Friday, May 29, 2009

The Devil is in the detail

The devil is in the detail and that makes Latitude what it is. There are the headline acts and there are others including those that have been long known, to me at least, but that is only just a part of what matters. The currently less well known acts on all music stages are an equal part of the experience and I don't expect 2009 to be any different. Here are two more such - very different, one from the other - both with a ferocious attitude to live performance!

No 'Florence and The Machine' but that is no problem! 'Marina and the Diamonds' come from Wales and appearing on the Lake Stage at Latitude 2009, which is once again curated by Radio 1 DJ and champion of music from Wales, Huw Stephens.

He is also the power behind the ever growing Sŵn Festival (held in venues across Cardiff in 2007 and 2008 and to be repeated again from 24 - 26 October 2009) , which is showcasing Welsh bands, and any others that make waves, in both Wales and across the UK throughout the year - everywhere from Brighton's recent multi-venue indoor festival 'The Great Escape' to the surprising venue that is housed within the surplus shed of the still very much operational Wrexham Central station.

Is this the price we pay for progess?
Taking one step forward...
...for every six we take back.
Does your dirty, oil-stained money make you happy?
Do you just want to be remembered your place in history?

Another band confirmed for Latitude 2009 is Leeds' iLiKETRAiNS, which can hardly be a bad thing in my world. Would I like to hear 'The Beeching Report' live? You bet I would!

The Penny Has Dropped --- Old imprint, new brand.

Until very recently there was the 'Universal Classics and Jazz' imprint with a name that quite accurately had all the impression of one that, while representing a very broad approach to the palette implied (also true), was chosen as the result of a lack of a better idea.
Well, its changed... not to some clever digital-age acronym but instead to that of an old friend from the strictly analogue age!
"The penny has dropped" is an appropriately old-fashioned analogy and one of certain relevance.

It is I think part of a policy that is actually more widespread in the world of major labels; witness the current major promotion of the 50th anniversary of Island Records, now another Universal imprint. The rôle of the major label as behemoth isn't the panacea the industry once believed it would be and it certainly isn't cool anymore, if it ever was, with a public that more than ever need tempting with incentives to buy music on whatever format rather than just download it illegally.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oral or aural - Ritalin or Hjaltalín?

If Ritalin were a band it would of course have its detractors. In fact it is a drug, capable of addiction and a variety of other side-effects, that is increasingly used to treat ADD and other such disorders, most commonly in children. That it not to say that it doesn't have an important rôle to play or that, very possibly, better treatments will be developed from it.

Hjaltalín, while not clinically trialled, is about as good as any homeopathic therapy ever could be. You don't need a prescription, certainly shouldn't swallow even one of them, and it is available as a totally legal download. It might however do exactly the job it is supposed to...

Band members slightly variable, typically seven to nine, always both male and female.

The UK and Iceland may have fallen out about fishing, and much more recently banking, but when it comes to music it is unthinkable. Sigur Rós (Latitude 2008) clones they most obviously are not; nor really quite like any of the many others you can probably call to mind.
Aurally narcotic the album 'Sleepdrunk Seasons' might be and they are confirmed as appearing at Latitude 2009.


They're only putting in a nickel and they want a dollar song.
We're only putting in a little to get rid of a lot that's wrong.

More thoughts later.

Monday, May 18, 2009

No place like home?

Well it's a big claim but I sometimes wonder...

Kerosophiles be aware...

Much anticipated, at least in the UK, is the album 'Hands' by Little Boots and the UK release date is 8th June. It will of course be available to download and on CD from any number of places.

If however, wax-lovers, you want one on vinyl then you had better look sharp and check out the nice folks at Pure Groove.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Black velvet...

A fortnight ago I became the custodian of a few dozen (more) 7" singles originally dating from the late 1960s to the late 1980s that had lain, forgotten and unplayed, for more than a decade. They were quite unsurprisingly very dusty, and thus in need of some basic tlc, but otherwise they are mostly fine and I can imagine few better uses for a wet and windy Saturday afternoon than dealing with a stack of 7" vinyl!
One of the most recent (1989, Atlantic A8742) amongst them happens to be one of my favourite pop songs from the 1980s...

While never a major artist in the UK, Black Velvet was a big single (reaching #2 in the UK) and still frequently appears on mainstream radio play-lists some twenty years later. It is neither pop-rock nor is it a ballad but it does what few try and fewer still succeed in doing, which is both at the same time.

Another classic, and also a blast from the past, is this single...

