Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 music - What are the prospects?

Now that is a vexatious question! Commenting on the year past is one thing but this is quite another entirely, yet it needs to be done once again.

I'm not too disappointed with the predictions that I made last year but that only serves to make this year's more difficult. Pop, electro and folk-influences all came good in 2009, much to my pleasure. I suspect that they will remain much in evidence in 2010 and there is little doubt that live music, in all shapes and forms, will remain in the ascendancy.
There will be many unexpected surprises, which make the scene change and to be honest what I anticipate liking most are the things that I cannot predict; while 2009 was a good year in that respect I have no reason to think that 2010 will be any less so. I intend to make sure that it is not, seeking the new and the different like never before if I can.
That is not to say that I will abandon everything that has come before; I certainly won't if only because I can't.

I know my question doesn't make sense at all
Because we live outside the realm of yes and no.

The more difficult that proves to be the better the outcome in all probability. I doubt whether, for all the hype concerning the remarkable battle for the 'Christmas #1 single' (a curiously British preoccupation in any case), it says much about that which can be predicted for 2010.
My current thought is that the field is wide open once again, that this circumstance is probably for the best and the lyrics will still matter, especially live.

And I will be your ark; we will float above the storm.

It is true that 2010 holds many fears and for that reason alone it is worth its weight in gold:
This time, baby, I'll be bullet-proof.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nostalgia - Emily Barker

To whoever asked, I like lyrics and so thank you for asking. This is the best I can do.

Nostalgia

Tram wires cross Melbourne skies
Cut my red heart in two
My knuckles bleed down Johnston Street
On a door that shouldn't be in front of me.

Twelve thousand miles away from your smile
I'm twelve thousand miles away from me.
Standing on the corner of Brunswick
Got the rain coming down and mascara on my cheek.

Oh whisper me words in the shape of a bay
Shelter my love from the wind and the rain.

Crow fly, be my alibi
And return this fable on your wing.
Take it far away to where gypsies play
Beneath metal stars by the bridge.

Oh write me a beacon so I know the way
Guide my love through night and through day.

Only the sunset knows my blind desire for the fleeting
Only the moon understands the beauty of love
When held by a hand like the aura of nostalgia.

Link to earlier posts on this artist:
http://rpgreenhalgh.blogspot.com/2009/10/what-is-new-what-is-not.html

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Whither next?

I have already mentioned some 2010 albums that I am anticipating and you haven't yet seen the list of ones from 2009 that I haven't heard but wish I had. [Suggestions on both , and earlier ones, are always welcome by the way and can be anonymous or credited.]

The list to listen/watch, or both, in 2010 is growing at a rate faster than ever before and it makes me wonder about the kind of music that might become apparent in 2010. I know that Laura Marling is releasing her second album, 'I Speak Because I Can', probably on March 1, 2010 and I know I want that and also to see her live on the ensuing UK tour (April 2010).

On the other hand there will be new things challenging for attention and London-based three-piece Invasion might well be one of them and an oddity in that it fuses two apparently irreconcilable things: guitars and drums that come from the late 1960s flowering of heavy metal combined with decidedly other-worldly, wizard-loving, lyrics rather more typical of its resurgence about twenty years later...

...and, I nearly forgot, a vocalist who (although name-checking Ronnie James Dio) is Chan Brown, happens to be female and in possession of a decidedly soulful voice (soul divas can however scream with the best of them).
The album is incredibly short, so no self indulgent guitar or drum solos here, to the extent that it careers headlong through twelve tracks in just 22 minutes; indeed not one track actually reaches three minutes in length!
This was actually released in October 2009 but perhaps only now is its time coming. The longest track (2:55) is the last, the rather glorious 'Chaos & The Ancient Night', and this is a band now also on my 'live wants-list 2010'.

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Paradise Circus' - New Music 2010 - Part 3

In terms of new music releases 2009 is pretty much a done-deal now and finally even X-Factor has reached its conclusion for another year... I live happily with that, I can tell you, but of more interest is what 2010 might bring and the why and wherefore.

It is a long while since I mentioned much specifically derived from the music scene in Bristol. On the way home from work this evening I turned the radio on and the song playing was quite amazing. I was in a place where it was quite safe to do so and therefore I parked and just listened.
When it ended the DJ said what it was and immediately played it all over again. For BBC Radio 1 that is a very rare occurrence indeed.

It was in fact the first (two) plays of the forthcoming single 'Paradise Circus' and the first from this forthcoming album:

Heligoland is due for release February 8, 2010 in the UK.

Many of the usual collaborators are involved once again, along with an eclectic range of guests. The vocals on 'Paradise Circus' are courtesy of the notoriously performance-shy Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star and other bands). If the rest of the album is anywhere as good as this then 2010 is shaping up to be not only another good year, also a wonderfully varied one, in respect of music.

Some of the new material that is on the album has appeared, albeit in perhaps not quite the same form, on the 2009 download-only (I think) EP Splitting The Atom.

