Review of 2013 (Part One)

Funny old year. To be quite frank, there’s not been a single outstanding album of the year, just a bunch of good albums I’ve enjoyed. Nothing’s massively stood out from the pack, and it says something that much of the music I’ve listened to this year isn’t from this year.

This is probably for three reasons. One, I’m getting older, and simply don’t have the inclination to seek out new music which, by and large, is either overhyped or just not as good as what’s come before. Two, now that Popular Music has been around for about sixty-something years (let’s not get into how old jazz and blues are; this ain’t a jazz or blues blog), pretty much anything released now has to be viewed in a sixty-year history of music. Tough to make something great that’s not been heard a billion times before. Third, I’m lazy.

Very, very lazy.

Here’s some albums.

Best Album By The Miserable Scots

Runners Up

Mogwai – Les Revenants

Not a great Mogwai album, but a good one.

  • Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

    Not a great Frightened Rabbit album, but a good one. You can see where this is all going, can’t you?

    https://soundcloud.com/frightened-rabbit/the-woodpile-frightened-rabbit


  • Winner

    RM Hubbert – Breaks and Bone

    In which our charming friend finds his voice, and you know what? It’s pretty damned good. Let’s hope he’s right and that he’s worked through his issues on his first three albums, and now he can go and make the superb album that’s certainly in him.

  • Best Fingerstyle Americana Instrumental Guitar Whatsit Album

    Joint Winners:

    William Tyler – Impossible Truth

    I once got drunk with William Tyler, many years ago. Lovely chap, far too modest for his own good, and it’s great seeing him step out from under the Lambchop banner to make a record of luminous beauty.

  • Glenn Jones – My Garden State

    A deeply personal record about leaving home, and returning, and what home really means. This is an instrumental album.

  • The Elliott Smith Award For Beatles-Tinged Singer-Songwritering

    Runner Up

    Josh Rouse – The Happiness Waltz

    Perfect for those darkening autumn evenings. As ever, gently soothing.

    Winner

    Harper Simon – Division Street

    Meant, like many things this year, to post about this album, but never did. By rights, this should have been terrible – famous dad, hugely influenced by the joint greatest singer-songwriter of his generation1 – but turns out to be a great listen. He could really do with finding is own voice rather than just making a very good Elliott Smith pastiche though.

  • The Best Song Titles In Post-Rock-Jazz-Noise, Often Involving Jim O’Rourke

    Joint Winner

    David Grubbs – I Started To Live When My Barber Died

    Keiji Haino/Jim O’Rourke/Oren Ambarchi – Even That Still Here And Unwanted Can You And I Love It Just Like Us It Was Born Here Too

    Errrr, quite.

    The Mark Lanegan Growling Alcoholic Miseryguts Award For Drunken Lonesome Growling

    Runner Up

    Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood – Black Pudding

    Just too nice. There’s still a strong whiff of 3am barroom, and Lanegan is reliably growly, but this is far too pleasant to win the award. Same goes for his covers album2

  • Winner

    John Murry – The Graceless Age

    Ok, so it was originally released in 2012, but give me some leeway here. I hold no truck for grumpy sods going on about drug abuse unless it’s done exceptionally well and then I love it(see: Mark Lanegan, Elliott Smith). I come close to loving this album, and if I’d heard it in my twenties I’d have worn the record out.

  • That’s it for Part One. Please join me tomorrow for Part Two.

    1 The other being Jeff Buckley. Shame on you.

    2 Which wasn’t a patch on I’ll Take Care Of You
    .

    Come And Have Tea In My Woodpile House

    Frightened Rabbit are a band who do all the modern things very well. The band emails and diaries are funny, endearing, informational, and generally make them come across as a nice bunch of lads genuinely bemused by the success they have stumbled upon. They do small gigs in small London venues for their fans, then sell out the big venues too. They use Soundcloud well, they’ve got good PR people, and even though they have signed to a major label they don’t seem to be doing the whole heavy-handed lawyer Mugabe blog shutdown behaviour that’s so plagued US counterparts Band Of Horses.

    Which is all very nice. But of course, the main thing is the music, and again they’ve come up trumps with most recent album Pedestrian Verse1, and now EP “The Woodpile”, from which new track “Radio Silence” stems:

    The EP can be pre-ordered here. Which is nice. And there’s a rapidly selling out tour too, which is nice, too.

