Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It pays to contact me

Like most mp3 bloggers I get a load of emails from various record labels, PRs and occasionally from the artists themselves, plugging their wares. To be honest, I don’t get a lot of time to sort out the wheat from the chaff and many of them remain un-listened to. There are only so many hours in the day, right? The problem is that lots of them fail to initially grab me in any way. Especially if they never actually send any music.

However, a couple of people recently have captured my attention a bit more than most. I guess the moral of this story is that flattery will get you everywhere. I got separate myspace messages a few weeks back from a couple of different singer-songwriters saying how they liked this blog and expressing love for artists I also love. So that was enough to get me interested and listen to their music. And I reckon some of it’s worth posting.

First of all Steve Jowett. He describes his music as 'electronicana', and goes on to say “I'd like to say I invented that word, but when I Googled it, someone else had beat me to it”. I like that word too, and it’s a good one to describe his music. But to give him more of a say on his stuff: “it’s often Americana/ folk/ country in its rhythm and instrumentation (banjos, mandolins etc.) but often gets a slice of electronica thrown in to the mix to create a new feeling”. However, “Live it's just straight folk/ Americana. I hate messing with laptops live and creating barriers to the audience with some sort of tecchy shrine.”

What the ‘electronicana’ and his description fail to mention is his impressive voice. It’s one that contains elements of the likes of Stuart Staples and Antony, but is very much his own. It’s one of the main things that makes his music rise above the ordinary. As well as writing good songs of course. I like his stuff. Definitely one to watch out for. In fact you can watch him – at several upcoming gigs in London. Check his myspace for details (including an upcoming ‘secret’ gig with a more well-known artist).

Download: Steve Jowett – Crossed Paths
Download: Steve Jowett – Let the Lights Out

Next, we have a young guy called Eddie Harrison. He’s not so sure about how to describe it his music. He says that “[Daily Growl faves] Noah and the Whale describe it pretty well – ‘like eating salami after an intensive 5 year vegan diet.’ But generally I refer to it as like, lo-fi alternative pop. It's all happy and a bit of fun I suppose.”

Again he’s right about that. It is pretty lo-fi. He doesn't seem to be worried about virtuosity. Or clever lyrics. I’d guess that he was influenced by anti-folk, but his myspace makes no mention of it. He isn't not taking himself too seriously either. Not with lyrics about train sets, trousers and being sick in the bathroom at parties. It does seem to be about having fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Download: Eddie Harrison – Jennifur
Download: Eddie Harrison – Party Invitation

All that said, I'm going to be a bit more sceptical about flattering emails after this!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Can't you see the witch by my side?

I’m not going to ignore these tracks festering away in my inbox any longer. Ignoring them so far has meant that this post is pretty redundant for anyone keenly looking for songs from the new Yoko Ono album Yes, I’m a Witch. Many people have blogged on this already and many tunes have been posted.

However, if you’re a casual reader, the former Mrs John Lennon does indeed have a new LP out. Except it’s not really new. It’s basically a remix record where a heap of roughly ‘indie’ artists (like Cat Power, Flaming Lips, Jason Pierce, Le Tigre) have been given songs from Yoko’s back catalogue to play around with. The results seem to be that they’ve all kept the vocals and changed everything else.

Now, I have next to no knowledge of Ono’s past material, but I’m quite liking these tunes that I’ve posted below. Probably enough for me to check out the whole album. Blow Up turns Every Man, Every Woman into fuzzy guitar pop number, Peaches does her normal dirty electro thing on Kiss Kiss Kiss, and my favourite is Antony Hegarty’s reworking of Toy Boat, a song originally written by Yoko just after Lennon’s death. Don’t expect Johnstons-type material, though Antony does lend his ‘backing vocals’ to this lovely track.

Download: Yoko Ono / Blow Up – Every Man Every Woman
Download: Yoko Ono / Peaches – Kiss Kiss Kiss
Download: Yoko Ono / Antony – Toy Boat

Buy Yes, I’m a Witch.

Read an interview with Yoko Ono about the album in The Sunday Times.

And finally, this allows me to post a tenuous witch-related connection. Any excuse to put up the mad psychedelic genius of The Rattles' Witch, first heard (by me) on the awesome Pete Fowler Sound of Monsterism Island compilation.

Download: The Rattles – Witch

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger

Last thing on a Sunday, it’s time to get a little spiritual. Or rather, a spiritual. I haven’t been able to find much clarity on the origins of the song Wayfaring Stranger, other than it may have originated in the Appalachians. It’s certainly in the classic Biblical tradition of Christians looking beyond the sufferings of this world to the world to come, and it may even have been inspired by the likes of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

Anyway, it’s a song that seems to have come up a lot for me lately. I keep coming across different versions of it, so I thought I’d do a post with some of them. The initial inspiration came from hearing the newest one – South East London newcomer Jamie Woon and his beautiful, haunting version (backed by an even more amazing remix from dubsteppers du jour Burial). This has only recently been released and you can buy it here – 12 inch and digital download.

Elsewhere we have straightforward but very fine renditions by Johnny Cash and Neko Case, a jazzy one from the late Eva Cassidy, a ‘desert jazz’ take from Giant Sand, wonderfully segued into Fly Me to the Moon, and Kristin Hersh's more indie rock interpretation from her recent In Shock EP. The initially a capella Anita Kerr Quartet version may or may not have been tampered with by Lemon Jelly’s Fred Deakin since it’s off his new Triptych compilation. Finally there’s my current fave, Cliff Gober, off the fantastic Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal compilation (of which more next week) – a glorious Curtis Mayfield-esque interpretation which is the most upbeat one here, and probably furthest from the original.

Download: Eva Cassidy – Wayfaring Stranger
Download: Kristin Hersh – Poor Wayfaring Stranger
Download: Johnny Cash – Wayfaring Stranger
Download: Neko Case – Wayfaring Stranger (live)
Download: Jamie Woon – Wayfaring Stranger
Download: Giant Sand – Wayfaring Stranger / Fly Me to the Moon
Download: Anita Kerr Quartet – Wayfaring Stranger

Thursday, February 22, 2007

M Ward - To Go Home

The other thing I was listening to before I went to Scotland last week was M Ward’s appropriately titled new EP – To Go Home. Anyone who’s familiar with his excellent Post War album from last year will know and probably love the title track, a cover of a Daniel Johnston song.

Unlike so many single releases, this is no hastily thrown out record just to keep the album in the public consciousness a little bit longer. Like his labelmate Kristin Hersh has already done this year, Ward’s put out a 4-track EP, every song of which is worthwhile. Apart from the title track, there’s the rock ‘n’ roll boogie of Cosmopolitan Pap (M Ward does Johnny Cash?), the lovely piano ballad Human Punching Bag, and a wonderful Neil Young-esque cover of Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s Headed for a Fall, for which Matt assembles an all-star guest list including Neko Case (who also lends BVs on To Go Home), Jim James from My Morning Jacket and Howe Gelb. Does this make him the P. Diddy of the alt-country world?

Download: M Ward – Headed for a Fall

Buy the To Go Home EP and Post War.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Early Years / Wolf & Cub @ The Luminare, 19 Feburary 2007

I hadn’t been to a gig for three weeks, so it was a welcome return as I went up the steps at the Luminare on Monday night. I’ve seen The Early Years a couple of times before, but this was the first in a headline slot. Pleasingly, things seem to be gradually looking up for this annoyingly under-rated band. They're doing a short tour to promote their new EP, The Great Awakening.

But before I get to them though, I’ll deal with the support act – Wolf and Cub, all the way from Adelaide, Australia. These guys have been supporting fellow Aussies Wolfmother on some pretty big European dates, but are now coming back down to earth with a bump and playing small venues in Britain and ‘lesser’ support slots like this one.

“A bit like psychedelic metal” as my friend described them. I reckon that’s a fair description. There’s plenty big sweaty blokey guitar action, and they cut some mean rawk poses on stage, whilst flailing their hair around. However, they’re not just meat and potatoes rock – they do make an interesting noise, and the bass even threatens occasional funkiness. To be honest, though I don’t know much about this kind of music, I reckon they’re probably better than a lot of their peers. And way better than Wolfmother. But it’s just not my cuppa tea. It was interesting, but left me pretty unmoved. Their gimmick is having two drummers, but I don't think they really make the most of it – if you closed your eyes, you’d never know there was more than one.

Their album Vessels is out on 4AD in April (pre-order). You might enjoy it. Currently I'm struggling to get into it.

Download: Wolf and Cub – Vessels
Download: Wolf and Cub – Vultures

The Early Years on the other hand make the most of all of their instruments and effects. Theirs is an impressive show, as they swathed the venue in sheets of noise, pummelled us with bass, and thrilled us with their lovely melodies.

After four songs in, it stuck me that this is a band with an fine collection of songs. I thought that after launching with a blast on All Ones and Zeroes, and following up with So Far Gone, Brown Hearts and new EP lead track Say What You Want To, they’d have run out of ‘big’ songs to play. But there were plenty more. The highlight for me was when they locked themselves into their stunning Krautrock-style grooves, which after a while became quite hypnotic. This was most fully realised on their glorious set-closing rendition of The Simple Solution. Momentarily I wished that they could have played that all night. But then they were gone off stage, and I thought that it was all over. However, they did return for an encore, but not one of these well-planned, already on the setlist ones. They responded to audience pressure to return and played Things before I went home satisfied.

Sometimes I think that The Early Years are a band with massive commercial potential, especially on the quieter, more melodic songs from their self-titled debut album. There’s even plenty for fans of that Big Anthemic Indie Rock stuff to enjoy here. But I’m sure that they’d be quick to put their lighters away when the band crank up the noise, or get confusingly experimental. That may be their commercial undoing, but it’s the very reason that I like them so much. Long may it continue.

Download: The Early Years – The Simple Solution
Download: The Early Years – Things

Buy The Early Years and The Great Awakening EP from Amazon, or download the EP on mp3 from Tune Tribe.

Early Years pics from Three Pink Monkeys. Dodgy Wolf and Cub pic from my phone. That’ll teach me to leave my camera at other people’s houses…

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Alasdair Roberts

I’ve been away from blogging for a few days, as I’ve been in Scotland for a family funeral. So naturally, music has taken a bit of a back seat. However, the flight to Aberdeen and back was soundtracked for me by Alasdair Roberts’ new album The Amber Gatherers. It seemed appropriate both because of his nationality and the slightly downbeat nature of the music, which suited my mood.

I had come across Roberts before, but in name only, and it wasn’t until I saw him supporting Joanna Newsom at the Barbican last month that I actually heard his music. And impressive it certainly was. Given that almost everyone in the hall that night were there to see Joanna and her only, the support was largely irrelevant, but it was great to have such an accomplished artist perform as we waited for indie-folk’s greatest harpist.

His songs struck me as proper folk. I mean that in a music world where any young pup with an acoustic guitar and wistful lyrics passes for folk these days, here was someone with a unique and strongly accented singing voice and lyrics about ravens, kings and rivers. Plus playing proper old traditional folk songs as well. Despite my tiredness as I sunk into my seat at the back of the gods, I was well impressed.

So it wasn’t long before I got myself a copy of his latest album. And it’s even better than I imagined it would be. In truth, I’ve listened to little else over the past week. A lot of his Barbican set was drawn from this record, and the familiar ones resonated while the new ones delighted.

From some internet research, I found out that Alasdair was brought up in Callander, Central Scotland, and was ‘discovered’ by Will Oldham (there are conflicting reports as to whether that was though demos or a gig), who released the debut 7 inch by Roberts’ former band Appendix Out on his Palace Records in 1996. After a few more Appendix Out releases and collaborations with the likes of Jason Molina and Oldham himself (full discog here), Alasdair released his first solo album The Crook of My Arm – a record of traditional folk songs – on Secretly Canadian in 2001.

The Amber Gatherers is his forth solo outing (and the third on Drag City), but is a return to more of a band set up. I haven’t heard the previous albums yet, but apparently they are more stripped down solo acoustic affairs. Not that the latest album has a big band sound, hardly, with the embellishments being limited to gently hit snares, accordions, backing vocals and the odd cautious bit of electric guitar. Because I downloaded it from emusic, I haven’t seen the songwriting credits, so don’t know if these are actually traditional folk songs, songs written in that style, or a mixture of both. My guess it that it’s probably the latter. Whatever, they’re all beautiful, haunting and otherworldly and it’s a wonderful, inspiring collection of songs.

Download: Alasdair Roberts – Where Twines the Path
Download: Alasdair Roberts – I Had a Kiss of the King’s Hand

Buy The Amber Gatherers.

He’s on tour throughout the UK in April. Go see him.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Leeds has produced a fair number of decent bands over the years, but for the moment, it's not all about the knees-up indie pop of the Kaiser Chiefs, or even the frenetic spikiness of Forward Russia! There's the darker side of town too. I've blogged a bit about the gloomy delights of iLiKETRAiNS in the past. Now here's another Leeds band cut from a similar cloth. Vessels have been around since the tail end of 2005, and produce some mighty fine shoegazy post rock, in a similar mould to the likes of Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky. Y'know, the quiet/loud dymanic and all that. Sometimes they sing, but like the Scottish band mentioned above, that's not always a good idea, and they should stick to the guitar atmospherics, which they are much better at.

They released a 5-track EP last year which is a decent showcase of what they're capable of. Here are a couple of tracks from it, including the glorious 8-minute long Look at That Cloud!

Buy a copy of the EP here.

MIA and the topical news tie-in

Looks like MIA's much awaited return to action was pretty topical then. So bang up to date was it that the video for her new song Bird Flu hit the internet at the very time when the UK was all in a tizzy about the bird flu outbreak at some industrial battery turkey farm in Suffolk. Conincidence or what? Anyway, for someone who loved MIA's debut album Arular a couple of years ago, I'm well pleased with the comeback track. Though unlike MIA, I'm not very bang up to date, posting this well over a week after the vid first appeared. Oh well. By the way, Fun Fun Fun has the mp3 of the track.

In a tenuous MIA link, here's her ex-fella Diplo, with his totally ace remix of my tune of last month, Turbulence's Notorious. Not need to describe it further - just listen!

Download: Turbulence - Notorious (Diplo Vocal Mix feat. Sandra Melody)

Not got Arular? You should.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Beyond Beirut

Last autumn a new colleague joined my team at work. He’s a record collector, so before long, the sometime mundanity of work was peppered with conversations about obscure music, all in happy competition with the neighbouring team’s telly talk. After chatting about Beirut at the end of last year, he introduced me to the music of Dona Dumitru Siminica, which is proper Eastern European folk music.

Dona Dumitru Siminica was a gypsy folk singer who performed in Bucharest in the 1960s. Like his father, he was a musician, who worked on a building site during the day and played restaurants and bars in Bucharest in the evening. He was respected by both Romanians and Gypsies because he unusually sang songs from both communities. The songs, which sound so mournful and otherworldly when sung in his unique falsetto are actually a lot more earthy than first appear. They’re drinking songs, laments and love songs. OK, they’re not cheery dance tunes, but they’re also not as esoteric as you may think. They just sound sorrowful.

The main place to get hold Siminica’s music is on a compilation called Sounds From A Bygone Age Vol 3, released on Asphalt Tango records last year. That’s the CD my colleague lent me, and since then I've kept going back to it. It’s remarkable stuff, though like a rich fruit cake, there’s only so much I can take at any one time. There’s only so much (apparent) sorrow I can cope with.

Download: Dona Dumitru Siminica – Cine Are Fata Mare
Download: Dona Dumitru Siminica – Afare E Intuneric

Buy Sounds From a Bygone Age Vol 3.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Disco Pogo for Punks in Pumps vol. 6

I thought that this series was over. I had got to the end of my 13 Disco Pogo for Punks in Pumps compilations, which were given out with the late great Jockey Slut magazine between November 2002 and December 2003. But I was missing the magazine that had the sixth in the series and although I had the magazine and the CD case for volume 10, the CD has mysteriously vanished. But then step forward James from Yer Mam! with the kind offer of the mp3s from the missing two, so I could complete the series.

So thanks very much James, and here’s my picks from volume 6, from May 2003. These include a track that has since become a Four Tet classic, and Icelander Mugison in a tune that reminds me in a strange kind of way of Hot Chip. Then there’s some techo – anthemic from Midnight Mike, ambient from Sylvie Marks and squelchy from Bangkok Impact. And finally, there’s Mylo’s soon-to-be-annoying Destroy Rock ‘n’ Roll. Mind you, I still love the way that preacher pronounces “David Boowie”. Apparently the sample comes from a CD of sermons from American end-times cults. I heard it in Rough Trade the other week. Well weird. It was sampled by Negativland first y’know – back on their 1987 album Escape from Noise.

Download: Four Tet – She Moves She
Download: Mugison – Ear
Download: Mylo – Destroy Rock ‘n’ Roll
Download: Sylvie Marks and Hal 9000 – Mad Zen
Download: Bangkok Impact – Masters of the Universe
Download: Midnight Mike – Lost in a Dream (mix for Jockey Slut)

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Chorus and the Broadcast

I’ve been listening to the new Earlies album The Enemy Chorus lately, and it’s growing on me. They had a lot to live up to after their debut, 2004’s These Were The Earlies, and at first listen it wasn’t doing it for me. But a few more listens down the line, and it’s beginning to work.

It’s quite familiar really. The classic Earlies’ psychedelic swirls, intense build-ups, lovely harmonies, and dubby production. The new one also checks Krautrock grooves and Stax soul. Sure, there’s nothing quite as good as Morning Wonder or Song for #3, but there’s still plenty of pleasures to be had. At the moment I’m thinking that it wanes a bit towards the end, but there’s a monumental rallying with closing instrumental Breaking Point, surely one of their best tunes yet. I reckon this is an album that’s going to get better with every spin.

Rather than posting a couple of tracks from The Enemy Chorus (I’ve done that already), here's a bigger and better taster in the shape of an ace 15 minute mix of the album’s tracks. It’s been put together by John Mark Lapham, The Earlies’ resident DJ and remixer, who’s the man responsible for a whole series of mixes called Secret Broadcasts, given out at gigs and posted on the internet over the last few years. This one's called (for obvious reasons) The Enemy Broadcast. It's good.

Download: The Earlies – The Enemy Broadcast

Buy The Enemy Chorus.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip on Xfm

Music Like Dirt was there first. Last May to be exact, when his first Scroobius Pip post appeared. Since then he’s regularly written about the greatness of Essex’s finest white rapper, seen him live and even done record reviewing with him and his partner in crime, electronic beatmeister Dan Le Sac.

And most relevantly, he had a sneak preview in December of Thou Shalt Always Kill, their tune that seems set to become a minor sensation this year. John Kennedy and Rob Da Bank are already caning the track on their radio shows, to huge acclaim from their listeners. What’s it like? I’ll leave the description to the blogger who first brought the dynamic duo to the attention of internet-cruising music fans:

"It’s quotable, danceable, and irresistible. Echoes of the classic LCD Soundsystem 'Losing My Edge' come to mind, along with the 8bit Gameboy sounds of those fantastic Beck E-Pro remixes. What’s more, if you can multi task and take in the lyrics while shaking your tail-feather round the front room you’ll discover Pip on top form. Any song that manages to slag the NME & Coke, whilst covering paedophiles, Stephen Fry, and Danny Glover’s role in the Lethal Weapon franchise is OK by me."

But despite the track’s growing popularity, you can’t get it anywhere! But fear not le Sac and Pip fans, I bring you good news.

The first piece of good news is that the track’s going to come out as a 7 inch and download on Lex Records in April. I heard that last night when the pair were interviewed in the Xfm studio by John Kennedy. The second is that in that same studio, they performed some live tunes. I don’t think I heard all of them, but most crucially I was listening at the right time to record Thou Shalt Always Kill. So now you can download away while you wait for the single to come out.

The other good thing is that I managed to record another track as well. It’s called The Beat That My Heart Skipped (also the title of a great French movie – go see!), and is so new that Dan le Sac hadn’t even heard Scroob’s vocals which he did over Dan’s backing track. Do I need to say that it’s pretty ace too?

Download: Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill (live on Xfm)
Download: Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip – The Beat That My Heart Skipped (live on Xfm)

Scroobius photo, naturally, from Music Like Dirt’s Flickr.

Update: The nice people from Lex have asked me to put up a link to where you can download the single. Only too happy to oblige - it's out this week (week beginning 2 April) so go here to get the original version of Thou Shalt... and some other tracks as well. You know it makes sense.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My favourite 45

I've taken a while this year to get my act together and contributing to the Contrast Podcast. So for the first time since Christmas, I'm back on. And this week's podcast is a good one to get back on board with. The theme is My favourite 45, and it's just that. People's fave piece of 7 inch vinyl, transferred to digital.

Mine was a fairly easy choice. One of my favourite songs ever - Marlena Shaw's California Soul. I've got it on CD, but I went ahead and did the vinyl rip anyway, just to get in the spirit of things. This is a song I'll never tire of. I never fail to feel some excitement when I hear that single beat, and the strings sweep in. All the way through the glorious conclusion, it's an all-time classic. Amazing.

You can download the podcast from the Contrast Podcast website, and you can get California Soul on its own below. The great thing about this 7 inch is that the b-side is Marlena's fantastic version of Wade in the Water. See what I mean about it being my favourite 45?

Download: Marlena Shaw - California Soul
Download: Marlena Shaw - Wade in the Water

To My Boy

Unusually for this blog, I’m continuing on the electro-pop theme for a third post in a row. The next stop is Liverpool and Chesterfield two-piece To My Boy.

I’m still not totally sold on these guys to be honest. Their debut single from the end of last year, The Grid, was promising but didn’t quite deliver that sucker punch. Speaking of which, even though The Daily Growl isn’t one of these brand-new-exclusive-mp3 blogs, I’m still a sucker for an exclusive and this is one.

Hot out of the studio where they’re recording their new album with Luke Smith, ex of Clor (remember them?) comes an mp3 of a new track Eliminate, which is quite good. You can check it out below. They’re also been taking some time out from recording to mess around with other people’s records, and the fruit of one such messing session is their ‘re-scan’ (come on, what’s wrong with good old-fashioned ‘remix’?) of fellow Merseysiders The Zutons’ Why Don’t You Give Me Your Love? Now this is probably the most interesting of the To My Boy products that I’ve been sent lately. Imagine if Digitalism deigned to sully their hands with some MOR-pop, and you'll get an idea. I guess time will tell of the quality of the rest of TMB’s output, but here’s hoping for some great stuff.

Download: To My Boy – The Grid
Download: To My Boy – Eliminate
Download: The Zutons – Why Don’t You Give Me Your Love To My Boy Rescan

Apparently the 7 inch of The Grid has sold out. You can buy the CD single, but they're not much fun, are they?

Theoretical Girl

What is it with Southend these days? There seems to be a stream (OK, maybe a trickle) of artists making their way out of the town better known for faded seaside grandeur and chavs. I’ve been there once, and funnily enough the town centre is the mental image I have when I hear radio news reports about binge drinking, boyracing and general anti-social behaviour. If you’re from Southend, I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I can do much about it. The image is well-lodged now.

Anyway. Theoretical Girl is probably the best out of these Essex seaside artists I’ve heard. She edges past Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly (Hmmm) and cruises past The Horrors (ugh!) in my preferences. Not that these people share much in the way of musical DNA. Theoretical Girl does a very nice line in electro-pop of the Human League variety. I was listening to tunes on her two myspaces (she has just so many songs to post!) today and I was thinking that there were essentially two types of songs – the more up-tempo rockin’ ones, and the more downbeat melodic ones. And you know what? That’s exactly what she said herself in this interview with This is Fake DIY. Expect she calls them “dark and dancey with scratchy distorted guitar” and “more gentle, melodic sound”. Spooky – eh?

Here’s two fine examples of both types – Red Mist - all propulsive synth riffs and a sweet vocal over the top about the madness descending (possibly), and The Good You've Done, with a lovely simple melody sung about pessimism being driven away. Check her out. I’ve no idea what her live show is like, but she’s certainly playing in a lot of places over the next few months. So we’ve no excuse.

Download: Theoretical Girl – Red Mist
Download: Theoretical Girl - The Good You've Done

Buy the Red Mist 7 inch from Rough Trade

Monday, February 05, 2007

The continuing adventures of Hot Chip

Anyone wondering what Hot Chip are up to at the moment? Well apart from escaping the British winter in Australia, confirming their Glastonbury appearance and not getting nominated for a Brit Award despite selling heaps of copies of The Warning (obviously not meat and potatoes enough for the judges), they’ve put out a sneaky 7 inch.

It’s not officially Hot Chip though. It’s a wee project called Booji Boy High. I don’t know which members of the Chip are involved in the Devo-namechecking sideline, but is that not Alexis Taylor on the vox? So what happened to his ‘folk project’ then? Anyway, it’s mighty fine stuff.

We’ve all heard the arguments about why so called ‘new rave’ isn’t really rave at all. And they’re right. But forget that for a minute, ‘cos if anything is new rave it’s Doubleshaw. Listen to these stabbing synths. The repetitive vocal. This is the sort of thing that takes an old man back. So kids, if you’re still holding your lightsticks and wearing your day-glo clothes, put down these Klaxons CDs and get this. Quick, before Rough Trade sells out of these nifty sevens!

Download: Booji Boy High – Doubleshaw

Willy Mason - on the radio and round your house

So Willy Mason’s new single Save Myself isn’t that great. A bit disappointing really, maybe because my expectations were high following his fine first album Where The Humans Eat. But thankfully all is not lost. He did a live session for KCRW last April, playing nine songs, most of which were new ones (or at least new to me). And these bode a lot better for his new record If the Ocean Gets Rough than Save Myself does. I got these mp3s off some website last year which I’ve totally forgotten now, so sorry for not giving the credit where it’s due – let me know if you ripped these.

The studio session had Willy’s friend Nina Violet accompanying him on violin and backing vocals, to lovely effect. She even got the chance to sing one of the songs, which may be a Mason song, or may be one of her own (she has a band called Nina Violet and the Invisible Orchestra). Actually, it's not entirely clear what some of these tracks are called, so you've got my best guesses. Feel free to correct me.

These tracks also include Willy’s acoustic cover of Grandmaster Flash’s The Message, which is a fantastic version and went down well on this blog last year. So it’s being reposted now in its original context.

Download: Willy Mason – The World That I Wanted
Download: Willy Mason – Feel No Pain
Download: Willy Mason – So Long
Download: Willy Mason – We Can Be Strong
Download: Willy Mason – Gotta Keep Walking
Download: Willy Mason – Dream On
Download: Willy Mason – Let the Beast Keep Sleeping On
Download: Willy Mason – The Message
Download: Willy Mason – In The Darkness (Nina Violet)

Pre-order If the Ocean Gets Rough.

The pic above is taken from a gallery of photos of a Willy Mason gig the other day, in some hut out in the wilds of Yorkshire. This may or may not have been part of Willy’s current UK tour of people’s houses. Honest – he’s accepted applications for ‘house concerts’ and is now making his way round homes in various national outposts like Crawley! Anyone got him to come round their gaff in London? I’d be keen to know. As would no doubt many others.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Fireworks Night

I was always going to give Fireworks Night a decent chance. They’ve played with Emmy the Great, and count other Daily Growl faves Noah and the Whale and Johnny Flynn among their myspace friends. So a positive impression from the start. And I’m pleased to say that they sound good too.

The band have been going since 2003, when James Lesslie and Ricky M got some friends together to record their first album It’s a Wide, Wide Sea in a garage in Devon. This album was initially self-released and distributed, until Organ Grinder Records (also home to The Mules) picked it up and released it in 2006. They recorded the follow-up As Fools We Are in 2005, which is due for release on Kartel Records soon. Actually, instead of me continuing to crib from their Organ Grinder artist page, why don’t you read more over there?

So – the music. It’s pleasingly nocturnal chamber pop, with folky melodies, nicely judged strings, and lovely harmonies They come on a bit like a more stripped-down Tindersticks, though I as I listened to their tracks, I kept thinking of Lincoln – Fireworks Night are less country, but their noir-ish sweep and the boy-girl vocals remind me of Stoke Newington’s great lost band. However, there some are surprises in store. In particular, Echo’s Swing has a fantastic post-rock style build-up towards the end, giving an epic edge to their otherwise fragile tunes.

Here’s a couple of tracks from the first album:

Download: Fireworks Night – Down to the Lake
Download: Fireworks Night – Long Time Healing

There are more downloads on their Organ Grinder web page, and newer stuff on their myspace.

If you’re in London and reading this on Friday, Fireworks Night are playing at Bush Hall tonight. Look- they got a feature in Time Out for this gig! I can’t imagine a better venue than this old Edwardian music hall for their music. Unfortunately I can’t make it tonight, but hope to catch them soon. In the meantime I can watch this video of them performing Down to the Lake at the Union Chapel late last year. There is a bit of a delay, but hope you enjoy it too.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Arcade Fire @ St John's - day three

Another day, another Arcade Fire review. This one not so positive. It comes from my friend David, wasn't so impressed by the gig. Not doubt there will be naysayers. Here's a quote:

"Only when they played numbers like Tunnels or Rebellion did we see a hint of the former energy and coherence. I hope they weren’t just being nostalgic and that there is better to come."

The rest of his gig review is at his blog - Henningham Family Press.

Photo of Wednesday's show taken from ilikegigs. There are loads more where this came from.

Download: Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies)

Best of January

The first of the year. On the first of Feb. A quick round-up of some of my choices of stuff that was new and about in January.

Album of the month

Serious Times - various artists

I've already waxed lyrical about how great this album is. Check here for my breathless review. It's also given me my song of the month - Turbulence's amazing tale of rude boy redemption - Notorious. Sizzling hot production and a great tune. What more could you ask for in a not-so-cold January than a taste of Jamaican sunshine!

Download: Turbulence - Notorious

Songs of the month

Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill

The other big stunner of the month. An absolute killer track - simple bouncy electro with Pip chucking out killer one-liners over the top. There's just so much here to amuse. My current favourite "Guns, bitches and bling are not one of the four elements and never will be". Unfortunately I obtained this track, promising I wouldn't post it, so no mp3 I'm afraid - go to their myspace to listen. And wait for the release. It's going to be huge!

Check Music Like Dirt for more on le Sac and Pip.

Tap Tap - To Our Continuing Friendship

I'm still not totally sure about the consistency of Tap Tap's touted-by-some album Lanzafame, but I'm pretty convinced of the greatness of this cracking little piece of ramshackle lo-fi indie pop, which bubbles along, propelled by its sprightly chorus for less than two and a half glorious mintues.

Pop Levi - Sugar Assault Me Now

An ace fuzzy bass riffin', glammed up West Cost pop from Pop Levi. I wrote a review of this for The Downloader.

Lucky Soul - Ain't Never Been Cool

They're right. Lucky Soul may never be cool. Especially since they're unlikely to be part of a scene. Especially one with 'new' or 'nu' attached to its name. Maybe we should invent a new retro soul pop scene. For that is what they are. They could be its leading lights. And deservedly famous. In the meantime, I'll keep buying their cute 7 inches and savouring their perky delights.

Husky Rescue - Nightless Night

More sprightly pop. This time Finnish exports Husky Rescue get their usually downbeat dusty charms get a synthy makeover, to fine effect. I did a Downloader review of this one too.