Friday, April 30, 2010

Vinyl, for those who have asked...

It pains me to say that, while I'm delighted to discover that so many are still so interested in vinyl, I am often not able to provide the answers requested.

If I could find 'I Speak Because I Can' - Laura Marling (2010) on vinyl then I would have let you know. This is one of the ones that I am asked about most often. I hope that Virgin/EMI will take the hint...
Amy LaVere vinyl is something I can't find either - but recently discovered that is sought-for too and if you know something about any of this please copy it to me too!
Vinyl is not dead but it needs nurturing; independent labels and the likes of us are the future and we have to keep the faith, continue to fight for it and while is not going to be something for just for the short term, that only makes it more worthwhile. It is true that, while not twenty years ago they were commonplace in charity shops and similar, they now deserve a good home.
Demand can make a difference, something that is becoming increasingly apparent, but there are rarities from times long gone that await discovery in dusty attics and the like. If it is offered to you then just accept it gracefully; you can decide what is junk at your leisure and you might just get a surprise.

If you merely wish to listen to 'The Book Of Taliesyn', and I expect that quite reasonably that will be the limit of your ambition, then it is available to download, or on CD should that take your fancy, for a very modest price.

This may appear to be little different from that quite common, but it is up to us to save them from landfill. Yes it is vinyl (T-107) but not all that it seems. In the early days (1967) Deep Purple signed to the small US label Tetragrammaton because the band could not land a deal in the UK. Tetragrammaton went bust just months after this, Deep Purple's second album release, in 1968. Major-label history followed but that was not without its quirks either...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Havoc In Heaven - Festivals 2010

It is time for something more uplifting or, at the very least, forward looking. This is what I intended to post about yesterday but in some ways I'm glad that I never did as I have rather more to add now.
To start with I am going to indulge my liking for American music - the reason being that I feel justified in doing so. I don't feel any compunction about this - UK music is in fine form too, the trade is bi-directional and long may it last for mutual benefit. I'll start my list with artists that I'm looking forward to, and of an acoustic bent. On the UK side these obviously include Laura Marling and Mumford and Sons.

On the American side, and like the above both now confirmed for
Latitude 2010, are the following:

The hat is probably more suited to the Manchester climate than that of California?

There have been parallels made in both cases, some of them quite tenuous, with Laura Marling. In all honesty I don't think that either side is likely to have any problem with the other. The really strange thing is that only a few years ago who could have imagined that, instead of hard-core rap, we would be trading banjo-wielding singer-songwriters?

Another artist and a stranger tale still is that of Jesca Hoop. We have long been used to UK artists eloping to the sunnier side of the Atlantic but she has now been co-opted as a Manucunian; the grey skies and drizzle perhaps being more conducive to song-writing? At least there is a good excuse to stay in and get on with it and, when it arrives,
the fleeting sun will seem far more precious!
On the other hand hers is not a conventional background anyway; she is from a musical, Mormon family but later trod her own path and in time that included being live-in nanny for Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan's three kids. Now that is something - Waits' music is challenging in itself, his comments on artists perhaps even more so. I'm not sure if she plays banjo but I wouldn't rule it out...

Lissie, a native of the part of Illinois bordering the
Mississippi River, most certainly does and without any need to apologize. She is performing on the 'Sunset Stage' at Latitude 2010. It is tented, relatively small and leaks if it rains, but is actually my favourite... I will never forget seeing Crystal Castles there in 2008 - it was possibly the most frightening live performance that I have ever seen.

Lissie is not going to be scary like that... but the reviews are already quite something and she seems to be setting-up-shop in the UK for what passes as our summer. If you want to catch her live, sooner rather than later, here's your chance.

That is not to dismiss the chance to witness a full set by Sweden's 'First Aid Kit' either. They had to cancel at Latitude 2009 but I did get to see them at EOTR 2009.

They are returning to Latitude 2010 supporting their first full-length album, 'The Big Black & The Blue', and for good reason.

Slightly modernised but only in a way that kept it relevant to the early 21st century their with-no-clever-tricks-at-all live take on 'Universal Soldier', written by Buffy Sainte-Marie and from the album 'It's My Way' (1964), was actually more devastating than it was sublime.
It was received with a resonance that befitted it - awe and total silence - and a rare moment when thoughts from the Cenotaph came to a festival.
Not many can do that and fewer those still in their teens - although many of those killed in The Great War were exactly thus.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Life Goes On (Don't Give Up An Inch)

This is not what I want to write about but little can we afford to lose another who, in his own individual way and with Poison, has proven genre-defining. Bret Michaels, who apparently suffered a brain haemorrhage earlier this week, may not be so very well known to younger listeners although he recently recorded a song with Miley Cyrus and so perhaps now is. On behalf of all, I would hope, we wish you a complete and rapid recovery. Music is not just about the here and now.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Returning. Retro. Revised - New Music 2010 - Part 10

That was then, this is now...

