Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fur and Gold - how this blog started.

It all started, rather by accident, in September 2006 when I wanted to post a comment on a Blogspot post. To do that I needed to create an account of my own, which I did. The album I wanted to talk about was this one.

At that point I had no intention of starting a blog of my own but, eighteen months and one-hundred-and-fifty-something posts later, I'll probably have to admit that I was wrong about that!

I certainly wasn't wrong about this artist, who was little known at the time, however. While back in the studio to record the second Bat For Lashes LP, which is rumoured to be heavier than the first, Natasha and the others are also heading across Europe this spring as principal support for Radiohead on their stadium tour. As Thom Yorke said "Horse and I' is as perfectly haunting as songs come".

Karaoke for big prizes!

While I'm always very happy to celebrate the success of British music I'm certainly not against music made in America, or indeed anywhere else for that matter.

Audition in Seattle, singing Celine Dion's 'Because I Love You'.

This is just such an awful pub karaoke scenario but it didn't matter in the end - Jordin Sparks went on from this to win American Idol 2007. I rather suspect that that her first single Tattoo, which is pure pop and available on download tomorrow, will in time reach the higher reaches of the UK chart. I think it fair to say that it is not so very different from the later power-pop output of the first American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, but I for one wouldn't hold that against her. It is as catchy as sin and I doubt that she'll ever need to wear jeans, t-shirt and a prison number on stage again, unless it is a matter of choice!
The next single, 'No Air', features Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown together on vocal duties.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Chase the dragon...

The interest in this has somewhat subverted any plans I might have had. I thought my residual liking for Magnum was exactly that but it seems that this is not so! As the album art for Chase The Dragon that I have been able to find so far (on the internet) is quite poor I've defaulted to providing it myself and simply because I can.

[Click image to see it at 1000 x 1000 pixels.]

This is the cover of my original vinyl copy photographed for this very purpose and if you want it at 2000 x 2000 pixels you could ask me. Some years later Magnum were to follow Chase The Dragon with another album of great potential. In 1988 Wings Of Heaven was both their most commercially successful album and also the one that proved that Magnum were not the kind of band many still believed they were. The single 'Days Of No Trust', taken from it, made the singles chart but after this Magnum faded away as it was a bad time to be the kind of band they long had been, which was our loss and also doubtless theirs too.

Friday, March 28, 2008

This is the week this is...

'That Was the Week That Was' was a BBC radio production featuring many of the great names of radio in its time, which was about that when The Beatles were heading for domination of the music world in a way previously unimaginable but, some 46 years later, this is the week that has created some, admittedly 'red-top', newspaper headlines that echo through the decades:

  • Sir Paul McCartney (a certified "National Treasure", as several of the cast of the BBC radio show were, or later became) was finally divorced from Heather Mills.
  • Carla Bruni-Sarkozy made a state trip to Britain and she was of course accompanied by her husband Nicolas, who just happens to be the President of France. Truth to tell they both played their parts brilliantly: Gordon Brown talked about a new political entente formidable and the next morning, while on a boat trip down the Thames, the newly-weds played the UK media thing to perfection with an entente à deux as they shrugged off the fact that one UK tabloid paper had reprised an old picture of Mme. Bruni-Sarkozy, sans vêtements and taken on a modelling shoot in the early 1990s, by sharing a snog in front of the media cameras. She has also recorded two albums (one in French and one in English) that have had some critical acclaim. French politics has had its fair share of scandal but never has it been quite so honest, transparent and legal!
  • This week UK music has done a remarkable thing. To paraphrase the 1988 single by Sting (and without any mercy on my part) West Londoner in New York, Estelle, displaced Duffy at the top of the UK single chart with the single 'American Boy', sung with Kanye West. That is not very remarkable but simultaneously East Londoner, and winner of X-Factor 2006, Leona Lewis is at #1 in the US singles chart with the single 'Bleeding Love' - and she only the third UK solo female artist to take a début single to #1 in the US.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

To listen to in 2008 - Part 3

There are a few conflicting influences at work here and so I suspect this is going to prove rather a strange selection. I'll try and explain why I want to listen to these but even if I fail to do so in a comprehensible way it will possibly go some way to explaining the ways in which I end up discovering new music!
First up is the recently released fourth album by a band that I have been meaning to listen to for ages but for which that has never actually happened:

Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

I'm afraid I can't yet tell you if I like it, as it is still on order, but judging from the reviews I have read I suspect that I will. The push that made me get it was that they are now confirmed for Latitude 2008 and I know how many artists that I saw at Latitude 2007 I still listen to and that have been mentioned in this blog; many of which I had never even heard of, let alone heard any of their music, before I went!