I have to say that until now, although aware of it, I have paid little detailed attention to the music of Massive Attack but I might have to reconsider my position on the basis of what I heard this evening.
It is probably one of the best musical experiences - hearing something wonderful but completely unexpected - and best of all when it occurs live. That too is something I've been fortunate to experience several times in 2009.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lists, lists, lists...

It may seem as though I've been posting lists for weeks. That is true but not for so many weeks as I have been thinking about them. This is not a lament, at least on my part, and being the not-particularly-organized person that I am lists have a dual function: they are simple in presenting the information that they contain but also serve as a safe anchorage for a wandering mind with an appetite for trivia.
I think that the only list already mentioned here that I have not yet posted concerning 'Music in 2009' is that of singles: it was always going to be a bit of a random, almost fatuous, list and I'm well through working on it.
The latest started as a 'private list', although it largely stemmed from earlier comments and considerations. I started to wonder about all the albums and artists I should have bought or heard live in 2009 but had failed to do. The next thought was that music in 2009 does not stand in isolation, either from 2008 or, as occurred to me this week, what might happen in 2010. Take this approach too far and the list will be of Fibonaccic proportions but comfortingly, perhaps if only statistically, not infinite.

Not that this is a new idea because Fibonacci was a 13th century mathematician from Pisa, Italy. It is an exponential-logarithmic scale in which the numbers increase very rapidly at first but then the rate of increase slows and tends towards a maximum value. It is hard to define but empirically it has obvious natural application: rabbits do not increase in number exponentially, at least not for ever, even in Australia!

Statistics are a great talking point, and make good headlines, but then there is that truism: 'There are lies, damn lies and statistics.'
We are all an unwitting part of these things so we had better get used to it. I might just share some of my list of 'albums I wish I had' in the coming fortnight if only so you can tell me where I went wrong.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Best 'textbite' of 2009?

You are doubtless well aware of all those award ceremonies and the gushing, often excruciatingly long, acceptance speeches that they entail so here is a refreshing antidote.
Ellie Goulding has been named the chosen one, following Adele (Adkins) in 2008 and Florence and The Machine in 2009, as the recipient of the Critics' Choice Brit Award 2010 .

Her initial response, posted on Twitter, was this:
"Er, I won a bloody Brit Award."

After some reflection she was more expansive:
"When I found out, I had a little squeal, I had a little cry and I had a little fall down."

Understatement becomes her, something that is not entirely true of the acts that came second and third in this list: second was Manchester electro-indie band Delphic and third was an act that, since seeing it play live in July, I have tipped for great things - Marina and The Diamonds.

The choice is an interesting threesome in any case: Marina Diamandis does not do shy-wallflower singer-songwriter or anything even remotely approaching it. She does however do both singing, songwriting and also sensational live performance with her band (she also plays keys on some tracks), and the effect is quite remarkable.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Set the sails and feel the winds stirring... live in 2009

I left this category - Live Performances of 2009 - towards the end because I thought it would be amongst the easier ones to solve. Oh, how wrong could I be? These are all acts that I have seen live, in a few cases more than once, in 2009 and yet I still can't choose between them.

It has proven an invidious task to whittle the list down to ten, with some pictures to follow soon I intend, and here alphabetically is that list.

  • Alela Diane
  • Bat For Lashes
  • Bellowhead
  • Gossip
  • Imelda May
  • Ladyhawke
  • Low Anthem
  • Ohbijou
  • Recode
  • School Of Seven Bells
'Set the sails and feel the winds a-stirring
and towards the bright horizon sail away.'

I could do this list all over again, twice more with no items repeated, and still be quite happy with it. That just shows what I think about live music in 2009.

Note added March 15, 2010:
For more about 'Low Anthem' see here: For new info on 'The Low Anthem' see here:

Note added December, 8:
The more I think about it the more tempting it becomes.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Lots more, it seems... New Music 2010 - Part 2

I'm still working on a list of the live performances that I have enjoyed the most in 2009. They seem to fall in to two fairly distinct categories; on one hand those that I was well aware of from recorded output and thus wanted to hear live and, on the other hand, ones that were essentially an unknown proposition. Many in this latter category were new acts and many of those will be releasing their first full LP in 2010.
This one is released by Wichita Recordings (12" LP, CD, d/l) on January 25, 2010 in the UK.

The Big Black and The Blue is the follow-up to 2009 EP Drunken Trees.
First Aid Kit, while an act that fell in the latter category, are very likely to appear in my 'Best of 2009 - live!' and which I hope to have posted by the end of tomorrow.

Another band releasing an album in 2010, this time their second, is miles away from Swedish acoustic in style and is London's New Young Pony Club. I can't wait and it too has live music connotations: July 2007 saw me at a festival for the first time in the modern era and the first headline act I saw there, on the Friday evening on the Sunrise Stage at Latitude 2007, was NYPC who had just released their début album, Fantastic Playroom. That was probably pretty much the moment that I realized being at a festival was something that I really did want to do and not simply some nostalgia-induced aberration. As yet I do not know the title or release date for this, but the fact that is confirmed is heartening. The last was released by Modular Recordings but I have no confirmation of that for this one.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Lots more to come... New Music 2010 - Part 1

I seem to have done a lot of looking back in the last few weeks and there is still more to be written - thinking about all the live performances I have been lucky enough to see has bought back many memories particularly of festivals - and a selection of singles that have made me take notice should be some fun too.
While I'm thinking, and with few important releases due in the last weeks of 2009, here are a couple that I'm looking forward to in early 2010 and both are by returning artists, very different in style, the existing output of which I already have and like.

