Monday, 31 August 2009

Ted Leo - A Bottle of Buckie

It's always interesting to see how outsiders view your culture and your home. This song by New Jersey indie stalwart Ted Leo offers a biting yet melodic take on Glasgow. For those who don't know, Buckfast or 'Buckie' is a tonic wine "made by monks and drunk by punks" that is favoured by Glasgow's less respectable denizens. Leo takes this fact and builds a wonderful wee tale of friendship around it. He's a hell of lyricist in fact, as anyone whose ever been to Glasgow would remember "that northern city sun breaking through the rain, that warmthless sun barely shining on". On the album there's a full band behind him, but I think it works better like this, just his voice and the guitar. Also worth noting the producer of this video are behind a truly wonderful podcast and radio show, The Sound of Young America, that's well worth checking out.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Solomon Burke - Don't Give up on Me

Lovely bit of Sunday soul. Solomon burke is a giant of soul music in every sense. Though he's never receied the acclaim of his contemparies he's written a number of stone cold classics and in recent years undergone something of a renannsancie. This song, and the album of the same name, kicked that off and it's a cracker. He pours a lifetime of regrets into his vocal performance and it's absolutely superb. Plus it's hard to resist any man who performs on a throne.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Oasis - Talk Tonight

The news that Noel Gallagher is quitting Oasis seems like it rightfully belongs to a previous decade. For those still interested in such things, Neil McCormack has an solid and I suspect accurate take. In any case a quick listen to the Masterplan this afternoon, reaffirmed that in his pomp Noel Gallagher was a songwriter of uncommon gifts. This track is a particular favourite of mine. While Gallagher sould never be accused of overcomplicating his lyrics he did have knack for hitting on truths that at least seemed universal.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Jellyfish - The Ghost at Number One

This is the kind of thing you find when you invest a stupid amount of time in watching old "Later...with Jools Holland" videos on youtube. Still a pleasant find it is without doubt. Not a band I'd ever heard of but a brief touch of googling reveals them to be a largely forgotten, if influenial San Francisco power pop outfit from the early nineties. If that didn't give away the fact they're a bunch of smelly hippies, the outfits certainly would. Still there's some truly impressive musicianship and harmony singing on display here. There's more than a hint of the beach boys here, they song has the same positive vibe about it. Christ, I'll be turning into a smelly hippy next with that kind of lanuage.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Janis Ian - At Seventeen

If you took the vocals off this record it would sound like a chilled back bit of samba. But her voice and her lyrics make it devastating. Phenomenal vocals on this track. As for lyrics well, they are hella sad. Ian apparently initially thought she could never perform this live, as it was too personal. It seems whenever one hears that about a track it ends up being a belter. Something to be said for soul baring it seems.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Cave Singers - Dancing On Our Graves

This is a fucked up little number that pulsates with menace. It's a great little example of how to craft a song that has a real atmosphere to it to with just a little guitar and a little drums. It has the vibe of a really warped spiritual. That's undoubtedly re-enforced by the video which is done up to resemble some found footage of a Southern Revival meeting. There is something more than a little unnerving about the way it perfectly syncs with the song. Obviously it's just footage that's been made to look old and damaged but it's very well done. The Cave Singers come from Seattle and apparently emerged from the remains of "Pretty Girls make Graves" a band I always thought were absolute dross, so good for them for making something of themselves.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Electric Six - Danger! High Voltage

One of the best pop songs of the past decade. Electric Six are basically novelty band but they hit on an absolute cracker here. It's ridiculously over the top, right down to the closing sax solo, but it somehow holds together. Listening to it now it seems perfectly obviously Jack White is singing backing vocals on the chorus. I'd also say he adds a fair whack to the song, his distinctive yelp proving a good counterpoint to Dick Valentine's sleazy performance. Speaking of which, Valentine's first appearance in this video, where he appears to be stroking his huge tumorous groin area is simultaneously as hilarious and disturbing as anything I've seen.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Edwin Starr - Agent Double O Soul

