respectively, are actually the best tracks on the album, but the signs are there for new directions with “Blue Paper” and “No Bones”.  Yeasayer need to make the brave leap for their next LP, and not be afraid of the consequences.

“You’re making them rich, they throw you away/The magic is gone, but you’re here to stay”

 

17: Stumbeline – “Spiderwebbed”. Some late night radio tuning, gave the greatest pleasure of stumbling upon this Bristol based producer, responsible for some of the most dreamy electronic sounds this year.  Syncopating beats, which glide alongside distorted guitar lines, delicate synth and soulful vocals, this album has proven itself as an appeasement and accompaniment to train travel in particular: with chaos on the Northern Line and a sweet lullaby to long train journeys gazing at the West Country respectively.  Particular highlights include “Capulet”, the Mazy Star cover “Fade Into You” and the insanely wonderful “Catherine Wheel”.

“Fade into you/I think it’s strange you never knew”


16: Two Wounded Birds – “Two Wounded Birds”.  Wax that surf-board, and head down to…Margate beach?  Yep.  The quartet from Kent made waves (eugh) this year with an fast-paced cheery, yet also slightly broody surf pop sound, which is smeared with nostalgic memories of growing up, being in love and being alone. While The Lively Ones (of “Pulp Fiction” fame) were probably catching waves in shorts off sunny California, drinking ice cold bottled beer, the kids from Margate were probably body boarding with wetsuits on a shingled beach, huddling around a six-pack of Tesco lager and a disposable barbecue.  It’s that contrast between fresh US West coast sounds against a backdrop of gloomy British East coast, which appeals. They channel that 50s do-wop, Spector inspired R&B vibe very well, but should also be congratulated for breathing some fresh life into a well-worn sound, which in itself makes it timeless.  Look out for the upbeat “Together Forever” and the peculiarly titled “Daddy’s Junk” but don’t be put off by those tinged with darkness, from “My Lonesome” to “If Only We Remain”.

Alone, Aloooooooone/All alone, with nobody at home/Because I’m on my lonesome, tonight”

15: Echo Lake – “Wild Peace”. Prepare to get numb, as this amazing LP washes over you.  Marred in tragedy, following the untimely death of their drummer, Pete Hayes, the album is a wonderful long exhale of shoe-gazing dream pop, which echoes everything from Beach House to My Bloody Valentine.  Thom Hill and Linda Jarvis give us the beautiful, the calm and the euphoric and eases your head against a soft wave of sound. Apart from a fitting tribute to the memory of Hayes, songs such as “Another Day”, “Last Song of The Year” and “Just Kids” puts one in a comatose like state of tranquillity as the tumultuous year draws to a close. Echo Lake have tremendous potential to be a truly mesmerising force, and one can only hope that tragedy does not tear this band apart.


14: Field Music – “Plumb”. This is one of those “heard the name, but didn’t really know, until they made the Mercury shortlist” kind of entries.  Having since partaken in an enormous backcataslog, their fourth album, “Plumb”, makes clear both a band who fully deserved to be shortlisted for the coveted prize, but one who has worked hard on progressing their sound, with each LP.  On first listen, you may struggle to piece together 15 songs in 35 minutes. It is a very complex, but no less impressive art-rock prog-pop album full of tempo shifts, glitches, orchestras, synth, tireless bass lines that flourishes everything from 80s electronica, funk to psychedelica – plenty to whet one’s musical pallet. With each listen, I both dismay and rejoice at choosing a new highlight each time and right now, it’s “Sorry Again, Mate” but don’t for a second think about not checking out “(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing”, “Who’ll Pay the Bills” or the marvellous “A New Town”.

“I was counting the days/ and I was counting the reasons/ I was satisfied everything was fine/But you should’ve never come”.

 

13: Peter and Kerry – “La Trimouille”.  A delightful pair of London-based storytellers, who stole my heart this summer, with delightful little ditties which evoke 80’s bands such as The Human League and The Pet Shop Boys, full of synth, beats and guitar and a enchanting understanding and connection between the duo.  The debut from London’s Peter and Kerry offers much from upbeat electro pop (the delightful “I Don’t Know”) to emotive and heartfelt such as the glitch, static infused and all so defiant “Cirque”, and the mesmerising  tale with a beautiful guitar line of “Connecticut” – all  demonstrating an effortless ability to transcend time, space and genres with their sound. Read a little more here.