The first, rather delayed by the very sad events of 2008, is the second album by Leeds' Corinne Bailey Rae. The self-titled début from 2006 still sounds as good to me now as it did the first time I heard it back then and I'd be very surprised if
The Sea were to disappoint. Very much of relevance in 2010
is the fact that she is also an awesome live performer.

The first single is 'I'd Do It All Again'. It is on radio play lists now and recent performances of new material at small venues have garnered very positive reviews. She is an artist I have not heard live and I would like to put that right in 2010, which is also true of the next act.

The lead single is 'Norway' and apparently the album Teen Dream doesn't disappoint either. I'm a huge fan of the Baltimore duo Beach House and both albums; Beach House (2006) and Devotion (2007).


For this album they are again signed to Bella Union in the UK which, as far as I am concerned, says a great deal.

This I think, is not even the start of it...

Monday, November 30, 2009

My 2009 In Music - albums

It has, as I mentioned last week, taken a long time and a lot of soul-searching to come up with any reasonable list of my least-dispensable albums of 2009 and on reflection the way I divided it in 2008 suddenly appeared false, or at least redundant, as it changes from day to day depending on 'things'.

In 2009 I've decided to do it in one hit, although I will feel free to add things, but again I am certainly not intending to rate it in order because that is quite simply impossible for reasons more immediate than those involved in choosing what should be in the list anyway. That's enough of preamble and self-justification so here it is in the raw; my most-cherished albums of 2009 listed alphabetically by artist:

Amy Millan - Masters Of The Burial [link]
Bat For Lashes - Two Suns [link]
Blue Roses - Blue Roses [link 1] [link2]
Caroline Weeks - Songs For Edna [link]
Chairlift - Does You Inspire You? [link]
Dear Reader - Replace Why With Funny [link]
Eilen Jewell - Sea of Tears [link]
Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo - Despite The Snow [link]
Florence and The Machine - Lungs
Frida Hyvönen - Silence Is Wild [Link]
Kendel Carson - Alright Dynamite [link]
Lau - Arc Light [link]
Lightning Dust - Infinite Light [link]
Lily Allen - It's Not Me It's You [link]
Little Boots - Hands
Marissa Nadler - Little Hells [link]
Mummers - Tale To Tell [link]
Ohbijou - Beacons [link]
Paramore - Brand New Eyes
Po'Girl - Deer In The Night [link]
Polly Scattergood - Polly Scattergood [link1] [link2]
Stricken City - Songs About People I Know
The Joy Formidable - A Balloon Called Moaning [link]
The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin

Please feel free to comment, argue and suggest additions/deletions by comment or e-mail. I will add links and further comments as and when I get the time through December. Albums released in December 2009 are clearly eligible for addition too, as are a few that I have recently acquired but have not, as yet, listened to sufficiently to form a stable opinion.

There are no images in this post because I don't want to prejudice anything. On the other hand I have already mentioned many of these artists in 2009... if you want to see what I wrote then please use the search facility in the side-bar.

Artists highlighted in green are those that I have seen live in 2009 or, if in orange, those from before but also mentioned in 2009. Items/artists highlighted in red are those on which I have commented in 2009.

Now over to you!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My 2009 in music: EPs and mini-albums

It is that time of year again; the season for making lists. This is not however my Christmas wish list but rather the first part of the music that I have heard in 2009 that I particularly liked.
It, like all the other parts to follow, is obviously a personal selection so if you agree with some and disagree with others then it is well worth doing; should you discover anything from it that had either not caught your attention or merely forgotten then all the better and, as usual, all comments, positive or negative, are welcome.
As I did last year I started with one of the categories that I find it easier to get my head around. It is better this year even though 'EPs and mini-albums' has become a whole lot more complicated than it was in 2008. As usual I'm not going to attempt to rank them, not least because that depends on
my mood at the time. These have however proved enduring favourites and so here they are, in alphabetical order and by arist:

A major departure from the selection I made last year is that as well as owning said items I have actually seen five of the seven acts live in 2009. The exceptions being Amy LaVere and Le B because I didn't get the opportunity to do so. Of these seven acts/artists only one has released a full album to date and that is Amy LaVere, who has released two, and the second of them, 'Anchors and Anvils', was in my list of 2008 albums.

There are also a few EPs that overlap with 2009 artists and albums that I think worthy of note, but probably need no introduction, simply for the remixes:
The nine items above are, at least in my collection, represented equally on CD, 7" vinyl and 12" vinyl --- so not even dead on physical format! The artwork of many of these items has already appeared in my posts in 2009 but not all of it so here is some more...