London has produced a whole crop of interesting and often successful new artists in the last couple of years and one of this year's is widely tipped, well before the release of an album and based mostly on their live following, to be The Clik Clik.

Maya Yianni and Stefan Abingdon share vocals with additional instrumental assistance from two others who play bass and percussion. The result is difficult to describe but is another part of the pop-is-back-in-favour phenomenon. This is organic and messy, even slightly dirty, pop that is also written, mixed and produced by the band; it is meant to be performed and heard live. It mirrors a trend and if I were writing this for a certain national newspaper it would ally with the recent phenomenal rise in the demand for organic food and now also for allotment gardens.

Chance still plays a big part in discovery and while reading some site, having searched for a completely different artist, the album artwork below caught my attention as it so reminded me of some old albums that I still have but have not listened to for years (in some cases probably more than a decade) and I just had to read the whole article. It seems that melodic heavy rock inspired by mythic themes is not dead after all - at least not in America!

The Sword - Gods Of The Earth

Well, all I can say for now is that it made me head for the less visited parts of my music collection and listen to the 1982 album Chase The Dragon by Magnum, which had actually been recorded two years earlier but even then label "issues" were a problem.
What a blast from the past that turned out to be and so I'm planning to get Gods Of The Earth, the sophomore album by Houston-based The Sword, if only to see how a quarter of a century has treated this particular sub-genre. I suspect I might like it too, if only for nostalgic reasons!

Note added 28 March:

As a matter of fact, and due to my curiosity, here is the lyric of 'The Spirit', which was on the aforementioned album by Magnum:

Don't place your trust in foolish promises sworn
Nor cryptic message scrawled upon every wall.
Street corner justice beware -
The spirit will find you, always be fair.
The shallow verse once read means nothing at all
Nor fearful gestures made for instant recall.
In lies your heart will not share
The spirit inside you used without care.

The spirit that guides you, follow it through.
To the spirit inside you always be true.
You know you'll despair
If the spirit inside you is used without care.

The battlefield of glory pales into rust
The river flows much thicker fed by each thrust.
No beast alive does compare
The spirit beside you everywhere.
Let not your head be turned by tainted reward
And dreams of fortune won, forever to hoard.
Your conscience could not repair
The spirit inside you used without care.

'Cause it will be shelter, help you how to decide
And it will be your helper should your loyalties divide.

The ash of pages swept before the cruel wind,
The loss of choices, praises no one will sing,
No clues to how you will fare
The spirit implores you tread where you dare.
The dust lies thick on casket rich or quite poor
Distinction disappears, the worm doth ignore.
The candle burns out once more
But the spirit inside you won't be ignored.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

We have the facts and we're voting yes.

2008 will see Narrow Stairs the new, kinda sixth, studio album by Death Cab For Cutie released within the next couple of months and (if we are really lucky) the second album by The Postal Service might follow it before the end of 2008; both have real potential.

This is the cover of the 12" vinyl single released in 2005.

We Will Become Silhouettes
I've got a cupboard with cans of food
Filtered water and pictures of you

And I'm not coming out until this is all over
And I'm looking through the glass
Where the light bends at the cracks.
I'm screaming at the top of my voice
Pretending the echoes belong to someone else.

Someone I used to know.

We will become silhouettes
When our bodies finally go.

Not the complete lyric
but what prompts me to mention this is that Death Cab For Cutie are now confirmed to play Latitude 2008.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lo-fi Americana 'Made in England'

When it comes to names, Low, Low Low, La, La, La, Love, Love, Love have one of the most cumbersome going but, while I was looking at this-and-that this evening I was reminded of their, unfortunately self-titled, 2004 début album:

The thing is that, while I can no longer remember how I came to hear of it and then buy it, it is actually rather good and for me track six, Roadkill Moon, in particular. This is not lo-fi done the traditional English way, though all band members are English, hence my title to the post. I then discovered that their second album, Ends of June, appears soon on US indie label Other Electricities and is apparently a natural continuation of the first although I haven't actually heard it yet. If you like this kind of music it might be worth bearing in mind.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

2000 copies and counting...

Universal have now done the decent thing --- they have announced a vinyl release of the album Rockferry (it is currently available on pre-order).
Some albums simply need to be owned on vinyl and this is surely one of them.

