Saturday, January 29, 2011

Withering Bones - and other lyric considerations

I have promised far more lyrics than I have delivered, particularly recently, and I am well aware of this shortcoming. This is my best attempt at one, the detail of which still defeats me, that has been asked after more than a few times...  In this case I really, really would like some help here.  It is a song from the self-titled début LP from a band that I sincerely hope we will hear more of in 2011. I know that they have been working (at least in part in LA) on their second during 2010 and that band is 'Phantom Limb'.

Withering Bones
I don't want to fade into withering bones
No, I don't want to die alone
But I won't be pulled asunder by a mean old lover
So I guess I'll be waiting on the stone.
I don't want the thorns without the rose
No, I don't want to die in vain
I'm gonna buy my family a house in the country
So I guess I'll be waiting for that day.

What comes after this I am quite unsure about, even though I have heard it performed live on at least three occasions...  I'm not convinced that it is not, at least to some extent, variable ad-lib when performed live and that is perfectly reasonable.  The real problem is that I can't figure the album version with any degree of confidence either.  I can persuade myself of the veracity of various versions but in no sense am I confident in any of them; let alone in choosing a particular one from amongst them.
It is a great song - one of the highlights on a vastly under-rated album - but I have to admit defeat by Yolanda Quarty's song writing and vocals on this one, at least for now.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A few bits and pieces...

This is really a small collection of things that I have heard about recently, been "told" or have previously forgotten to mention.

Several people have asked me/arrived at this blog seeking an answer to this question:

  • Is 'I Speak Because I Can' - Laura Marling available on 12" vinyl LP?  Well I could not find it either but, let me tell you this, it will be available within the next month or two.  The exact release date has, to the best of my knowledge, not yet been announced.
  • On the same theme; the third Laura Marling album, originally and rather optimistically pencilled in for 2010, is still in the works. My hunch is that an early summer 2011 release is a good bet.
The end of 'blue January' is when new releases really start to pick up and in some ways define the direction of 2011. I have mentioned some of these already and Adele's '21' is certainly shifting units in the UK this week: it had sold more than 100,000 copies in its first two days of release and by the midweek  Top 10 album chart-preview it was comfortably out-selling #2 - #10 even if their individual sales were totalled!

My first 2011 12" vinyl acquisition is 'Violet Cries', the début album from Esben and The Witch (UK: 31/01/2011).  If you can make it then they are marking the event in their home city of Brighton the following evening.
It is an album that, in an interesting twist, eschews the inclusion of the singles 'Skeleton Swoon' and 'Lucia At The Precipice', but if you have seen E&TW live then you will know just what to expect.

If you wondered why I didn't make a specific post about where I think (live) music is heading in 2011, in contrast to previous years, then this is what I have to say.
I think 2011 might just possibly be a turning point. If it were to be so then I think that the result will not be the dominance of any particular genre but rather the acceptance of many that co-exist and can intermingle influences.  I believe that, as a result of many circumstances, the seeds of this change were first sown a few years ago.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Music 2011 - Part 10 - more things I am looking forward to.

I mentioned in my last post that it was my intention to, metaphorically at least, cross the Atlantic for my next post in this sequence.  I'm sorry that it took a few extra days to appear but, rest assured, I value the transatlantic trade in new music, evident in the last few years, more than almost anything else.
I prefigured this album in September and here is the track listing for it.

Tell Me  ---  Jessica Lea Mayfield

1. I'll Be The One You Want Someday
2. Our Hearts Are Wrong
3. Blue Skies Again
4. Somewhere In Your Heart
5. Grown Man
6. Trouble
7. Nervous Lonely Night
8. Sometimes At Night
9. Tell Me
10. Run Myself Into The Ground
11. Sleepless

It is released by Nonesuch Records and, like 'With Blasphemy So Heartfelt', is produced by Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys).

