Saturday, October 27, 2007

'Want to Listen' Music - Part 6

It is at this time of year that the dreaded 'Christmas Factor' is usually starting to rear its ugly head again but at least 26th November 2007 will see one thoroughly fine album release:

Remi Nicole - My Conscience and I

I just hope it is released on vinyl since the singles already released, Fed Up and Go Mr Sunshine, both were. That issue aside, just when did we last see album art like this?
November 5:
The release for this seems to have been delayed until December 3, although the single 'Rock 'n' Roll' will be released on November 26.

This album will certainly be on my Christmas list, along with the new album Overpowered by Roisín Murphy. Moloko was weird but also very involving - Do You Like My Tight Sweater? was their first album (three more were to follow) - and that it would seem (without giving Mark Bryden all due credit I suspect) to have much to do with the (actually accidental) vocalist who hails from Arklow via Manchester and then, later, Sheffield.

The title track Overpowered is available as a double 12".
It is well worth the search.

And the list could, indeed will, be so much longer...

As I'm very unlikely to compile a list of "Top EPs of 2007" I've already decided that 'My Manic and I' is right at the top of the list that I'm not going to compile. It scares me slightly and not much music does that! The rumour is that Laura Marling's début album will be released in the UK on February 4, 2008.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Irresistible vinyl...

I've just had a weekend that involved a lot of listening to music that I already have but some of which I had quite forgotten. The thing about that is that it is a dangerously counter intuitive experience for it reminds me only of more music that I would like. I certainly have the necessary will power to overcome that but only most of the time.
I can be broken down however and it happened this weekend because two of my favourites have decided to gang up on me, which is thus just far too much to resist...

London band The Duke Spirit are back, and while I could have had the Ex Voto EP on CD from Amazon, I have it ordered (on 10" vinyl and also signed) for the same price from the ever surprising Pure Groove Records in Archway, north London.
If that wasn't enough then Glaswegian band Sons and Daughters are also back, with the single Gilt Complex on 7" vinyl.

I can't wait and will review them as soon as they arrive!

These releases may even give some clues to the forthcoming albums by these bands but I wouldn't place a bet on that as neither band has been much inclined to the predictable.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More from Wales...

No One Can Drag Me Down/Disappear is the début single from Cate Le Bon and it was available as a free download in the spring of this year. It was more importantly limited to just 500 physical copies and it is still available on 7" vinyl as of today. It is GBP 5.00 (about €7,50 US$ 10) and these prices are exclusive of delivery. The delivery charges are both reasonable and plainly stated on the website.
If you want to buy it then try Spillers Records in Cardiff, which is also the oldest surviving record shop in the world as it was founded in 1894, and enter Cate Le Bon in the Artist section of the Music Search box. They delivered my copy in three days.
This release is label-less as it is self-released and also all copies of it are numbered by hand so, having already had the good fortune to hear her play live (as pictured below), I decided that this 7" was well worth the risking of a fiver!

The album, which is to be entitled Pet Deaths, should follow soon but as yet I can find no date or other information about this release.
One thing I can say is that she will be appearing live in Cardiff as part of the new
Sŵn Festival, which will take place in venues across the city over the weekend of 9th - 11th November 2007.

Elegies To Lessons Learnt

I have mentioned this band before and this is one album that I have been looking forward to for a very long time. It is the first true album from iLiKETRAiNS and if you have heard the Progress:Reform EP then you would expect little else. While none of the tracks from that EP are repeated here the more recent single Spencer Percival does feature.
The album mainly addresses historical topics and this kind of music is quite surely not to everyone's taste but if you like it then you might well like this album a great deal. The label Beggars Banquet has also made it available on a suitably historical format too and the 12" LP edition is particularly worthwhile owning if just for the the artwork and the excellent quality of its packaging.

The cover artwork 'Tree of Eyam' was also created by the band. It is like the subject matter of many of the songs and is rather on the dark side. Reviewing the album is not as easy as I thought it would be and I think it is a "Marmite experience". Music-as-a-history-lesson is almost certainly either passion or poison!
I fall in the former category, and there is no doubt about that, but I'll try and provide some more objective commentary on individual tracks from the album no later than this coming weekend. In the mean time I'll end with one of my own images
because, while the sun doesn't always shine, I like trains too.

This is Minehead shed, Somerset, at work on a misty morning in March 2006.