“Its been about five weeks, I’ve just about given up/ I walk the same route, but I can barely stand up/The things  see around me, that I seem to recognise/Are what keep me connected, and let me know that I won’t forget”

12: Jack White – “Blunderbus”.  The review I wrote for Jack back in May summed up my feelings. As I wrote them, I have absolutely no qualms in using them again. What I will add, is that I think he is a wonderful, talented and entirely eccentric man, who deserves a musical knighthood equivalent. Filled with hard riffs, loopy lyrics, corrupted organs, no Meg, and interestingly a release of tremendous energy and “real emotions”. His recent divorce has slightly crept into his music and many have labelled this as Jack’s “Blood on the Tracks”.  All the famous eccentricities come out in songs like “Freedom at 21”, the “Trash Tongue Talker” while “Sixteen Saltines” and the Little Willie John cover “I’m Shakin’” are wonderfully gritty: “I’m noivouss” says Jack, just like that.  The plunk of the pianee (there’s a difference from piano) makes a welcome intrusion with the brilliantly titled “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” and “Weep Themselves to Sleep”, which drowns out Jack’s usually prominent guitar. More than anything Blunderbuss demonstrates a more grounded album, closer to reality than all of my favourite White Stripes albums put together (which is all of them). This new-found source of material certainly cements Jack the innovator, confirms Jack the genius, and offers us Jack the human being. Maybe he should get divorced more often?

“Well I get into the game, but it’s always the same/I’m the man with the name, Hip Eponymous Poor Boy (poor boy)”

 

11:  Grimes – “Visions”. Intense.  Relentless. Fascinating.  Claire Boucher’s third album in two years as Grimes is a glorious exploration of sound with her haunting falsetto, being accompanied by a warehouse of influences from techno, dubstep to mainstream pop and euphoric dance.  Any of the tracks on “Visions”, needs to be listened to initially in a dark room, with some seriously good headphones.  Only then, can one hear the many layers which makes up Boucher’s compositions, none more so than the breath-taking “Circumambient” But hold your breath during the likes of  “Genesis”, “Nightmusic” and the unnerving “Colour of Moonlight” – all amazing. These and the entire album demonstrate serious hard work and imagination, and despite a slightly unhinged sound, remains one of the most fresh and innovative works this year.

“Oh baby I can’t say/that everything is okay/cause I have a problem/and I don’t know where to start from”

 

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situpandlisten#9

I had my tonsils out this week. Big ouchy. This has only slightly affected my musical choices – the morphine mainly.

“Breezeblocks” by Alt-J: “She’s morphine/queen of my vaccine/ my love my love love love”. I love that line.  I love the band (see yesterday’s review) and I am addicted to the song and apparently morphine as well.  Quirky lyrics, filthy bass, and ridiculously good harmonies.  I heard the remixes before I heard the original, can you believe that?  The video, I warn you, is slightly messed up, but don’t let that put you off, chums.  This is one to savour for this year, or may we all be held down with soggy clothes and breezeblocks. (La-la-la)

“Twenty four Hours” by Joy Division:  Dark and murky stuff from one of the most influential bands in British music.  From the second and final Joy Division album, “Closer” on “Twenty Four Hours” we hear Ian Curtis fall apart, a realisation perhaps that he couldn’t go on living, personnel regret and a sense of hopelessness strains through: “Now that I’ve realised/ how it’s all gone wrong/ got to find severity/ cause treatment takes too long” It’s actually quite a terrifying and certainly sad song, given he had hung himself by the time people had heard the record, but a beauty in his voice ever present, with a dark guitar line and relentless drumming. Sorry to bring the mood down. (Heavy)

“Yellow Mama” by Therapies Son:  Not much is known about young lad Alex Jacob.  From what I can gather, he makes music in his bedroom (rad) and sounds strikingly like the Flaming Lips. And It is indeed all a bit bedroom sample beats, with wavy synth and piano which is incredibly relaxing listening. See what you think though, as not everyone will be doped to the eyes on morphine when listening to this.  (Cool as Coyne).

“Worry, fill my heart” by Spring Offensive:  The Oxford quintet offer exciting and most rhythmic guitar songs.  Fun stuff, nice soft lyrics, and toes most certainly have been tapped to this VERY ENGLISH group.  You’ll know what I mean in a second. (Inoffensively springy).

“Sister Morphine” by The Rolling Stones:  Well obviously.  One of Sticky Fingers and indeed the Stones’ most underrated songs, even though Marianne Faithful kind of wrote it.  The Stone’s always do it better however, especially when Ry Cooder does a bit of slidey guitar. “Here I lie in my hospital bed/ Tell me sister morphine when you coming round again?”  (Morphine).

