Friday, November 30, 2007

Singles going steady 14: Belle & Sebastian special!

I’ve been putting this post off a bit, because I thought that it could easily develop into something quite unwieldy (it has, actually), but if I’m going to stick to my alphabetical progression through my CD singles, I can’t miss Belle & Sebastian. Not just because their singles take up a whole shelf on my rack, but also because of their importance to me. And also because, in my rack full of what is a fairly disposable format, there are few other CD singles that are so worthwhile, so essential for me to hold onto.

That’s not just because they’re mostly special one-off EPs that aren’t merely promotional tools for albums, it’s because they’re so choc-full of brilliant songs. Let’s start at the beginning then…

The winter of 1996-97 wasn’t a particularly easy time for me, for reasons that I don’t need to go into here, but one of the things that kept me going though the long dark nights was Mark Radcliffe’s late-night show on Radio 1. It was classic stuff and I still remember the evening in December when he broadcast a session by this new band from Glasgow that I had never heard before. There was something familiar about the name though, and then I remembered the record sleeve I had seen in the window of Missing Records on Great Western Road earlier that year – it had stuck in my mind because it was a picture of a girl who looked like she was breastfeeding a tiger. If only I had bought it, I’d be in the possession of something very eBay-friendly.

Anyway, the Belle and Sebastian website now tells me that the tracks aired that memorable evening were I Could Be Dreaming, Seeing Other People, We Rule the School and This is Just a Modern Rock Song. It made such an impression on me that the release of the Dog on Wheels EP in spring ‘97 was a big event for me. I had also eyed up the few copies of If You’re Feeling Sinister on sale in Tower Records at Piccadilly Circus but couldn’t afford it at the time. Dog on Wheels was more affordable and had me totally captivated. Here was a band which ticked all the right indie boxes for me. Dog on Wheels was quickly followed up by Lazy Line Painter Jane, an EP which I thought was probably the pinnacle of their achievements so far – not just the brilliant title track which is still one of their best moments, but also the other songs which aren’t too shabby either. The year’s triumvirate of EPs released by Jeepster Records was completed with the oddly-titled 3..6..9 Seconds of Light, another fine piece of work. By this time the long winter of discontent was long behind me, but there was something in the music, apart from the obvious quality of the songwriting, that had so many echoes of the Glasgow I missed, especially since I was far from what was familiar. Even now when I listen to tracks like A Century of Elvis (a sort of ‘version’ of the later track A Century of Fakers, making it the closest B&S have ever gotten to reggae) it takes me back, in a sort of misty-eyed way to my mid-90s days in the West End of Glasgow. Aaaahhh…

But I digress. By this time I could afford Sinister, and could appreciate it for the classic it was (and still is), so much that the release of the still-excellent Boy with the Arab Strap in autumn ’98 felt like a wee bit of a disappointment by comparison. It was also around this time (the day of release of Arab Strap to be precise) that I got to see the band for the first time at a gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire where the sheer levels of enthusiasm of everyone there managed to turn what was probably a slightly under-par performance into a memory of a legendary show. In these days, live shows by the band were pretty rare, so we had to be happy with what we had. Later that year, the seasonal rush for Christmas number one was joined by the This is Not a Modern Rock Song EP, which was never going to be a hit, not with a seven-minute long title track nor the three others, which broke the current chart rules for inclusion anyway. This EP was business as usual for Stuart Murdoch and the gang, and though it now seems like one of their more minor works, the track Slow Graffitti was voted best B&S song shortly afterwards by the same campaigning group of fans circulating around the band’s website who propelled them to the Best Newcomer award at the 1999 BRIT awards, thus incurring the wrath of the Steps-managing Pete Waterman.

There were no more singles until 2000, the same year as fourth album Fold Your Hand Child, You Walk Like a Peasant. Legal Man, which typically wasn’t on the album, also gave them their highest chart placing (number 15) and a debut appearance of Top of the Pops. See that performance in all its glory below – it’s nice to see that they’re clearly not really trying very hard to mime their singing and instrument playing, and there’s also the amusing stage invasion by what looks like a hairy superhero.

The next year saw two more singles, their last for Jeepster. Jonathan David (still a big personal favourite) and I’m Waking Up to Us, which some thought was Murdoch’s take on his break-up with Isobel Campbell (though he denied this in the sleeve notes to The Life Pursuit). Campbell left the band a year later to pursue her own solo stuff.

The next single saw a big change in the world of Belle & Sebastian. They left Jeepster in 2002, signing a deal with Rough Trade Records which saw the end of their one-off singles. All their single releases since have been tracks from albums, and thus their entry into conventional single releases commenced. However, all was not lost. Unlike many, even most singles, these didn’t feel like mere throwaway promos for the album – they’ve maintained a commitment to stuffing them full of quality extra tunes, in many cases better than some of the album tracks.

For the first release on Rough Trade, the cheeky Step Into My Office Baby, we had the sweet Desperation Made a Fool of Me. I’m a Cuckoo featured a rare remix from the Avalanches and the glorious two-parter Stop Look and Listen, which follows the Simon and Garfunkel-like first part of the song with the instrumental burst of Shadows-style surf guitar which they used to open their gigs in support of Dear Catastrophe Waitress in late 2003. And when they released Wrapped Up in Books, it was styled as the Books EP, with literary themed tracks, including the excellent Your Cover’s Blown.

Last year’s The Life Pursuit was in my mind one of B&S’s weaker efforts, but that didn’t stop there being good b-sides. My final Belle and Sebastian CD single is the first release from that album, Funny Little Frog, which shows that I was buying CD singles as recently as January 2006. It must have been around this time that I moved decisively to 7 inch and downloads for my singles purchases, so I have no more tracks from singles off that album. Well, I do, but they’re not CD singles, and that’s the whole point of this ongoing feature. So I’ll end this little personal journey through the career of Belle and Sebastian, with some tracks from the various EPs and singles. Enjoy these. I certainly have as I’ve been writing this.

From Dog on Wheels (1997)

Download: Belle & Sebastian – String Bean Jean

From Lazy Line Painter Jane (1997)

Download: Belle & Sebastian – A Century of Elvis

From 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light (1997)

Download: Belle & Sebastian – Beautiful

From This Is Just a Modern Rock Song (1998)

Download: Belle & Sebastian – Slow Graffiti

From Legal Man (2000)

Download: Belle & Sebastian – Legal Man

From Jonathan David (2001)

Download: Belle & Sebastian – Jonathan David

From I'm Waking Up to Us (2001)

Download: Belle & Sebastian – I’m Waking Up To Us

From Step into My Office, Baby (2003)

Download: Belle & Sebastian – Desperation Made a Fool of Me

From I'm a Cuckoo (2004)

Download: Belle & Sebastian – Stop, Look and Listen

From the Books EP (2004)

Download: Belle & Sebastian – Your Cover’s Blown

From Funny Little Frog (2006)

Download: Belle & Sebastian – Meat and Potatoes

Buy loads and loads of B&S tunes from emusic. They’re all there.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fighting talk

There are so many bands out there. So many guitar-toting kids competing for your attention, and so many PRs and record companies pushing stuff your way in the hope this or that bunch of young bucks will be the next big thing, or at least develop some sort of cult appeal. So to help with the selection process today, here are a few questions to ask:

· Does the band have a great name? Possibly named after a David Shrigley book?
· Do they have a theme song?
· Do they, more specifically, have a theme song with a chorus that goes “Let’s Wrestle, Let’s Fucking Wrestle”?
· Do they have an appealingly ramshackle sound that clatters along with little concern for grace and finesse, but with more of a desire for messed-up rock ‘n’ roll?
· Do they have a song called I Wish I Was in Husker Du, that actually starts with the line “I wish I was in Part Chimp”
· Do they take pride in being “the most miserable and hateful band in London”?

If the answer to more than one of the above is ‘no’, then the band in question is clearly not Let’s Wrestle, and right this minute is not worthy of your attention. After you finish reading this, you should really go to their myspace and listen to four songs, one of which is their new single I Won’t Lie To You, which coming at this time of the year is a blessed rough-edged relief to the growing mass of smooth festive pap that surrounds us. In an ideal world it would be Christmas number one.

Download: Let’s Wrestle – I Wish I Was in Husker Du

Buy I Won’t Lie To You and wish the miserable bastards a happy Xmas.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Two today

It's almost escaped my notice, but today The Daily Growl is two years old. That's two whole years since I took my first tentative steps into the world of blogging. There's not much more to say than that. I'm too much lacking in time and inspiration to say anything else, or even lazily post a track that has the word 'birthday' in the title. But I thought it was worth mentioning...

The Wave Pictures

Today I’m pleased to be writing about a band that have recently crept up on me almost unawares and surprised me with their rough-edged charms. I first read about The Wave Pictures on Song by Toad, who also spoke highly about them to me at End of the Road Festival in September. Then over the last week or so, I seem to be increasingly aware of the band through various web articles, culminating in a friend asking if I wanted to go to see them at the George Tavern last night. I couldn’t go of course, but I started today with a resolve to check them out properly.

It turns out that The Wave Pictures are one of these bands who happily make it really easy for you to ‘discover’ them properly. For a start, their website is choc-full of free mp3s to download, so I’ve spend most of my working day listening through them all. I like what I hear.

To back-track a bit, The Wave Pictures are David Tattersall, Franic Rozycki and Jonny 'Huddersfield' Helm. Although they’re just coming to my (and other people’s) attention, they’ve actually been a band of sorts for nine years. In that time they’ve changed the line-up slightly (Helm is a newer recruit), changed their name (The Wave Pictures is surely a better name than Blind Summit), and lived in different cities for a while when they were at university. But now they’re all happily back together since last year and living in a flat together in good ol’ East London. Now they’re masterminding their plans for world domination.

As well as playing their own gigs, which seem to be increasing at an exponential rate lately, they’ve also got a history of playing with other people – their musical mates basically – and they’ve backed up John ‘Mountain Goats’ Darnielle and the mighty Darren Hayman as well as playing with Jeff and Jack Lewis and Herman Dune. I guess that gives you a better idea of where they’re at musically than any half-baked comparison that I can come up with.

Also, as you might expect for a band that’s been around for so long, they’ve recorded a few albums, although only one of these has had an ‘official’ release – the album Sophie, which came out last year on Smoking Gun records. The rest are all self-produced and released affairs on CDRs, but they are all available to buy through their website.

They like their cover versions too. As well as a decent attempt at covering Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come, there are whole sets of covers – an album of songs by Andre Herman Dune, and an EP each of songs by Wave Pictures friends Lisa Li Lund and Laurel Aitken. It’s all good stuff. In all their songs, they make up what they lack in technical ability and slickness with spades of heart, soul and good quality tunes. It all hangs together rather well. You’d be pretty churlish if there’s not a place for The Wave Pictures in your life.

Download: The Wave Pictures – January and December
Download: The Wave Pictures – Safe at the Party
Download: The Wave Pictures – He Swims Like a Fish (with John Darnielle)

Buy Wave Pictures stuff from their website. Their new single We Dress Up Like Snowmen / Now You Are Pregnant is out on 7 inch on 26 October. Should be Xmas number one, really.

If you want to see the boys live and you live in London, you’re in luck – they’ve still got two dates to go of their 4-week residency and The George Tavern in Whitechapel. There’s also the other shows in far-flung places like Sheffield and Cambridge (all dates on the myspace). I’ve heard good reports already.

Finally, Emmy the Great likes The Wave Pictures too. Read what she has to say about them, and what they have to say about themselved at Drowned in Sound.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Laura Groves - I am Leaving

I got excited by the debut single from Laura Groves back in August. The 7 inch single is now with us, and so I'm pleased to say is the video. Here it is in all its cross-stitching Clangers fuzzy felt glory. The bonus is that it's a very lovely song.

It's out on Salvia records, and you can buy it from Rough Trade.

Pick Your Own new favourite band

It’s not a ‘scene’. Not unless the NME or their likes have got hold of it already. But even then, what would they call it? The new London folk scene? That doesn’t really tell you very much, and isn’t even accurate (though that didn’t stop them with ‘new rave’, did it?). ‘Scene’ isn’t really appropriate, because these bands don’t necessarily share that much in common apart from friends. I mean, there’s not a great deal of similarly between Johnny Flynn and Jeremy Warmsley apart from that they’re both male and a bit posh.

Even though it’s not a scene, someone should maybe do a Venn diagram or one of these Jeremy Deller-style things that shows the amount of decent young bands and artists in London just now, and how they all link together. Because the fact is, there are quite a lot of them, most of them are very good and they are all connected to each other in some way – whether it’s playing and recording, or just drinking. To give you a flavour, Emmy the Great sings backing vocals for Lightspeed Champion, who turns out occasionally with Florence and the Machine. The Mules contribute members to Fireworks Night who in turn share people with Johnny Flynn’s Sussex Wit. The first time I saw Flynn play, he was on violin duties for Emmy the Great. And so we could go on.

Whatever the case, this disparate but connected group of people now have a calling card, and it comes in the shape of a compilation CD which sprang out of a series of live events over the summer. As I reported at the time, it was something that for me was almost too good to be true. The Mules took it upon themselves to play a gig every week of July and August at the Big Chill House, and for each evening they invited two other bands or artists to support them. And thus a bit of a summer institution was born. It was pretty popular, but despite my excitement at the prospect, a newborn baby at home meant I missed out on all the gigs. But never mind – for me and everyone else who couldn’t go, there is now a nicely-selected compilation album containing some of the artists who played at these shows.

It’s a fine little thing, containing many artists already featured here on The Daily Growl including Flynn, Emmy, Lightspeed, The Mules, Fireworks Night, Napoleon IIIrd, Noah and the Whale and Eugene McGuinness. For some of these folks, this album provides a rare opportunity to get an officially-released track. Needless to say I love this album. But despite the familiarity, there were still some artists I hadn’t heard before – Jonquil, Tom Mansi & the Icebreakers and Left With Pictures, all of whom turn out to be pretty good too. So, something for everyone then.

Here’s a taster:

Download: Noah and the Whale – Beating
Download: Tom Mansi & the Icebreakers – When You’re Dead You’re Done

Buy the album from the Kartel shop, or download from emusic (with some different tracks). There’s also a neat deal at the Kartel shop where you can buy this comp and The Mules’ latest album Save Your Face for £12. That’s a top-quality bargain!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Amiina - Kurr

Since everyone’s talking about the new Sigur Ros film Heima at the moment, it seems as good a time as any to talk about Amiina. For those who don’t know Amiina, you may have come across them as Sigur Ros’ string section – the musicians that lurk behind their Icelandic compatriots and add depth and resonance to that sound.

But these four women – Hildur Ársælsdóttir, Edda Rún Ólafsdóttir, Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, and Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir- are wasted if they only act as back-up to their more famous friends. Thankfully, they’ve been branching out on their own since last year, and a few months ago released their first album, Kurr.

Not for them though, the lure of changing musical tack to get more attention (say, adopting a singer, or putting in a few fashionable riffs). Instead they play to their strengths, which naturally is stringed instruments. Yet Amiina is not just Sigur Ros minus the waves of electric guitar and made-up language. They certainly don’t have the epic sound that they contribute to on larger stages. Rather, it’s lush yet understated. Strings sweep, but are subtly done. Nothing overbearing. It’s not just a string quartet either. Listen here to a perfectly played glockenspiel, celesta, harmonium, harp and even musical saw. And though are no vocals, there is some gorgeous wordless harmonising on Hilli and Kolapot.

Because of the quasi-classic nature of this music, it would be too easy just to have this on as background music while you do something else. But resist the temptation. Take time. Listen. Revel in the simple beauty of it all. Believe me, it’ll have you hooked.

Download: Amiina – Hilli
Download: Amiina - Seoul

Music aside, it also boasts one of my favourite covers of the year (that’s it at the top). What are they going to do with that huge knitted… thing?

It’s also worth saying that Hilli, my album highlight, is coming out as a single on 10 December. It’s notable because it features a version of the track with vocals by Lee Hazelwood, apparently the last he ever recorded. I’ve not heard this version yet, but it’ll be intriguing at least.

Monday, November 12, 2007

RIP St Thomas

We’re coming towards the end of the year, and as usual, there will be a round-up of the great and the good from the world of music who have sadly departed us this year. This is good and right and I only hope that this year’s round-ups see fit to include Thomas Hansen. I say this because I only found out last week (via Leaky Sparrow) that the Norwegian singer-songwriter who performed under the name St Thomas had died back in September. I’m surprised I hadn’t heard before.

Sure, he wasn’t the best-known artist, but he had released six albums as St Thomas since 2000, toured extensively and even temporarily relocated to Berlin. He was found dead in his apartment in Oslo on 10 September this year.

I only have one of his albums – I’m Coming Home from 2002. It’s a fine collection of songs and was one of my favourites of that year. Though he may come from the northernmost regions of Europe, Hansen was clearly a man in love with his Americana. The album comes across as very Goldrush-era Neil Young – from the acoustic melodies to Thomas’ vocals. I also saw him live a couple of times, including one pleasant evening at The Spitz (also sadly gone) a few years ago with Hansen and his band playing mainly from Hey Harmony, the album after I’m Coming Home, as I remember.

So it’s with a lot of sadness that I heard about his death. Even though he was an artist whom I was only fleetingly familiar, he was a genuine talent, and as such will be sorely missed by many people. This is just my little tribute to him and his music.

Download: St Thomas – Oh I Have Left the Ground
Download: St Thomas – A Nice Bottle of Wine

Buy I’m Coming Home and other St Thomas albums from emusic.

Read the statement by Hansen's friend Reidar A. Eik on the front page of the St Thomas website. Once again, very sad.

Devendra Banhart - Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon

One of the disadvantages of having a small baby now living in my house is cutting drastically down on the old gig-going habit. So instead of a review of Devendra Banhart’s gig at Kentish Town Forum last week, I'm doing a review of his new album Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon instead. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Firstly, your priorities tend to change a bit when little people enter your life, and secondly, it’s a very good album.

It’s been a month or so since it was released, so I’m not so fresh onto this, but the few weeks since then have given me a bit of time to spend with the record, and I’m pleased to say that this has been time will spent. Time to appreciate the increasing amount of pleasures that I’m getting from it. Time to take in the usual big blend of musical influences and mad lyrics.

Like its predecessor Cripple Crow, Smokey is another long album (16 tracks, clocking in at over 71 minutes), but also like the former LP it never seems too long, never outstays its welcome. That’s largely down to Banhart’s wilful eclecticism and seeming determination not to keep flogging the same dead horse. For someone who’s risen to prominence as a (freak?) folk artist, this album is more of a trip through the 70s, with plenty riffs that belong firmly in that decade, as well as some slick gospel, hippy rock, oddball latin-flecked Spanish language numbers, Jewish doo-wop (really) as well as the expected folky stylings. To some this may seem contrived, but I don’t think he’s trying too hard. There just seems like a lot of love for music going on here.

Maybe Devendra's gig last week was great. If my past experience is anything to go by I've no doubt it was. But there will no doubt be other chances to see him on stage. He's not a band, so there's less chance he'll split up. And until next time he’s in town, I’ve got this minor classic to keep me going.

Download: Devendra Banhart – Saved
Download: Devendra Banhart – So Long Old Bean

Buy Smokey from Rough Trade or download from emusic.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Singles going steady 13: Boards of Canada

Today’s dip into the archives comes up with some real gems – three CD EPs from reclusive Scottish electronic artists Boards of Canada. This is a band whose obvious musical appeal is only augmented by the air of mystery that surrounds them. The fact that they’ve hardly ever done any interviews, and only performed live about two or three times in the past ten years merely serves to keep the dedicated fans’ fascination levels high, and fuels the speculation about the supposed mystical elements to their work.

So much so that there is a fansite that explores, in minute detail, the possible hidden meaning behind track names and even track lengths, delving into numerology, paganism and quotes from the Bible. The CD EPs that I have are their first commercial release Hi Scores (from 1996, though mine is the 1999 reissue), the classic 2000 EP In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country, and from last year (I was buying CD singles as recently as last June) the Trans Canada Highway EP. These are all open to mystical speculation it seems.

So we discover that on Hi Scores, there is reference to maths equations and the significance of the Braille cover is discussed (it spells out Boards of Canada, ordinarily enough). In a Beautiful Place… is more interesting, with its apparent references to David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. The speculation seemed to stop after the 2002 album Geogaddi, perhaps exhausted by the sheer amount of potential mystical connections to that record, but maybe more likely because the guy running the site stopped doing it before the release of The Campfire Headphase in 2005. So that means that the Trans Canada Highway is weird connection-free. For now at least.

All this is an amusing diversion really, and I wonder how much Marcus and Michael Sandison, the brothers who are Boards of Canada, contribute to setting up these flights of imagination among their fans, and retire, chucking from the safe distance of their Pentland Hills hideout. Who knows? All that I really care about is the quality of the music. Some have called it pastoral electronica, and that may be a good description. It’s just beautiful electronic music that sounds familiar yet always distinctively Board of Canada. And it’s not just the title of the EP that suggests a beautiful place in the country. The music does it too.

From Hi Scores

Download: Boards of Canada – Turquoise Hexagon Sun

From In a Beautiful Place out in the Country

Download: Boards of Canada – In a Beautiful Place out in the Country

From Trans Canada Highway

Download: Board of Canada – Skyliner

Buy Board of Canada stuff from Warpmart, or Hi Scores from Rough Trade.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Nancy Elizabeth – Battle and Victory

A couple of months back, I wrote about Nancy Elizabeth, a young singer-songwriter from Wigan whose single Hey Son had particularly captivated me. “If this is a taster for her new album Battle and Victory, it will be a magnificent thing indeed.” I said.

Well, the album is now with us, actually has been for a month or so, and I’m just getting round to writing about it. Even if Battle and Victory isn’t quite the magnificent thing I hoped for based on the quality of Hey Son and its b-side Live By the Sea, it’s still very lovely. There’s plenty understated but perfectly judged songs, played out on such exotic instruments as Celtic harp, Thai khim, Indian harmonium, Appalachian dulcimer and bouzouki – as well as ordinary ones like the guitar and cello.

In the current climate where any young whimsical singer with an acoustic guitar can be labelled ‘folk’, Nancy Elizabeth is certainly more folk than most, and despite the array of international instruments, her songs seem to draw most strongly from the English folk tradition. That’s not to say they don’t have contemporary resonance either, and comparisons can be made with the likes of Marissa Nadler, Nina Nastasia and maybe Alela Diane. By the time you get to the end of the album on the gorgeous title track, you’ll be aware that you’ve heard something that’s a little bit timeless.

Download: Nancy Elizabeth – Battle and Victory
Download: Nancy Elizabeth – How Can I Stop?

Buy Battle and Victory from Rough Trade or download from emusic.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Phosphorescent - Pride

Here’s something to send you off gently into the weekend.

I first came across Phosphorescent - aka Georgia native, Brooklyn resident Matthew Houck - earlier in the year after a friend’s tip-off. His woozy psychedelic melodies were an instant hit with me, and his last album Aw Come Aw Wry has been a big favourite ever since.

One of the good things about getting into an already-established artist is that there might be another album along sooner than you think, and sure enough a few months later we have the new Phosphorescent album, Pride, released on Dead Oceans records last week. It’s another work of understated loveliness, showing Houck’s ability to create warm, glowing pieces of hymn-like beauty, where his own cracked vocals are surrounded by a wheezing harmonica and the sound of a celestial harmonising choir.

As the nights get darker, leaves pile up on the street and autumn draws further in, this album seems more and more appropriate. It's not just good, it's also wonderfully evocative. It takes me to a crackling fire, low atmospheric lighting, a warm alcoholic haze that accompanies a happy, but reflective evening. Not many of these things are available to me at the moment in our central London flat where a small baby takes up most of our waking time and energies, but I can listen and dream.

Download: Phosphorescent - A Picture of our Torn Up Praise
Download: Phosphorescent - The Waves at Night

Buy Pride from Rough Trade or download from emusic.

Best of October

Album of the month

Beirut – The Flying Club Cup

I know last month it was all meant to be all about Radiohead, but here’s an album that I’ve been enjoying more. There’s not a lot that I can say about The Flying Club that hasn’t been said already. I never got round to reviewing it properly, but this has given me even more time to listen to the album and the more I listen to it, the more I like it.

Now, Zach Condon talented chap, but how would he follow up The Gulag Orkestar? Turns out he’s stuck pretty much to the same formula. The official word is that The Flying Club Cup is much more Gallic in flavour, inspired by Zach’s sojourns in France, but I can’t really tell. Maybe I’m not acquainted with the intricacies of European folk music, but aside from the Francophone song titles, I’m not feeling the streets and lanes of Paris anywhere. But who cares. The music, although being the direct successor of Gulag, is wonderfully charming, romantic and evocative. It’s perhaps less fresh and interesting that its predecessor a year ago, but now we’re more acquainted with Condon’s music, it gives us more space to enjoy its depths. And though it might not containanything as good Elephant Gun , neither did Gulag.

Download: Beirut – The Flying Club Cup

Songs of the Month

Battles – Tonto (Four Tet Remix)

Kieran Hebden takes a choice cut from Mirrored and instead of the expected skittery beats creates something aimed directly at the dancefloor.

Laura Marling – New Romantic

I’ve raved about this already. Of all the youngsters peddling folk-pop melodies this year, this is one of the finest. The beauty is in the simplicity.

Radiohead – Reckoner

I have been listening to In Rainbows quite a lot, and the more I do, the more it impresses me. This is my current favourite.

Celebration – Heartbreak [click to go to previous post for mp3]

From an album that’s unfairly under the radar, here’s my particular favourite – imagine what The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio might sound like if they combined to play soul numbers. It’s a bit like that, only better.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Kid Harpoon – The First EP

After yesterday’s minor diversions, I’m back on track with more of the usually kind of Daily Growl stuff (breathe more easily, Mr. Toad). Like singer-songwriters. I’m not going to buy into the journalistic cliché which says that there are too many singer-songwriters around today. There may be a lot, but like all kinds of music, some will be good and I’ll listen to them and write about them, and some will be bad and I’ll ignore them. Kid Harpoon is definitely in the former category, so here goes.

Kid Harpoon is the alter ego of Tom Hull from Medway in Kent, surely one of the grimmest parts of South East England. These days though, he’s to be found in Holloway, North London where he’s been plying his trade for a couple of years, sometimes solo, other times with his backing band The Powers That Be. This week sees first widely-available release, The First EP (the actual first single was a limited edition 2-tracker) which sees him properly signed to Young Turks/XL Records.

It’s a pretty good introduction to the talents of the Kid, over six tracks, which see him very much in the folk-pop mould of many of his young London compatriots. So far, so uninteresting you may say, but the appeal of Hull’s music isn’t in innovation, it’s just simple good old-fashioned quality songwriting. Lead track Milkmaid is the standout, with its quirky lyrics telling the story of a milkmaid who wants to be an actress (it’s the sort of thing you can imagine Colin Meloy singing about), backed up by steady rolling drumbeat. The rest of the tracks continue in a similar vein, and work a particular charm, which even if they don’t quicken the pulses too much, will certainly have you lifting the needle back to the start to play though again.

Download: Kid Harpoon – Milkmaid

Buy The First EP from Rough Trade or download from emusic.