Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Stornoway - Zorbing

Though sadly nothing to do with practice of strapping yourself into a huge sphere and going careering down hills this is still lovely. It's starts off as rather serene folk but picks up pace as it goes, before a well timed blast of trumpets propels on, on and up to better things. The band do have the look of punchable English poshos, but the song is pretty enough to forgive that.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Modest Mouse - Float on

This bounces along in a rather wonderful way. I like it. The band take their name from the following Virginia Woolf quote.
"I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises."
Is that interesting? I suspect not but it's been a long day.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Jamie Lidell - Multiply

Jamie Lidell's 2005 album Multiply now looks like a bit of a watershed, as it opened the door for geeky white guys to pretend to be black seventies soul singers. That said it's a fine piece of work, and Lidell is an excellent if idosyncratic performer and songwriter. This performance shows him at his most commercial, and he gives a commanding go of it ably backed by Jools holland on the piano. I feel like I've read innummerable articles criticsing Mr Holland for incorporating boogie woogie piano into his guest's performances on Later but I've always quite enjoyed it. Certainly it's rarely worked better than it does here.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

William Bell - I Forgot To Be Your Lover

A sad song for a Sunday. It occurs to that a lot of the best songs are confessional in nature. What really lifts this song is Bell's vocal, which on the chorus is just sensational. There's a real wrench to it, which is heartbreaking. My favourite part however is "I've working for you doing all I can, but work all the time didn't make me a man." I'm a real sucker for moments of self awareness in music and you get the impression here of a real hard earned realisation, gained after too many fights over too long a time.
In the here and now it's good to know William Bell is still going strong with his own label and his own rather snazzy shoes for sale.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Spiller feat. Sophie Ellis Bextor - Groovejet (If this ain't Love)

Amazingly this was the first song ever to be played on an ipod. There's some useless trivia for you. As the nights draw into to another bitter Scottish winter, this is a little slice of sunshine. I associate it very strongly with Summer and sunshine, It seems like the year of it's relase 2000 was the last time we had a decent Scottish summer. Sophie Ellis Bextor does a great job on the vocals, her sultry tones elevating it to the status of a minor pop classic. It also, I've just noticed, repeatedly features a noise that sounds like a plane flying overheard, so it possibly subconsciously suggests holidays to make the listener associate it with good times.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Meatloaf - Midnight at the Lost and Found

This largely forgotten Meatloaf song as one of the few the Meat, as I affectionately call him, wrote himself. Meatloaf has been quite dismissive about his songwriting skills but I have a real spot spot for this number. As befitting someone who came from theatre, and has such a theatrical persona, this sounds like it belongs in a Broadway show. Meatloaf is not someone you go to for restraint, but his throw everything at the wall and see what sticks approach is adopted so enthusiastically it's hard not to go with it and overlook the bits that don't work.
I have a very clear memory of listening to this song for the first time as a callow youth and finding the A Capella chorus towards the end absolutely thrilling. I then played the song on repeat for about three hours to try and recapture that feeling. I suspect because the rest of the songs is so overblown, that when everything save the voices and handclaps drops out it's very effective. Or maybe I just really felt I was a "Lost soul in the hunting ground." It's one of the amazing, if occasionally frustrating, things about music that it's very difficult to pin down with it affects you the way it does. Our species seems wired to respond to it in a way that is entirely separate from rational thought.
It occurs to me this may well be why the best music is often about things that are also not rational, like Love or God. Now it's may also that these are the just the most interesting things to create any kind of art about, but I think music does mesh particularly well with with non rational themes.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Wild Beasts - All the King's Men

It's an amazing thing, that despite vast multitude of noises you can extract from say, an electric guitar, it can't come close to the range of the human voice. This song from Leeds art rockers Wild Beasts wouldn't be that special I suspect, if it wasn't for the strange and wonderful noises their voices combine to make.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

KT Tunstall - Black Horse and The Cherry Tree

This is the performance that launched Ms Tunstall's career and it's a minor epic. It takes phenomenal concentration to keep looping and playing as she here and she does it flawlessly. It helps that this is probably the best song she's written. The title alone is particularly good, hinting at the darkness beneath all the best folk music. Although she has undoubtedly taken a turn towards the Middle of the Road in her career, I think there's always been more of an edge to Tunstall than her critics might like to admit. She just happens to write nice melodies a lot of people enjoy. Certainly I defy anyone to watch this and not believe she's a woman of significant gifts.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Ian Brown - Stellify

v. t. 1. To turn into a star; to cause to appear like a star; to place among the stars, or in heaven.