I recently mentioned that I had a few in mind - so here are two of them. They both have line-up changes in their new incarnations and both have a sixties-influenced perspective; however none of the members (current or former) were even born in the 1970s and that is part of why they matter so much. Members of both come from musical family backgrounds, that is true, but rather varied ones.

This album, by Los Angeles based trio 'The Like', appeared in 2006 and it comprised Tennessee Thomas (drums, vocals), Charlotte Froom (bass, vocals) and Z Berg (vocals, guitar). It is retro-styled rock and I like it as much now as I did then. Until very recently I thought that they had vanished without trace. That however is not so.

They are now a four-piece: Tennessee Thomas and Z Berg are joined by Laena Geronimo (bass) and Annie Monroe (electric organ). They have been busy in the studio and this is their first new single. The producer is hardly an unknown, particularly given the influences in the music.

The next is a throwback to the earlier days of 1960's music - a time when female artists did not play instruments.

The 2006 album 'We Are The Pipettes' was something of an anachronism from the start. They looked the part and had an all-male backing band, 'The Cassettes' (then mostly comprising of members of 'British Sea Power'), but they could never have got away with some of the lyrics way back then...

They are back however, now a two-piece as Rosay (
Rose Elinor Dougall - who has also been working with Mark Ronson of late) and Riot Becki left to do other things, leaving Gwenno Saunders (centre, above) as the sole surviving member from the line up that recorded and toured the first album. That said even she was a last-minute replacement, recruited at an early 'Pipettes' gig in Cardiff and she has featured in this blog before, in a different guise.

Her only co-Pipette is now her sister Ani Saunders. The new album is scheduled for release in June 2010. All, or any, of these acts would be welcome additions to the stages at the coming summer's festivals.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New Music I Want in 2010, part 9 - real new music

I was planning to write something about new albums by returning artists, lots of them indeed, including some very well known ones. I will do so soon but for now they can simply wait because this evening I was distracted by something much more immediate. New music and that by a band from Northern Ireland that has taken the choice, and the chance, to forge its own independent destiny...

I think that, on balance, they have actually chosen a rather propitious time at which to do so.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Guess who, guess what? - Thoughts on celebrity.

He or she may be well known but it's at a festival and, like the nobodies that you and I are, they have simply decided to let their hair down and enjoy like everyone else. Without doubt you can name a few very recent victims of such things...

If I ever catch the likes of you, maybe a journalist, at a festival you had better be looking and behaving immaculately in every way. You won't see me coming though, because I'll be enjoying it too, without thinking much about how others may see me, just like almost everyone else there and I probably won't know you from Adam anyway.
That in all probability nobody will ever think twice about that is in itself a comforting thought. I prize my anonymity but that does not make me think any less of those who, by dint of their background, career or ambitions, can only forgo that little luxury. The idea of being at a major event and thinking that almost anyone might recognise me would simply petrify me and - if I were there with friends I wouldn't wish it on them for a moment either.

I'm lucky; it is not likely to happen to me any time soon. Yes, I might very well have had one more beer than logic dictates, and you might have had a sneaky fag back-stage, but because we are both unremarkable so is the occurrence. More than once this has resulted in rambling discussions, often with hitherto strangers, that have at the very least attempted to put the world and its music in perspective and I'm not aware that we have regretted any of them. That is, at least in part, what festivals are for...

Thoughts On Lyrics - Skinny Genes

Thanks to the various people who have arrived at 'Thoughts On Music' while looking for the lyric to this song. This has been garnering attention for Eliza Doolittle for some weeks now and, as such, certainly made me pay more attention to yet another improbably young and talented singer-songwriter and one I hope to get the chance to hear live at sometime over the forthcoming festival season. If you happen to be attending one of the UK tours by either Alphabeat or Jamie Cullum then you will probably hear her as the support to one of these rather different artists. That said her own music isn't that easy to pigeon-hole from what I have heard of it - the self-titled 12" EP.

This is the lyric for 'Skinny Genes' as best I can discern, but the usual proviso concerning accuracy applies and if you have any alterations or suggestions please get in touch. Some might say that her approach is quirky, which is I suppose a place to start but as with many such a rather simplistic point of view.

Eliza Doolittle - Skinny Genes

I really don’t like your point of view
I know you’ll never change
Stinging me with your attitude
I've got the mind to walk away

I really don't like your arrogance
Or your policies
You're ninety-nine percent an embarrassment
With just one quality


I don't mind it when you *whistles*
Brings out the best in me when you *whistles*
Show your expertise
When the night always ends with a fight
I'm excited that you wind up next to me

I like it when you *whistles*
Can I have some please of that *whistles*
Satisfy my needs
Sometimes I fake that I hate you and make up
So you wind up next to me

I really don't like your skinny jeans
So take them off for me
Show me what you've got underneath
So we can do this properly

I really don't like the way you smile
When you think you're right
But I will forgive you, the yoke is in the middle
And we're chewing through the wire


I dreamt that you were on a train
And you were leaving, you were leaving
You made me think of what I'd miss
You were leavin', you were leavin'

I don't mind it when you *whistles*
Brings out the best in me when you *whistles*
Show your expertise
When the night always ends with a fight I'm excited
That you wind up next to me

I like it when you *whistles*
Can I have some please of that
Take off your skinny jeans
Sometimes I fake that I hate you and make up
So you wind up next to me

I dreamed that you were on a train
And you were leaving, you were leaving

Friday, April 09, 2010

2009 Festivals - revisited - Part 2

By request here is a larger version of the side-bar image that I posted a week or so ago. It was, perhaps quite obviously, an incomplete post. That was not the original plan but, as it happened, it is now going to be an incremental one...

