Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yeah So?

It is almost as far as is imaginable from the boisterous indie of Arctic Monkeys but no less genuine for it - Slow Club is the other shimmering face of Sheffield indie music. They are appearing at Latitude 2009 for a third successive year, which may be a record, and this time it is just after the release of their first album, Yeah So, (Moshi Moshi, release date 6 July 2009)!

and then they are off to tour it in the US and Canada.

More links, including the lyric for the 2008 EP Let's Fall Back In Love:

London, band, Kelly White, Glastonbury...

For those looking for information try here:

The Equations are the band - Kelly White is a member of it - and Amy Turnnidge is Theoretical Girl. Watch out for the début album in August... they are now signed to Memphis Industries.

Monday, June 29, 2009

From The Outside Looking In - Glastonbury 2009

There has been some fuss in the press today. It is said that the BBC spent as much at £5 million on their coverage of Glastonbury across TV, radio and on-line. How many millions do they spend annually on soaps and sport, none of which I watch? I don't watch much TV as a rule, but I certainly still pay the same licence fee. This weekend I watched enough to almost make it worth it alone. I'm not saying that everyone should feel the same way but I'd like to thank the BBC - this is precisely the never-ending dilemma faced by a public-service broadcaster. Please stick to your guns...

This must be also true of choosing acts for a festival but from all accounts it was quite some festival, even by it's own standards. There was rain, and the concomitant mud, but only in reasonable proportions and would it be the same without it?

Starting as it didn't go on... Friday dawns over one of the many camp sites.

The festival atmosphere should electrify but someone left the charger on too long. By lunch time on Friday the sun had appeared and so it remained for all three days! Thanks to all the aforementioned BBC coverage I soon came to one conclusion - I should have tried to get a ticket!

I thought all three headline acts were excellent and enjoyed every moment of each. What however impressed more was just how much the newer acts were gathering coverage and large crowds. The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs - though not very new as they recently released their third LP, It's Blitz, were show-stopping. Three genuinely new artists in 2009 were:

La Roux, whose début album would have been a run-away at the top of the UK charts on Sunday were it not for the demise of Michael Jackson. As it was it made #2, which was an incredible result for the duo of Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid and single 'In For The Kill' has already become one of the signature sounds of 2009.

Little Boots was another obvious winner and also deservedly so I think.

The third artist that I put in this category will be no surprise either, even though that first album, 'Lungs', is not physically released until this coming Monday (in the UK). Florence and The Machine were simply on another planet.

It would be hard to persuade anyone who had come across them for the first time, that fifteen months ago they were almost unknown outside South London. As well as the main set, which was on TV, they also recorded an acoustic BBC6 Music Hub Session on Friday:

BBC6 Music DJ was Cerys Matthews and she joined them for a duet with Florence Welch.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Green Fields of Canada...

I still wonder how they do it...

The track that is the title of this post is actually a traditional song - I have two recorded versions of it and neither are by Canadians. They are from the following albums both of which I can recommend, particularly for their original content.

  • Cold Blow And The Rainy Night - Planxty (1974) (12" vinyl LP - Polydor Super 2383 301)
  • A Lily For The Spectre - Stephanie Dosen (2007) (CD - bellacd137x)
The former is now readily available on CD and mp3 but, surprisingly, also as a 1990 vinyl re-issue that is available at about £15 / € 18 / $25. The latter I saw live at Latitude 2007 and if you think she sounds good recorded let me tell you that live she really is something else.

That is something that the three new releases, which follow this reflection, also promise in abundance.
I digress however, for what I have to mention are new releases by three Canadian acts that are in a broadly similar vein. This is in part More New Music I Want but, while all three albums are by Canadian artists, I already have one of them.

I have listened to a great deal of roots/modern folk in the last eighteen months and it is not the nature of the genre to be groundbreaking, in part by definition, but this blew me away the first time I listened to it and on repeated listening it has got even better. I haven't come to any conclusions about favourite tracks yet...
[well kinda - all of them really]

A trio now (R - L), Allison Russell and Awna Teixeira write most of the songs while Benny Sidelinger not only plays guitars and such (as do the aforementioned) but also builds the ones that they play!