And now you know. I think this is wonderful, there's a real sweetness to the lyrics. Brown's fondness for slightly odd words can come across as trying too hard on occasion but it's endearing here.
For a man remembered primarily for an album that came out 20 years ago Brown has released a lot of decent singles as a solo artist. F.E.A.R., Dolphins Were Monkeys and Corpses In Their Mouths all spring to mind as very handy tracks. Never held it together over a full album but for a singer who can't really sing that well he's done some seriously good work. He's also evolved a fair bit in terms of his influences, this is certainly a long way from Fool's Gold.
Anyway this effort stands up with the best of his solo output. Mainly because it's got a fantastic brass interlude two thirds of the way in that he shows great restraint in not introducing at the top and it's all the better for it.
The video is also rather good, though Brown looks increasingly like a ghost of himself. The hair is still, somewhat suspiciously, a lustrous brown but his face is increasingly grey, grizzled and haggard. Watching this video one can't help but suspect at any moment he may simply turn and walk away into the ether, pausing only to give a little disembodied wave over his shoulder.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Harvey Danger - Flagpole Sitta

Most Brits likely know this as the Peep Show sound track. Which incidentally made a triumphant return to our screens at the weekend. However to a few lucky souls, including myself, it will always be associated with the truly special film Disturbing Behaviour. That said the first time I heard it was on a compilation of Jo Whiley's favourite music. Now retailing for 39 of your English pence music fans.
I feel I'm revealing a little too much of my self here, so I will only say this is something of an nineties indie classic. Shades of a rocked up Ben Folds and for something that reeks so heavily of pop punk it's got a rather enjoyable psychedelic jam section in the middle.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

The Main Ingredient - Everybody Plays the Fool

This is a super soul number but because I'm pushed for time I'm gonna hand over to the rather smart comedian Patton Oswalt, who had this to say about it.

"It's got a message for people, and I wish they had more song ideas, because most R&B now is all about, "I am the king and I fucking rule, and you can't fucking step to me." And this is back when they were like, "You know you're going to fuck up, and you're going to get over it, and you're going to move on." It's a very hopeful song. Hell yeah, she doesn't love you. Don't worry, the world's still going, you're not dead. Basically, Al Swearengen says the same thing in season two of Deadwood, where he's consoling the newspaper editor who's had his place vandalized. "You've got more beatings and humiliations in store for you, stand like a man and give some back."

Wise words.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Laura Nyro - And When I Die

I Love the way the tempp of this picks up at the beginning of the first verse. Big slow intro and all of a sudden it up sticks and starts rattle along. Great brass all the way through as well.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Sammy Davis Jr. - Music of the Night

This article, by the incomparable Nathan Rabin, makes the great point that Sammy Davis Jr is mainly known to people of my generation as the butt of jokes in the Simpsons. Which is a shame as there are few more interesting entertainers in the post war era. As the article above suggests his autobiography as a storming read.
Like so may great entertainers he had a need to be liked, and to be the centre of attention that was almost suffocating, and that came close to crowding out his many other gifts. Here he shows that he couldn't half sing.
The above performance was recorded just before he was diagnosed with cancer and he still absolutely nails it. Sure he hams it up, but it's musical theatre, that is kind of the point. I will also say I've always had a soft spot for this number, there is something wonderfully creepy about it. It's like a high class stalkers manifesto.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The Drums - Let's Go Surfing

I was very prepared to hate this song. From a glance at the video, New York based Florida four piece, The Drums have the look of the worst sort of hipster. And the revelation their main influence was hyper obscure Glasgow indie miserablists the Wake, is the kind of thing designed to set my teeth of edge. I always feel like beating up and coming bands who name check barely known musicians until they confess they secretly want to be Hall and Oates. Everyone wants to be Hall and Oates deep down.
Anyway once I got over all that, I discovered, to my delight that this is a little cracker. It's got a great Bass line, that powers the song along. It's got some very catchy whistling, always a winner. And the vocals have a child like sense of wonder shared with some of the early White Stripes songs that Megs sings. All very good things in my book.
This piece also flags up, the influence of legendary producer Martin Gannet, and it is a very well put together song, has a big sound without being in any way overpowering. I would not be surprised if there's big things in the future for them. If you like what you hear, you should read this, as it's an amazingly in depth feature on a band at this stage in their career.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Saints - This Perfect Day