There is more (including links from this post) to follow soon...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Infinite iteration...

The title might sound like math homework from decades long past but it is actually an observation on a much more recent problem. It is a more welcome problem, I must add, but an example of the fact that some things seem to get harder with practice and - at for me at least - writing year-end lists is one of them.

I have not fulfilled all the promises I made for my blog this year and only I am to blame there. I have however succeeded in listening to more music, both recorded and live, than ever before. That is another large part of the problem: taking stock in the last few weeks has only now made me realize how true that is. Worse still, in this regard alone, is that the guidance I have received from many sources in the last year has meant that very little of it, live or recorded, can simply be dismissed at the first pass; furthermore not only is there far more to consider it is also more varied in nature and that is a big problem hence the title of the post!
How do you whittle the list down without obvious accusations of a travesty of justice? I have had, and then discarded, various ideas about categorization but in the end I think I'm going to do it much like last year:

  • Two complementary lists of albums (I'm not sure how one will be distinct from the other).
  • A list of EPs/mini-albums (of which I have rather more this year than last).
  • A list of singles (probably).
  • A list of live acts that I have liked the most.
The last is a new category and to some extent it will overlap with the foregoing ones. Another that I'm still considering is a shortlist of albums from earlier years that I have acquired for the first time in 2009. Don't get me wrong, I love doing it but it does not actually get any easier and perhaps that apparent contradiction is actually part of the appeal.

I've even got a working list of 2010 artists and albums to keep an eye on and, as the second decade of the 21st century dawns, it doesn't look disappointing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And the problem is?

We were having a discussion at work today and, as such things do, it ran along fairly predictable lines. It was about new media and the effects they have, in particular social networking. I was, as always, out-gunned two to one (one older and one younger than I) so I don't think it is entirely an age related issue in the wider sense. I was sticking to my positive stance, as usual, when one of my colleagues suddenly asked "Can you even conceive of what it might be like to write a blog?"and you can probably guess the news story this week, concerning one of the most infamous blogs of all time, that started this particular line of discussion.

The two halves of my brain went in to overdrive and in conflicting ways, which is of course why the human brain works as well as it does. One side was telling me that I'd been rumbled for I thought that they did not know about that which you are currently reading; the other was saying that if they now do there's no denying it and so just keep on going. Both sides however were SCREAMING at me say something credible and to do it fast.
"Rather like reading one but more involving and committed." I ventured and I got away with it, at least for now, but should the question arise again I'll be very much better prepared:

  • I realize that I might have to defend what I write, or even what I write about, but that is not a new media phenomenon. I don't think I should have to defend my reasons for writing simply because it is on a digital platform.
  • Who would want to read what I write/publish? That, often levelled, question applies to anything but you don't know until you do it. Just ask the agents and publishers that turned down JK Rowling about that; to blog simply allows self-publishing and greater powers of self-delusion.
  • It is faintly egotistical (a valid point) but on the other hand it is equally liable to court opprobrium as it is to curry approbation.
  • I enjoy researching and writing it and the interaction it provides beyond the blog itself, or merely on-line.
  • I enjoy the challenge and the opportunities it has given me and quite frankly I don't care what the nu-Luddites think. If you don't like new media then just don't read it: I'm fine with that equilibrium situation.
The next thing to say is that I do read other blogs about music and in a light that is perhaps different simply because I write one myself. They are a source of inspiration, perspective and a pointer to new music too. Here are two rather different ones, both quite remarkable.

A comprehensive selection of new and recent music from Sweden:
http://meadowmusic.se/en/

If you find yourself in New York, or wish you could, this is what you need to know and more:
http://www.quirkynychick.com/

Sunday, November 15, 2009

When folk became fashionable...

It was fairly clear a year ago that 2009 was going to see a resurgence in electro-pop and electronica in general and so it has proved. A rather different genre, which has been chipping away at public indifference for several years, also made huge strides in 2009. Folk/roots and its associated acoustic palette, whether modern or traditional, had long been seen in the UK at least as predominantly the preserve of middle-aged males drinking ale in the local pub.


It became very clear that something had changed: turn on BBC Radio 1 and one can often be forgiven for thinking your tuner has changed to the traditional end of BBC Radio 2 territory and that impression could only be reinforced at many of this summer's festivals.
These are young, talented performers playing a vast range of acoustic instruments and appealing to a young audience as well as the traditional one. Last year Laura Marling, signed to EMI, blazed the trail and seems to have been touring non-stop ever since.
I have mentioned quite a few acts already, as I have always had a soft spot for such music and Bellowhead, touring 2008 album Matachin, is indubitably one of the finest of the hundred-plus live artists of all genres that I have seen this year.

Here are a few more albums/artists to consider, not all of which I have heard yet. I'll start with the latest album by the artist who has possibly done the most to promote this trend over the last decade or so...