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situpandlisten#8

No. The Jubilee has not affected what I listened to this week.  I also didn’t really feel like toeing the anti-establishment line.  I did think about The Queen is Dead and obviously Anarchy in the UK, but I didn’t want to get worked up about it.  There’s too much bunting, mini flags and blanket news coverage to do that for me.  Maybe this week it should be hideunderaduvetandlisten.

“Zig Zag Wanderer” by Captain Beefheart:  Don Van Vilet.  Musician. Artist.  Poet.  His 1967 album, Safe as Milk is so incredibly easy and enjoyable to listen to that almost as soon as it finishes, you just have to listen to it again, and feel the stomping electricity that runs through the record.  Zig Zag Wanderer is just one of these songs that draws you in.  Full of soul, personality, drive and hard arse rhythm, this week I have been well and truly bitten by the Beefheart. Got beef?

“The Bad in Eachother” by Feist:  Big powerful stompy emotional folk blues number from Canadian mystery Leslie Feist.  The song feels incredibly filmic, and sensing this, the video is rather cinematic too.  Very tense and absorbing stuff, both music and video.  I never really got Feist until now.  Feisty.

“Into the Rain” by Munich:  this one has been on the cards for a while, and I suppose given the fact that amazing sunshine has been swallowed by a shit load of rain, it feels apt in early June.  I’m not sure this is what the band from Brighton were going for but some beautiful singing, euphoric choruses and epic wavy guitar make it one to cherish.  I look forward to hearing more.  A band for all seasons.

“Birmingham” by Odjibox:  This electro swing producer knows how to jive.  On the Caravan Palace, Correspondents variety.  This tasty little number will have you swinging electronically throughout the week, featuring a rather snazzy and ever so slightly jazzy clarinet.  Swing my pretties

“Marvellous Dream” by Damon Albarn.  I could write a whole blog about the talents of Mr Alban, (maybe I will one day), but for now I will share with you his latest ‘side project’, Dr Dee: an English Opera.  A tribute to a truly brilliant figure of 16th century England, John Dee. This is a very calming and soothing song to enjoy. Carry on Damon. Carry on. Deelightful.  

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situpandlisten#7

And a merry new year to you all.  Hope 2012 hasn’t been too disappointing thus far, and while the music is picking up slowly once more, not a great deal has jumped up in my face as yet, but no doubt in a week or so, my ears will be ringin’ once more with the sweet sweet sounds I hope this year will bring.

Medicine by We Were Promised Jetpacks:  What an incredible name.  The Edinburgh rock band quietly released their 2nd album in October last year, and their lead single is an awesome powerhouse of guitars and furious drumming, with a notable and appealing Scottish twang in leader singer Adam Thompson.  This has been sitting on the shelf for a while now, and happy to finally share it.  Take your medicine

Wicked by Jhameel:  First I found him on Hypem, then Wearehunted, and now The Guardian have caught wind of the San Fran star.  As they correctly point out, he’s a mixture of George Michael and Prince, with funky soul pop ringing true on his new ‘music series’ entitled Waves in which he generously offered a free download of all 5 songs on this EP.  Wicked has it all:  Dancey synth, pulsating drums, stacatto aggressive singing fused with a soulful flare which would make the artist formerly known as blush.  Really quite Jhameeling to one’s ears

United States of Whatever by Liam Lynch:  I can’t remember what I was watching but someone was in some kind of American mall, and shouted for her friend ‘Kiki’.  Where have I heard that name before?  ‘She was like “Uhhhhhhh” And I’m like “WHATEVER!”.  What a ridiculous song from way back in 2002. Uhhhhhhh

Filmstar by Suede:  Classic Britpop from Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler.  Reassuring us that fame is all that it’s cracked up to be: ‘Propping up the bar, driving in a car, it looks so easy’.  Some clever individual points out on Youtube that the chorus is their most Bowiest.  Great point.   Try and catch them while their reformed and that.  Sueding in the deep end

300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues by The White Stripes:  I recently heard a tribute to Jack White on 6music.  The man is not only talented, a little mad, but quite simply the coolest man around.  Have you seen him make a guitar in about 2 minutes???  The White Stripes have had an enormous effect on my musical life since 2001’s White Blood Cells.  The pre-famed eponymous debut and De Stijl to Elephant, Get Behind Me Satan and the much maligned Icky Thump.  For me, the latter was the perfect conclusion to the band’s existence.  I can safely say I will never tire of the music, and the recent tribute has been swiftly followed by backcataslog enorme.  300 is one of my favourite bow-out songs from Jack and Meg.  Stripe out (live)

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Black and Blue by Miike Snow:  Swedish indie pop sensations Miike Snow burst on the scene in 2009 with a delightful eponymous debut which has won my heart over several times since.  Last week was no exception, listening to the smooth, sometimes lively, sometimes downbeat Scandinavian electropop whistling through my ears.  Black and Blue has everything in it: piano, synth effects, pulsating drumming, beautiful singing with more than complementary backing chorus.  Just a perfect pop song.  MIIkea Show.