I'll follow this with an album that, although I included it in my 'best of 2010' lists, and also saw the artist responsible live in 2010 (at Latitude in this case), I don't think I have ever featured specifically:

That is Lauren Pritchard and inter alia the album 'Wasted In Jackson'.  The album is amazing in my opinion, hence its inclusion in the above mentioned list.
I saw her perform live before I bought the album and that, as often seems to be the case, was revelatory. Much has since been made of her (regular) live cover of  TLC's 'Waterfalls' (1995) - it does not appear on the album. To witness it performed live from the front of the stage was quite something and that it precipitated one of the few torrential showers of the weekend, as if summoned from above by Lisa Lopes, was rather other-worldly.  If that were not enough for just one set, that only lasted forty minutes, the July sun then appeared shining straight into the eyes of Lauren and her band. Her response was simply to rap an Eminem response ad lib and to say that the assembled audience was *stunned* truly deserves the term litotes.  She has since said that this [Latitude 2010] live performance is her most memorable to date and, take it from me as one of the audience, I'm quite happy to believe that.

Better late than never, I suppose. I have already posted some pictures of Jessica Lea Mayfield performing live that I took at EOTR 2010 but I intend to have posted at least one of Lauren Pritchard live at Latitude 2010 by this time tomorrow.

Further posts on New Music 2011:
Part 1  ---  Esben and The Witch
Part 2  ---  Yuck

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Music 2011 - Part 9 - some things I am looking forward to.

My recent posts in this general category have tended to focus on either a single act or artist or sometimes two.  This is somewhat more general.  Both of the records are released (in the UK) tomorrow and I'll start with one that is by an artist already well known - Adele.

Her début album '19' (2008) was generally well received on both sides of the Atlantic and a vindication of XL Records' decision to sign her. When X-Factor included her song 'Make Me Feel Your Love' in late 2010 it sent the song (her original) to #2 in the UK singles chart and the album followed in the ascendency.
The second album is released in the UK tomorrow.  It is very likely that the first single from it, Rolling In The Deep, will top the UK singles chart later this afternoon.

The next act, whose second release also takes place tomorrow, is one that I first encountered at Latitude 2009 and is Mummers. They had just released their début album 'Tale To Tell'. I saw them live in the 'Uncut Arena' on Friday and they were excellent. I posted about it.

At this point everything in their world must have seemed wonderful.  I remember talking with others about the set that we had just seen and saying how much I was looking forward to seeing them again just two months later, as they were to perform at EOTR 2009.  It never happened...  When I arrived at EOTR 2009 there was a notice, handwritten, that simply read:
"Mummers have been forced to cancel. Sorry."
Of course I did not know the true reason why, nor did I suspect that it might be so tragic.  I very soon did, and it struck a chord with me, but I simply couldn't put it better than in this piece: Paul Lester in The Guardian, 20 January 2011.

The most welcome follow up is this EP released tomorrow and on Big Bass Drum Records once again.
Mink Hollow Road is billed as an 'EP' but, with six tracks and running for around twenty-five minutes, it should surely be regarded as a mini-album?  I would so much like to see Mummers live again at a festival in 2011. Please.
In the end I still focussed on just two (old habits die hard) but ones with a quite different recording history. I might well do another post today, perhaps focussing on things taking place across the Atlantic.

Note added January 26. 2011:
My own Mink Hollow Road, on CD, awaits me collecting it from the Royal Mail Delivery office tomorrow morning. I'll try to do the lyric, starting with 'Fade Away' if I can and because you asked about it. I can't imagine why I did not post the track list in my earlier post but here it is:
  1. Call Me A Rainbow
  2. Fade Away
  3. Driving Home
  4. Cherry Heart
  5. Your Voice
  6. Stuck In The Middle
I hope to do more tomorrow and, furthermore, would appreciate it if Google could overcome the current issues associated with uploading pictures [specifically to my blog] but a more general problem that happens at certain times that are not entirely unpredictable.
Further posts on New Music 2011:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cover versions 2010/2011 - old music revisited

I'm sorry if this post is a bit on-the-fly. I was just about to turn in for the night when I noticed that someone (and thank-you) had ended up here while searching a Famous Web Search Engine for 'recent cover versions'.  I have mentioned a few recently - the latest only a couple of hours ago- so I decided to mention [in the side bar only], Smoke Fairies cover version of the Neil Young song 'Alabama'  and it available to stream for free here.  There is something doing - cover versions are all the rage - and I intend to come back to a selection of them soon. My ambition would be to collate a list of a few choice ones, some less likely than others, from the last few years.  Be that as it may Neil Young has cropped up at least twice very recently: Laura Marling covered 'The Needle and The Damage Done', also from the 1972 album 'Harvest', as the b-side to 7" 'Blues Run The Game', which is also a cover but an older one.