Sweet Bells - Kate Rusby (2009, Pure Records)

One new band that seems to have found favour in influential circles is the one that, on hearing them repeatedly on BBC Radio 1, made me realize that things had really changed and that I have probably seen more banjos deployed in 2009 than since forever... In the BBC Radio 1 'Live Lounge' sessions it is expected that the band will perform a cover version: Calvin Harris' - I'm Not Alone and it was as truly amazing as it was a surprising choice.

Sigh No More - Mumford & Sons (2009, Island/Universal)

I have mentioned the eleven-piece Bellowhead already but very recently the sole female member thereof has just released her début solo project.

No Man's Fool - Rachael McShane (2009, Navigator Records)

Many of these albums comprise a mixture of interpretations of traditional songs and completely new ones and this, the second album from Derbyshire singer, songwriter and fiddle player Bella Hardy, is no exception.

In The Shadow of Mountains - Bella Hardy (2009, Noe Records)

And finally, for now...

Here's The Tender Coming - The Unthanks (2009, Rough Trade/Beggars)

They may have changed the artist act name to 'The Unthanks' but it is still the same sisters and this album also includes traditional material, including the title track that also appears on 'The High Level Ranters' album 'Ranting Lads' that I have already mentioned.

Where does that leave us? Well, I'd like to think that it bodes very well for 2010. The raised profile and popularity of the whole genre is likely to inspire others contemplating similar forays in acoustic music and that can hardly be a bad thing.

This post focusses entirely on UK artists but that is not to say that there aren't others working in similar territory and equally deserving of a mention. I have seen several of them live in 2009 and mentioned some already but a fuller retrospective should follow soon. It should bode well for the 2010 festival season, particularly those such as Green Man Festival, EOTR 2010 and The Cambridge Folk Festival.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Hard Hearted (Ode To Thoreau)

I love it when people ask about lyrics. It serves to remind me that I'm not the only one who thinks they matter, and who finds them fascinating, so thanks to whoever asked about this one...

... 'Hard Hearted (Ode To Thoreau)', which comes from Amy Millan's début solo album 'Honey From The Tombs'.

I think that they are thus:

Hard Hearted (Ode To Thoreau)

I have a hard hearted island
Where I live alone
I've seen my love grow big as a mountain
And scatter like ashes and bones
These things I have forgotten
Memory I've left behind
Something was always drifting away
So I'll stay.

It may be the night it might be the morning
Never again will I weep
Cos I've got the wind blowing beside me
And the water can sing me to sleep
That sky can do my crying
Seasons can have my goodbyes
The city can keep all its history
And leave me.

I have been beat, I'm not defeated
Not bitter, not bound and not meek.
When disappointment is a slow burning fire

Let it drown under the sound of my feet.

If you want other lyrics then just please ask and, if you haven't already done so, her recently released sophomore solo album, Masters Of The Burial, is well worth a listen and I have the lyrics for that too.

Monday, November 02, 2009

2009 Isn't done yet - more new music, part 13

Over the last few days there has been lot of discussion about music in 2009 and, I have to admit, I've been involved in some of it whether that be in person or, as this evening on the likes of MySpace and perpetuating that, right here right now. That is fine, in so far as it goes, but why draw a line under 2009 in music when there are still two months to go? I know that the few weeks before Christmas may not be the best but surely that's no reason to write it off already and who knows from where it might come? In truth my wish-list is probably now longer than ever and here are just four rather diverse examples from it:

It seems an age since Norway's Anne Lilia Berge Strond (aka Annie) released her first solo LP 'Anniemal' and actually it was 2005. This one is her second and it is 'Don't Stop'.
Next up is a long underrated star of the UK rock guitar scene, though to very good effect, more recently prominent as the guitarist in Bat For Lashes' live band: she is former 'Ash' guitarist and solo artist Charlotte Hatherley.


Her second solo album, The Deep Blue (2007), garnered a reputation for being somewhat difficult to get to know and possibly not without reason. I have it on vinyl, so that is not for want of trying, but this one seems rather more approachable and that is not to say it is in any sense derivative, for it is not, rather she seems to be reinvigorated and if you have seen a live 'Bat For Lashes' gig this year then it is surely not hard to understand why.

Next up is another band that I have mentioned before but this time one from France. A garage/rock/punk four-piece, with something curiously Parisinenne, 'Plasticines' return with their second album 'About Love', which is a follow on from 'LP1' (2007), except that it isn't quite as simple as that...
Zazie Tavitian left the band after the first album and has been replaced, albeit in a different rôle, by drummer Anaïs Vandevyvere.

Now that's interesting: but just try persuading almost anyone that France has home-grown pop (it most certainly does) and you will find it at best difficult, at worst Sisyphean. The very thought of trying to convince anyone that it has [even one] credible all-female rock band is almost too scary to contemplate. Why are we so blinkered?

To finish how could I possibly resist adding yet another album of folk/Americana to my list?