Edwin Starr has a fantastically excitable singing voice. He gives the impression of being able to sing the dictionary like it was the secret of eternal life. This number where he hollers about being a secret agent of soul is no exception. The tune is very lively even by Northern Soul standards but my fondness for it is mainly based on the premise. It would be pretty wonderful if there was actually a secret soul organisation that sent out agents to make the world a little bit more funky.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Loretta Lynn - Fist City

This country barnstomer is the anti Jolene. Where Dolly's classic features the singer beging another woman to leave her husband be, Fist City has a harsher message. "Leave my man be or I'll kick the shit out of you." One of the interesting things about country music, is that while it is in many ways very conservative, the things it's stars sang about in the sixties and sixites, where a long way outside what was tradationally expected of men and women. There's a suggestion here that Ms Lynn's husband who "ain't no saint", can't be exected to behave, as he's a just a man, but the female object of her ire, should know better. Which is all well and good but ultimately, you just can't beat a line like "You'd better move your feet, If you don't want to eat, a meal that's called fist city" set to a catchy beat.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Ozomatli - Super Bowl Sundae

Latin music seems to get fairly short shrift, here in the UK. When Shakira, Ricky Martin and Santana are the first names to come to mind, you know there's a problem. This though is a pretty wonderful mash of Latin, rock and hip hop flavours, that sounds pretty damn great even though it's a good decade old now. Ozozmatli shared members and generally hippyish vibe with Jurassic 5, and there's a daisy age feel to this. It's the live performance that really makes it though, a brass section that jumps in time, is always a winner with me. Annoyingly the album version of this track has about a minute and a half of intro before it gets to the meat of the song. Seems foolish to waste so much time on the starter when the main is this great.

Friday, 21 August 2009

McLusky - To Hell With Good intentions

Probably the best hard rock band ever to come out of Wales, McLusky disbanded in acrimonious circumstances in 2005. This was probably their signiture tune and an ugly great beast of a song it is too. They were frequent collaborators of Steven Albini, and you can hear his grubby distorted fingerprints all over this. Aside from the romping great riff it's hard not to have some affection for a lyric that boasts of taking more drugs than a touring funk band.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

VV Brown - Quick Fix

VV Brown's singles haven't really grabbed me. However this, the opening track from her debut, is a bit of a bubblegum pop stormer. Starts off with a wee homage to Prince's Get Off I think, but it nicely segues into a "Who wears short shorts/Louie Louie" jive off. I suspect the market for sassy female singers of Ms Brown's sort is pretty much at saturation point but on the basis of this track she shouldn't get cast aside too quickly.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Doomsday

Nothing like a bit of brass to chase the grumps away. Mr Elvis Perkins is a noted American folk artist apparently, but this has none of the misery of folk and all the joy of a really good time. A swinging party song about the end of the world, and who can refuse that? Anyway what really matters about this is that it slaps a great big grin on your chops and makes you want to dance around the room.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

All Saints - Pure Shores

A right classy pop number. William Orbit produced it, and took every conceivable edge off it. It's an smooth as silk and every bit as light. It's the kind of song that I could, and probably have, heard a million times without it irritating me. It doesn't provoke any great emotion or feeling in me, either, but there's plenty of songs that do that. Sometimes it's enough just to soothe.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The XX - Crystalised

As I get older, the idea of less is more, seems more and more apposite. This is probably down to seeing too many local bands where the strategy was just to make as much of a racket as possible in the hope something would stick. Nowadays I really appreciate a band with the courage to not do all that much. This is certainly the case on this track by hotly tipped London four piece the XX. There's not a hell of a lot going on in this track, but there's absolutely nothing extraneous, every piece fits nicely into place. I actually find it weirdly soothing, there's more than a hint of lullaby about it. I always like a band who have a unified look but are a wee bit plain. Good looking people have it far too easy in music, I like to see some average looking folk storming the castle.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Horse - Careful

