Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Goodbye April

For someone who started blogging by accident this has been an amazing start to 2008.
April has however exceeded all expectations and that is simply down to everone who has ended up here whether or not you liked what you read. Thank you, your support and any comments you may chose to make
are much appreciated because I know that it can't always be as good as this. Some perhaps surprising things have become apparent in the last few months and amongst them the fact that older music still matters and even more obviously that lyrics are important to more people than I had ever imagined. To end April I'll choose an old lyric:

That's life, that's what all the people say.

You're riding high in April,
Shot down in May
But I know I'm gonna change that tune,
When I'm back on top, back on top in June.

I said that's life, and as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks,
Stompin' on a dream
But I don't let it, let it get me down,
'Cause this fine ol' world it keeps spinning around.

I hope that perhaps the world doesn't change that much overnight.
Hello, May!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Portishead 3 - some lyrics...

Well I've had my copy of Portishead 3 (aka Portishead - Third) for a couple of days now but I'm listening to it too much to have found time to work the lyrics out for myself. I don't know if the CD version has them printed inside and the download almost certainly doesn't. My vinyl copy certainly doesn't but I'll forgive it that!

Here are some courtesy of
I can't guarantee that they are complete or even correct but it is a start! If you know of others, or indeed more reliable ones then please add them in a comment or let me know otherwise.


No-one said
We’d ever known each other
And new evidence is what we require
In this world.

I stand on the edge of a broken sky
And I will come down; don’t know why
And if I should fall, would you hold me?
Would you pass me by?
For you know I’d ask you for nothing
Just to wait for a while.

So confused
My thoughts are takin’ over
Unwanted, arising space me instead
Won’t let go.

I stand on the edge of a broken sky
And I will come down; don’t know why
And if I should fall, would you hold me?
Would you pass me by?
For you know I’d ask you for nothing
Just to wait for a while.

Magic Doors

I can't deny what I've become
I'm just emotionally undone
I can't deny I can with someone else
When I have tried to find the words
To describe this sense absurd
Try to resist my thoughts but I can't lie.

All the muse in myself
My desire I can't hide
No reason and I thought.

I can't divide they'll hide from me
I don't know who I'm meant to be
I guess it's just the person that I am
Often I've felt that I don't wade
Into the gift of my mistake
Again, again I'm wrong, and I confess
All the muse in myself
My desire I can't hide,
No reason I thought.

All the muse in myself
My desire I can't hide,
No reason I thought.

Nylon Smile

I'd like to laugh at what you said
but I just can't find a smile
I wonder why you can't.
I struggle with myself
Hoping I might change a little,
Hoping that I might be
Someone I wanna be.

Looking out I wanna know someone might care
Looking out I want a reason to be there
'cause I don't know what I did to deserve you
I don't know what I'll do, without you.

Looking out I wanna know someway might clear
Looking out I want a reason to repair
'cause I don't know what I did to deserve you
I don't know what I'll do, without you

I can't see nothing good
and nothing is so bad
I've never had the chance to explain
Exactly what I meant.

I'd like to laugh at what you said
but I just can't find a smile
I wonder why you can't
I struggle with myself
Hoping I might change a little
Hoping that I might be
Someone I wanna be.

Looking out I wanna know someone might care
Looking out I want a reason to be there
'Cause I don't know what I did to deserve you
I don't know what I'll do, without you.

Looking out I wanna know some way might clear
Looking out I want a reason to repair
'Cause I don't know what I did to deserve you
I don't know what I'll do, without you.

I can't see nothing good
and nothing is so bad
I've never had the chance to explain
Exactly what I meant.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Two very different thoughts on music.

To whosoever searched for this just now here is the track list for Blanche - Little Amber Bottles:

1. I'm Sure Of It
2. Last Year's Leaves
3. Year From Now
4. No Matter Where You Go
5. What This Town Needs
6. Child Of The Moon
7. Little Amber Bottles
8. World I Used To Be Afraid Of
9. Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting
10. I Can't Sit Down
11. World's Largest Crucifix
12. Scar Beneath The Skin

Little Amber Bottles is on my 'wanted list' but it hasn't arrived yet because I haven't ordered it. The list is long but not immutable and so it has become much more likely as a result of your enquiry! Much of it is, like this I guess, not exactly mainstream and that doesn't bother me one bit.