There is a downside too - just 2000 copies worldwide - so if you want one of them acting quickly is a real issue. You could try if you are interested but sadly I can offer no guarantee of success. Feedback from SXSW 2008 suggests that she might just stand a chance in America.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Happy Easter Bunny - that's me!

Why you might ask? Nothing to do with chocolate eggs, although I'm certainly not averse to them should they come my way, but this is really, really why...

[Click image to see it full screen.]

Tickets went on sale at this evening at 19:00 (GMT). I went To Latitude 2007, booking my ticket at the last moment, but I certainly wasn't going to take any chances this year. Let's just hope the weather is good!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In The Future - Black Mountain

I've mentioned this before and now had this on vinyl for some weeks. While not everyone agrees with me it is fast becoming one of my favourites of 2008 so far.

The first time I heard it the opening guitar gambit instantly reminded me of a classic Rainbow song. Not, as far as I have yet been able to tell, any particular one but the issue of sounding somehow generic 1970s/1980s is something that other reviews I have read have also levelled against Black Mountain.
I can see where they are coming from, and there are plenty of other influences in there if one cares to mention them, but I think it is wonderful nevertheless. The other common accusation is that it is rather gloomy in tone and execution and I'd generally agree with that but rarely does it seem as apocalyptic as that by, to name an album by another Canadian band, Arcade Fire's Neon Bible.
Night Walks is the final track on In The Future.

Night Walks

Night walks with me
And the moon leaves me just enough light to see
And my shadow my only company
And it moves just like me
And it walks just like me.

Help me to breathe.
I can only read what I see.
Be kind to me ‘cause the words come out carefully
And they break up easily
And I woke up in between.

Night walks with me
And the moon leaves me just enough light to see
And my shadow my only company
And it moves just like me
And it walks just like me.

Had Rainbow become folk-tinged, given to experimenting with acoustic instruments and also had a female co-vocalist, it is not quite impossible that they might have turned out a song like some of these here but that is only the half of it. After repeated listening it still does remind me of Rainbow however and it makes me want to dig out some, and therefore perhaps discover why, but mine was sadly all on long departed cassettes. I have no doubt that the CDs are out there and readily available - maybe the vinyl too that I should have bought that for pennies when I had the chance - but it is no secret that I have a soft spot both for folk and also the bombast of rock and that may matter more when it comes to my liking of In The Future.
More importantly, to tell the truth and despite or perhaps because of the mediocre reviews of it that I've read so far, I'm pretty keen to hear the eponymous album Lightning Dust recorded by Amber Webber and Joshua Wells. (Jagjaguwar CD/LP JAG112)

Deprived of the rest of Black Mountain - Steve McBean has his own side project Pink Mountaintops - this is even fitted by some in the category of nu-miserable. Truth-to-tell, and I can just imagine how I think it might sound, I just don't think so but I'm interested to see if I'm right and buying it completely unheard is a risk I'm now quite prepared to take.

Monday, March 17, 2008

You Have No Idea What You're Getting In To.

True enough, but neither did I and it is largely why I started this blog in the first place. It has from the start however been, as I made clear quite early on, a matter of policy not to acquire music simply to give it a bad review. This is for the very practical reason that I have plenty of other albums and singles seeking a slice of the budget but there obviously will be the odd accidental exception - balancing a policy of exploring new sounds and not ending up with some things I don't much care for is bound to result in a few mishaps - but this isn't one of them.

I also said then that (reading) negative reviews is fine with me and this one I just had to share because it really made me take notice. The album under the spotlight is this...

You Have No Idea What You're Getting In To.
Does It Offend You, Yeah?

The reviewer is Harriet Gibsone in The Fly (March 2008, Issue 102) and I quote:

"No, it doesn't. It doesn't tickle the aural senses enough to spark any kind of reaction other than a slight gag reflex. DIOYY? are a diluted Daft Punk without the beats, or the lyrics - maybe just the same brand of keyboard."

After reviewing some of the assorted tracks thereon it finishes with this withering salvo.

"Come on, stick to your guns. You are either Shit Indie or Shit Electro, Yeah?"

I haven't heard more than two songs from it, and they didn't inspire me either, but any thoughts that I might wish to hear more are now much diminished. I have bought plenty of albums completely unheard and solely on the basis of reviews by many writers in The Fly; they haven't let me down yet so I'm going to trust this one too.
Priceless? Well not exactly but it just has to be said, from my selfish point of view, it was far better than wasting £8.97 (or something like that) to discover it for myself!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Listening today... not new and without lyrics.