A lovely little song. Hell of a singer Horse MacDonald, though she seems to have been slightly airbrushed out of history. Even here in her native Scotland I doubt that many know her. Apart from the lesbians of course, but they always cling tight to one of their own. Anyway, it's a shame this song in particular isn't better known, as it a great example of strings working with a vocal in a way that sounds both modern and timeless. Above all it's a great vocal, at about 2.10 she hits the note and holds it absolutely perfectly. Wonderful.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Junior Murvin - Police and Thieves

One of my favourite Reggae songs. I particularly like the way Junior Murvin manages to rhyme "nation" and "ammunition" which he shouldn't be possible. Plus I'm sucker for a lyric that calls on everyone to just get along. I have an odd problem with Reggae, in while I like plenty of it, I find it difficult to enjoy unless the weather is suitably Caribbean. There's just something about it that doesn't seem to fit with a rainy Tuesday afternoon in Glasgow. This track is the exception that proves the rule though, as I imagine it would even provide a suitable sound track to a snow storm such is it's excellence.
I do note however that Junior Murvin does sound vocally similar here to "Herbert the Pervert" from Family Guy. I wonder if they might be related?

Friday, 14 August 2009

Fischerspooner - Emerge

A dirty writhing snake of a tune, this. There's something fantastically decadent about it that I suspect comes from the tone of the vocals which sound both urgent and detached in a very jaded way. The lyrics are essentially meaningless, it's all about the tone. Fischerspooner were briefly tipped for stardom at the start of this decade, but seemed a bit too desperate for it. I recall hearing lead man Casey Spooner offered to blow everyone in the NME offices to get on the cover, horribly unhygienic work. For an outfit that traded on their image as decadent electro sultans, their coolness was fatally undercut by their desperation for fame. That and this was their only decent tune.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

White Rabbits - Percussion Gun

It's easy to see patterns in things. So as Vampire Weekend hit the big time last year with recycled African rhythms, one could be quick to suspect White Rabbits, who do something similar here, are merely hoping on the bandwagon. That would be rather unfair to the younger New York combo however, whose second album "It's Frightening" has a lot to offer. They may lack the instant catchiness of an "Oxford Comma", but they do have something about them. This track in particular is a fantastically atmospheric number that revs up and up, powered by two drummers. Despite that duplication it's also pleasingly minimalist and at times offers combination of beats and harmony that is both beautiful and unsettling.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Elastica - Waking Up

My favourite of their songs this. In part because as a callow youth I had this single on Cassette (yes, I'm aware how badly that dates me), and it had some awesome packaging that made it look like a pack of cards. At the time I though this was as cool as could be. Also interesting to recall the somewhat androgynous Justine Frischman was considered something of a sex symbol in the mid nineties. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I suspect that wouldn't fly now. Today's tastes seem to demand a bit more femininity from female pop stars, even alternative ones. Anyway even though this is a pretty blatant rip off of The Stranglers "No More Heroes" it still has a special place in my heart. Frischman does deliver a lyric with an enjoyably sardonic edge. Plus not being the most active of fellows I am bound to have a soft spot for is essential paean to laziness.

Edited to Add; Found a picture of the famous cassette single, still looks pretty nifty. Retails for a tenner now as well, should have held on to it.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Al Wilson - The Snake

I think there is something pretty wonderful about the whole idea of Northern Soul. The story of how a whole generation of Northerners became bizarrely obsessive about incredibly obscure American soul Music mainly because it provided a good soundtrack to their obsessive amphetamine consumption is one of those bizarre tales that makes one happy to live among such an odd species. Plus on a personal level it mean that got to here tracks like the one above, which would likely have passed me by otherwise. Great vocals, dark lyrics, lovely trumpet flourishes and it begins with an absolutely belting wee drum roll. If this doesn't get your feet a tapping there's no hope for you.