On the other hand it is not as venerable as 'Ghost Woman Blues' that has been revived, and righteously so, by The Low Anthem.

Here, as I was curious as to whether I had heard them correctly, are what I think is the lyric to 'Alabama'.


Oh, Alabama
The devil fools with the best laid plan
Swing low Alabama

You got the spare change
You got to feel strange
And now the moment is all that it meant

Alabama, you got the weight on your shoulders
That's breaking your back
Your Cadillac has got a wheel in the ditch
And a wheel on the track

Oh, Alabama
Banjos playing through the broken glass
Windows down in Alabama

See the old folks tied in white ropes
Hear the banjo
Don't it take you down home?

Alabama, you got the weight on your shoulders
That's breaking your back
Your Cadillac has got a wheel in the ditch
And a wheel on the track

Oh Alabama
Can I see you and shake your hand?
Make friends down in Alabama

I'm from a new land
I come to you and see all this ruin
What are you doing Alabama?
You got the rest of the union to help you along
What's going wrong?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

2011 - The return of the guitar band?

The fabled return of the guitar band...  it is something that has been trailed by many in the last year or so, and the lack of which was oft-bemoaned before that. Is 2011 the year in which it will happen?
Maybe is not an answer to a polar question, so I'm not going to use it. Some languages, English is not usually one of them (but Welsh usually is), have other ways of answering such questions...

Well there are plenty of guitar bands/artists vying for our ear-space in 2011 but wasn't that the case in 2010? Some of them have history, even true pedigree...
Beady Eye, Elbow, Miles Kane, The Strokes to name but a few... (and The View will try again too). Some of them will succeed, some will not, but that is nothing to mark 2011 as remarkable.  Some of the most notable guitar-led bands will be those that are either currently almost unknown or, at best in the wider scene, little known. That is more important.
I think it unlikely that there will be a sudden revolution in 2011. It will, however be an exciting year, again focussing on live music, and in that quiet but subversive way the revolution will continue. I admit it unlikely that 2012 will feature such scintillating tour dates as Coldplay in Havana or Cheryl Cole live in Pyongyang.
On the other hand, had you asked me in 1983 if I believed that my parents would ever go to Romania then my response would have been "only as the result of some catastrophic invasion".

There are signs that lead me to believe that, however good guitar bands may be, they are going to face a struggle in a world now complicated by cross-genre considerations.  Many of the best acts/artists of 2010 played/featured guitars but were not 'guitar bands' in the typical - I hate to say it - male-orientated tradition.
Warpaint, to mention just one such act, play guitars - a lot - but apparently that's different.

It isn't.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Music 2011 - Part 8 - Daydreams and Nightmares - Those Dancing Days

I mentioned yesterday that Swedish five-piece Those Dancing Days are back with their sophomore album and that it is in a different style to 2008 début 'In Our Space Hero Suits'.  Here it is:

Daydreams and Nightmares
UK release: 28 February 2011 [Wichita Recordings]

1. Reaching Forward
2. I'll Be Yours
3. Dream About Me
4. Help Me Close My Eyes
5. Can't Find Entrance
6. Fuckarias
7. Forest Of Love
8. When We Fade Away
9. Keep Me In Your Pocket
10. I Know Where You Live
11. One Day Forever

It has rather less of the pop-and-northern-soul 'girl group' inflection, if not exactly influence, of the first album and correspondingly, but again not heavy-handedly so, more of a sinister riot-grrrl electric synth-sound.  The contrast is more than interesting; a case of exploring rather than abandonment.
Those Dancing Days are far from over but the rhythm has changed.  You can also legally stream another track from this album - 'I'll Be Yours'.