I have mentioned this artist before and in fact none of these are début albums so there is an albeit short back catalogue to consider too! I'll continue with this as her début solo album, Honey From The Tombs, was the subject of a very early post on this site and I still play it often so it was a clearly a good choice. This is the second solo album from (Stars and Broken Social Scene regular) Amy Millan. It is due to be released by Arts & Crafts on vinyl, CD and download on September 8.

Amy Millan - Masters of the Burial

Note added 13 July 2009:
A Canadian tour to go with it was announced today. I wish that we could be so lucky.

And, when there could surely be no more from Canada, back to the artists at the top of this post...

Everyone Is Someone is the third LP from Canadian acoustic-pop duet Dala. Not the easiest item to find in the UK at the moment but amazon.ca have it in stock and will ship to the UK without any problem.

Thinking about Thoughts on Music

Before thinking about today's big news, and the start of Glastonbury 2009, I'd already been thinking about the wider aspects of performance music thanks to two items that very recently came my way.
The first may seem almost inconsequential as it was just a flyer in an album I received...

You can probably see why this appealed to me - and what a great way of making buying physical music more appealing - though I had just bought this, Iamsound IAM024, and imported it from the US anyway unaware of this bonus. The album is Dance Mother - Telepathe on 12" vinyl and the best thing, apart from the fact it is available on vinyl at all, is that doing so is not prohibitively expensive.

I am also reading a book that is proving much more fascinating than I expected it would be. It is a question that lies behind all music, recorded music and live performance, although it is predominantly concerned with the former.
What do we mean when we say "That sounds really good." and why?

If anything that is only an easy question: Is it possible to find answers, or even gauge trends, in a topic so obviously fraught with individual tastes and tolerances?

How do I know if the CD I am listening to now even sounds the same to you as it does to me, regardless of whether it is to your liking or not? It could have been a book of untold ennui but, as I got a free copy to review, I decided to take the risk.
I have only read about half of it so far - at nearly four hundred pages it is no light-weight matter - and the further I get the harder it is to put down. It is factual and sometimes analytical but only because the topic requires it to be thus at times; at others it is reminiscent of a detective novel in search of those responsible for the way in which the story unfolded and what the influences and motives were, or in some cases, might have been.
I am finding it enlightening and simply fascinating. It is certainly not necessary to read it to enjoy recorded music but will it increase my enjoyment of recorded music?
My answer is that it is probably too early to tell really but it is unlikely to do any harm. It is already making me think about the whole process in a different light.

You can find many blogs that discuss the merit of Dave Sitek's production duties on various albums of late, and one of those is that by Telepathe that I mention above (and helpfully I've recently seen them play live, for comparison). Reading the book and listening to this and (other) albums might inspire some to write a PhD thesis. Count me out, I'm too old for that kind of thing now, but tell me about it and I'll gladly read yours.

Do you recall the day the music died?

Today has been one in which news has been dominated by an event directly related to music. When I heard the news of the sudden death of Michael Jackson this morning two things suddenly sprung in to my mind:
The first was the (pre-digital age) response to the assassination of John Lennon but the soundtrack to it wasn't Lennon at all - it was Don Mclean's 'American Pie'. I have no doubt that in the digital world of downloads this week's charts will be full of Jackson's songs and indeed, if that were not true it would be surprising.
While Don Mclean has been careful never to unequivocally confirm or deny that the song was, at least in part, inspired by hearing of the death of Buddy Holly (in the year after Jackson's birth) and the complex and largely unfathomable lyric seems fitting to Jackson, who as much as he was a pioneer of new musical format as spectacularly demonstrated by the video to 'Billie Jean' amongst others, has remained a staple of gossip and speculation concerning his lifestyle and behaviour. Not without reason did the UK tabloid press coin the phrase "Wacko Jacko" at least two decades ago.

In addition there are some hundreds of thousands of ticket-holders for a massive series of come-back gigs at the O2 arena in London and for them in particular this
couplet might sum up the current situation pretty accurately:

I knew that I was out of luck
The day the music died.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Now The Green Blade Rises - a lyric hymnal

Note added 25 June 2009:
10:30pm on THURSDAY 16 July, according to the Smoke Fairies' latest e-mail update. Live music on the Thursday evening hasn't been a feature of Latitude as I remember but is certainly a welcome development.

