To cut to the chase here is the list announced today, completely without any comment on my part at least for now.
The EOTR animals seem to have developed a taste for vinyl...
This blog is intended to do "exactly what it says on the tin" so below are some of my 'Thoughts on Music'. They predominantly concern recent matters but will not always do so. I'll also happily turn to matters of the music industry more generally if and when I feel so inclined. So there! If you don't agree with something please feel free to add a comment. They are moderated by me (so I'll get to read it) and I might even reply. Above all however just enjoy whatever music you like! Richard
To cut to the chase here is the list announced today, completely without any comment on my part at least for now.
One summer Sunday morning, in North Yorkshire in 2012, I took this picture. There were not very many of us there to experience Rae Morris open the main stage of Deer Shed Festival 2012 as the unholy hour of midday approached.
My liking for music in physical format needs no further mention. That is still true - I have not changed my spots all of a sudden.
When, however, Spotify offered me 'Premium' for three months at the princely sum of £0.99 and that payment is for all three months, not per month. It would have been churlish to look a gift horse in the mouth.
It will not alter the amount of physical music I actually purchase but, my goodness, it is facilitating the task of listening to new music and, especially if I'm uncertain about it, also making it a whole lot easier. It might even lead to me purchasing more physical music. It is not that it is impossible to do this with Spotify 'free' but the lack of advertisements actually does make a difference. The blurb said that the sound quality is also noticeably better. I was slightly dubious about that, but then again 99p is not a sum even I was afraid to wager on the possibility. Pending more demanding tests this coming weekend I'm inclined to the idea that this might actually be true.
What has impressed me, and again I could have done this with 'free' but this was the impetus to explore, was the coverage. The removal from Spotify of the music of Taylor Swift became something of a cause célèbre in late 2014 but it is just one small canon of work in the great scheme of things. It was an otherwise unremarkable and quite acceptable commercial response to perceived market forces. It, the music and the publishing phenomenon, is easily found elsewhere quite legally and not least in physical formats, including vinyl. Deleting pressings to promote the sale of newer ones is as old as the mass market for music.
What impresses me more is the sheer scope of the music to be found here - both old and new and across all genres - and with that comes the opportunity to discover, listen and then promote the music of artists less well known should one feel so inclined.
It is something human to look for the newest things and music is no exception - the internet is perfect for this. Finding older, often obscure, things has also been revolutionised but the foil is not so easy to overcome; the contemporary details are either unavailable or require lateral thinking and often more than a little guile to uncover. That, however, is also part of the thrill of the chase - and another use of foil.
I have an idea:
It is not scientific but nevertheless empirical observations can be of great value. It is to test Spotify by searching for a variety of recordings, both recent and old, that I know or believe are hard to source on a physical format and that I either already have or have tried to find in the past. It has already yielded, as a more or less random 'hit' - an album of folk music from NE England that I was only faintly aware of hitherto and was released in 1975. The result... I have now bought it on original vinyl.
This new resource will quite possibly shape much of my thinking over the next couple of months. I'm also imagining those artists that I expect/desire to see at the festivals that I shall or even just may attend this coming summer.
Items never released in a digital format are, unsurprisingly, extremely unlikely to feature. This is not to be found therefore - Cate Le Bon 'Edrych yn Llygaid Ceffyl Benthyg' (2008). It was released only on 10" vinyl but the title is to a reasonable degree the Welsh equivalent of the English phrase 'to look a gift horse in the mouth', more literally it is 'to look into the eyes of a borrowed horse'. I rather like that - there's something about it that makes the horse, rather than the lessor, the more important part of the deal.
I know that it is not the weekend yet...
What the hell, I'm doing some testing now and not least because I'm thinking about those artists that I might be seeing at this summer's festivals. There are some big announcements coming soon.
I'll come clean here - this is actually a 2014 release - but I doubt that many in the UK are aware of the artist who calls herself Ruby The RabbitFoot. She hails from Athens, Georgia.
I have never made any secret of my love for the archaic music format that is vinyl even when extinction, in the sense of new releases, looked inevitable. An obituary after the towel was thrown in, maybe.
I certainly never expected to write a post including an apologia like this.
I shall maintain the acoustic theme of my last post with LP 'Black Feather Wooden Chair', which is the début full-length from London-based Salwa Azar on which she writes, sings and plays ukulele for the most part.
While it was some time ago that I became vaguely aware of Small Houses, which is the vehicle for the work of Michigan native Jeremy Quentin, only now has it come to my attention again and then somewhat by chance. The song from the forthcoming album 'Still Talk; Second City' features guest vocals from an artist who was one of my favourite discoveries of 2014 festivals - Samantha Crain - and is 'Seventeen in Roselore'.
This prompted me to listen to Small Houses' first LP, 'Exactly Where I Wanted To Be' (2013) several times in the last couple of days. My feeling here is that I like this a great deal. Acoustic guitar, mostly picked, accompanies his songs about the trials, tribulations and delights that are just part-and-parcel of life in, probably, a small town. This certainly is not work that tells of the bright lights of a metropolis. Here is the song that made me take notice and dig deeper.
It is not the best time of year for new music, or indeed much else to be quite honest. Here is a live recording by a band that has exercised my mind much over the last five years or so but has recently declared hiatus.
Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo 'Live at Swindon Arts Centre' in 2011 and recorded during the tour that followed the release of the LP Almanac is now available to download. I certainly love live music and thus also have a soft spot for live recordings convincingly done. This newly affordable recording possibility is one of the virtues of the digital world.
If you think that a curious title for a post then I shall expound.