According to Mojo, this is the most ferocious single ever to grace the Top 40. They've got a point, it's a relentlessly negative gutpunch of a number, in the best possible way. Anyway this little known but inspirational Aussie punk band could use all the acclaim they can get. They were doing this sort of thing well before everyone else save the Ramones but because they were from out in the colonies, they've never got the credit they deserved. Shame really as this is a sneery little cracker of the first order.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Kanye West - Heartless

Mr West has being getting a lot of negative publicity the last few days and rightfully so. Though this is a great take on why despite his unrivaled ability to behave like a dick, he's one of the most important artists of his generation. For my money, if your talking about people who have combined commercial success with a willingness to push artistic boundaries over the last decade you've got Jack White, Kanye West and that's pretty much it.
This song is just fucking amazing. That whole album is mental, but here's where it all comes together. He takes autotune, which is reviled for sucking the emotion out of singers voices and over uses it to the point it starts to make a desperate sort of sense. One thing you can never accuse the man of is a lack of emotion. This song also highlights that for all Kanye's monstrous self obsession, it is undercut with an unflinching honesty.
'Heartless' is all about how he cannot believe that this woman would treat him badly, cause, you know he's Kanye. But he still manages to fess up in the song that he fooled around on her. He may well be self obsessed to the point of delusion but the fact he can't conceal anything makes him strangely endearing.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Lambchop - Up with People

An old favourite this. There's a warmth to it I find irresistible. Just from the start the guitar and the hand claps compliment the relaxed nature of Kurt Wagner's voice wonderfully to make you think everything is gonna be all right. I suspect there's quite a lot to be said about how Wagner fuses together soul and country styles. However time is short so instead I'll just luxuriate in a truly wonderful piece of music. This is also a pretty interesting video as well, using old footage of old tricky Dick Nixon. He's got an expression on his face at 1.14, that on any other human being I'd assume had been digitally manipulated, but with Nixon you can never be sure.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Frank Wilson - Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)

Ah, lovely bit of call and response here. "Do I love you?, Indeed I do!" This is almost the arch typical northern soul track to me, a fantastic stomper, with a real uplifting Gospel tinge to it. Mr Wilson, a Motown writer and producer didn't think it was up to much though, and trashed up but two copies, so It now retails for 29 thousand pounds. That is perhaps too much to pay then again a lytic like"Everything that I want most, is just to have and hold you close" is pretty much priceless so perhaps not.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Jello Biafra And Mojo Nixon - Are You Drinkin' With Me Jesus?

Mojo Nixon is a man committed to the grubby, boozed up, disgraceful side of country music. Read this if you have any doubt. This song with the Dead Kennedy's Jello Biafra is maybe his finest hour. Got a great country swing to it, sways like a drunk on a barstool. Funny as hell too. Can't really beat a lyric like "I know you can walk on the water, But can you walk on this much beer."

Friday, 11 September 2009

Hall and Oates - You Make My Dreams Come True

This tune is currently undergoing a hipster revival, thanks to it's innovative inclusion in (500) Days of Summer. However I'm going to bullishly assert I've loved it before it was cool. Indeed I have deep and long lasting affection for the work of Hall & Oates, mainly Daryl Halls voice, which is just fantastic. On this track in particular, he just sounds so gosh darned enthusiastic, it's impossible to resist. There's also a great Devo-esque twist to the synths that makes the tune bounce right along. 'Feelgood' is a hideous overused description, but if any song fits the bill it's this one.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Belle and Sebastian - The Boy With The Arab Strap

As a somewhat sensitive Glaswegian student my fondness for Belle and Sebastian reached borderline pathetically obsessive levels. They were talking my language. With the distance of a decade and considerably more maturity, I still hold them dear though. Partly because of nostalgia, that recalls singing along to this tune countless times while waiting for service at the student bar. However they still hold up. Stuart Murdoch had a fantastic grasp of words and a wondrous ear for a pop melody. This song captures both elements at their finest. "We know you are soft cause we've all seen you dancing, We know you are hard cause we all saw you drinking from noon until noon again." Always struck me as fantastically well observed that, perhaps because it struck a few too many chords. As for the melody, despite being practically ubiquitous this past ten years, it still makes my ears prick up every time. Not my absolute favourite song of theirs but, I think, their best.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Wolfmother - Vagabond

