Friday, October 31, 2008

As Fools We Are

I wrote a Halloween/All Hallows' Eve themed post last year and this year I decided to have another go with the theme being the connection between Halloween, which has become increasingly "celebrated" or at least commercialised in the UK in recent years; the event known "Bonfire Night", held to celebrate the failure of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspiritors to blow up Parliament in 1665 and, this year only, the dénouement of the most fascinating US Presidential contest in my lifetime!
This wonderful cocktail of superstition, religion and politics needs a soundtrack and a dark one at that - of shock, fear, change, possibility and perhaps ultimately redemption. Here is my condensed selection of music for the next week:

To start with is the album 'Rock It To The Moon' by Electrelane. The fairground ride has the word 'pleasure' on it, the lights are lit, but the whole scene is deserted.
The music is similarly almost devoid of voices: On the first track a dog barks in a distorted electronically-warped sound-scape. When voices do fleetingly appear on tracks they are often indecipherable souls - the snatch distinguishable is "some fallen angels". This is what I imagine happens when the 'Piper At The Gates of Dawn' reaches the end of the road and is negotiating with Charon. Much of the later output by Electrelane is similarly obscure and, while less obviously so, instrumental, and seemingly concerned with some journey - the 2007 album No Shouts, No Calls would be suitable too.

In the last couple of years the UK has seen a huge explosion in music perhaps best termed nu-folk which, although not at all a unique phenomenon, has produced some remarkable artists and when dark, disturbing songs are required few can hold a candle to Laura Marling. Last Monday 'Night Terror' was finally released as a single but it originally appeared in 2007 on the 7" EP 'My Manic and I' and the title track is no less disturbing.

Not everything is so scary and, sticking with the nu-folk acoustic genre, here is a band that have been around for a couple of years now but are finally getting some well-deserved recognition. They are called Fireworks Night and take a slightly more mellow approach and, to support the Halloween theme, their female co-vocalist is Rhiannon; for those with long memories the very same as the benevolent mythical Welsh witch who was made famous, at least in music, by Stevie Nicks.

Their first release was a 7" single in 2006 rather prophetically titled
'The Day We Fell Through The Ice'.

It was followed in 2007 by the album 'As Fools We Are' and, while not exactly cheerful, it is quietly optimistic about the way things will turn out and I like it for that.

They have not been idle since and their new EP 'A Mirror, A Ghost' will be available on Organ Grinder Records very soon.

Like music, like life.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

When you can't find what you've mislaid...

This was me today and I just can't find my CD of Amy LaVere - Anchors and Anvils!

I trawled for it in my CD collection, without success, but then got distracted by my vinyl collection knowing full well that it would not be found there. While that did not solve the original problem it was to prove interesting on the day that AC/DC went straight to the top of the UK album charts.
I found three albums, packed together in a polythene sleeve, that I'm convinced I've never ever listened to! That's careless and particularly so as I had at least made the effort to note - on a slip of paper inside each sleeve - when I acquired them, which was November 1987!

This is the most interesting of the three - the original French release, Disques Carrere 67.484 (1981) - on vinyl and complete with very sensible storage instructions on the inner sleeve:

The music is a far cry from that of the, far more recent, French artists that I was listening to earlier today but that is just the way it is. It may not be groundbreaking, and wasn't even thus when it first appeared, but it has nevertheless stood the test of time remarkably well.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fragile Heart - Jill Jackson lyric

I said earlier in the week that I was going to try and work out the lyrics for this album, even though it is probably one with which few are yet acquainted.

Jill Jackson live in Edinburgh in 2008.

I started with Track 8 simply because, on what is a remarkable album, it caught my attention first:


Here comes the sunshine
To brighten my day.
There go my worries
I've washed them away.
Now I have blue skies
They're no longer grey.

Out of the darkness, into the light
Everything's madness, but hey that's just life
I just need someone to kiss me goodnight.

Ooh, ooh, ooh - Right from the start
Ooh, ooh, ooh - my fragile heart
Ooh, ooh, ooh - tears me apart
Ooh, ooh, ooh - my fragile heart.
So long ago
When love was young
So much to give
And no one to blame
And I just need shelter

Every day I'll fight but I'm hidin' away
Most times I can't find what to say.
I just need someone to take it away.

Ooh, ooh ooh, - Right from the start
Ooh, ooh, ooh - my fragile heart
Ooh, ooh, ooh - tears me apart
Ooh, ooh, ooh - my fragile heart.

Here comes the sunshine
To brighten my day.

For the lyric of 'Rain On My Window' see here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hard to find, easy to like and still largely unknown.

It's rare these days that I can spend a whole evening listening, over and over again, to an album that I've just acquired. It has happened before and this evening, for the second time in a month, it just happened again.