This one is the third release by Lisa Redford and one much championed by Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2 - and the same 'whispering Bob Harris' for those of us whose memories can just about stretch back to the 'Old Grey Whistle Test'- therefore absolutely no chance whatsoever.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Leyland Kirby - The CD trilogy - Sadly, The Future Is Not What It Was

For the last six weeks or so you have witnessed my quest, ultimately successful, to obtain the trilogy of double-vinyl 12s released by Leyland Kirby. Whatever the reason - curiosity or incredulity come to mind - a large number of people have found themselves here as a result. If vinyl is simply not your thing I can understand that, and if you were unable to partake I sympathize, but a more readily available and more easily handled alternative is now available:

It has the same content as the vinyl releases, but on three CDs instead, and the same track listing and notes too (absolutely none at all) but new artwork. It is available as follows:

LEYLAND KIRBY - Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was (Deluxe Triple CD Edition)
Label: History Always Favours The Winners
3CD // £15.99 [approx. €17.60 and US$ 26.50] plus the appropriate shipping charges.
Released: Oct 2009
Catalogue Number: HAFTW001CD

While Amazon.co.uk list it, it is described as unavailable so they may as well not bother. It is however available from independent retailer Boomkat Records, Manchester, UK and they will ship internationally. The link to this item, including a review etc., is here:
http://www.boomkat.com/item.cfm?id=236773


I'm listening to the whole lot, rather over four hours of it, from end-to-end for the first time and I can see a misty but near-full moon out of my skylight window. Perfect for Halloween and, were there wolves in Somerset, I expect that I would be able to hear them howling in the distance as I write...

There are, actually, but Longleat is just a little bit too far away and that puts me in mind of a very sad story from earlier this week: nineteen-year-old Taylor Mitchell, a promising (and award-nominated) Canadian folk singer-songwriter, was hiking in Cape Breton National Park, Nova Scotia, when she was attacked, fatally, by two coyotes; a shy animal not known as a species aggressive towards humans.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6895020.ece

Note added 3 November:
It is also available on mp3 from Boomkat for £8.99 (€10, US$14.75) but I don't actually know if that facility is available internationally.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What is new, what is not?

This is an interesting question right now... I'm thinking about all the new music I have heard - live, recorded and in some cases both - in 2009. That has also made me think more about the music, regardless of release date, that I have listened to most frequently in the last two months.

Much of it falls into both categories and a yet a considerable proportion does not. More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that even when it does I have never explicitly mentioned it. 'The Local', at EOTR 2009, might not be the most prepossessing tented venue in festival land but, for everything it lacks in that regard is more than made up in other ways. It is not particularly well appointed...

...and, if you are playing, you need to fix it for yourselves. It was also home to many artists that you simply don't yet know, but needed to see and hear, and this is is one of them.

Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo, live at EOTR 2009 and...


...this is the set-list for it.

These tracks come from two albums: Photos, Fires, Fables (2007) and Despite The Snow (2009), both of which I bought after seeing this live performance, and have played countless times since. An act that employs piano accordion always stands a good chance of getting my attention and, as my luck would have it, this was just one of several that I have seen this year. Yesterday someone ended up here searching for "unusual musical instruments", a category that is in some ways in the ear of the beholder. I have seen a few played live this year, including bassoon, auto-harp, stylophone, several xylophones and also a few toy instuments too...

Related links:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All Hallows Eve...

The traditional British late Autumn party-night, for kids especially, was the very obviously sectarian Guy Fawkes' Night, traditionally celebrated with fireworks, on 5th November. In the last decade or two it appears to have been eclipsed to some extent by another with which it, perhaps rather surprisingly, shares much in common.
You could advance many possible reasons for this, and with some justification, so here are two:

  • Church of England and Catholic rapprochement.
  • The creeping advance of (at least recently) US customs and celebrations.
I agree that the matter of Guy Fawkes and the grievances that Catholics harboured after the 'Reformation' makes it a sectarian issue and one that, after more than three centuries, still understandably touches a raw nerve. The interesting thing is that, if by adopting Halloween instead (adopted by the Church - long pre-reformation but banned by Cromwell during the 'Commonwealth' - as All Hallows Eve in early Medieval times), the differences have been smoothed over by celebrating something that was adopted, and carefully woven in, from Celtic Christian ritual that it in turn had adopted and were tenets of earlier pagan beliefs (and it is not the only one - Whitsun and Harverst Festival being others) instead. If that gets around the perceived problem then it is just fine by me and clearly time is a great healer.
So now we, or to use as an excuse the kids, have both fireworks and pumpkins!

Pumpkins are indeed something of a revelation: we used to have to make do with attempting to cut lanterns out of swede (called turnips in the north of England and Scotland). They are smaller, less colored and less translucent than pumpkins and they are, unfortunately, also industrially hard when uncooked!

So to the music that might fit such an occasion; as well as anything from my former suggestions in (2008) and (2007) here a few recent releases...

I've recently mentioned two 12" EPs by 'Demdike Stare', the shady side of Manchester's modern electronic witchcraft and, while they might be tricky to get before Saturday, this is the album and the track list is indeed most promising...
  1. Suspicious Drone
  2. Haxan Dub
  3. Regressor
  4. All Hallows Eve
  5. Jannisary
  6. Haxan
  7. Extwistle Hall
  8. Trapped Dervish
  9. Nothing But The Night
  10. Conjoined
  11. Ghostly Hardware
I know that this is an even greater problem but, should you want to spend the whole day in what is, arguably, even more gloomy territory then James Leyland Kirkby is the one and I've alluded to this, the final part of the LP trilogy, already...