Think about this while listening to the to The Beeching Report, which is the final track on the Progress:Reform EP. While this route just survived the mass cull in the 1960s, and has eventually become a major tourist attraction, the great majority didn't.

Monday, October 15, 2007

And Now It Makes Perfect Sense...

Powerful but mellow, autumnal and almost entirely different to the kind of music I bought before this time, this album could well be the one that started me on a different listening regime entirely although it seems unlikely that one album alone could have had such an effect.

In favour of this general theory is that I can find no earlier example and also, as far as I can remember, it was the first album that I bought having heard not a single release by (any of) the artists behind it. I read a review, in the Sunday Times I think, then simply ordered it. It was, very luckily for me, a good choice indeed because not only did I like it I also discovered that I didn't really realise just what more there was available to listen to.
I haven't stopped doing so since then!

Saint Low was formed, after the demise of US East Coast indie band Madder Rose, by vocalist and songwriter Mary Lorson and her partner Billy Coté and this album was their first release. Lorson wrote rather few Madder Rose tracks but both wrote and produced all on this album. She still provides the vocals that were already her trademark but the change defines a really marked difference in emphasis. The album is more consistent in style, actually much more claustrophobic, than the final Madder Rose albums Tragic Magic (1997) and Hello, June Fool (1999) on which Coté played guitars but also wrote most tracks. I subsequently bought those and have listened to them again several times in the last two days: I think that, actually, I like them quite a lot more now than I did when I first bought them seven years ago.

The album Saint Low (2000) remains unique in the true sense of the word; it would not have mattered one little bit had I been listening to it for the very first time today and
this was its day of release! The music doesn't sound dated in any way whatsoever - far from it for in fact. Coté was freed to compose, and then play, guitar parts that are often mirages of deliberate, sometimes quite reckless, understatement. While sometimes "only just there" they often leave a solo 'cello to do much of the hard work on strings and that is "just so 2007". Saint Low deserve more credit than is often given...

It is also slightly unnerving given that, having listened to it quite often for about seven years, I still can't even figure out which are my favourite tracks let alone why - although Johnson City almost certainly is one - because it is actually very hard to work out exactly what they are about despite, or perhaps because of, the lyrics. To write a song that can mean totally different things, depending on the mood of the listener at the time but without simultaneously causing mental confusion, clearly isn't a trivial achievement: this album is built from them and very little else - Crash, A Thing Or Two, Keep An Open Mind or perhaps even After The Fall, the epic closing track that is over ten minutes long.
The growing list of albums I want to listen to has inevitably grown longer still. I told you I was falling behind and now I want to hear the following albums, some released as 'Mary Lorson and Saint Low' as apparently artist and band had become the source of some confusion.

  • Tricks for Dawn, 2002
  • Piano Creeps, 2003 (I overlooked this one at first, sorry.)
  • Realistic, 2005
More soon but one thing, that is worthy of note if you are searching for these releases, is that although Saint Low are an American act their releases to date have all been on London-based independent label 'Cooking Vinyl Records'. The good news however is that none of these albums are currently remotely difficult or costly to source, at least in the UK.

I'm catching up; and so hopefully is Royal Mail...

It's taken me a long time to catch up after my unplanned absence and now there is so much new stuff that I want to get hold of to listen to, of which more below. To do that however I rely heavily on the services of Royal Mail, the UK Postal Service, to bring packages to my door and just recently this long standing organisation has been involved in protracted industrial action over the subject of changes demanded by the modern competitive environment. It is possible that, for all parties involved and not merely out of my self-interest, over the recent weekend a deal has been reached that will put all interested parties back on course.

Quite possibly the future of Royal Mail is at stake here and this kind of consideration somehow reminded me of the past, an increasing music collection, and then a 2003 album Give Up - The Postal Service.
I no longer even attempt to keep my CD and vinyl collections in any logical order and although this probably started as a matter of lassitude it has now become a quite deliberate policy.
By profession I'm a chemist, which seen in simple terms (that are almost always good) involves toxic cookery and, when things don't go quite so well, nu-alchemy!
As an undergraduate therefore I had to go to lectures on quantum physics that left me cold and also seemed incredibly pointless and theoretical. The 'Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle' has few such simple and useful applications larger and thus more useful than the subatomic. Put very simplistically it states that it is fundamentally impossible to know "what some thing is and where it is simultaneously just so long as it is far too small to be useful in any sensible way" - but my life-enhancing discovery is that it also describes my music collection perfectly. By ensuring that remembered and sought for items regularly, but of course totally unpredictably, become mislaid a natural quid pro quo means that those which have genuinely become either forgotten or lost will inevitably come to light again!
Thus, while I was hunting for the CD Give Up, I preternaturally came across my CD of the (eponymous) 2000 album Saint Low. I had forgotten about it for several years and so I listened to that again too! In fact I found both and they are too good to be forgotten and so I'm planning to review both albums on here in the next week.

I've also got a whole list of things I want to find an excuse to order - enough to keep me out of mischief at least until Christmas - and the first few arrived on Saturday and this morning. Coming soon are my thoughts on:
iLiKETRAiNS - Elegies to Lessons Learnt
Maxïmo Park - Our Earthly Pleasures

Already on order are (yet) another two albums from the hot-bed that continues to be Montreal and they are...
Patrick Watson - Close To Paradise
Letters Letters - Letters Letters

... and that is not to mention the latest album from Stars - In Our Bedroom After The War, which I have already mentioned!
Last for now, but not least is Awyren - Cerys Matthews' first EP entirely in Welsh, which was released today on CD by Cardiff-based KungFu Records. Sorry about the poor representation of the cover art - I'll add better as soon as I can. (24 October - at least one job got done!) does not seem to know about this one, and I can't tell you quite what it sounds like yet either, but I have just ordered it regardless! It is available, worldwide, from; always a good place to search for all music Welsh! The price is GBP 5.50 (for guidance only - US$ 11.00, € 8.25) and this includes post and packing in the UK. For delivery abroad add GBP 1.00 (about US$ 2.00 or € 1.50).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Underage Girl Thrown Out of Gig!

Getting thrown out of a gig is, at best, very embarrassing but to have this happen to you when you are the headline act is almost unbelievable. The Soho Review Bar in London is strictly for over 18s only and takes this matter very seriously, under pain of losing their public performance license, and an astute worker had remembered that the Evening Standard had said that Laura Marling is still seventeen. No arguments are possible: a singer-songwriter she may be, but age is simply a fact. I have this idea that 'artist management' is supposed to mean such things don't happen but if I'm wrong then please feel free to explain just what actually happened and why.

At least it wasn't raining and so over a hundred concert goers remained outside to hear her perform some of her set, totally acoustically, on the pavement outside the original venue! There is no rule against seventeen-year-olds busking, even for an artist newly signed to a major label (EMI/Virgin).
Within an hour there was an incredibly hastily arranged gig at
The Exchange in Gerrard Street and she simply started all over again, at first solo but slowly joined by the rest of her band. They had been busy supporting the other artists who still continued to play in the original venue. In due course she was joined on stage in The Exchange by those bands as well!

This curious saga, which took place on 1st October, involved the artist behind the My Manic and I EP (Virgin/EMI) . The least I can do is review the My Manic And I EP (the 7" vinyl version, of course) for you.
(See here for a review of her London Town EP that was released in spring 2007.)
She has also said in a radio interview that she didn't much like the songs on her first EP but simply had to get them out of her system. Now that sounds ever so slightly disingenuous to me, or am I being overly suspicious here?

This is a review of the 7" vinyl version that has four tracks...

  • A1 New Romantic (recorded live)
  • A2 Night Terror
  • B1 My Manic And I
  • B2 Typical (recorded live)
Actually it matters not: 'My Manic And I' sounds little like the last EP and so the question has changed. All four tracks are good and I really like the change of direction, which I think is towards the more realistic side of alt-indie-folk; it is I think actually no bad thing at all but not everyone likes it one little bit perhaps because it is actually rather disconcerting.

That is their choice but who can blame her from wanting to try - given that she was clearly able to do so - to put some clear ground between herself and the anti-folk artists (that I also like and quite unashamedly so) however popular they currently may be?

'My Manic and I' is truly impressive but probably not what most would have expected it to sound like. Not me either - I was surprised too - but I'll surely play it more than 'London Town EP'.
If you can find it on 7" vinyl then do so and if you can find the "London Town EP" on 7" vinyl (MoshiMoshi Records, 2007) then just jump at the opportunity!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Borrowed thoughts...

I've never before done this on my blog but I hope that the Richard in question, who is no relation to me, doesn't mind too much that I'm plagiarising his post (see it in full here) from I've done it simply because I think it is an absolutely perfect comment on much of the best of 2007 and it is all done in just 150 words or so...

Now we're cooking, 21 Aug 2007
Here is the recipe required to make the perfect 'Fantastic Playground':-
Firstly we will need the core ingredients of: New-Rave and New-Wave. Try not to worry if you don't have any New-Rave in because a touch of 'Electro-Clash' will do just as well. The important thing is that we create a rhythmic dance groove.

We will now need to add in some layers of synths, plus lashings of angular guitars. I recommend the use of: Blondie, B-52s, New Order, David Bowie (think his 'Scary Monsters' album - what with all those bleepy synths and angular guitars) and Duran Duran (it's that 'Girls on film' style bassline).

We will now need to add in a very large amount of sauce - judging by the suggestive lyrics.

Finally, give it a good stir and bring to boiling point, then serve.
* This is also suitable for vegetarians, vegans, CSS and Klaxons fans.

.... and it is also, while music is often intended to be taken seriously, so very light-hearted as was the single 'Ice Cream'! That is a wonderful touch and one in which, with 'Fantastic Playroom', we have been truly indulged by New Young Pony Club should we care enough to listen. I'm quite sure that in our formative years we were told - at least a thousand times and by all and sundry - to listen carefully, pay attention and to do what we were told to do.

Be that as it may at least I now know what all those really boring précis exercises at junior school were really supposed to teach me (I suspect that they didn't...) but I promise to add some more original material very soon!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Talk is cheap - the danger of eclectic shock.

At first spell-checker wanted to change eclectic to electric, which truthfully also has its real dangers, but that is not what I had in mind. Electricity is, in its useful forms, almost invariably under domestic control and makes almost everything from the fridge and freezer to the CD player run in a totally normal way.
Eclectic, put quite simply, isn't in the same category but will probably still involve the former for its usability, these days very little doesn't, but when it comes to music it is still dangerous and last weekend I had some friends over, which made it seem especially so to me. They proved to be a fascinating research group for an, admittedly very non-statistical, social experiment. As all good animal experiments involving sociable animals do it is best to make sure the subjects start off well fed and are then allowed to drink ad libitum. The researcher is not really supposed to take part in this, but we were a bit short on participants...

I was feeling brave: it is, as I said to them, my music collection but for the weekend it is
at your choosing because when I am at home alone I can play anything I own at any time that I am able to listen; and that is simply not the same thing at all. We had a great evening on Saturday and listened to all sorts of utter nonsense that, in all probably, none of us would not otherwise have been brave enough to admit liking, let alone possessing, for some years.
A little of it turned out to be music two or three decades old but by far the most of it was not. We happily listened to such definitive pop albums as those by 'Las Ketchup', the first 'Sugababes' album and a sample of early solo works by former members of 'The Spice Girls'. (I didn't check with the other guinea pigs yesterday - so I can't say for sure that none of them tried to get tickets either or at least perhaps they just lied convincingly - but I promise that I didn't try to do so.) They did however remind me that we also listened to the whole of Billie Piper's second album, Walk Of Life (2002), and in all probability twice.
The odd thing was had I been hiding the rather more varied and eclectic nature of many of my more recent purchases in what seemed to be an apparently more secure way then I would have succeeded far worse than just by not even trying. They simply remained just where they already were, which was and still is, scattered amongst all the rest of them on the various shelves in different places and thus in the essentially random order that I favour!
The thing about those pop albums, however dubious they are, it that we all enjoyed listening to them and thus I also enjoyed owning them again.
Pop matters if for no other reason that it, or particular songs, provide anchor points in time between friends.
I actually don't care if it is total trash (although I think I ought to) , and I think we would all have agreed this is true. Then again I doubt that we enjoyed anything more than 'Walk of Life', Billie Piper's second album (2002), and my thanks go to whoever saw fit to choose playing it. It is a splendid example of its kind and nothing more can be said!

To quote
a pointed lyric (from another album entirely) that is as true now as it was then: "Talk is cheap when the story is good..."
Long may it remain it so because if it does then pop will surely remain as important in the next fifty years as it has been in the last half century - and who could ask for more than that?