It does however make me wonder whether I'm neglecting true pop almost for the sake of it?

That would not matter either were it not for the fact that I also like pop simply for what it is. If it is populist then so what? This 2005 album didn't prove to be particularly popular but it certainly ranks amongst my 'most-underrated' pop albums of the 21st century.

Portishead 3 again.

Unless what I'm seeing is in some way very wide of the mark this album is going to be one of the big surprises of 2008 and I can't think of another that has a groundswell of opinion in quite the way this album does.

Portishead 3

  1. Silence – 4:59
  2. Hunter – 3:57
  3. Nylon Smile – 3:16
  4. The Rip – 4:30
  5. Plastic – 3:27
  6. We Carry On – 6:27
  7. Deep Water – 1:30
  8. Machine Gun (Barrow/Gibbons) – 4:43
  9. Small – 6:45
  10. Magic Doors (Barrow/Gibbons/Baggott) – 3:32
  11. Threads – 5:47
Unless indicated otherwise all tracks were written by Geoff Barrow, Beth Gibbons and Adrian Utley.
If any other newly released album is going to give Madonna's 'Hard Candy' a run for its money in the UK album chart this week surely this is it!
The single-sided 12" single 'Machine Gun' (14 April 2008) could be worth tracking down too as it is an amazing mix and there aren't that many copies around.

Worth the risk?

I mentioned that I wanted to hear this a couple of months ago and finally, having read some negative reviews and then been unable to source it on vinyl at a sensible price for some time, it arrived yesterday morning. For once I was actually at home when the postman knocked and he asked me, very politely and in a slightly round-about way, what these apparently strange, square, flat, thin packages contained.
I told the truth - a vinyl LP.

Was this LP worth the wait?
Taking risks when buying music unheard is inevitable and not to do so is now unthinkable as far as I'm concerned. It is true that I've bought a few things I don't much care for but that can happen even when one has heard some tracks. It doesn't seem unreasonable to me - it is my only gambling tendency - and I'm winning far more often than losing. Surely most people don't expect to to hear a novel before reading it so why should music be any different?

Well, as I suspected, it is neither nu-miserable nor Black Mountain-lite. In The Future - Black Mountain (2008) is also one of my current 2008 favourites but Lightning Dust is more than likely to also be right up there with the best.
Nothing like the expansive sound of Black Mountain, this is really a late-night, early morning compsition. Keyboards and strings, including cello on several tracks, accompany the lyrics perfectly. Amber Webber wrote them and she sings them too, sometimes accompanied by Joshua Wells, and this is a very different proposition to Black Mountain. If you have 'In The Future' then the best guide is the track Night Walks (see lyrics) as that was written and sung by Webber.
I can't pick any favourite tracks yet and I suspect that it is one of those albums, released in this case by Jagjaguwar, on which I may never be able to do so. It is that good.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Latitude 2008 - a festival update...

I got my ticket over a month ago, which is why I'm willing to share this! Tickets are still available I believe and this, in my opinion, is just getting better and better.

A band that has been going thirty years is something that I'd usually be ambivalent about seeing at a festival. If there were one exception - and a band that I really regret never having seen live - it would have to be Blondie. That said at Latitude 2007, while the top-link artists were headlining, some of the things that made the most impression on me were acts that I would never have heard live or, in many cases, I had never even heard of until I bought the guidebook on Thursday evening! I may well be better prepared this year but I really don't think that I will be any the less surprised and I can see that the choices between which acts to see will only be more difficult the second time around.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Amy Studt - an album update...

You ever vigilant people have been looking at this and it has prompted me to attempt an update. I'm sorry it has taken so long, and really I must chase the latest on the next Fefe Dobson album too...