Do You Remember by Ane Brun:  Another Scandinavian to croon over.  Despite being relatively unknown, she has recorded and sung with a host of stars from Ron Sexsmith, Peter Gabriel to the beardy bloke from ABBA.  And she released her 5th studio album this year.  Amazing.  The hard-working Brun produces a captivating sound on Do You Remember with tribal rhythms, endearing vocals and an echoed chorus, which sounds over the top at first, but compliments the song nicely, as Brun reminisces about a former flame.  Brun for your life.

Disagreements by StewRat:  Mr StewRat AKA Ryan Stewart successfully slices and dices old soul tracks and transforms them into some glitch pop/electronica mash-up wonders.  This particular song, he borrows the tender walrus vocal chords of Barry White.  It sounds a bit rubbish at first, but the talent is there to hear, and is a real grower. The man from Ohio could be the answer to Manchester’s Star Slinger, or the next J Dilla.  Who really knows these days?  The meticulous efforts to pick and choose the right samples can easily fall flat on it’s arse.  Thankfully StewRats get’s it very much on the button. Rise from the sewers Sir Rat.

Scarlett by 2:54:  These two sisters could prove to be London’s answer to Warpaint.  Wavy guitars, haunting vocals and a nice little rhythm you can really sway to, these girls are set to light up London’s broody back-alley bars this winter.  I really really want to know how they chose their name.   Spooky.

Death Cloud by Cloud Control:  ‘Maybe it’s a death cloud?’  I don’t know guys, but I like how you go about it.  Australian ensemble Cloud Control have furious bass, gorgeous boy/girl vocal swapping and harmonies, with a tidy little guitar hook to make this song very sharable with the man with the Financial Times three inches from your nose, as you find solace on your way to work.  Cloud and proud. 

 

 

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I’m His Girl by Friends:  Rather than the one where Ross and Rachel were on a break, these friends from New York provide sultry, sassy Brooklyn beats.  The drums, cowbell and the filthy bar-room bass reverberates around the song, with lead singer Samantha Urbani being all up in your face.  There is little time for pleasantries because she’s ‘…not just another chick’. I’ll Be There For You, it most certainly is not and provides another fine testament to Brooklyn’s plethora of talent.  Feisty.

Speak To Me Someone by GeneThe year is 1997.  As Britpop began to breathe it’s final breath, the hardworking backroom Brit rockers Gene produced this stunning euphoric sadness, which I’m certain Mr Morrissey would have proud of.  Speak to Me Someone is the most tragic cry from a lonely guy in need of a bit of company.  The vocal styling’s of Michael Rossiter: powerful, rousing and heartfelt, would make anyone get that all important lump in throat moment, especially on those lonely cold and dark walks home, when you find yourself saying ‘Im here Michael, I’m here’.  Gene-And-Us.

Warning Sign by Local Natives: How this band slipped though my late 2009/early 2010 radar, I will never know.  I’ve been admiring this incredible talent and such wonderful psychedelic harmonised, tribal folk throughout the year. On debut offering Gorilla Manor, the chaps from LA really go ape…   The song I’ve selected is actually a Talking Heads cover, which is actually a vast improvement.  The guitar is crisper, the drums mesmirising, the vocals cleaner, the harmonies beautiful.  I’m eagerly awaiting the follow up.  Take THAT, David Byrne (Live)

I Am A Hologram by Mister Heavenly: Supergroup fun from a trio featuring unicorns, men men and modest men, this is a catchy little playful knees-up with a piano that just won’t quit.  Pleasant listening and makes the central line a swizz.  Toe-tapping.

Megumi The Milky Way Above by Connan Mockasin:  I first heard Connan and his magical band of Mockasins supporting The Mystery Jets in Somerset House in 2010.  I am now, as I was then, completely unsure about what it is I hear. Certainly innovative, certainly different, this neo-acid folk lo-fi trips over many balls, but remains rather good music after great time and pondering.  A little fish in a big pond, New Zealander Connan needs to just keep swimming.  A musical Doreen. 

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