Twenty-seven years old and by a band appearing at Latitude 2009.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A single that never was - Nice Boys

I don't know exactly what happened to this except to say that it never saw the light of day as a fully fledged single release.

It appears on the album 'My Paper Made Men', which I recommend without reservation, but the release was abandoned perhaps because it was seen as too close to her earlier material as evidenced on her 2003 album 'False Smiles'. Whatever the reason, why would I turn down the chance when offered a promo copy - including the 'radio edit' and six remixes - for a song? We might not share the same taste in music but neither are we stupid!
I have to say that pulling its release as a single was almost certainly a good decision - there is nothing really wrong with it but neither is it, when compared with other tracks on the album, anything remarkable and if there is a 'filler track' then this is it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The World Is Not My Home, but the good get better...

Another day, another EP but this time it is one quite genuinely from across the Atlantic and it was released on CD in the US - on April 1, 2009 - again on Archer Records. The title track is a cover of the traditional 'Railroad Boy (Died of Love)', 'Lazarus' is a take on a traditional lament and 'Green Grass' is a cover of the Tom Waits song and that is just half of it.

Added: Thursday, 14 May:

I'm sorry that this post sort of ended prematurely. I was tired and I published it rather than saving it. Thanks to whoever added a comment to this asking for 'links' today and I assume that it was to this post you were referring. If not please let me know and I'll try to fix that.

If you want to buy or legally download 'Died Of Love' here are some links:

US & UK CD (
US Download (
UK Download (

I do not know of any UK distributors of the CD version but independent music distributor cdbaby do shipping to the UK very well and at competitive prices. They publish reviews, both their own and those written by customers, too.
For more press reviews of Amy LaVere, see here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Things you just discover --- Songs for Edna.

It is not possible to keep up with all that is going on but there will always be interesting new discoveries. This is one of them and yet another that comes from Brighton. The Edna of the album title is Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1950) who was the first woman to receive the Pulizer Prize for Poetry, for The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems (1923). Caroline Weeks has appeared in these pages before however, if only in pictures as her alter ego Ginger Lee as part of Bat For Lashes' band at Latitude 2007.

This picture was taken by Natasha 'Bat For Lashes' Khan.
The album is available on vinyl Manimal Vinyl Records (MANI 004).

I suspect that it will not be an album threatening the best-seller lists of 2009 and that is a shame. The seemingly recherché source material does not mean that this album is in any way difficult or inaccessible. It is the sublime; neither obviously poems set to music nor music to accompany poems and what you didn't know you would probably never even suspect.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stuck on repeat...

In the midst of a global market in melt-down, and with the music industry having long claimed it was in crisis, you might have thought that any release might be readily available anywhere. That it is not the case may actually be a sign of things to come; that the fat, sweaty fingers of greed are finally losing their grip on an industry that might never be the same again. They have strangled the life out of it so, if such a demise is true, both artists and music buyers should celebrate but with both caution and restraint.
That is not to say that the brave new world will be without problems, for it will have plenty of its own, but at least it is a start and the signs are there. It is out there to be found and just as in the old days, of 'wants lists by snail mail,' it still takes some finding but it is more than worth the effort...

'Stuck on Repeat' and 'Meddle' on vinyl are awesome so how good is the album going to be?
Now get this...

A Lot Of Love A Lot Of Blood - Florence and The Machine.

Another vinyl 12" by IAmSound (IAM 027), and one for which the track list is in the wrong order on both sides, is equally magnificent. The blistering bombast of Welch is apparent on tracks such as 'A Kiss With A Fist', 'Hospital Beds' and 'Dog Days' and there is no doubt that she can write as well as sing; the last of these also appears again as a long, but quite beguiling, dance remix.

You might imagine it would be some gritty anthem - she's not afraid to attempt songs by 'The Clash' live and can snarl venom with the best of them after all - but it isn't anything of the kind and the real curve-ball is a cover, and a very short one at that, which is another startling demonstration of the New York state of mind.
'You've Got The Love', a dance-pop song written using left-over bits and pieces of lyric and melody, originally recorded by Candi Staton in collaboration with 'The Source' for a TV documentary in the 1980s, was not released as a single until 1991, and this is a truly worthwhile version of it.

Bittersweet - and it gets under your skin.

It is arguably harder to review this album than most other things if for one reason only; it just so happens that Sloe Jam is a band from these parts - Somerset, UK and that defines it about as poorly as could be imagined - the cross-genre magnificence of the Glastonbury Festival defines music better than the Wurzels could ever hope to. It would be easy if I could say they were 'Scrumpy & Western' or just another pub-band but fortunately they are not.