Back to Amy Studt: The album seems to be now My Paper Made Men and its UK release has now been pushed back from April 14 until May 5. The track-listing is, in so far as I am currently aware, as follows:

  • Furniture
  • Sad, Sad World
  • One Last Cig
  • Tree
  • I'm A Big, Big Girl
  • She Ran
  • Goes Too Fast
  • Here Lies Love
  • Chasing The Light
  • Colour Me By Numbers
  • Walking Out
  • She Walks Beautiful
  • Nice Boys
  • The Lucky Ones
  • My Paper-made Man
Lyrics to some songs are currently appearing on the internet but they are, I strongly suspect, not entirely correct. You could try the following links but I don't guarantee that these sites are without other hazards, such as spy-ware, so take the usual precautions!
'My Paper-made Man'
This has many tracks, including those from her first album.

From what I have read thus far the UK press is in two minds about My Paper-made Men but it didn't like her first False Smiles (2003) much either. Take what you will from that but I'm going to listen to it before I venture an opinion on the new album and - guilty as charged - I rather like False Smiles even if it were not world-changing and, perhaps more importantly,was also rather unnecessarily over-produced. That is certainly not to damn it with faint praise and there is no accounting for individual taste. I think the single 'Misfit' actually made that pretty clear from the start!

Sometimes I feel you're not listening,
Sometimes I think you don't understand.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

El álbum se me había olvidado por completo.

If I have got the title of this post wrong then I apologise (and please correct me). The shocking oversight is that despite having had this CD for at least five years I have paid little attention to it. I know I listened to it when I bought it and at the time, possibly because I expected it to be different in some way that I have long forgotten, it ended up in the never-listened-to category. I suspect that back then it was just something I bought on a wave of enthusiasm but also slightly ahead of its time when it came to what I was prepared to like. I can't remember how disappointed I felt when I first got it but presumably sufficiently so that I have not paid it any attention since.
That is until today when, and this is quite equally inexplicable, I noticed it and thought it time to listen again.

Tres Cosas - Juana Molina (Domino Records 2002).

I've just listened to it twice - back-to-back - and why I didn't much care for it then is a complete mystery to me now. In the longer term it seems to have proved to be a winning formula: in 2008 I have what is, to me at least, a 'new album' yet one that I paid for in 2002. I can live with that result!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Forget last week, it's spring now.

The title may be odd but for me it is something that has happened at about this time of year for several years now. In recent months, and while I was hardly short of new music that I wanted to hear, this time last week searching for new things was an effort of which I was faintly conscious. This week it isn't, it seems to be finding me, and perhaps because of that I'm finding things that sound fascinating almost by accident. You should see the list I now have and in time you probably will see at least some of it realised!

That said this week's UK #1 album looks a dead certainty as 'The Age of the Understatement' by The Last Shadow Puppets is hardly going to fail. It is a collaboration and side project for both key members, Alex Turner of The Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane of The Rascals. If it does make #1 it will mean that the first three albums on which Turner has featured will all have gone to #1 on the week of release and make Domino Records justifiably proud; the label signed the Arctic Monkeys against competition from all the 'majors'. It deserves to succeed because, whatever the background of the collaborators and side projects like this can prove to be particularly dangerous territory, this one is remarkably good.

This is a temporary image and I'll add a better one as soon as I can not least because this album is available on 12" vinyl.

In the meantime, and if you have any interest in modern British folk, this is an absolute bargain. The cover looks cheap, it is hard to dispute that, but all thirteen tracks of the music most certainly are not. The price is perhaps the real shock.

It is £1.98 brand new from

This leaves the rest of my 'wanted list' to be dealt with later. That there are so many items in it is delightful prospect. Many are probably rather less than universally known but here are a few of them and they are mostly as yet unheard by me, and so of necessity mentioned without further comment, but suffice to say ennui seems almost unimaginable! Not all of these are 2008 releases, some have merely just become known to me or have now been mentioned to me so often that I feel I must be missing something. The first has not been officially released yet.

They are in no particular order:

Too Long Away - Emily Smith (2008)
Boxer - The National (2007)
Oracular Spectacular - MGMT (2008)
Circle - Uiscedwr (2006)
Little Amber Bottles - Blanche (2007)
Until Death Comes - Frida Hyvonen (2006)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Global passionoia...

In these days of sub-prime mortgages, rising oil prices, financial insecurity and a weak dollar it is tempting perhaps to wish we were still an island nation, largely independent of outside influences. Forget those thoughts - it hasn't happened for the last ten centuries and it certainly isn't going to happen now but that is not to say that the British take on life is about to disappear.