I'm liking two albums very much at the moment. Neither is new, but to me they are as I've only got them this week. They are both largely without vocals but, aside from that, they are really very different indeed.

Re-released in 2007, and made by the Type Records supremo himself, it is just awesome. That said it is also important to realise that this is total electronica.

Rather different is this live CD, recorded and produced in Chicago by Steve Albini, released by sort-of-Brighton-based Electrelane. Absolutely revolutionary it may not be* but it is a fine release and only makes me want to see them play live even more than I already do!

Electrelane - Axes

* In both cases I've meddled vicariously with the album art-work a little (in part because neither album had the title or artist on the cover) but, while on the subject of altering things, The Partisan (Track 10 on Axes) is actually a rather remarkable cover of a cover! It started life not as French Resistance anthem Chant de Partisans but as an earlier (White Russian) one by Anna Marly, who had later adopted France as her homeland. It was then translated into French, but in England in 1943, and used as propaganda on BBC radio. Later still was an English translation (origin currently unknown to me) and it was made notable by Leonard Cohen (1969) and Joan Baez (1972), only to reappear here interpreted in a yet another different way! This one does have vocals but, as is very often the Electrelane way, those of Verity Susman are not prominent in the mix. It is certainly true here, and perhaps the exact intention is that they are almost indecipherable?
I'm delighted to say that, for the curious like me, versions of the lyric, in Russian, French, English and also Persian can be found here:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why pay too much attention to detail?

I've been having something near to a week off from blogging - to listen to music instead - although to do that properly a week off work would be far better but that is simply not going to happen right now.

I'm fascinated by what people are looking for when they end up visiting this meagre blog and in particularly how often it now seems to concern lyrics. I'd love to add my best efforts for the albums I own and that people have looked for but for which lyrics are not readily available on-line. The only real problem is simply the time it takes to do it.
I'd like to do this for both Ilya (Bristol, UK and San Ilya in the US) They Died For Beauty and the all-American Ilya (Poise Is The Greater Architect and Leaving Sans-Souci) plus many other albums too numerous to mention.
If you can do some of them, even a single song, then you can easily set up a blog of your own. If you don't want to do that you could even post them here if you wanted - a blog can have more than one author.

I have an admission to make:
Today I received an album I didn't order, or at least that is what I thought, but truth to tell when I looked at my order had I accidentally ordered the wrong album (Beach House rather than Devotion) by the by the correct band (Beach House). It was a stunning lack of attention to detail but I have done this this sort of thing before and, as one of my work colleagues might well say in such circumstances, "it is all part of the tapestry of life". It is also how I discovered that there are two bands called Ilya!

Beach House - Beach House, 2006 (US) and 2007 (UK)

It is not really a problem except in that it makes me now want to buy the one, Devotion, that I intended to buy in the first instance even more.

On a quite different tack entirely it seems that Amy Studt now has a release date (28 April 2008) for her second album My Paper Made Man and that the lead single will be Chasing The Light. [See source.] It does seem, however, that Blogger did not archive and index this earlier post correctly so here it is again and I'm sorry if you have seen it all before.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Whatever happened to Amy Studt?

The album False Smiles (2003): do you remember it?
Probably not, and I'll forgive you if you don't, so we need an update on another artist who, much like Fefe Dobson, was apparently ditched in the mania that accompanied the realisation that downloading was for real.

Well, although the above is an image from her 2003 incarnation, the one at the top of this post is not. She will be back in 2008 with a new album - My Paper Made Man - and Guy Sigsworth (sometime Madonna-producer and, with Imogen Heap, one half of Frou Frou) seems to be involved with it too, which is no bad thing in my mind.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Asleep Again? What happened to Jem...

and 2004 seems so long ago.

I'm still not convinced that I'm sure what is going on here, as some major label murkiness seems to be involved, but the second album - title unknown to me - was originally due to be released in early 2007 but now "sometime in 2008" is the best I can find... If it ever appears then it is said that Lester Mendez (Shakira et al) is involved which is a good sign and I haven't found anything that indicates she has been dropped by her label.

I still stick by my guns and that is to say that I think Finally Woken sounds as good now as I thought it did then. I would, in fact, hazard a guess owing to its style and sound that was it released new in 2008 it would actually have fared even better than it did in 2004 as it combines cross-genre fascination with organic performance; both of which are fuelling the ascent of live music at the moment.
Her siblings, Georgia and Justin, are one third of indie-punk-hiphop/rap band Weapons and they released their eponymous debut album in September 2006 on their own label, Wicked Old Lady Records, and Jem joins them on track seven, The Thieves, but sadly I have yet to track a copy down.