This is shamelessly in hock to sixties and seventies rock and all for the better for it. The album version is acoustic but this is a lot closer to what the band are about. Which I suspect was having an awesome time being a rock and roll band. This particular clip suggests they and the crowd are having a hell of time. This is a problem I've have with "derivative" being used scathingly by music critics. If the band are having a good time and their fans are having good time, well well done them. That said singer does sound worryingly like Devendra Banhart to my ear, but y'know, yes like an annoying hippie I what to punch in the face.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Nancy Sinatra - Sugartown

The thing about this song is that once I hear it, it lodges in my brain and can't be unrooted. And most of the rest of the day is spent going "Ssh...Shh...Shhh....Sugahtown!". Which is amusing but not super productive, plus I tend to get funny looks. In a weird way this story reminds me Cotton candy, light and airy but also delicious.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Doves - There goes the Fear

Doves are likely to be a pretty minor musical footnote I reckon. The fact that I can't think of a single other song they've done testifies to that. However they do have one glorious tune in this. The shimmering Stone Roses guitar riff gives it a fantastic propulsive energy while the mumbling vocals adds an enchantingly melancholy aspect. The Video, constructed entirely, out of previously existing footage is also something of a minor wonder.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Mayer Hawthorne - Just Ain't Gonna Work Out

On a blindfold test, I would assume this was a lost soul classic from philadephia, not the work of modern day geeky white Los angelino. But hey the world is full of surprises and this sounds as sweet as can be so It's hard to complain.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Joel Plaskett - Deny, Deny, Deny

Mr Plaskett was a new name to me until very recently, but he is one of my finds of the year so far. Hailing from the wilds of Eastern Canada, he is well known in his homeland, but that fame has not yet pierced the outside world. On the basis of his recent album 'Three' that could be about to change. It's a fairly phenomenal record. It reminds me most of the Magnetic Fields "69 Love Songs". Both are triple albums but the real similarity is the wealth of different styles and the quality of songwriting on display. He is a fantastical lyricist and the whole album is infused with recurring themes and repeated phrases.
This track in particular is a favourite and display the full scope of the mans talent.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Pony Pony Run Run - Hey You

The French seem to have a curious affinity for electro based pop. This track is a prime example. One might posit that electro has a rather cold quality that site nicely with the ironic aloofness of many Frenchmen. Or not. In any event this is a pretty great summer groove.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Beach Boys - Sloop John B (A Cappella)

This is just the vocal tracks from the classic Pet Sounds recording of traditional west Indian song. It really rams home what a group of phenomenal singers the Beach Boys were. There is a harmony at 1.18 that is just amazing. I cannot listen to it without a smile spreading across my face. The melody of this song I think is one that's almost universally pleasing to the human ear. It's been covered so many times, in so many styles that one has to suspect it taps into something that our species finds very hard to resist.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Thea Gilmore - Holding Your Hand

I've been an admirer of Ms Gilmore's for the best of part of a decade now. Since Uncut Magazine hailed her as the "female Elvis Costello", bit of a back handed compliment that, for her 2000 album, The Lipstick Conspiracies. While she's never received the acclaim she deserves, it's good to know that she's still recording albums, touring and making an a living from music. This is a particular song is just beautiful and once again a great example of how with just a little guitar, the right voice and the right words you can craft something very affecting. The lyrics also nicely straddle the line between stalking and loving, which is something I'm generally a fan of. The way Ms Gilmore sings here it's beautiful, but with a gruffer male voice, a bit more beef behind the melody it could easily become something quite creepy. Sign of good lyric writing that.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Mental as Anything - Live it up

Though a one hit wonder in the UK, Mental as Anything were apparently, the "Australian Madness", and just last week were inducted into Australian Rock and Roll hall of fame. Alongside such classic acts as Icehouse, Dragon and Rolf Harris.
Regardless, this is a great song. It has a great eighties pop sound, and I think captures one of the essential qualities of pop music, the desire to cast away you're troubles and "Live it Up", as they say. At the same time there's a slightly desperate tone to the vocals here, especially at the end, that suggests an awareness that living it up only banishes those troubles for a little while. This video also features some truly wonderful footage of a man dancing with a bloodhound from 2.58 on.