Further posts on New Music 2011:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Awards Lists - the season of....

You might imagine that I'm going to tell you about the headline ones, but I'm not.  It is easy to forget just what an important part in popular music Scandinavian artists have played.  If you are thinking simply of Abba and A-Ha you are in a 1970s - 1990s buy-in that however remains perennially popular and that is fine - and without doubt Scandinavia has produced some of the most successful and, importantly widely accessible, pop for about forty years now.  That does not even include the influence of the Scandinavian writers who, without fail, wrote hit after hit for the likes of Britney Spears and many, many others...

Scandinavia should not, and has chosen not to, rest on its laurels: on the other hand do you remember either of these albums?

 The former was released in 2008, the latter in 2007  and both are well worth a listen.
If the answer is no then you could simply argue that my point is irrelevant. On the other hand could you name a Scandinavian artist, or better still three, that made an impact on UK, European or - to make it harder still - US music in 2010?

Neither of the above albums are eligible, as it is for 2010 releases, so they do not prejudice my opinion.
That is why the 2011 sees the first ever Nordic Music Prize and here is the list of nominations:
Dungen - Skit i allt
Paleface Helsinki - Shangri-La
Frisk Frugt - Dansktoppen møder Burkina Faso i det himmelblå rum hvor solen bor, suite
Susanne Sundfør - The Brothel
Robyn - Bodytalk
Jónsi - Go Do
Efterklang - Magic Chairs
Serena Maneesh - S-M 2: Abyss in B Minor
The Radio Dept. -  Clinging to a Scheme
Ólöf Arnalds - Innundir Skinni
Kvelertak - Kvelertak
First Aid Kit - The Big Black and The Blue

I'll tell you something straight away - I haven't heard half of these, even in part. I like that; and I like the fact that between those that I have heard I would be hard pressed to decide.
Equally invalid in the above reckoning, as it has yet to be released, is the second album from Swedish female five-piece 'Those Dancing Days'. They have thoroughly deconstructed the, somewhat Pipettes-reminiscent but arguably rather more endearingly retro, sound of their 2008 début offering. Their second album  promises something rather different and the track on offer (see link below) features vocalist Linnea Jönsson apparently now in the mindset of a polar bear on a fast-melting floe. No longer is logic or reasoning a realistic option.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Tabloid press says despair... I say music!

The tabloid press, backed by some cod-act psycho-babble experts, say that the second Monday in January is the low psychological point of the year.  Yes it is, arguably, not the best for many and today the gloomy wet weather has not helped too much either.
The remedies that they espouse (often rather costly sinecures, which is odd as at least a large part of the malaise is deemed to be of a financial nature) amaze me.

My solution is simple, certainly very cost effective and at least in part can easily be shared.  Go home, get warm and enjoy some cheap, simple and easy home-made comfort food.  This is an entirely positive, guiltless trip - for it eschews any excess of Christmas past.
The music is something of an issue, for the faux jollity of seasonal tunes has likely worn thin, and who wants to revisit the ex- in X-factor just yet?  This is where we might end up at odds.
It has got to be good music, in the sense of accomplished and that which has stood the test of time, but it must possess a healthy measure of another attribute.  By healthy I mean that it must be so utterly downbeat that it can only possibly make one realise that the second Monday in January could actually be worse... indeed very much worse.
That there is something very English about this is quite inevitable. There is one album that works perfectly for me in this capacity. It even prefigures the Monday morning issue by finishing with the track 'Hated Sunday' and yet ultimately subverts the issue as a whole.  It is perverse, lyrically fearless, but by never exceeding its self-imposed dimension shows itself to be a masterful piece of writing, editing and recording. This is it:

 Black Box Recorder - England Made Me (1998)

It is sometimes said that the late 199os was a sterile phase in UK music, something that is certainly not true now.  If that were indeed true this was one glorious exception.  I'm not convinced that it contains even one truly optimistic song but also, in Uptown Top Ranking, there is a totally twisted cover of the single originally written and recorded by Althea and Donna (1978).