That said, while looking into all this, I have discovered something else. While the album Pet Deaths seems to be a long time coming in the meantime another South Wales singer-songwriter, Cate Le Bon, is to release an EP on Cardiff label Peski Records on 21st April and only on 10" vinyl:

Edrych yn Llygaid Ceffyl Benthyg. -

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Reality Check - Part 3: Get What You Want.

There are more Australians currently on tour in the UK and they might just treat you as though you were still at primary school - if, of course, you are one of the lucky ones.
The teenage bolshiness is quite understandable but surely few younger than Simon Nichol, Peter Knight and Dave Swarbrick ( b. April 1941), variously of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span and all almost certainly much older than her parents, would even dream of being credible while wielding a rather non-threatening electric fiddle?

"Just shut up - you have paid to hear us play!"
Taylor Henderson of Operator Please.

Telling the audience how to behave is another matter entirely and getting away with it is quite an achievement; she seems to have another weapon at the ready so it is probably not the best time to ask any awkward questions anyway.

See them live and they're happy to scribble on your latest purchase, just like a child might, but the performance is very good. In fact child-like they certainly are not and the vocals of, and lyrics by, Amandah Wilkinson are fair proof of that.

Get What You Want - 7" vinyl (BRILS285).

The album 'Yes, Yes Vindictive' sees a full UK release (Vinyl, CD and download) on 17th March 2008 and it would be most welcome, since it is so made for summer, if they could include some weather from Queensland with it. They probably can't but if you pre-order the album from them, and according to their blog, London's Puregroove Records might just treat you with a bonus DVD of the band's recent in-store appearance! In any case, if you want the 12" version, it is much cheaper from Puregroove than from who, I can promise, will not give you a bonus DVD!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Reality Check - Part 2: Echo Beach revisited.

I'd been planning to mention some new (to the UK) Australian music developments in this post but this evening, while I was making something to eat (a fish pie if you care to know) and listening to the radio I got a surprise...

I know it's out of fashion and a trifle uncool
But I can't help it, I'm a romantic fool.
It's a habit of mine to watch the sun go down.

The song 'Echo Beach' but certainly not the version I remember.

This one is, it turns out, a cover version sung by Australian 16-year-old Gabriella Cilmie and I'm fine with that. The thing is that it made me feel old again when the DJ said I bet you don't know the original. I certainly do (and without the help of a press release) but I did recall something more useful that was not mentioned, which is
that it was on the album Metro Music (DINDISC, released as DID.1 - that being a fact that I didn't remember) and more importantly that I actually own it on original vinyl and so, after some searching, here it is.

Metro Music - Martha And The Muffins (1980).

The passage of time, almost three decades, has not done the sleeve any favours but then, as I have just rediscovered today, I paid the princely sum of £0.50 ($0.95, €0,70) for it secondhand and that was in 'Canterbury Rock' twenty-two years ago next month! The vinyl inside has however stood the test of time admirably - unscratched and still as flat as could be - and so it should therefore play perfectly? I have just listened to it and it certainly does; that may be surprising but what I find even more so is just how well the music itself has aged!

This is not actually what I intended to continue yesterday's post with but that will now just have to wait again.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Reality Check - Part 1.

When you feel inclined to despair here are some possible delights for those that like wandering away from the national radio music machine.
Should you be tired of Duffy et al (at least in the UK and, as it just sometimes
happens, I am not) then here are a few things that you probably won't have heard on whatever radio station(s) you usually listen to:

Beach House - Devotion

This is their second album and a paean to 21st century lo-fi: the main issue is that Baltimore duo Victoria Legrand (vocals and synths) and Alex Scally (guitars, including slide-guitar no less) also make it all sound like 1980s music never put a beat wrong! No wonder they are now signed to Bella Union [BELLACD160X] in the UK and it is available on vinyl too, but currently only on import from mainland Europe or the US.

If you don't fancy that just now, but are willing to indulge my liking for new French music, you could probably do worse than listening to The Teenagers.

Reality Check: they do what teenagers do.
They just happen to do it much better than most!

I nearly forgot to mention that, while they are a French three-piece and slightly older than they might perhaps seem to be (they are all in their early twenties), they can do foul-mouthed lo-fi pop better than anyone. The album Reality Check is due for release in the UK on Merok on 17th March and a vinyl release is also on the cards.

This post has threatened to become much longer than I expected. Part 2 will follow very shortly.