    MP3: Swim Until You Can’t See Land by Frightened Rabbit (any excuse to post this)

    1 Ok, so it’s no Midnight Organ Fight, but you can’t imagine that lightning would have struck twice there.

    A Mite Caledonian

    It all got a bit Scottish there for a bit. Driving back from some random pigeon shelter in Sarf Lahndan I thought I’d give Twilight Sad’s last album a bit more of a try; being something of an unsuitable record to listen to on earbuds due to the noise! the noise! and the ringing of the ears and all that. And then on my Certified Mobile Communication Device Named After A Fruit appeared a note from those charming fellas at Frightened Rabbit saying they had a new record out:

    And what a gloriously sobby thing it is too. Nice to see both bands have taken their success and used it to be even more sodding miserable. Can’t you all try go-karting or something? Life’s not that bad you know. Mind you, both the new FR track “State Hospital” and much of “No-One Will Ever Know” are quite elegaic in their being cobbed off, so maybe we shouldn’t complain.

    Anyway, Frightened Rabbit. I love them. Buy their records. And the new one too, out September 24th.

    The Work Keeps Working

    So, I’ve been b….there’s not really any point in saying it, is there? Joining me in returning from The Land Of The Otherwise Engaged are Frightened Rabbit, who have returned from their 2 year long World Tour and have punted us, dear listeners, free EP. You have to sign up to the mailing list but as their emails are some of the funniest, wittiest and genuinely pleasant promotional emails you could wish for, this is in no way a hardship.

    The songs themselves seem to have been largely written on the bus, but this is apparently no bad thing. “Scottish Winds” sounds like the kind of song that would build up in your head as you’re touring some warm, sunny country filled with happy people and a complete absence of cold, biting rain. “Fuck This Place” is a charming duet (seriously), and “The Work” reminds me of their much earlier work, and features some old feller. Called Archie. I really ought to research this a bit more, but, you know.

    Oh, just sign up and download it, will you?

    MP3: The Work by Frightened Rabbit

    Buy Frightened Rabbit Stuff Here

    Swim x63

    Dropping my kid off at school the other day, I decided on the drive home to treat myself to Frightened Rabbit’s “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”. Now, it’d been a while since I last listened to this song, which had comfortably been my favourite song of 2009. Indeed, looking back, even then I was trying to stop myself listening to it too much, worried that I’d wear the poor thing out.

    And so, listening again after many months, the hairs on my arms stood to attention and that familiar shiver passed through me. You want to know what a truly good song is? One that still gives you the chills after you’ve heard it 63 times (thanks, iTunes). The song starts with a lovely, slightly Big Country1 guitar line, Scott Hutchison’s lovely Scottish burr at the edge of the North Sea, slowly unravelling a tale of a failed love and swimming in the sea, deciding whether to end it all or not.

    As things progress, he’s joined firstly by a massed choir of voices, then swelling strings, then a horn section that would do a Philly Soul band proud. One of the great things about the song is how these fripperies don’t feel thrown on at the end, like something from a bad Verve song (or a normal Primal Scream one). They add to it immeasurably, the strings providing a perfect counter to the guitar lines, without clogging it into an indigestible mess. Saying that, even played alone on an acoustic, it still sounds great:

    I won’t even go into how finely honed the lyrics are, other than to point out how beautifully judged the opening lines build into that initial “…and swim/I swim/Oh, swim”. And then the song drives toward the first chorus, before building and building further through telling lines such as “She’s there on the shoreline throwing stones at my back” until most of the band drops out leaving Scott to sing “All I am is a body adrift in water, salt and sky”. See? I can’t stop myself.

    You can only imagine that only reason this song wasn’t a massive global Snow Patrol-style hit was thanks to the somewhat gloomy outlook on life. Not many hit songs have the refrain “Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?”, after all. But I really don’t care whether a million people have bought this, or ten. All I care about is the effect it has on me, and that is to listen to it again, and again, and again, and annoy everyone around me by asking them “Have you listened to it? Isn’t it great? Yes, I know it’s about topping yourself. I don’t care. It’s great, isn’t it? Why are you looking at me like that?”.

    Because it’s great. Truly, epically, decade-best-of-list great. If you don’t like this, you don’t like music. Why are you looking at me like that?

    1 Don’t knock ‘em.

    MP3: Swim Until You Can’t See Land by Frightened Rabbit

    (Oh, and as a quick note to anyone who sends me MP3’s. I know about this thanks to a marvellous PR person. People who write blogs do listen, they are just often rather rubbish at it, and I’m probably the worst)

    Buy “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” (CD/MP3)

    Review Of The Year – Albums, One

    2010, for me, hasn’t been a vintage year. No Yellow House, no Funeral, no You Forgot It In People, no Boxer. Some good albums, sure, but there was little that really grabbed me by the balls and forced me to listen. Here’s the first part of a three-part review of the year, with the first two featuring albums, and the last songs, gigs, and other stuff. You can sense this feeling in all those end-of-year lists that have been hosing around the web since the end of November (and, to whit, surely you should do your end of year list at the actual end of the year? No? Oh, just me, then). How many of them have actually agreed with each other on anything? Yes, you could argue that the lack of agreement between anyone this year shows a healthy and diverse musical scene, but you’d be wrong1. It just shows that no-one’s stepped up to the plate and made anything as thrilling, unusual, or just plain damn good as any of those records above.

    Out of all the records released this year, there’s been a load of records released by bands who have good form. Records that you’d expect to light up the year. But didn’t. Which leads me onto….

    The Year Of Disappointing Records By Bands Who Should Know Better

    A whole bunch of records came out this year by some of my favourite bands. From the likes of The Hold Steady and Band of Horses, through to Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens, 2010 had the chance to be a bumper year. But for some reason they all turned out to be some shade of disappointing, ranging from “could do better B-“ for Arcade Fire to “See me after D-“ for Band Of Horses. The latter compounded a poor album with the kind of heavy handed blog bullying you’d expect from Metallica or some other horrendously uncool breadheads. The Hold Steady didn’t recover from the loss of Franz Nicolay, and their bread-and-butter-rock’n’roll-with-clever-lyrics just disappointed. Broken Social Scene returned after a pair of disappointing “BSS Presents…” albums with a proper BSS album that was also disappointing. Sufjan Stevens came back with his take on Kid A – and I think about the same of it as I do Kid A. Overall, there’s lots of disappointment round here this year.

    The Almost There List (or “Runners-Up”, as more professional blogs may have called them)

    For each of the bands who have been plain disappointing this year, there’s also been a bunch who have released new records that haven’t quite hit the heights of their previous records, but are still pretty good.

    The National – High Violet

    So near, and yet so far. “Boxer” was enthralling and essential. “High Violet” is sporadically fantastic (“Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”), but never quite reaches the peaks of “Boxer”. It’s a very good album, but not quite as good as you, I, and possibly the band themselves, know they can do better.

    MP3: Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National

    Amazon’s The National Store

    Frightened Rabbit – The Winter Of Mixed Drinks

    So near, and yet so far. Etc. “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” burst in at the end of 2009 and nailed it as my favourite song of the year; I had high hopes for the album, especially after obsessing over the joyously glum Midnight Organ Fight. Nothing on it even comes close to matching “Swim”, sadly, so there’s a faint air of failure around this. Still good though, and well worth it if you’ve worn out your copy of Midnight Organ Fight.

    MP3: Swim Until You Can’t See Land by Frightened Rabbit

    Amazon’s Frightened Rabbit Store

    Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

    Or “How to grow old disgracefully”. If only other bands could reunite and make themselves as vital, as thrilling, and as plain cantankerous as this. See, The Pixies? This is how it’s done.

    MP3: Jim by Swans

    Amazon’s Swans Store (yes, really)

    Spoon – Transference

    Still not sure about this lot, despite repeated listening to this undoubtedly good record a whole bunch of times. The problem with deliberately being all clinical and precise is that you can lose the human touch. Then again, the precision has a certain allure that hasn’t tarnished with time, yet.

    MP3: Got Nuffin by Spoon

    Amazon’s Spoon Store

    Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me

    Ten months on from its release, I’ve still hardly chipped into this record. Too bloody long. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its own sense of beauty, the coherent vision of someone who could safely be called a genius. In years to come, it may make more sense, or it might not, but I’d like to say it’s good now and be proved wrong, rather than the other way round.

    MP3: Good Intentions Paving Company by Joanna Newsom

    Amazon’s Joanna Newsom Store

    That’s it for the disappointments and partial successes. Join me tomorrow for the albums that I properly liked. Not that I didn’t like these ones. Oh, you know what I mean.

    1 So sue me

    Songs Of 2009 (Part One)

    Or rather, great songs from good albums that came out this year. Or great songs that weren’t on an album at all. Or great songs that were on albums that I never got round to listening to.

    Oh, just great songs, alright?

    (Some of my favorite songs are actually on favorite albums, so see here for them.)

    Old Stalwarts

    Bill Callahan – Jim Cain

    “I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again”

    Bill wraps up his career, and love-life, in one line. Like so many of his songs, he uses few words to describe a complex and difficult world. And like so many of his songs, utterly startling, with a scalpel-sharp clarity of thought that separates him from the rest of the singer-songwriter crowd by more than a few miles. As close to an explanation of his breakup with Joanna Newsom that you’ll ever get.

    MP3: Jim Cain by Bill Callahan

    Buy “Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle” (CD/MP3)

    The Kingsbury Manx – Galloping Ghosts

    “Look out across a silver landscape of galloping ghosts on our heels\Racing and chasing the nightmare’s almost over now”

    It must be tough to keep writing music 10 years after your first album. Where do the ideas keep coming from? Can you still recreate that magic? Kingsbury Manx did it, wonderfully, with this song from the nearly-great “Ascenseur Ouvert!” album. It’s a song you can hardly hear anyone else making; that gentle warmth, that softness, the guitar solo just breaking through – Neil Young meets Willie Nelson and covering an old Pink Floyd song. But, in truth, it’s just the Manx, and if this song doesn’t melt your heart, you are surely not human. Song meaning? Possibly the inevitability of ones mortality, the loss of friendship, finding hope on the darkest days, who knows?

    MP3: Galloping Ghosts by The Kingsbury Manx

    Buy “Ascenseur Ouvert!” (CD/MP3)

    Jason Lytle – Rollin’ Home Alone

    “But I bought you something nice\I got you something warm\For when the weather turns\When will I ever learn?”

    Again, just like the Manx, how can Jason do it? That melancholy magic that seeps from every bar, every note, every little inflection of his voice, there is no-one else who can make this kind of tale of misplaced affection so utterly transfixing.

    MP3: Rollin’ Home Alone by Jason Lytle

    Buy “Yours Truly, The Commuter” (CD/MP3)

    Unexpected treats

    Frightened Rabbit – Swim Until You Can’t See Land

    “Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?”

    This one got me from nowhere. An email from a publicist pointing me in the direction of the new video by a Scottish band; one quick listen later and I was utterly smitten. 42 plays later and I’m still smitten. I actually have to stop myself from listening to it now, in case I overdo it.

    MP3: Swim Until You Can’t See Land by Frightened Rabbit

    Buy “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” (Vinyl!)

    Here We Go Magic – Tunnelvision

    A heady, spaced-out thing, made by Luke Temple in a bedroom. Wonderful.

    MP3: Tunnelvision by Here We Go Magic

    Buy “Here We Go Magic” (CD/MP3)

    Anthony and Bryce Dessner – I Was Young When I Left Home

    I’ve never been an enormous fan of Anthony (of “And The Johnsons” fame). Maybe it was all the hype around him; hype which turned me off him before I’d even heard any of his songs. So this was a lovely treat; his high, frail voice dancing above tender fingerstyle guitar courtesy of The National’s Bryce Dessner. Also wonderful, but I’m not posting the MP3, because I’ve been slapped by the RIAA before for posting stuff from “Dark Is The Night”.

    MP3: Nope, sorry. But you can buy the album here.

    I’ll be doing Part Two tomorrow. See you then, hopefully.

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    Albums of 2009

    After many months of deliberation here at L&L Towers (ok, it’s just me sitting there looking out of the window trying to remember what on earth I’d done all year), I’ve put together my top albums of the year. Like the Albums of the Decade (starting here), the idea was to only choose albums which I happily listen to all the way through, and had listened to a whole bunch of times. This time, rather than the album art, I’ve gone for YouTube videos. Enjoy!

    The Top 5, not in any kind of order, except the first one.

    Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

    Horrifyingly predictable for anyone who’s spent any time reading this blog. Whilst it’s not quite up there with Yellow House, still more detailed, more melodic, more emotional and more surprising than pretty much anything else that came out this year. Returning to it after a few weeks absence has got me playing “All We Ask” many times a day. A thing of sheer, dark beauty which slowly unravels itself into your brain, like some odd robotic monster.