Who better to catalogue the British condition than Black Box Recorder?

You are late again.
Thank you so much for gracing us with your presence.
No, really, do sit down.
And what on earth is that you are wearing?
This is an educational establishment not a nightclub.
Put your hand up; don't mumble, don't interrupt.
Wipe that idiotic smile off your face.
When you are here you do what I say.
Walk in the corridors; walk, don't run.

That is just the first part of the first song and when Sarah Nixey is headmistress, singing lyrics credited to John Moore and Luke Haines, things are unlikely to get much more comfortable.
While it is the last of the Black Box Recorder albums to date it could hardly be regarded as a weak one and, like the others (England Made Me and The Facts Of Life), it is almost certainly an acquired taste and one unlikely to be widely understood outside the UK.
Many tracks have a sinister undercurrent that might not appear obvious on the first listen and towards the end of the album this is increasingly so. It is, with its often peculiarly ambivalent British references, going to be very difficult to pin down if not in lyrics then in their intention. It is all the more interesting for that. The obvious follow up is Sing, Memory (2007), which is Sarah Nixey singing her own songs, and it is very good indeed.

Age is not always a bad thing...

I sometimes think that, being the far side of forty, it might seem strange that I should like so much new music but I'm quite able to ignore such things, or even rebut them if that is strictly necessary.
On the other hand things that I'm too young to remember first-hand I am simply never asked about and perhaps the best thing about having a music collection is that in all probability, when the everyday listening seems exactly that, you can always find something strange to listen to that you haven't heard in ages.
I've long had a soft spot for folk music in most disguises and this is one album, certainly not the only one, that has been in my collection for over twenty years now but is actually far older than that:

Planxty - The Well Below The Valley (1973)

This is available on CD from the usual sources but Polydor 2383-232 (the original issue vinyl) might not be. The following year they released 'Cold Blow and the Rainy Night', which is regarded by some as even better. I have that on original vinyl too but I wouldn't care to say I like one more than the other. The one thing I don't have is their eponymous first album, and many regard this at the finest of the lot. It is readily available on CD, of that there is no doubt, but as I have the other two on vinyl there is a certain temptation ...

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Kooks Spoil the Broth

Three bands, all of whom had big albums a couple of years ago, are now each pitching the first single from their next LP on radio in the UK and my view on the outcome has surprised me rather, although it is based on these three singles alone.
The most promoted seems to be the first single from The Kooks second album Konk, which is already available in the UK on both CD and vinyl. The above-mentioned single, 'Always Where I Need To Be', has been available since the end of March and I have to say I find it quite disappointing. I had high expectations and, while it is not something I would switch the radio off for, its still-in-the same-place ordinariness simply didn't meet them.

Next in my sights is the new single 'Mistress Mabel' from The Fratellis' forthcoming second album Here We Stand. Now this was something that I had resigned myself to finding a disappointment because the singles from their first album, Costello Music (2006), particularly 'Chelsea Dagger' and 'Whistle For The Choir' were almost too catchy to be true. It seems that they weren't and, although much less pop influenced, the new single demonstrates that the cheeky Glaswegians can follow their own footsteps into the future without sounding passé.

For my money however by far the the best of them is this:
'Always Right Behind You' is available to download from 19th May and on 7" vinyl/CD from 26th May (all are current scheduled UK release dates) and is the first single to be released from the third album, You Can Do Anything, by The Zutons, which will have a UK release on 2nd June on the label Deltasonic.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I have quite a cautious approach to 'reality TV' music talent searches, although I must admit that there have already been some genuine artists therefrom. That said, I really wonder if even those in control really thought this could actually happen. Début single at #1 in the UK was a pushover and that the album did the same on its week of release was, in the event, and following the success of the single, not very surprising either. The real test would certainly be in America...

When her first single 'Bleeding Heart' went to the top of the 'Billboard 100 Singles' it was an incredible feat for a new UK artist, the first by any solo UK female artist to do so since 1987.

The "last one to do it" aspect now matters no longer!