...don't imagine that only the kids will like the sweets and 'pumpkin hunt'.

There are two obvious trails through the darkness - the nu-acoustic/folk path or the ambient/ electronic path - and just take your choice but strange to relate they are not so different as you might expect. Less scary is the folk-orientated one and anything by 'The Smoke Fairies' would not go amiss.
Bring on the witches, fairies and the other forces of darkness and light any time... and how about a vampire or two?

If so then also add any 'Twilight' soundtrack that you can lay your fangs on and the latest, 'New Moon', features 'Death Cab For Cutie' and Ben Gibbard's haunting lyrics as well as many other highlights so what more can I say?

Enjoy!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Progress:Reform (revisited)...

This is for whoever just asked about the lyrics for 'Progress:Reform'. I was thinking about this today, if only by proxy. Is Royal Mail about to self destruct in a similar way?
It is quite possible and I have mentioned my concern before - look at the effect the miners' strike of 1983-4 had. Yes, it was an industry facing major issues of falling demand, over-staffing and tragically adversarial industrial relations but that is relevant. Royal Mail, I fear, is now staring into the same abyss and the result could be as damaging as that which harks back to the Railway industry of 1963, which is where this track (as yet incomplete in lyric as I have to do them line-by-line) comes from...

The Beeching Report

Is this the price we pay for progress?
Taking one step forwards
For every six we take back.
Does your dirty oil-stained money
Make you happy?

Do you just want to be remembered?
To book your place in history?
[You will be!] {whispered choir}
Reform, reform!


You are taking apart what we made
With our hands and and our hearts
Our hands and our hearts
Are not just tools to ply your trade.

They are ours to live our lives
And you are taking them away.
Feel free to wrap you hands around our necks
And I'll feel free to do the same.

That's not all of it and probably due to its length they didn't play it at Latitude 2009, more is the pity, but at least this is a start on the lyric. It is a remarkable piece of writing from a remarkable band.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Memories Live Longer Than Dreams --- Don't Look Down

It is something of a change, to say the least, to go to a gig with a group of friends. That was Bellowhead at the Cheese & Grain in Frome yesterday evening and what a show it was. I can quite truthfully say that I haven't seen one obviously better this year, and not for want of trying either, but personal preference might play a part. I have however seen a few that run it close, which only serves to show just how fortunate I have been, and it was on my doorstep! It was so good to have company that I never even thought to take any pictures, let alone take the measures needed to stand a chance of getting anything worthwhile, and I don't regret it for a moment.

The title of the post is however double-edged - it is also that of the final installment of the Leyland Kirby double-vinyl trilogy - and yes, I have! Now that is dealt with I think it time for another more sensible, or simply more varied, selection of new music I want.


That however is not a prospect that is going to test me any less...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Matty Groves, lyric, Alela Diane

To see the latest update on this thread follow the link below: http://rpgreenhalgh.blogspot.com/2010/06/alela-alina-matty-groves-live.html


Thank you to whosoever searched today for the lyric to 'Matty Groves', as performed by Alela Diane. A definitive answer is difficult, as I heard it live at 'End Of The Road 2009' and it is not, as far as I know, an Alela Diane album track but it was in so far as I could tell from memory quite faithful to the 'In Real Time - 1987' Fairport Convention' rendition and this is the lyric for that:

Matty Groves
A holiday, a holiday, and the first one of the year
Lord Donald's wife came into the church, the gospel for to hear
And when the meeting it was done, she cast her eyes about
And there she saw little Matty Groves, walking in the crowd
"Come home with me, little Matty Groves, come home with me tonight
Come home with me, little Matty Groves, and sleep with me till light"
"Oh, I can't come home, I won't come home and sleep with you tonight
By the rings on your fingers I can tell you are my master's wife"
"But if I am Lord Donald's wife, Lord Donald's not at home
He is out in the far cornfields bringing the yearlings home"

And a servant who was standing by and hearing what was said
He swore Lord Donald he would know before the sun would set
And in his hurry to carry the news, he bent his breast and ran
And when he came to the broad millstream, he took off his shoes and he swam

Little Matty Groves, he lay down and took a little sleep
When he awoke, Lord Donald was standing at his feet
Saying "How do you like my feather bed and how do you like my sheets
How do you like my lady who lies in your arms asleep?"
"Oh, well I like your feather bed and well I like your sheets
But better I like your lady gay who lies in my arms asleep"
"Well, get up, get up," Lord Donald cried, "get up as quick as you can
It'll never be said in fair England that I slew a naked man"
"Oh, I can't get up, I won't get up, I can't get up for my life
For you have two long beaten swords and I not a pocket knife"
"Well it's true I have two beaten swords and they cost me deep in the purse
But you will have the better of them and I will have the worse
And you will strike the very first blow and strike it like a man
I will strike the very next blow and I'll kill you if I can"

So Matty struck the very first blow and he hurt Lord Donald sore
Lord Donald struck the very next blow and Matty struck no more
And then Lord Donald took his wife and he sat her on his knee
Saying "Who do you like the best of us, Matty Groves or me?"
And then up spoke his own dear wife, never heard to speak so free
"I'd rather a kiss from dead Matty's lips than you or your finery"

Lord Donald he jumped up and loudly he did bawl
He struck his wife right through the heart and pinned her against the wall
"A grave, a grave," Lord Donald cried, "to put these lovers in
But bury my lady at the top for she was of noble kin."