Note added 19 June 2009:
Smoke Fairies has just been added to the bill at Latitude 2009 on the "Film and Music Arena" - see here for current programme - but the day and time are not currently specified. While not a headline act this is certainly something I don't want to miss...

Note added 18 June 2009:
I've just listened to the recorded lyric (several times) while now able to compare it with the (supposéd original) one below. There are some minor differences and I'll post what I think are the actual song lyrics tomorrow.


I'm sorry about the delay in posting lyric for The Smoke Fairies download single but here it is, or at least that for 'Now The Green Blade Rises' as it appears in the Ox­ford Book of Car­ols, 1928.

Now The Green Blade Rises
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

In the grave they laid Him, Love Whom we had slain,
Thinking that He’d never wake to life again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Up He sprang at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain;
Up from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
By Your touch You call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

I didn't imagine when I started this blog, and even though I subsequently realised that lyrics were not simply a curiosity of mine, that I would ever be asked about ones such as these or, for that matter, still be enjoying the challenge even more almost 350 posts later. I now wish I could add more sooner...
For the original post about this song:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Alright Dynamite - Music I Want in 2009, Part 8

Ooh, just listen!
The Canadian multi-tasking, collective-inspired, ethic is still alive and well I am delighted to report.

A member of Canadian band 'The Paperboys' and also part of the collective 'Outlaw Social' - she plays with both - this is Kendel Carson's second solo album and, as well as being a redoubtable fiddle and violin player, she is a fine vocalist too.

I mentioned Amy Millan's alt-country début solo album 'Honey From The Tombs' (2006) a long time ago and so I now can't wait to hear this too. Nor can I deny my curiosity about Millan's second solo album, currently being recorded I believe. Both of Carson's were largely written and produced by Chip Taylor, with input by Carrie Rodriguez, and that is hardly likely to be a bad thing. The first was this album and I want it too.

Rearview Mirror Tears (2007)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Spoiled for choice... a new dilemma.

Whatever things might be wrong in my world finding, or simply being notified of, new music isn't usually one of them. In one sense it is almost becoming a problem of its own - what to do about it all - but then that is a positive as music is, at least in part, an escape from reality so to be confronted with a different problem is a change if not a rest.

To illustrate that point here are two items. Firstly UK act Blackbud, local to this part of England as it happens, about which I was asked today (by someone in the US) and the second that I was told about today (a US act as it happens) that I had never heard of before and quite fortunately they are not directly comparable.

Released in 2006 this really should be better known. To say that it is traditional rock is something of an injustice and not least because every track on it is an original composition. That would not matter if it were no good but in fact some songs are so surprising that it merely begs the question "why were they not written before?" It is rock, laid back rock, yes, but certainly not asleep. The illustration is actually that of the 12" LP release (ISOM62LP - Independiente Records, 2006).

On the other hand I learned about this today and it is released in the US tomorrow!

The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin

The multi-instrumentalist threesome (Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowsky and Jocie Adams) are from Providence, RI and went as far from civilisation as is possible in Rhode Island to record this acoustic album in winter. I gather that, and the data is plentiful, it is a masterwork of modern acoustica. It is available from the US on vinyl and so, as an indulgence, it is my birthday present to myself.

It won't be the end of the problems though...

...it is hard enough to keep in touch with UK new releases and this is one that isn't.
Little known over here it is, however, amazingly good.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Innovate never imitate - Music I Want in 2009, Part 7

In a year that electro-pop is back in favour in a big way here is a timely reminder of one of the most consistent and hard-working bands that has been tirelessly trying to raise the status of such music for six years now. They DJ in the UK and abroad, they run club nights, even their own club, and if that were not enough Command is their fourth album as a band and I have already mentioned their third album, Heartland, when it was released in 2007.

The defining streaks are command and control: almost military anonymity [band members are still officially Clients A, B & E] and the musical integrity remains untouched. If the agents at Station X had run riot, in the spare time that they didn't have, and used the machines to make music it would probably have sounded like this far earlier than it did.
I've got to get this - hence the post - as Heartland was in My Charts of 2007 and I can't understand why they are not better known already. It is of course released on the label Out of Line, which is their own, and also this...

Maybe they could run the country too.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Now The Green Blade Rises.