While the album cover is hard to reproduce to any exciting degree I have tried my best. The same cannot be said of the album and, yes, I have already started on the lyrics! The ten tracks on it are these:

  • All Of The Colours
  • Last To Know
  • What If I Stay
  • Inside Out
  • Mind In Bloom
  • Stumble
  • Don't Let Me Go
  • Fragile Heart
  • Rain On My Window
  • Lullaby
It is unusual in many ways. It had to come to me from the US, yet this is an album by an artist from Scotland. It is certainly influenced by Nashville, country and Americana both, but is not remotely derivative and on several songs her native accent shines through. It is more Americana-influenced and less rock-acoustic, particularly in the choice of backing instruments I think, than Amy Macdonald's This Is The Life but also not really oceans apart, at least in music territory.

She is a talented songwriter and guitarist - entirely acoustic on this album.

For those lucky enough to be at 'The Green Martini', in Concorde NH, this evening then you are soon to hear her perform live and, to tell the truth, I envy you. Just enjoy it and if you were there - or at any other gig on her tours - please feel free to really wind me up by telling me about it!

The rumour machine whispers that the Grasshopper EP is due soon and I await that with great interest. Acoustic or not? I don't know!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More albums I want - 2008, part 6.

Once upon a time, and not so very long ago, I couldn't find much enthusiasm for new music.

I knew that it was my fault but to appreciate it fully is to be faced with the opposite problem and now is the time to indulge in new music. Some things just have to be good and, right now, it doesn't bother me if that happens to be unashamedly reinvented retro-pop, but
not either 'The Pipettes' nor 'Los Campesinos!', and the totally strange album title doesn't do any harm at all.

Sweden's Those Dancing Days - 'In Our Space Hero Suits'.

Positively post-Abba, Sweden is fun again, though if you have been reading here that is not always so obviously true. Without any doubt one of my most-listened-to albums of the last six months is by another Swedish band, Oh Laura, and the album 'A Song Inside My Head, A Demon In My Bed' seems to have gained very little recognition in the UK.

For the last six months or so I've been hard pressed to avoid falling for new music from America, so here is yet another one to add to the list. It was released in the UK last Monday (13 October) and in the US almost a fortnight earlier.

'Deranged' - Stacee Lawson is an album that in essence is very much in tune with much of the new-folk/pop/rock currently so popular in the UK. It should, if there were any justice, find popularity this side of the Atlantic but then, while I'm usually an optimist I often find that it is tainted by realism. If I had it my way Stephanie Dosen would be hugely successful here for 'A Lily For The Spectre' is a wonderful album that has become one my most played of the last year or so.
That's just two, and I can think of many more, but it is way past bed time!

If you get the chance, and want to see a band that is worth far more than the hype that is starting to gather around it, I'd choose The Joy Formidable; just watching their live set is exhaustingly wonderful so goodness knows about the performance aspects...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yet more lyrics - Nitrogen Pink & Corridor

You will almost certainly have to click on the images below to enlarge and hopefully then make them readable but, since I can provide them thus, here are the lyrics from the 10" Nitrogen Pink by Polly Scattergood scanned straight from the fly-sheet provided with that release.

The surroundings here are urban, near industrial rather than sylvan, but then why should that be surprising?

Live at 'The Walpole', New Cross, London on 27/09/08.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nitrogen Pink

Another artist I saw live at Latitude 2008 was Polly Scattergood, who performed on the Sunset Stage early on Sunday afternoon. While the picture below looks rather of the kind that one gets from booths that take passport photos, it is actually the cover of 10" vinyl single Nitrogen Pink (Mute, 2007, and since released by Mute US in 2008).

No album yet but several singles - all available on vinyl - and already a very fine live act indeed.

Hard to categorise I know and, while some would say pop-punk in an instant, that's not the half of it. She is indeed both these things at times but at many others she has too much of that wilful, yet vague, dislocation
of the care-worn singer-songwriter for that aspect not to come out in the wash. Her music is all the better for it.

[Click images to enlarge the images below and ask me if you want other versions.]

Polly Scattergood on the Sunset Stage @ Latitude 2008.
Adjusting the microphone... this was taken just before the soundcheck.

That is not to say that this means gloomy, depressing music or performance. This is music aimed not at those angry at a particular moment in time, as punk quite deliberately was, but at a whole new generation of uncertainty.

Just fifteen minutes later and very much live!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Veteran of the psychic wars? Maybe, but now the battle.

The US presidential race has, particularly given the choice of candidates and the global economic developments that have in recent weeks swirled around, made what was always going to be an interesting race far-and-away more fascinating than most. In fact it was already so interesting that a significant portion of the UK population, myself very much included, had already paid sufficient attention to actually discover in detail what the campaign issues are and even gone to the extent of trying to understand how the voting system is configured!

It has impinged on music too (so no change there) in so much as some bands, Foo Fighters being one that come to mind, have challenged the use of their songs in political advertising campaigns that do not equate with their own views. That is one for the courts to finally settle; but if all the dues have been paid by those contracted to those entitled to them, and no other binding contracts infringed, I can't see how such matters of 'political taste' can be invoked. It is, perhaps, intended more as a media-visible partisan statement, which is in itself interesting.
This particular case involves the use of music by the McCain campaign but of course he has his vehement supporters, in music as elsewhere, too and given that it was described in part as a meeting of 'Black Sabbath' and Blue Öyster Cult plus other heavy rock influences, when I was informed of the album Axis of Evil by Babylon Mystery Orchestra yesterday curiosity actually got the better of me!

The album, Axis Of Evil, probably isn't available in the UK, and while the politics doesn't appeal to me, I think that the music itself possibly does. Music as a political vehicle is something that, conceptually, I have no problem with at all and that is regardless of whether I actually like the music and/or the message.

I do still very much like Blue Öyster Cult however, as I've rediscovered over the last two evenings, and I even saw them live at the Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall on 28th September 1987.
I don't think however that I've listened to either Fire Of Unknown Origin (1981) or Extraterrestrial - Live (1982) for at least a decade, despite the fact that I have owned both on original vinyl for the last two decades. It just shows what being sent an e-mail can do!

If you want blood, you've got it (Babylon Mystery Orchestra also cite AC/DC amongst their influences) because the wonderful folks at CD Baby in Portland, OR have it ready and waiting. As of this evening they were offering it at $10.00, plus $5.00 for standard (postal) shipping to the UK, and that's about £8.80 (including postage) at the current exchange rate. (You can get it from too but it will cost you more and anyway CD baby specialise in independent music and have an interesting corporate philosophy. That is not to say anything about the message you'll get when you receive an order confirmation...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

When all else fails...

I apologise for attempting to provide a positive note concerning the current economic situation. Banks may fail, and some more probably will, but even if all four remaining 'major recording labels' were also to do so (which I suspect will not happen), while it would have a major effect on the music industry in the short term, it would not be the end of the world.

The world will still need music, just as surely it will still need banking services, but if the current modus operandi is no longer appropriate then that needs to be addressed too.
I can think of one thing that has survived, maybe even thrived, in previous times of trouble and that is music.
It matters not whether you want to enjoy it for escapism or wallow in its realism for, either way, there is plenty already available to draw upon and there is no sign of a supply shortage - far from it indeed.
The established music industry has been feeling the pinch for a few years now, and long before the current economic crisis, but I have no reason to believe that is in any way likely to change as the making of music is, as far as can be reliably surmised, a human trait that transcends almost everything else and possibly even language. The recorded music industry however, as we knew it until recently, was barely fifty years old and as such thus one of the youngest dinosaurs.
I never thought I'd write this but
I wonder if, as although it belatedly realised the game was up a couple of years ago, in this situation it is actually slightly ahead of the others here!
The grim reality of the rust-belt matters again and so does - whilst maybe updated - the music of uncertainty and dislocation that goes with it.
This image is reminiscent of the track 'Dusty Boxcar Wall', which was written by Eric Anderson for his 1965 album 'Today Is The Highway' and if anyone is going to cover such downbeat Americana in 2008 why shouldn't it be a short, half-forgotten, tale of despondency reinterpreted by a female artist born in Boise, Idaho in 1979?

I for one can't see any problem with that.
This image, and the cover version of the song, come from the 2008 album 'Letters from Sinners and Strangers' by now Boston-based singer-songwriter Eilen Jewell. The rest of the album is a mixture of covers and self penned tracks that, unless you know better, are often indistinguishable - it is a wonderful album.She also plays harmonica, a long neglected instrument, to great effect on several tracks and no major label got a look-in here - it was released by Signature Sounds Recordings and all credit to them for doing that.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Genio atrapado y las consecuencias.

As a single 'Genie in a Bottle' was pretty remarkable and, perhaps more surprising still, although it was released almost nine years ago it has proved a blueprint for many very successful pop songs since.
Be that as it may, and the above is true, I think that the version released on the 2001 album Mi Reflejo, sung in Spanish, is actually far better than her original version sung in English!

Then, somewhat later, there was a cover version of note, released as a single by short-lived Scottish band Speedway, and also included on the album 'Save Yourself' (2004).

The English language version soon got a second chance but with a very different artist in charge... Jill Jackson 'punked' it and it has never sounded better. While Speedway soon split this might, in retrospect, be regarded as a statement of intent.
Christina Aguilera's career has gone from strength to strength since then, albeit with a time-out for her first child, a 'greatest hits' collection out imminently and a new studio album due in summer 2009. You might be forgiven for thinking that Jill Jackson has quit the music game altogether.
That is, however, far from the truth...

