A Post Tangentially Related To Work

Chatting with Barney at work t’other day, we got talking about funny phrases. For some reason, “Sonic Cathedrals Of Sound” got mentioned, and we discussed who invented it. As we couldn’t decide – in-joke of NME (my thought) or someone on the Steve Wright Show (his) – a quick Google was attempted.1

Which led me to the discovery, that the first site that comes up on a Google search for “Sonic Cathedrals Of Sound”, was my site. Me! My site! Blimey.

Ok, I don’t do that very often. I’m the kind of person that writes a blog in the vain hope that about 10 people read it, and one person likes what they read (aside from me)2. But the fact that, of all the sites in the world, that simple search should walk into my site gives me a lovely feeling of satisfaction. All these hours of writing, all that neurotic worry, all that fretting about my syntax and trying to write something interesting….bollocks to all that. I’ve arrived.

In honour of this momentous occasion, here’s one of the bands that started the whole Sonic Cathedrals Of Sound thing. No, not Cocteau Twins, but My Bloody Valentine, who I’ve often mentioned but never posted. Funnily enough, I’m finding I like MBV more and more as I get older; one of those bands I was a bit snooty about in my earlier days, but now rather like.

Go knock your ears off in the Sonic Cathedral Of Sound with this beauty.

1 Indeed, it was The Pretentious Music Journalist character, found from here.

2 Because if I was you wouldn’t be able to move for The Xx remixes, mashups and the like. I love The Xx, but you know….what’s wrong with the original tracks?

MP3: Only Shallow by My Bloody Valentine

Buy “Loveless (Re-mastered By Kevin Shields) (2CD/MP3)”

A Work Post (Of Which There May Be More)

Wandering into The Boss’s office fairly early a few days ago to discuss something or other, I was struck by some music playing from his PC. “What’s this?” I asked of him. “It’s Icelandic”, he replied. “Oh, is it Ólöf Arnalds, by any chance?”. “Yes, how did you know?”.

Well, because I’m a fan, of sorts. At least I quite enjoyed her last album and had never got round to listening to the new one, entitled “Innundir Skinni”. No, me neither. So finding The Boss listening to her – a man who I’d never guessed would be listening to semi-obscure Icelandic artists – was a bit of a surprise, and a pleasant one. Having had a good listen we had a bit of a chat, and he mentioned how the title track had completely entranced him. No shock there; the song is frankly gorgeous. The rest of the album is good, too – having more of a band has helped her move on from “Við Og Við”.

Of course, her voice does take a little getting used to, but if you’re not scared of the likes of Joanna Newsom or Bjork (who features on the album, natch), you’ll find precious little need to acclimatise to her somewhat more gentle tones. Lovely, crystal-clear music, perfect for these shortening and coldening days, perfect for warming chilly toes and colder hearts.

A firm recommendation, then. From me, and The Boss.

MP3: Innundir Skinni by Olof Arnalds

Buy “Innundir Skinni” (CD)

Bad Band Names Part 26

Naming your new band is one of the most difficult things to get done. Sure, getting a drummer who is not a latent psychopath intent on imbibing anything that will take him to whole new vast universes of inebriation is tough, but still nowhere near as hard as finding a name that’s original, memorable, or just acceptable. If you’ve got a great name, like Sufjan Stevens, or have a moment of genius and call yourself Mastodon, then you’re sorted, but some recent names, like Tame Impala or Wavves, are just plain rubbish.

So along come Yuck to join The Morning Benders and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in the recent pantheon of Crap Band Names. Not that they will care, of course, being as they are about 121. To say there’s been a renewal of interest in late ’80’s/early ’90’s shoegazey, grungey music would be understating it somewhat, and for me, listening to new bands is like wandering into the Student Union at Newcastle Poly on a cold evening in 1991.

And so it is with Yuck. I must say I rather like the track I’m posting here, “Georgia” (otherwise I wouldn’t be posting it), all fuzz and melody and yearning. The band definitely have some talent, and the UK hype scene, including live review from Alexis Petridis, is rumbling ominously. You may well be hearing lots more about Yuck, dodgy name or no.

New single “Rubber” is out on the 26th October.

1 This being, of course, an exaggeration. They are 13.

MP3: Georgia by Yuck

3am Music

I was having a chat to a lovely work friend today about The Xx. When I’d suggested them to her last year, she wasn’t keen, being even more of a guitar/bass/drums person than I am. Eventually she relented and has been enjoying it; one of the things that struck her was the late night feel of their songs. That 3am feeling, when all is dark and quiet outside and the music can fully envelop you like a warm and cosy duvet, and see you through that long, long night.

You know, like Portishead, or Tindersticks. Elliott Smith, maybe. Which brings me onto Lucy Jane. A singer-songwriter1 hailing from the North (of England, for you Americans out there), she trades in a smooshed drum and tinkled piano vibe that quite suits sitting up with a friend, drunk, at 3am in the morning, at which point you realise you’ve filled another ashtray and really, really should be going to bed. Except you can’t, because you want to listen to her singing again.

Open? Closed? Only One Way To Sort This Out - FIGHT!

For her voice is a thing of smokey, lovelorn grandeur. If she chose to sing a duet with Stuart Staples, all the romantics in the world would just melt into nothingness with joy. The backing is beautifully judged, delicate and graceful, with just enough clarity to make things interesting.

I’m very much looking forward to the album, ‘The Quicker We Walk, The Faster It Moves Away’, which is out sometime soon. The perfect music for your next late night whiskey, cigs and tears session. Listen to the tracks below and see if I’m wrong.

Mermaid by Lucy Jane by astrogarage

See? Not wrong, am I?

Note: this is a sort-of ongoing series of bands you’ve never heard of, but really should. See Paul Thomas Saunders, Bright Spark Destroyer and Bullets In Madison. Those three really should be topping “Best New Band” lists at the end of the year, but no fucker’s heard of them. But you should.

1 I have to suppress the Child Of The Punk Wars part of me when writing that, as it threatens to crawl up from the pit of my belly and strange me with my oesophagus. The Punk Wars are over, dammit! I like Dylan now! I play a fucking acoustic guitar!

The Wrong Beer

Maybe, when I was first thinking up a name for this blog, I should have just gone for “Look, I’ve Been Busy, Ok?”. This week has been a combination of football, laughing about the football, drinking, feeling horrendously hungover from drinking, laughing about feeling horrendously hungover from drinking, and then trying to sleep. Sweet, sweet sleep.

Which is in no way a good preparation for sitting down and writing1. Sure, I did put together 300 words on How Metallica Are A Bunch Of Whining Pussies on Wednesday night whilst under the influence of Old McSouse’s Fizzy Seven-Percent Temporary Inhibition Reducer, but I haven’t dared to go back to see what I wrote. Back in the day, I was a bit of a Ranter, and though I’ve tried to curb that side of my personality, it does sweep back into view after a few.

So anyway, I’m going to try and get some posts out this week. I have an inbox filled with suggestions, and some of them are damn fine too.

First off, The Twilight Sad have been a favourite of mine since their debut “Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters”. Follow-up “Forget The Night Ahead” hasn’t quite been a success (despite my initial positive thoughts), and whilst some of the standout tracks are superb, the record as a whole is distinctly sludgy and doesn’t have that clarity of rage that made “Fourteen Autumns” such a standout.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Seems like the band themselves haven’t been too happy with it either. They’ve lost their bassist, and on their recent tour have only been playing a handful of tracks from it. Now they have a new EP out, named “The Wrong Car”, and thankfully this looks backward as much as forward. Opener “The Wrong Car” is unmistakeably The Sad (as only I call them); all churning rage and burning ferocity and noise, thwacking great balls of noise that roll down the mountainside and thump you upside your skull. “Throw Yourself In The Water Again” takes up the “Scottish Bands Using Water As A Metaphor For Being A Bit Narked Off” meme which has been mined so effectively by Frightened Rabbit over the past few years, gives it a good kicking and then takes it drinking to make up for it.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/15198465

The Twilight Sad – I Became a Prostitute (Acoustic) from FatCat Records on Vimeo.

The acoustic versions doing the rounds are pretty decent too, so get the MP3 version of the EP if you want to give them a try. In any case, it’s good to see they’ve got lots more tracks in the bag and are working on a third LP. Whilst the last one may have been a slight mis-step, “The Wrong Car” shows they are firing on all cylinders, that they are in top gear, and they’re going in the right direction. Boom, boom.

Wonder what they’d be like if they cheered up a bit?

Buy The Wrong Car here (CD/MP3).

1 Anyone who says “Never did Hemingway and Hunter S Thompson any harm, did it?” can do one, and do one right now.

MP3: The Wrong Car by The Twilight Sad

MP3: I Became a Prostitute by The Twilight Sad

Solomon Burke RIP

Solomon Burke, one of the finest ever gospel and soul singers, passed away today. Possessed with a roaring, emotional voice that filled whatever venue he was in, from churches to enormous concert halls, he was a huge character, who influenced and played with everyone from Bob Dylan through Rolling Stone to pretty much any soul and R&B singer you can think of.

The Man

He had a throne, too. And 21 kids. He’ll be sadly missed.

MP3: Don’t Give Up On Me by Solomon Burke

The Amazon Solomon Burke Store

Does He Love You?

I can be a right old soppy bugger sometimes. Being reminded of Jenny Lewis’s old band Rilo Kiley one evening last week, I decided to give the opening few tracks of More Adventurous a try on yesterday’s Tube ride to work. And within about three minutes of “Does He Love You?” I was nearly sobbing. Nearly, I said, honestly, what do you take me for?

This tale of friendship, love, and something else entirely may be a cheap shot, but the delivery of the shock is devastating, the song’s crescendo filled out with strings smoothing out the jagged guitar chords and tumbling drums. Rilo Kiley have often been criticised for being a touch too calculating, but when they get it right – such as on this track and “Portions For Foxes”1 – they hit the power-pop button better than anyone else out there.

Go on, treat yourself to a little cry.

1 Which will most definitely be on a Pitchfork 500 Missing List.

MP3: Does He Love You? by Rilo Kiley

Buy “More Adventurous” (CD)

Iron and Wine, Union Chapel

Some people are just ludicrously talented. They could come out with a ukelele and a kazoo and subject us to a rendition of Incey Wincey Spider and it would sound amazing. Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam is one of those people. Strolling out onto the stage of London’s wonderful Union Chapel, beard respendant, he began his acoustic set with an acapella rendition of “Flightless Bird, American Mouth”. The only sound from the crowd was that of about 800 jaws hitting the ground simultaneously.

To start with a song that requires the full use of his fine, pure falsetto, with no guitar (there is the possibility that the sound man had fallen asleep), would be a dreadful mistake in some other people’s hands. Not our Sam. Magical doesn’t quite cover it. To then follow it up with a rendition of “The Trapeze Swinger” – all nine minutes of it – just goes to show the confidence this man has.

After this, he was joined by his multi-instrumentalist friend, whose name I think may have been Rob. Or Rich. What do you want, for me to take notes? This gentleman showed he knew his way round a piano, and his medieval Rick Wakeman impersonation, playing piano and harmonium simultaneously, was a sight to behold.

The setlist was garnered mainly from The Shepherds Dog, with a few tracks from predecessor Our Endless Numbered Days, a couple of new tracks from the forthcoming album, plus some odds and sods. Songs from The Shepherds Dog stand out the most; as even the album’s simpler tracks like “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” feature banjos, glockenspiel, a flute, a sybarytic dwarf playing an ocelot and other such alt-Folk fancies, hearing stripped-down versions brings out the underlying strength of the songs.

Of course, for those of us who are bigger fans of the stripped-down, acoustic versions1, this wasn’t a surprise, though the lack of shock value didn’t detract from the sheer thrill of seeing naked versions of the songs performed live (not played naked, thankfully). The only disappointment was not hearing crowd-pleasers like “Lovesong of the Buzzard” played alongside “Peace Beneath The City” and “Naked As We Came”.

Sam The Man

Sam himself is full of Southern gentility and humility. The rapt adoration shown to him by the crowd in the packed out Union Chapel couldn’t be destroyed if he came out wearing a T-Shirt emblazoned with “I HATE LONDON” (with “LDN GAY 4 DUBYA” on the back) and proceeded to urinate on the front couple of rows. He clearly loves being onstage and tries hard to make sure we’re happy too – and believe me, not all musicians are like this. Closing with a cover of “Johnny Too Bad”, featuring support act The Low Anthem crooning beautifully in the background, and the single encore leaving us baying for more, before we all trotted off into the rain.

So, a fine evening at a great venue watching a superb musician doing his stuff. What a venue. What a guy.

1 Discussed at length here.

MP3: Naked As We Came by Iron And Wine

MP3: Flightless Bird, American Mouth (Acoustic) by Iron and Wine

Buy “The Shepherd’s Dog” (CD/MP3)

Rain and Dead Pigeons

It rained last night, although “rain” isn’t really the right word. A thundering torrent of water, bucketing down by the cubic kilometre, as though the gods had scooped up a fair portion of the eastern Atlantic and dumped it directly onto my part of London. The kind of rain to which a second’s exposure would leave you as helpless and shivering as a newborn foal. The kind of rain that made it tough to watch the movie thanks to the noise of the coin-sized drops clattering on the windows (“Sunset Boulevard”, since you ask).

And what’s more, the rain left behind a gift. Not puddles or a flood, but a dead bird on the roof, just out of reach, which will need to be poked and coaxed to fall two floors onto hard paving stone in a crack and a splat. That’s going to be fun to clear up.

In light of all this, the only viable option is to play some old, joyous music. The kind of song that drank from the well of blues and rock and roll and inhaled a magic elixir to send it spinning into the infinite ether of Goddamn fine music.

Take it away, Bo.

MP3: Heart-O-Matic Love by Bo Diddley

The Bo Diddley Store

Note: Why the hell is it nearly impossible to buy this guy’s early recordings? Given that they are 50+ years old now, you’d think someone would package them up and sell them at a decent price, rather than the ridiculous £40 being asked. Crazy. And what’s with the 5,000 copy limited editions? And the record industry wonders why everyone’s downloading now. We’re the consumers, remember? Sell us what we want at a reasonable price and we’ll buy it.

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