Saturday, January 08, 2011

New Music 2011 - Part 7 - Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo

OK, I was planning on doing more on new music this weekend.  It would certainly have been tomorrow, rather than just now, were it not for this.  In all probability you have already heard at least a snippet or two of the work of this artist even if you were quite unaware of it...

It is released (in the UK) on February 7, 2011 and Almanac is their third album.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A good album or a great album? What matters most?

This is something of a philosophical question but I would argue that, as such, it is one well suited to 'Thoughts on Music'.  That this topic, or versions of it, has surfaced in a number of different guises and situations in the last six weeks or so made me curious (simply as to why at first) but subsequently to think about it more seriously.

There were discussions with both friends and strangers that touched on such things, even if only tangentially; the inevitable lists, both of 2010 acts and those of whom great things are expected in 2011, and the reality of the fact that indeed all such choices are ultimately personal ones. As such they cannot, indeed should not, be dispassionate as that would defeat the whole point and so the selection will over the years change with the passage of time but, equally importantly but rather differently, also from week to week and even day to day.
Some say that 'great' albums simply grow on you with time while those merely 'good', perhaps as a result of timing that could simply be the result of personal circumstance and/or part of a current trend that appeals and that one wishes to espouse, are more immediate but ultimately ephemeral in comparison.

My inclination, born in part of experience, is to think that this thesis is a gross simplification.  To believe that it is not reduces the entire appeal of music to the level that, were it indeed true, in its widest form which includes dance (the activity, not just the music) it could never have achieved its broad cross-cultural eminence.
The would-be-global music industry might have wished that it were not so;  notwithstanding the fact that while, as individuals and nations we may not understand and fully appreciate the music and dance of other cultures, the human condition seems to be that fundamentally it matters:  In fact it matters more than almost anything - music, and in particular rhythm, is more universally recognizable than language.

So what does this all mean for me?  Three things come to mind as pointers:

  • Great albums have lasting appeal - not every day but over the course of several years. They may have specific mood or memory issues, or indeed other associations, but I will tend to return to them.
  • They may not be generally well known and lauded - probably slightly more than half of those that I consider great albums are in this category.
  • I can adopt albums in this category in almost any way. I have discovered them from new (and not tired of them), I grow into others with time and I can add old albums that either I have never heard before or just occasionally ones that I grew out of and, often very much later, back in to.
I have, quite deliberately, not mentioned any from the various categories here.  That is important and not least because I am still thinking my way through this realization.
They may be indicative, up to a point, but what they certainly all do is point back in time.  Whatever relevance it might have to appreciation of  music in the future is probably perfunctory - possibly that, the sheer unpredictability, is something that actually matters the most.  I should, perhaps, post a suggestion as to what I mean.

It is always going to be dangerous to do it but I'm going to do it anyway. Nothing could match the feat that I'm about to mention. If one album from the first decade of the twenty-first century deserves an accolade this is it and it wasn't an attempt to grab attention by a little-known act.  It came several years after a potential career-suicide-moment by a major act and just as it had accomplished something that few if any, let alone an all female act, had ever achieved before. It did something else too - potential self-destruction on a scale that few could have imagined but for once it was not drugs - it was politics and that made it all the more important in the new millennium and it happened live, and in London. 
I rate the album 'Taking The Long Way' by Dixie Chicks as a truly great album of the last decade.  It defined change and, in time, that really matters.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Real - Martha Tilston live at The Union Chapel

Now I realise that I made an error of judgement here.  I mentioned in the side-bar, back in December, an album that I regard as the live affirmation of the folk-influence in new music, both in the UK and also in the Americas.  I never expected that it would become so sought after...

That it has done so fully justifies it being the subject of my first blog post of the second decade of the 21st century - and the most common key words that led people here in the last 36 hours!  It's awesome and I thank you.
It is available to buy from the link below - and being 'Real' you need it in a physical format so SQRCD06 is available, direct from the artist:

This is the track list:

  • Red
  • Duvet
  • Space
  • Winter flowers
  • Artificial
  • Seagull
  • Who are you
  • Golden
  • Corporations
  • Good world

Direct artist-to-listener sales is a trend that I can see making much headway in 2011, whether that be via download, CD or vinyl.