You hadn't forgotten about The Smoke Fairies and the amazing 2008 single 'Living With Ghosts' had you? Well, even if you had you are forgiven as the Frozen Heart EP is out on June 29.

In the meantime they are back with the track 'Now The Green Blade Rises' which, if you are quick, you can have legally and free on <.mp3> and it is a perfect slice of made-for-summer languorous folk.

It is traditional, up to a point. T
he melody is French - it dates from the 15th century - and still one that accompanies the carol Noël Nou­ve­let although this arrangement of it owes much to that of Martin Fallas Shaw (1875 - 1958). The English lyric was written by John Macleod Campbell Crum (1872 - 1958) who started his career as as­sist­ant cur­ate at St. John the Evan­gel­ist, Dar­ling­ton (1897 - 1901) and ended it as Ca­non of Can­ter­bu­ry (1928 - 43).

Not quite the everyday history of a 2009 cover version!
For the traditional, and largely unchanged, lyric see http://rpgreenhalgh.blogspot.com/2009/06/lyrics-again-now-green-blade-rises.html

Thoughts on 2009 music.

Well, after my musings yesterday, I've had some more thoughts. To choose one release in each month of 2009 isn't really representative, so I have decided not to do that, and June is young yet so I'm not worrying about it either, but in time it does not look like being an issue.

I can think of three obvious contenders already but about the fourth and fifth I can't decide but I have determined that the order in which they appear will be random and I'll do it the old fashioned way - with a numbered list of albums and corresponding anonymous 'tickets' - I'll get the draw done at work so I can even blame the resulting order on anyone but myself!
It makes sense to me - these are albums/EPs that I like enough to not wish to attempt to put in any kind of order - and the pickers will in all probability have heard none of them which makes it double-blind!
I may then add one or two more items (which will be clearly mentioned as such) taken from anything and anywhere, perhaps for contrast and comparison or just because I love them. The thing is, if I go with this, I'm gonna need to explain why...
It is starting to sound a bit like hard work but on the other hand it is very tempting.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Rivals - Theoretical Girl

There is simply no let up in the richness and variety of new releases on offer and, as The Guardian commented a little while ago, "....it is a mystery why anyone in a position to do so has not already signed her up after seeing her play live.....4/5".

This is 'Rivals', the latest single by 'Theoretical Girl' Amy Turnnidge who is nothing less than a solo performer but is also often accompanied by three-piece backing band -- The Equations -- Kelly White (guitar), Max Taylor (bass) and Harry Bennett (percussion).
They are now signed to Memphis Industries and the début album is due to appear on August 17, 2009.

Just a little warning note:
Do not confuse (London's) Theoretical Girl with the short-lived late 1970s 'no wave' band from New York called 'The Theoretical Girls'. It would certainly be musical surprise but, as much of their output has been recently re-released, an easy one to make.
It has happened before, with a pair of bands called Ilya (see here for my post about that issue), but another reason to mention this is that the Californian Ilya are now well and truly in the midst of recording their third studio album and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Hello, June Fool.

It has just struck me that I've recently spent a lot of time posting about new artists and/or new releases that I want to listen to but then provided precious little feedback on those that I have heard live or acquired as physical recordings. I'm still adding new ones, as ever, and I'll keep adding those but what I intend to do next is a resumé of the 2009 music that has caught my attention so far. I'm not sure of the format yet; perhaps it could be like an 'Amazon List' or maybe not, as that format doesn't allow much comment, but I can see certain points in favour of both approaches.
My inclination is to take the 'Ash' approach in reverse and to review my current six favourite releases from the first six months of 2009 at the rate of one a week. I don't know if I can do it but surely there would be no harm to at least try. They may not even be albums and some items may not be by UK artists or even readily available in the UK.
It is not, as such, a change of plan as I intend to continue adding the usual random 'Thoughts On Music' but rather a just a new challenge and if I only achieve one such each fortnight then I will still reach the end of 2009 in even time. That said, it might be good to slip in the occasional older one from time to time too, if only by way of comparison or contrast. No promises...

Hello June Fool
is also the title of an album by East Coast indie rockers Madder Rose, which is a decade old now. I have mentioned it before and it still seems relevant to me but the self-titled Saint Low is just iconic.