It is no secret that The Shires' début album 'Brave', dropping soon, has no known album artwork as of today. Or at least that is the catch-all position that amazon,com and amazon.co.uk is currently displaying. I have to say that, at this stage in the game, that is rather disappointing. The duo is signed to Decca in the UK and Universal Music Group Nashville in all other markets (the first ever UK act to be so). Be that as it may the labels still can't sort the album artwork such that amazon.co.uk or amazon.com can display it. This, in marketing terms alone, is really rather pathetic. No wonder that the independent labels, that can react fast, are running rings.
Be that as it may...
This release, unless you see them live and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do, is one that you will have to wait a little while for. A little indie-folk (or call it what you will) something to look forward to in expectation of the spring, perhaps. Live performance is what Wildwood Kin exists for...
This is quite possibly the least new, new music of 2015. It however satisfies the criterion and then some. To be honest she can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned.
I'm delighted to say that, for the second year, I was a tiny part of this project organised and collated by Robin Seamer of Breaking More Waves and few others have the ability to find new music in the way that it offers.
When I wrote this post, about their self-titled début album back in 2010, I didn't really anticipate reviewing its sequel. Although I had liked it, as the years passed I thought nothing more of it. It seemed just to be a case of the three artists doing exactly what they felt like doing on the spur of the moment with little thought to convention, let alone thoughts of the future, as it blasted through seventeen tracks in twenty-seven minutes. I am glad to say that once again I was wrong!
The core trio of Rachel Aggs, Rachel Horwood and Ros Murray remains, as does the contribution (brass in this case) of Verity Sussman, on recent release 'Confidence'.
At this time every year I feel like writing; that inclines me to think I should be able to write either about the past year, the coming one or even both with some insight. The fact is, and this year is no different, that to a great extent I cannot and that is not for a shortage of content.
Be that as it may I still feel like writing and so I have settled on a suitably time-indeterminate solution. Here are a couple of LPs or suchlike that I have not mentioned in 2014.
This first, released as the end of 2014 approached is a good example of the fact that some of the best Americana comes out of Canada and it isn't that easy to find on physical format in the UK at the moment.
Having finally got something of the festive feeling, and also read the suggestion from one of my fellow bloggers that writing a blog displays a certain vanity, I thought I might indulge myself a little.
First things first and a very simple luxury - make a tartiflette and sit in front of a real fire to eat it, accompanied by some wine and recorded music.
This specific idea for this post actually came about as the result of a Spotify advertising link - “What did your 2014 sound like?”
My thought was "Why did my 2014 sound like it did?"
One thing I must say about 2014 is that without doubt I have listened to more music, both live and recorded, than in any previous year. I can't put numbers to that but, trust me, it is true and by some considerable margin. I'm not sure that eight years of writing a blog has done much, whether positive or negative, for my vanity. What it has certainly done is provide me with huge satisfaction and at times a sanctuary from the everyday and the mundane. Not just the writing that is, although it has; the live and recorded music that I have heard and all the people that I have met along the way and the ones that I anticipate meeting in the future. One thing is certain; it is both absorbing and time-consuming. It is also absolutely fascinating. I have spent a great deal of time mulling (perhaps I should have done that with the wine too) over the music of 2014 this last month or so. I suppose with good reason that my 2014 has been dominated by acoustic-folk-Americana-roots. I can see that trend continuing in 2015 but that's not all that I like by any means.
The first time I wrote about music in the public domain was some amazon.co.uk reviews in 2005. I was reminded of this the other day while reading reviews and suddenly finding myself confronted by one of my own - that for the LP 'Old World Underground Where Are You Now?' (2003) by Metric.
That I suppose, and then the desire for freedom to write just what I wanted, led to this blog starting in September 2006 if only by accident rather than design. In 2007 this led to my going to festivals although it had been on my mind for a while. This was hastened by the new-found need to have original material to write about. Then came photography to go with it because festivals are as much about watching as listening. This bare-bones timeline says nothing at all about the music that accompanied it .
This got me thinking about how my current tastes in music have evolved to the point at which they are now. That is proving a tricky thing to do and harder to explain, not least because of the self-analysis that it predicates.
This evening I decided to listen to absolutely any LPs that I thought inspired my, or the purchase of which was inspired by my, decision to start (and then continue) going to festivals back in 2007. Whilst my liking for acoustic folk goes way further back it would seem, on reflection, to have had nothing to do with this particular decision. It seems to have been largely indie-driven; my choice of Latitude Festival 2007 as a starting point was specifically because Arcade Fire was headlining the Sunday. One thing yesterday's playlist demonstrated was that I still like much of what attracted me then and not all of this indie in the period 2007-9 was indie-rock; that appellation doesn't apply to New Young Pony Club or Polly Scattergood, both of which I first became aware of by seeing them play live at Latitude Festivals. I then bought the LPs and indeed have continued to do so. Both have disco as a pulsing heart - the twisted nature of 'Bunny Club' (Polly Scattergood) and 'Ice Cream' (NYPC) have both stood the test of time I think.
To use a geological analogy, the growth of my music collection in the last ten years has been a largely sedimentary (rather than volcanic) epoch. It does, however, include a couple of fault planes within it. The most obvious of these is connected with my decision to go to End Of The Road Festival for the first time in 2009. This decision was certainly responsible for stirring my interest in Americana and roots and (while I don't much care for the descriptor) 'alt-country' too.
This fed-back into a revived interest in UK folk music (both traditional and new) that served to fill the gaps in live music between festivals. That is when things became really interesting. It gave me the idea to go looking for new music myself, be that local in origin or further afield, rather than just wait for it to come to a venue that I was at.