Spirit has just become the first début album by a UK solo artist, male or female, ever to reach #1 in the US chart on the week of release - a record that belongs to Leona Lewis in perpetuity - and she did it in style. Spirit sold 205,000 copies against her nearest chart rival, George Strait, whose album Troubadour sold 59,000 copies. It is however not a patch on the first-week UK sales of Spirit, for which it currently holds the all time record of 375,000 copies in the week of release, a record not just for a début album but for any artist studio album.

If you think I may have fallen into some kind of idolatry here please see the 'I've just listened to...' list on the side-bar. I'm now trying to include links in it, particularly within this blog, and also now have increased the entries displayed from ten to fifteen. It these have fallen off the bottom by the time you read this, I suggest Passionoia - Black Box Recorder and Heavy Horses - Jethro Tull as two apparently very different albums that embody many of my thoughts on music that is quintissentially British and, in the case of Black Box Recorder, specifically a certain kind of English.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Abstractions of the Industrial North - The Dawn of Electronica

Few albums are as remarkable as this. Basil Kirchin was an accomplished big-band musician, with great technical vision, and in the 1960s he decided to turn his attention to the future of music. In 1966 Abstractions of the Industrial North, which is as much jazz as electronic, was recorded for the De Wolfe Music Library. Only 500 copies were pressed and it then lay almost completely unavailable until, in July 2003, Jonny Trunk (of Trunk Records) met someone who had found a perfectly preserved copy of the original recording in a charity shop in Birmingham.

In 2005 it was re-released by Trunk Records; the entire Abstractions of the Industrial North plus, as a bonus, another nine library tracks from around the same period in 1966/7. On one of these, 'Pageing Sullivan', the session drummer is Jimmy Page - who slightly later was to become much better known!
The new release, by Trunk Records, became available on CD in 2005. It still is available from etc. and I highly recommend it. There was also a vinyl release (JBL012LP), limited to just 400 copies, and that is now surprisingly expensive. market place currently lists two copies - one at £49.95 and the other at £69.95 - I love vinyl and therefore to own one is a real pleasure and the image at the top of this post, and taken for this purpose alone, is of one of those 400 copies.

To Listen To In 2008 - Part 3

That time has come again and there are plenty of contenders. Here are a few that are on my list but I'll leave the Scandinavian contenders for another post:

First and foremost it has to be
Blood Red Shoes:

Box of Secrets, their début album, is released tomorrow on V2 (Universal).

They have been around since 2005 and, fairly unusually, are a grunge-punk two-piece consisting of Laura-Mary Carter (guitar and vocals) and Steven Ansell (drums and vocals). Their live sets and singles released to date have won them wide admiration and the album is only likely to cement that.

The next band is a very different proposition but then Scotland should never be ignored, least of all Make Model.

Aimi sings 'Just another Folk Song' live.

They are a six-piece from Glasgow and both geographically and musically speaking they are in very good company indeed. What is not immediately evident is that, when they decide there is a need to do so, they can simultaneously muster both three guitarists and three vocalists.
Some comparisons are simply too obvious to mention - Make Model are just made for the large stage but their music is actually made by a band that believes meaningful pop still really matters.
If I had my way they would become huge in 2008.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rapid evolution!

The side-bar idea is now up-and-running, if only in a very basic way, much sooner than I suspected it would be. Its crude nature hasn't prevented it changing name several times during the course of this evening and it is now tagged as the I've Just Listened to: side-bar. It is, or at least should be, visible at the top left-hand side of every blog page.

I rather suspect that there will be more changes to this soon, and please feel free to add comments or suggestions at any time, but at least the concept is now proven. If there is a problem so far it is probably that I like it more than anyone else and it is going to reveal even more dark corners of my music collection!

I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker...

While talking of singles, and particularly considering the recent canon of singer-songwriters from Scotland, this was a serious omission. I forgot to mention Sandi Thom, from Banff, who had a #1 single when re-released (in the UK) in 2006 after she was signed to Sony BMG having played live, via the internet, from her basement flat in London. If anything it was even more successful elsewhere and particularly in Australia, where it was at #1 in the singles chart for ten successive weeks and also the biggest selling single of 2006.