For a start Next To The Skin consists only of original compositions and, while I have no issue with judicious covers, that is worthy of note and at eleven tracks (49 minutes) is it not short but certainly never overstays its welcome. The band is tight and the production as clean as it needs to be but still quite unforced.
When global warming means that the Somerset Levels again resemble a delta at least there is the soundtrack to go with it and a far bigger stage than this surely beckons....

Sloe Jam, live at the Frome Festival, on a damp 5 July 2008.

Stand-out tracks? That's hard to say, but possibly 'Believe In Magic', 'A Wanderer, She Said' and 'Open More Wine'.
Or try it this way instead and it is a very rash suggestion indeed: play an Eric Clapton album, each track interleaved with one from 'Next To The Skin', and just listen...
They are in no way the same but try and imagine what it might have sounded like if Clapton had a female co-vocalist and Pee Wee Ellis guesting on saxophone...
I did exactly that - using 'Unplugged' as the Clapton album - and now I really understand why they don't do covers. If you want to spoil yourself and also baffle your blues-rock loving friends then this album is mandatory
and on two tracks Pee Wee Ellis really does play saxophone!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Too Late To Change Me? - New Music I Want (Part 6)

I'm not sure quite why my taste in music has developed over the years, and in particular why it has become so much more diverse. There is not much that I liked twenty years ago that I dislike now but had you asked me then, about much that of the genres I now devour, I very much suspect that you would have got a pretty withering answer.
I don't think that I'm becoming less discriminating and isn't age said generally to lead to increasing conservatism? Then again would I (if it we
re possible then) have written what I think in a blog at all let alone in the "this is what I like now, how I feel about it, and if you disagree that's fine and you can just tell me" way I am doing at this moment? Absolutely not!
Neither would I have believed that in 2008-9 I would get to see an average of one live band a week or that I could find out about so much new music and in large part this is a result of the digital revolution of the last decade or so - MySpace and blogs included. On the other hand, and this is a matter of active choice rather than conservatism, I can now find may of those artists and their new music on vinyl...

Perhaps not the album 'Too Late To Change Me' on vinyl, (yet...), but a good example of the way things have changed and the tide of music from, or influenced by, New York.
This particular ripple hasn't really reached these shores yet, more than a year after its US release, but that's no reason not to give it a mention. If you like the style of piano-led songwriting exemplified by, to give just two examples, Regina Spektor and Sara Bareilles then you might consider this.

The next problem is to get my paws on a copy of the six-track CD, as my local independent record store certainly doesn't have one. This is where the cyber-local independent store cdbaby comes to the rescue. This album has already gotten very positive reviews there and I strongly suspect, that once mine arrives on this side of the pond, there will be another and it will appear here first!
Another album that I found out about by the same route last year, and find myself listening to with increasing frequency, is Kira Fontana - The Inner Revolution, which is slightly more alt-rock/pop and was mixed by Howard Bilerman, who has worked with Arcade Fire and Godspeed You Black Emperor, so you can probably now see how this tallies with my Canadian-indie addiction and yes, before you ask, I am going to see Metric live in Bristol next Saturday.
Many thanks are due to Ariel Publicity, NYC for giving me the chance to find out about and mention artists that would have otherwise almost certainly escaped my notice.

The item I was going to include next no longer falls in the 'new music I want' category and it is about as local as it gets. I bought it last week and it deserves a review of its own.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Blue Roses - Doubtful Comforts - lyric

When you come home tonight, my love
Will you take me out somewhere?

You're so good at getting my hopes up
Where they don't belong-
I can't reach them.

This is the place that appears in my mind,
Covered with orange lights,
That I've seen countless times.
When can we find a place where we'll stay for a while?
Till we come back in style,
Oh, they don't know the half of it.

Walls crumble and fall,
You don't have to carry the weight of it all.

For the full lyric of the album Blue Roses see here:

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Coast - Blue Roses, lyrics

To whoever asked here they are (click image for an enhanced version)...

Give the artist her dues please...
Why not just buy the album, on any format you like?

This blog does not have unlicensed music available to download and the reason is as much moral as legal: it is no more mine to provide than it is yours to rip. I'm sorry but that is how it is.

This is the real deal: the 12" vinyl version of 'Blue Roses'.
Gate-fold sleeve, illustrated lyric book...

For the full lyric of the album Blue Roses see here: