Thursday, July 31, 2008

The New Young Republic

Let’s continue with some more recent favourites…

It was inevitable really. When the initial line-ups for the End of the Road Festival were announced, The Young Republic were conspicuous by their absence. Surely EOTR would have a place for the main band on their End of the Road Records label? They went down pretty well at last year’s festival, so it would be daft not to.

Then reliably enough, once the final line-up was announced, there they were – the finest Nashville-dwelling ex-Boston band was slotted onto the main stage in the middle of Saturday. Nice.

This also means that they’re coming back over for a few UK dates in September (some of these on the myspace now). But it’s a slightly different band to the one we saw and loved last year. The former 8-piece have been slimmed down to a six-some as a result of some fairly rocky times earlier in the year. It seems that the move from Boston to Nashville last year didn’t suit everyone, and that plus no doubt other factors led to three members leaving, resulting in the five of Julian, Kristin, Bob, Nate and Chris in the photo above. Since that was taken, they’ve added one Dusty Jensen on drums to the line-up and that’ll be The Young Republic we’ll see in September.

There’s more good news in the shape of a new YR record. There’s a new 6-track EP Idiot Grin, named after the lead track, out on EOTR records around the time of the festival (I think). And that’s not all. In addition to their own songs, the band have been knocking out a regular run of covers, which have been freely available at their myspace. They’ve already tackled some of the greats (and personal band faves) – Dylan’s Isis, Neil Young’s Comes a Time and Tom Waits’ Tango ‘Til They’re Sore and the latest installment is their take on Television’s See No Evil. All decent versions, despite the weight of the originals. They can hold their heads up high. Here are the tunes.

mp3: The Young Republic – Isis
mp3: The Young Republic – Comes a Time
mp3: The Young Republic – Tango ‘Til They’re Sore
mp3: The Young Republic – See No Evil

You can still buy TYR’s fine UK debut 12 Tales from Winter City album from Rough Trade (on vinyl too!).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Back with the old

So I'm back. I'm not going to apologise for not updating the blog for the past three and a bit weeks, because that was my intention. I wanted to take some time away from The Daily Growl, to avoid the self-imposed tyranny of daily updating, to take some 'blogging time' to do other stuff I need to do, and (something I've wanted to do for ages) to re-design The Daily Growl, including moving from Blogger to a self-hosted Wordpress blog. Needless to say none of that has happened. I've spent time fannying about, and found the Wordpress set-up process horrendously complicated. So much for their 'famous 5-minute installation'. More like 5 days. I'm going to have this as a much longer-term project, and be content in the meantime with a re-jigged Blogger template. Let me know what you think.

Anyway, in the time I've been away, I haven't been listening to very much new music. The promo CDs and mp3s have been piling up, and all I've wanted to listen to is old stuff. So I've been spending time with...

Some old Gospel:

A bit of Sister Rosetta Tharpe

mp3: Sister Rosetta Tharpe - This Train

a load of Washington Phillips

mp3: Washington Phillips - Take Your Burden to the Lord and Leave it There

A heap of Dennis Wilson

mp3: Dennis Wilson - River Song

But most of all - by a long way - Tom Waits. It's incredible to think that it's only just over a month since I started listening to this all-time great. I can't believe I never listened to him much before, but in the past few weeks, his songs have been on constant rotation on all my listening devices. Some proof of this can be found at my where Tom has come from nowhere to near the top of my artists charts, but that's only half the story. I'm enthralled, amazed and delighted every time I hear one of his albums. The only problem I've had is discovering his greatness at the same time as his only UK shows for another five years or so. People like this really make me jealous! Anyway, here are some tunes and I'll no doubt return to new music sometime soon.

mp3: Tom Waits - Singapore
mp3: Tom Waits - Earth Died Screaming

Friday, July 04, 2008

2008: mid-term report

It's now four days into July (hey, happy Independence Day Americans!), but here, slightly later than most other people, are the results of me casting my eye over the music of the year so far. It's been a good, if not remarkable year of music so far. Nothing really standing out over the others as being the album of the (half) year. But there's another five months to go. We'll see.


Top-tenular style of course:

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Wildbirds & Peacedrums - Heartcore
Johnny Flynn - A Larum
White Williams - Smoke
The Wave Pictures - Instant Coffee Baby
Islands - Arm's Way
Things in Herds - Nothing is Lost
Zombie Zombie - A Land for Renegades
Neon Neon - Stainless Style
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

There are no numbers because it's not in order. I don't have one. Though if I was forced to choose, I think I'd go for Things in Herds. Like I said at the time, it's impossibly beautiful.


Always harder to do, but there has been some solid gold this year. Here are a few of my favourites. Again, no order. A few select mp3s too.

Esser - I Love You
Jeremy Warmsley - The Boat Song (mp3)
Neon Neon - I Lust U (mp3)
Mystery Jets - Two Doors Down
No Age - Eraser (mp3)
Findo Gask - Va Va Va (mp3)
Thao - Feet Asleep
Lightspeed Champion - Tell Me What it's Worth
Broken Records - If the News Makes You Sad, Don't Watch it
The Mae Shi - Lamb and Lion
The Cave Singers - Dancing on Your Graves
Modernaire - Taste
The Bookhouse Boys - Dead
Stricken City - Tak o Tak (click back here for mp3)
Norman Blake - Baby Lee (click back here for mp3)
Hercules & Love Affair - Blind

So there you go. Will be interesting to see how these all play out in the end of year list. It's also an appropriate place to leave things off here for a while. Nothing major - just a few weeks off for holidays and other stuff. I'll be back by the end of the month, hopefully with a refreshed Daily Growl. Have a good July...

Let's get cool in the pool

As my last post may suggest, I've been listening to a bit of High Places this week. The bonus has been that every time the end of Canary plays out, my iTunes here at work slips right into Cool in the Pool by Holger Czukay. It's become a much welcome treat in all it's oddball glory, with squeaky voices, rolling grooves and comedy Balearic twanging all adding to the appeal. Although, in this hot weather, it does highlight the need for a pool to get cool in - a scarce resource in central London unless you're a millionaire. Oh well, there's always London Fields Lido.

Download: Holger Czukay - Cool in the Pool

Download the rest of the album Movies from emusic. Believe me, it's worth it.

Photo from Bert#'s Flickr.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

High Places / Telepathe / Mirror Mirror

Because I don’t get out to so many gigs these days, it’s over a year now since I've been to an Upset! The Rhythm show. That’s a great shame, because their gigs are always ace. But I still check the website to see who they’re putting on, and have a listen to the bands. Most of them I haven’t heard of before and almost all of them are worth checking out.

Last month they put on a show by High Places and Telepathe. After some quick Googling and downloading, here’s what I found.

High Places are Mary Pearson and Robert Barber from Brooklyn. If I were being very lazy I would say ‘a bit Animal Collective’, and although that’s not quite accurate, they do share something of a kindred spirit with the other more famous Brooklyn band. They’ve got a very nice line in glitchy, burbling electronic backing on which they lay some lovely meandering tunes, some of which could even be described as pop. The tracks, most of them pretty short all blend together nicely, making the album 03/07 – 09/07 (guess when the songs were recorded?) a pleasing and continuously woozy listening experience. One for languid summer evenings I think.

Download: High Places - Canary

The sound of Telepathe isn’t a million miles away from High Places, just as their place of abode isn’t (Brooklyn too, natch). They have a similar aesthetic – electronica with tunes on top, but Telepathe are a bit more dancefloor friendly, particularly with their remixes. The name’s pronounced Te-le-path-ee apparently and I also hear that they’ve been working with David Sitek on some new material. That’s bound to be interesting at least, most likely great.

Download: Telepathe – Sinister Militia

And as a bonus extra we also have Mirror Mirror, the project of Telepathe’s Ryan Lucero, who have just released a 7 inch single on the increasingly reliable Half Machine Records. It’s a less electronic affair, with some gorgeous vocals and harmonies, echoey effects and a slightly spooky feel. Quite lovely.

Download: Mirror Mirror – New Horizons

Download High Places' o3/07 - 09/07 from emusic. They have a new 7 inch out on Upset The Rhythm records - buy it direct from UTR. Download Telepathe stuff from emusic as well. Order the Mirror Mirror 7 inch from Half Machine records.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Jay Jay Pistolet

I thought that my recent post on Mumford and Sons was a fairly minor affair, but it turned out to be one of the most popular for a while. Certainly one of the most commented on. One of these comments came from a shadowy figure called Neil who complimented the post, but then commanded me to write about Jay Jay Pistolet. Well, erm…OK sir. The thing is, I’ve been intending to write about JJP for a while after hearing him play a live session on Marc Riley’s old 6Music show at the end of last year. I recorded the songs but have never got round to editing them, and since they’re on my old computer, I’m not sure when my tardiness will allow them to see the light of day. But thanks to Neil, I now have a bundle of songs on my computer which I have been enjoying lately.

So, Jay Jay Pistolet is Justin Hayward-Young from Hampshire, now resident in South West London. In the 6 Music interview I seem to remember he mentioned some other musicians that he lived with, whom I had never heard of at the time, but thanks to Neil I now know that one of these housemates is Marcus Mumford. He may or may not have tried to form a band called The Pistolets, before staying solo with a double prefix.

He comes across like a sort of English troubadour, a sort of young home counties M Ward, blending classic British and American folk music with relative ease. In that way he’s similar to Johnny Flynn, but there’s less of the violin-led hoedowns going on. The songs I have seem to be mainly demos, since JJP has only released one single so far – We Are Free on Chess Club Records last November. Although he seems to have amassed a lot of songs, he’s not ready to record his debut album yet. According to this interview, he’s “really keen for my first album to be great and I just don't think it would be if I was to record it any time soon!” This perfectionism extends to him dissing his own single in a recent myspace blog “I'm pretty ashamed of my songwriting on the 'we are free' single” he says, though he seems confident enough of other material to want to release an EP "in the coming months".

I await that with interest. On the strength of the material that I’ve heard he’s got nothing to worry about – even with We Are Free. He’s one of these songwriters who wields an acoustic guitar and treads a similar path to many, many more, but has that something special, that particular way with words and tunes which elevates him above the rest. In JJP’s case, pretty far above.

Download: Jay Jay Pistolet – We Are Free
Download: Jay Jay Pistolet – Let Them Grow
Download: Jay Jay Pistolet – Friend We Weren’t Even Lovers

So until I dig these BBC session tunes out, here are some of Neil’s tracks. Still, I guess it just gives me an excuse to do another Pistolet Post sometime soon. Good.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A kick in the teeth is good for some

Every morning I come into work, fire up my computer and listen to this song. I hear the steady build-up, the ace fuzzy guitar solo and most of all Florence's amazing voice. It's all over in two minutes of pop perfection. Then I'm ready to face the day. I can take on anything. Almost.

Buy the 7 inch from Moshi Moshi.

Bodies of Water - A Certain Feeling

Another thing that I picked up at Pure Groove the other week was the new Bodies of Water album. It’s not officially out until 22 July, but they’ve bagged some advance copies for sale (signed too, natch). Since having my pants charmed off by their wonderful debut Ears Will Pop and Eyes Will Blink last year, I was obviously keen to hear what the new stuff sounds like.

There’s a definite progression, which although necessary isn’t always a good thing. The reason I loved Ears Will Pop… was the sheer wide-eyed, almost na├»ve, joy of it all. The massed vocals and harmonies; and the perfect combination of intensity with the knack of a perfect pop tune totally nailed it for me last time. On A Certain Feeling these features are still there, but it’s less rough and ready, which was part of the appeal of its predecessor. It just feels a bit more slick and produced.

But this is a bit too churlish. Perhaps I complain too much, and give the impression that I don’t like A Certain Feeling. It’s still a great album, and will be better than most other stuff released this year. The vocals, harmonies, and the tunes still sparkle. They’ve got more horns, driving rhythm (Water Here), proggy ballad stylings (Keep Me On) and a definite tipping towards classic 70s rock. The euphoria is still there too (see especially Darling, Be Here). It’s all round a bit meatier, a bit more rocking, which is all fine really. So no damning with faint praise – this is an album which seems to get better and better as it progresses, and although tuneful, still improves with repeated listens.

In fact, the main feeling of lack that I get is imagining how amazing it might sound live, and then realising that Bodies of Water have never played over here and seem to have no plans to do so in the near future. So go on – fix up some dates. Please. I’d be very happy.

Download: Bodies of Water – Under The Pines
Download: Bodies of Water – Darling, Be Here

Buy A Certain Feeling from Pure Groove.