Well, finally, I have got round to adding another artist but this is one less well known.

Jess Elva and band live at EOTR 2009, in the Tipi Tent, early Saturday afternoon.
Watch out for more from the Swiss/Australian, and her band, very soon.

And you never did learn to let the little things go.
And you never did learn to let me be.
And you never did learn to let little people grow.
And you never did learn to see.

And I am lower now and lower still
And you did always say that one day I would suffer.
You did say that people get their pay.
You did always say that I was going places
And that you wouldn't have it any other way.

But I couldn't turn my back
On a world for what I lack wouldn't let me
But I couldn't turn my back
On a world for what I like I need it.

Lyrics from 'Blackberry Stone' by Laura Marling, an artist now confirmed for Latitude 2010.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Icons lost.

It is with much sadness that I heard that a second icon of pop music has passed away in as many months. Today it was Malcolm McClaren, most famous for managing 'The Sex Pistols' in their ascendency to ultimate disaster.

Last month it was Charlie Gillett, best known for his championing of world music on the wider stage and using his BBC radio profile to take it to a whole new audience. The strange thing is that, by happenstance quite different operators, they both championed diversity and 'world music'. McClaren was championing hip-hop before we knew what it was while, during the aftershocks of the punk earthquake, Gillett was championing and then managing Dire Straits.
It seems strange now, thirty-something years later, to imagine just how profoundly music has changed. It has never been the same again and Pete Doherty is still alive unless you know otherwise: neither is a bad thing.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Optimist - the difficult second album...

I've wondered about this for a long while and the wait turned out to be longer than perhaps anyone intended, as circumstances conspired to make it more difficult than perhaps it might have been.

The thing is that I still love 'Fantastic Playroom' as it has so many memories for me too [see here] and I thought that, without reason and not for lack of talent, its successor could fail to live up to the expectations that I would have of it.
Many circumstances mean that the exuberant pop, and sometimes nu-trance influenced sound of 2007, probably wasn't going to work quite so well in 2010 and for more than a few reasons; not all of them down to the music-buying public.

First single 'Chaos' is just about sufficiently familiar and comforting to remind why NYPC were so impressive the first time out. If you want my reference points on 'Fantastic Playroom' it reminds me slightly of 'The Get Go' or, perhaps more so, 'Talking, Talking', which was the most soul-searching song on the first album.
The bulk of the second album is however more uniformly reflective but also very accomplished in its repositioned mood - and the title mirrors this sentiment - without becoming either maudlin or self-indulgent.

Catching the zeitgeist once may have been just good fortune; to do it twice takes time and patience.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

2009 Festivals - revisited - Part 1

Having written about a few of the acts that I would like to see at Festivals in 2010 it made me think more about some that I saw in 2009 that to all intents and purposes were quite unknown to me but mattered a great deal, adding considerably to my enjoyment.

Leeds' 'Bear Driver', on the Tipi Stage Sunday lunchtime at EOTR 2009.
This band was very good indeed.

They were far from being one of the best known bands there but were certainly well worthy of the spot. Only four of them are in this picture but they are, in fact, a six-piece and one we deserve to hear much more of in 2010.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Recording pains - Beth Jeans Houghton

I've never recorded anything original myself, let alone an album, so here are some thoughts by one - who I saw live at EOTR 2009 - about the process of recording her soon-to-be-released first album. The album from, should you have forgotten, the artist who claims she appeared from the depths of Buttermere, simply has to have been worth the wait. Recording it has however not been without some trials and tribulations...

"Frantically finishing recording for the forthcoming album with Ben Hillier.
On Thursday we invited a lot of my friends down to be recorded as a BIG BAD CHOIR on 'Golden' and 'I Will Return, I Promise'. Twenty three people came, including the Hooves, half of Stornoway, Mike Lindsay from Tunng, the boy who sells me coffee in the morning, Dr. S. Tud Luvcub, Jessica Rabbit and Kola, a man I met on the street that morning. The punk song we recorded is called 'Prick AKA Sean' and it's about a drunk Glaswegian man who had a fight with our tour manager in a Travel Lodge in Coventry when we were on tour with Stornoway. The prize line being 'Goodnight, sweet dreams and f**k off'. He [Kola] was lovely, he really was."

If you think that the foregoing sounds improbable in the extreme consider this, the text on the inner sleeve of 2009 EP 'Hot Toast - Volume 1'.