Since then she might seem to have vanished but that is not true and new material will appear soon.

When I said re-released I meant it too.
(Click image to see it larger.)

THAT single, 'I Wish I was A Punk Rocker (with flowers in my hair)', was originally a very limited CD single release by Orcadian indie label Viking Legacy (as VIKINGS04) that was the first to spot her potential. The above image is of one of those originals, which also includes Sandi Thom covering 'No More Heroes', written and originally recorded by 'The Stranglers'. This CD single is worth an attempt at finding for this alone but, failing that, Sandi Thom's second album should be released sometime in 2008 and I'll readily admit that, whenever I listen to to the track Sunset Borderline on the first it never really leaves me untouched.

It is still among my favorite songs of its kind and yet I have a problem with it and I don't really understand why.

I'm waiting for the sunset borderline
For every sun's got a separate time
But I'll remember these moments for ever more
As the days when nothing had changed at all.

The second album is to beThe Pink and The Lily.
The scheduled UK release date is 26 May 2008.

The basic ' listened today' list...

It is just a start but it is now up there at the very top of the side-bar and if there is the suffix (s) with the year of release it indicates that this is a single, not an album, release that all others not specifically denoted will refer to, regardless of physical format.
I'll try and update it as often as practicable and what it should be is simply a list of albums, or sometimes other music, that I have chosen to listen to most recently. That list is currently limited to ten items and so, as I add new ones, older ones should hopefully simply disappear from the bottom unless of course I chose to listen to them again!
If ten entries seems too many or too few then that can be changed very easily and I've already considered the possibility of including links to the entries if that should seem a popular idea. I'm always happy to receive comments, whether they are favourable or not, just as long as they not offensive.
Please feel free to ask me more about any post, either by adding a comment to the most recent post (even if it actually isn't relevant to it at all) or if you prefer by sending me an e-mail. I'll try and do my best to provide an answer if I can.

My current play list...

I'm soon going to attempt to trial something approaching the title of this post. It is the result of a suggestion from the, much appreciated, input of a reader of this blog. That said I'm not exactly sure what it will turn out to be, or indeed quite how to do it yet, but I've decided that it is certainly worth a try. The one thing I can promise is that it will not incorporate downloads.

If there are functional problems with anything I add please let me know and, should it actually work, I'd be pleased to receive any feedback regarding your thoughts on what I have done.
I'm not sure quite how long it might take me to do this either; it may happen tomorrow, next week or sometime. I'm planning to give it a good shot but there may well be some trials, tribulations and outright revisions to the plan along the way - you have been warned!
At least I can tell you exactly what I'm listening to right now and it is what I regard as one of the 'Lost Albums of 2007' - and not just despite the fact that was a major label release (Mercury, Universal).

The album artwork may not be very sophisticated but that is part of the charm of this recording. Electro-pop is just meant to be like this and after a few listens the facts of the band's formation seem slightly less strange; Dan (guitar) and Martina (lead vocals) met by chance at a gig in their home city, Toronto, swiftly abandoned their former musical alliances, got married and moved to London in search of their real musical destiny!

The artwork of the promo CD was spartan in the extreme, as was the promotion of it by the label.

Dragonette - Galore --- the artwork of the promotional CD.

What is the logic of signing a band and then apparently failing to make any obvious effort to promote their début album?

My considered verdict is that this album was criminally under-promoted and also vastly under-rated. The other thing is that it is good music for spring; its often postponed release last year did not help either, as it came out late summer, which was I suspect rather symptomatic of perverse major label priorities.
See them live if you can - it is a really stunning show and the lyrics are often amusingly cheeky too. I Get Around, the first single from the album, was quite the part but did not make its presence felt in the UK chart.

Also Mi Reflejo (Christina Aguilera, 2000) - not least because the Spanish Genio Atrapado still seems much better than Genie In A Bottle to me. I'm sorry but I have already admitted to liking much pop and also music in foreign languages and sometimes both happen at once.

Friday, April 11, 2008

'B1 Labyrinth' goes live on the streets in May...

'Needless Allies' went all the way to winning a performance at Fierce Festival 2008, so thanks to absolutely everyone who voted for them this week, and I imagine that there is a big party somewhere in Birmingham tonight!