Fleet Foxes - Blue Ridge Mountatins

Once you get past the ethereal opening there's none of the harmony singing that the Fleet Foxes are famous for on this track. What there is, is a beautiful song about the relationship between two brothers. The lyrics initially seem to be just an affirmation of fraternal love but on repeated listens a little darkness creeps in. What it reminds me of is "Famous Blue Raincoat" by Leonard Cohen. Both songs have a tension in them, that suggests a fraying of relationships that perhaps can't mended. Perhaps what I love most about this song though is the way Robin Pecknold sings the title of the song in the first verse. Magical in a way music is that's impossible to explain.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Tom Jones - The Young New Mexican Puppeteer

Tom Jones is a ridiculous man. Quite possibly one of the most ridiculous ever to come out of Wales. Which, with due respect to the people of the valleys, I would say puts him high in the running for most ridiculous worldwide. He did however have a hell of a voice in his prime. This song nicely shows off both aspects of the man. Certainly there are no other songs that I'm aware of about young boys fighting injustice through the power of puppetry. A lesser man than Tom might have hesitated at the premise. But not "The Voice", oh no, he goes for it, full gusto. Credit wear it us do, It's a decent little number once you get past the lyrics, a strutty bassline drives it along and the marachai trumpet flourishes give it a bit of colour. It's also always a pleasure to hear "The Voice" in full effect even when it's delivering nonsense about puppetry ending the worlds problems. As a bonus there's also some absolutely fantastic pictures of Mr Jones in the video above.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Phoenix - 1901

Phoenix have been the acceptable face of French rock for a decade now, but them seem to be making a real push for mainstream success in the US with this latest record, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix". This track in particular is a delightful poppy synthy sort of a thing. Highly catchy and the if they weren't French I'd be inclined to think throwing out words like "elliptical" was a sign of pretension but it all seems hang together here in a most enjoyable fashion.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Kate Bush - James And The Cold Gun

An great album track from Ms. Bush's debut, "The Kick Inside". In the context of that record the oddest thing about it is how "not unusual" it is, being a fairly straight forward seventies rocker. Not impossible to imagine it being a cut off "Madman Across the Water", if you swapped her and Reg's vocals. Listening to it on it's own it's easier to appreciate the lovely sinewy rhythm and I'm very fond of the instrumental fade out at the end. Lyrically it's something to do with a gangster running away from his past, though as always with Kate Bush, it's hard to say exactly what the lyrics are about while at the same time suspecting she's hinting at something profound. Apparently it was inspired by a minor character in Frederick Forsyth's thriller "Day of the Jackal", which adds to it's appeal to me, as that's a great little thriller.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Felice Brothers - Frankie's Gun!

Love that American music. This particular number mixes up Dylan and Springsteen in a way that might verge on pastiche if it wasn't such a rollickin' good time. Plus who can resist a line like "Got me off a bender after long legged Brenda died." This video also showcases a very large fella playing the accordion with mighty gusto, a sight which never stops being entertaining to me.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Ratatat - Seventeen Years

The first half of the this song sounds like a inappropriately funky Imperial march. I've long thought it would be pretty wonderful to see a host of stormtroopers getting down to it in unison. The later part sounds more like a particularly soulful robot contemplating the universe in a rather melancholy way. Oddly the two parts mesh together very well indeed.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

John Cale - I Keep A Close Watch

I first heard this song as a teenager, watching Jools Holland alone late one friday night. Wonderful times! Then I thought it was wonderfully sad and time has not changed my mind. Apparently Cale wrote it for Frank Sinatra, but perhaps because Mr Cale was a drug and alcohol fueled wreck at the time Mr Sinatra declined to take it on. In any case cale recorded several version of the track before discovering simple was best. Best recored version is on the live album "Fragments of the Rainy Season", just him and the piano. Perfection.