In the meantime here are the lyrics to Genio Atrapado, as found on Mi Reflejo.

Genio Atrapado

Vamos, vamos... uh, oh, uh, oh, uh, oh
Vamos, vamos, ah

Un siglo llevo en soledad,
atrapada queriendo escapar.

Soñando que alguien... me libere
Me lanzas un beso y yo te quiero amar
Pero hay un precio que tendrás que pagar
Para que me entregue, para me entregue

Oh oh oh oh oh (mi cuerpo dice quiero)
Oh oh oh oh oh (Pero mi alma tiene miedo)

Si me quieres junto a tí, frota bien y ya verás
Como un genio liberado haré tus sueños realidad
Si me quieres junto a tí, gánate mi corazon
Tres deseos te concedo, si me juras tu amor.

Como um genio atrapado espero
Liberarme con tu amor sincero
Como un genio atrapado espero
ven, ven, sacarme de aqui

Bailando nos domina la pasión
nuestros impulsos fuera de control
Es tan dificil... contenerse
Piensas que hoy tal vez sucederá, pero yo sé que nada pasará
Tienes que quererme, tienes que quererme...

Oh oh oh oh oh (mi cuerpo dice quiero)
Oh oh oh oh oh (Pero mi alma tiene miedo)

Si me quieres junto a tí, frota bien y ya verás
Como un genio liberado haré tus sueños realidad
Si me quieres junto a tí, gánate mi corazon
Tres deseos te concedo, si me juras tu amor.

Como um genio atrapado espero
Liberarme con tu amor sincero
Como un genio atrapado espero
ven, ven, sacarme de aqui
Oh oh oh oh oh (mi cuerpo dice quiero)
Oh oh oh oh oh (Pero mi alma tiene miedo)

Si me quieres junto a tí, frota bien y ya verás
Como un genio liberado haré tus sueños realidad
Si me quieres junto a tí, gánate mi corazon
Tres deseos te concedo, si me juras tu amor.

Como un genio atrapado espero
ven, ven, sacarme de aqui

[No importa que es música pop!]

Sunday, October 05, 2008

2008 and all that ...

The global credit crunch, Jay-Z at Glastonbury and economic catastrophe all started as minor issues. The almost total lack of a summer in the UK, and the usual music industry machinations, surely made this, overall, the worst festival summer in living memory?
It had its flaws of course, like every other, but I just think that it was what made it matter. I'm more inlined to think that, after a decade of almost uninhibited growth, 2008 was the year that started a change of direction. Leeds/Reading remain fairly unreconstructed but even they are, increasingly, becoming less appealing. This does not apply merely to those who have been regulars since their teenage days but are now getting older. [I am older than all those that I am referring to!]
Music is changing and of course it always does; now it is changing in surprising ways. As I was wandering though ASDA today I was struck by this headline on the cover of 'Guitar Magazine'...

Seasick Steve - hobo to hero.
I'll fully admit that a year ago, had I had even noticed it in the first place, I would not have taken a second glance and that it would have been a huge mistake. As luck would have it I got another chance...

Seasick Steve live at Latitude 2008.
He was just jaw-dropping good: I almost forgot to take any photos and it shows!

I Started Out With Nothin' and I Still Got Most of It Left

This is his latest album. If you like blistering acoustic blues performed by an inspired and inventive, yet very much livin' and original, traditional artist this is for you. This was for me, and clearly very many others, one of the defining revelations of Latitude 2008.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

That which ails your mind...

I certainly can't always do this, often because I don't have the answer, but this search is an exception. I love lyrics, maybe you know that already...

Let Me In
Make me understand
What it is to be a troubled man
And why you think that I'm the leaving kind
What else it is that ails your mind

Oh let me in, I swear... I'll stay there

Tell me what gets you off
I don't mind if it's rough or soft
Just as long as you can make me moan
I promise I'll never leave you alone

Oh let me in, I swear... I'll stay there

I'm so tired of bailing out
when push comes to shove
Six long years to figure out
all I need is your love

Take me to your cave
I promise you that I won't behave
But I will give you all of my love
And a body sent from heaven above.

Oh let me in, I swear... I'll stay there
Let me in, I swear... I'll stay there

This album, let alone this song that is only one amongst many just as good, has rarely been off my personal play list since I got it a few months ago. The songs are good, the instruments equally so, and when she plays fiddle it is to die for.
That is not to say that the UK is in any way short of similarly talented artists, for it is, but there is no harm in sharing...

It is a wonderfully warm and involving album and, before people start asking me about my 'Top ten Albums of 2008', I'll tell you that already I'm minded to sneak in a new category this year. While this does not mean it won't also be included in the former, barring the unthinkable this one will be in the latter!
If you want more lyrics then, while I can't always make promises, asking certainly doesn't hurt anyone.