If there are subtle differences then and with luck this will at least help you with the greater part of the remainder. It is a traditional song so bear in mind that there are probably many versions of both the lyric and its accompaniment in existence and, in particular, I think Joan Baez may have recorded one that is notably different.

Added October 15, 2009:
Well here's something interesting that reinforces the point about alternate versions, even ones by the same artist.
The lyric above may actually be that to an idealized or a recorded version. I've just listened to 'Matty Groves' from
'In Real Time - 1987' Fairport Convention' very carefully indeed and they are are some subtle differences:
Some are totally trivial and are common in any canon but one, which struck me as being rather more significant, is that in the live version the servant who relays the tale of adultery is now female (consistently so, therefore I don't think I have misheard it) and the wronged party is Lord Arnold (not Lord Donald). It answers another issue that struck me as slightly strange yesterday evening:
Why would yearlings (sheep, cattle or any other kind) be in cornfields? It seemed rather strange agricultural practise to me, but then what do I know? Listen carefully and it is this:

He is out in the far country bringing the yearlings home.

That makes much more sense and 'the far country' is a well known, if somewhat archaic, term for the distant parts on one's estates, if one were lucky enough to have so much as the ground beneath one's feet to call ones own! The Lord Donald/Lord Arnold dichotomy may be merely a regional variation, each using the name of a local dignitary or a play on it, as much traditional music was carefully veiled sedition in any case.

Much later, still to this day indeed, there are regional variations even though the locations may not be far apart at all. The song 'Stanley Market' (Co. Durham), dating from the 19th century I suspect, is 'Bedlington Market' when just across the Tyne in Northumberland. It is recognizably the same song but, as above, the lyrics vary somewhat.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Music 2009 - Major labels and foreign language music.

Don't say that I didn't warn you because I did so yesterday. Why am I suddenly being positive about some major label releases? That is easy to answer and, really quite selfishly, because they are releasing music that I want to listen to and I have no problem with that whether it is self-released or done under the auspices of a major label.

I have no problem with foreign-language music either and have posted about this before. I've got most of the released recorded output of both and so, on that basis, I don't reckon I'm taking much of a risk here!

Strange to relate that Shakira is here, but with the album that is mostly in English although her native language is Spanish (and three albums with major releases in that language alone), but the all-Spanish album is this...

She is Canadian, of Portuguese origin, but has chosen to release her fourth album entirely in Spanish and the reviews that I have read, of both these albums, are glowing. If you have a open mind about new music, and given the kind of music I like, you can probably see why they are both on my wish list.


Not that I have any details, yet alone album art, but another to watch out for, and another Canadian singer/songwriter on a mission to surprise, is the album 'Joy' by Fefe Dobson (21 Records) and failing that try this instead.

For the background to this, her third album, which I said I would buy even if I had heard nothing from it, see this link:
http://rpgreenhalgh.blogspot.com/2009/02/driving-to-idaho-what-happened-to.html


Friday, October 09, 2009

Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was

I'm back from a break in posting, but not listening, with more than a few things to share. It is a while now since I've added a "New Music I Want..." post.


In another two months it will be the time for that "Best of..." consideration again but what immediately strikes me is that while most items I want are recent they are very varied. This is to the extent that they need to be divided in to several posts, or at least that is my current assessment and one of them, shock horror, is going to be about new releases by major label artists. Not just that, this is about releases that I actually want!

This, however, is at the other end of the scale altogether...

Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was - #2 in a trilogy of vinyl LPs by Leyland Kirkby.

Like the last (and the next) it is only available on 2 x 12" vinyl each limited to 450 copies worldwide. Cheerful it is not but cheer up: once the vinyl is all done there will be a 3-CD release incorporating all six LPs so the future isn't quite so bad after all and, furthermore, it is curiously uplifting listening.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Fine Art Of Surfacing.

This is for whoever just asked about it and because, as I mentioned last week, I Don't Like Mondays either.

It is now thirty years old and this is an original - Ensign Records ENROX11 on vinyl.

(click the image to open in a new tab)

Once the hell raiser himself, now long the voice of worldwide compassion, but at least one of his daughters tows-the-party-line. That is so rock-n-roll but, with Peaches as a name, who can blame her? It is, however, still a great album.

Here, as a complete aside, is another picture from Acoustic+ on Friday - live and local:

Ladyraz live at Acoustic+, 25 September 2009.