The hard work certainly doesn't stop there and while I really don't believe that even they can make New Street station anything like a welcoming space I'd dearly love to be proved wrong. On the other hand as a Hadean scenario it has, even with my limited creative imagination, much potential.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

There are some things indefatigable and indefeasible.

Say what you want but some things are simply facts of life; Euro trance-pop has for much of the last decade been one of them and, as I've claimed for some time, I don't think we've heard the last of it, indeed perhaps rather the opposite.

In the last couple of years it has, at least in the UK, faded in prominence somewhat but it would be wrong to thus dismiss its continuing existence. The presence of Cascada In the UK album chart for so many weeks should be quite enough to indicate that.

If I have an admission to make it is this. Cascada does not, as it so happens, do much for me mainly because it mostly comprises cover versions but I am however quite taken by some Euro-trance-pop as I find it near perfect 'thoughtless listening'.

'I don't want to say I'm sorry
For I know there's nothing wrong.'

That is not a slight in any way but the lyric is hardly world-changing. This is a feature of the genre and just a take-it-or-leave-it thing. More often than not I'll take it, thank-you!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

There is a reason for it all - a master plan.

Every now and again I'll decide to like an album that I've discovered rather later than perhaps I should have and the latest is this, a 2007 release. I like Black Box Recorder and the three albums that they released on which she sung all vocals. This solo album has still taken a while to make a real impression on me and, now it has, I can't see why it didn't do so before!

"It's become a quiet obsession,
Destroying all the things I love.
There are at least two sides to every story."

I had wondered where unsettling electronica combined with disturbing lyrics had gone in 2007 and now I know.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The lost and found souls... Portishead 3

On the face of it a studio album from a band that formed in 1991, and only the third including their ground-breaking first, Dummy, in 1994 might suggest a band that has reformed simply for the money. Given that this is Portishead such cynicism is best taken with a pinch of salt for the band are as ethereal and invisible as they are influential. They may have tasted fame, and possibly fortune too, but they do what they do, occasionally and only when it takes their fancy. Then again they invented what they do, so they choose to leave time between their dark and slightly disturbing trip-hop forays in which others can play catch-up. It is simply their choice but woe betide any that think they can beat Portishead at their own game, but eleven years is still an inordinate wait for a new Portishead album!

You can probably tell I'm looking forward to this release, due out on April 28 in the UK on both CD and vinyl (2 x 12" 33rpm), and it is true.

Portishead 3

Should you not already be aware of it then I highly recommend the 2002 album Out Of Season. The 21st century has seen a whole lot of seemingly improbable yet amazing collaborations and amongst them is Ballad Of The Broken Seas (Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, 2006), but this earlier one is equally remarkable.

Out of Season (2002) was Beth Gibbons gone mostly acoustic, which really shows what a good singer she is. It is a collaboration with "Rustin' Man", the alter ego of Paul Webb who was the bassist in 1980's band 'Talk Talk'. That this is true is testament to collaboration beyond the reasonably imaginable. Adrian Utley (also of Portishead) provides some guitar and production but this is not much like either band.
Does it work? You bet it does!
Is it more cheerful than Portishead? No, not really, and when very occasionally it leans towards the electronic that is especially true.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Needless Allies - a rare foray away from music.

Live music is enjoying a huge rise in popularity but just this once I'm going to try to convince you that another live experience - live theatre on the alleys, paths and byways of central Birmingham - could catch on.
It certainly should... it is not theatre as you generally know it, the kind for which you book a ticket months in advance and take a numbered seat at the appointed time; it's the kind that will simply sneak up on you while you are minding your own business about town!

The main thing is that, as part of Fierce Festival 2008, they just need your help to be able to pull it off. This is not a call for sponsorship however, but a plea for support simply because the acts are being decided by a public vote that is free! (There are no sneaky call charges or SMS options available - how quaint is that!)
As of today there are eight acts and one of them will be eliminated each day this week until only three are left. They will perform at the Fierce Festival in May and Needless Allies intend to be there with B1 Labyrinth. To do that they simply need your vote in the Public Space category each and every day this week - it is as clear as that and it is free! To vote now just click the image above and follow the links or go to and take it from there
When they make it, thanks to your support, you will be able to wander around central Birmingham and try to catch the performance and that won't cost you a penny either. To see more look here:

B1 Labyrinth on Facebook
(You do not need a Facebook account to see or use this site.)

Little Lights

The 'Kate Rusby' poster has been in the side-bar here for some weeks now and here is why.
Pop is back in fashion, as is live music of all kinds, but perhaps the most surprising rise is that of folk music albeit in myriad disguises. In some cases ( KT Tunstall, Amy Macdonald, Sons and Daughters and many others) it is merely one influence amongst many but still an important one.
They are also all artists from Scotland but English folk certainly hasn't been left behind and its rise is in great measure due to Kate Rusby.

She was formerly associated with both The Poozies and The Battlefield Band but it is as a solo artist she has really made things happen. She has recently released her sixth solo album in barely ten years and all are released on her own label Pure Records. They are all very good albums but if I had to name one that really made a difference it would have to be Little Lights (2001). This was, at least to me, the one on which her original compositions came to at least equal the wonderful versions of traditional folk songs that accompany them and, needless to say she ran away with the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for best new song.

The new compositions on this album alone include I Courted a Sailor, William and Davy, Who Will Sing Me Lullabies? and My Young Man this last being about her grandfather who was a coal miner in Barnsley. They are all new songs rooted firmly in old tradition; this is what I need to say to explain how she differs from (for want of a better phrase) nu-folk artists, and here I have Laura Marling (artist and lyrics) in mind, but equally it applies to many others. There is nothing even slightly wrong with the traditional tracks on here and, just to add some more icing, there is a fantastic cover of Richard Thompson's Withered and Died.
If you haven't heard anything by Kate Rusby before then this is probably a good place to start; if you are wondering what modern English folk is about then this is a splendid introduction to it. If you wonder what it might be like performed live then you can also get a taste of that without leaving home.

The DVD is Kate Rusby - livefromleeds, recorded at Leeds City Hall and released in 2004.
This image, which I scanned just now, is sadly rather lacking in detail. I'll try and do better soon but for now I'll say it is readily available from (£8.98, approximately €13, US $20) but in the US you might need a multi-region DVD player with a PAL/NTSC converter. I'm not sure if is available as yet in NTSC/DVD Region 1 format; it might be but I thought I'd mention the possible pitfalls just in case. I'll try and review all her other albums quite soon, including Underneath The Stars (2003) and The Girl Who Couldn't Fly (2005), but the latest is this...

...Awkward Annie (2007).

Note added 12 April 2008:
The bad news is that this album has not yet had a proper US release. The good news is that is that will have one on 04/15/2008 so you now don't have to wait much longer to hear how good it is!

Glastonbury 2008 and other festivals.

The tickets for Glastonbury 2008 went on sale at 9am (BST) today only to those who had pre-registered earlier in the year. If you were in the running then I hope that you were one of the lucky ones!

The weather here in Somerset is always a matter for conjecture when it comes to the Festival but the one thing it is unlikely to do in late June is snow. In fact it rarely does that here at any time of year, and I live barely more than ten miles away from the site, but for the first time this winter it did so last night. Not much admittedly but at 8am there was the better part of 1" of the white stuff on the ground; by 10 am it had almost all vanished.
I've not posted anything here for the last week as I've been away in the hills of NW England pursuing other interests that leave little time for listening and no possibility for blogging. That said I have returned with some new ideas and a long list of things to do or hear. It is going to take some time to put some of these plans in place if indeed they even prove practicable.

On the subject of 2008 Festivals the programme for Leeds/Reading 2008 is now available and the calendar of events continues to grow in response to the apparently inexorable rise of live music to the extent that now there is often more than one taking place on any given weekend. While Cowell et al are apparently hell-bent on finding new talent what Britain really needs right now is more summer weekends and better weather for those we already have. If only we could have a climate rather than mere weather!

I was lucky last year. It rained very little at Latitude 2007 and one of the heaviest showers was this one, just after I had pitched my tent (the red one in the foreground) on the evening of Thursday 12th July. Let's hope for a long, warm and dry summer in 2008!