    (Is this the oddest video of the year, or what?)

    MP3: Cheerleader (Live) by Grizzly Bear

    Buy “Veckatimest: Special Edition” (CD)

    The Xx – Xx

    Came out of nowhere, made by teenagers, and wonderfully quiet. The bastard child of Low and Burial. Talked about at some length here.

    MP3: Crystalised by The Xx

    Buy “XX” (CD/MP3)

    Metric – Fantasies

    Many people found this too shiny and strident. For me, it was the soundtrack of the first part of the year – deep in job-hunting mode, wandering around the City in jeans listening to Emily Haines’s metallic majestic marvel. A proper album too; well-paced, with a proper start and even more proper fists-pumping-in-the-air finale.

    MP3 – Sick Muse by Metric

    Buy “Fantasies” (CD/MP3)

    Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue

    Again, came out of nowhere, and picked it up as a recommendation from another blog (the marvellous Fat Roland). Whilst other people have mixed folk and electronica (“Folktronica”, one of the worst genre names in history), to my mind Bibio have done it the best so far. For whatever reason, I never posted anything about this before, but it’s been happily playing away in my kitchen and in the car many times this year.

    MP3: Lovers’ Carvings by Bibio

    Buy “Ambivalence Avenue” (CD/MP3)

    Mew – No More Stories….

    Also horribly predictable. This album didn’t really make much sense to me until I saw them live, then it all started to click and fit together properly – ironic, given the complexity of their music. If you like your music a touch more unusual than the norm, but don’t feel warmed by the “Look at us, we’re clever, like”-isms of Animal Collective et al, this could be for you.

    (Actual music starts about 2:20)

    MP3: Introducing Palace Players by Mew

    Buy “No More Stories” (CD)

    Not quite the best, but still good

    I couldn’t do an end-of-year list without mentioning Bill Callahan, Jason Lytle or Kingsbury Manx. All had albums out this year, and all had some highlights that were amongst their best songs, but the albums as a whole don’t quite make the top list. Still worth it though.

    And Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is good too, but the chirpy popness doesn’t quite last the whole album, causing me to lose interest about half-way through.

    Albums I need to listen to more, that would probably have made the list if only I had some more time to listen to them properly

    Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter

    Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs

    Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

    Jim O’Rourke – The Visitor

    Mark Eitzel – Klamath

    Mastodon – Crack The Skye

    I’ve listened to these albums a few times and they are starting to settle in nicely, but not enough for me to hand-on-heart call them albums of the year. Maybe they will appear on my list of albums I have loved in 2010 that were actually released in 2009 but I didn’t hear them then.

    Albums I have loved in 2009 that were actually released in 2008 but I didn’t hear them then.

    Frightened Rabbit – Midnight Organ Fight

    This’d be up in the top 5 above if they’d released this in 2009. A great record by Grumpy Scots, and I suspect they’ve got more to come in 2010.

    MP3: I Feel Better by Frightened Rabbit

    Buy “Midnight Organ Fight” (CD/MP3)

    Wye Oak – If Children…

    When I first started this blog, in the depths of January, I rooted around a bunch of sites looking for some new music. And I stumbled across Wye Oak, and after listening to a selection of tunes far too many times, I went out and spent a bit of my redundancy money on the album. Very fine it is too.

    MP3: Warning by Wye Oak

    Buy “If Children” (CD)

    Albums by bands I love that I really should get round to listening to at some point

    Twilight Sad – Forget The Night Ahead

    Flaming Lips – Embryonic

    Yes, I know. Love both these bands but there just isn’t the time, you know?

    The “People Tell Me I Should Love These Albums But I Just Don’t Get It” Award (sponsored by Kissing In Kansas)

    Nominees:

    Fever Ray – Fever Ray

    Animal Collective – Merriwether Post Pavillion

    Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

    And the winner is Animal Collective. People keep telling me to give it time, but as I’ve not even listened to the Twilight Sad or Flaming Lips yet, that’s pushing it. But you know, 2010 and all that.

    (I still don’t get it, but have a listen and see what you think)

    MP3: My Girls by Animal Collective

    Buy “Merriweather Post Pavilion” (CD/MP3)

    So that’s me albums done. Join me in a few days for the tracks. Some blinders in there, you know…

    Frightening Rabbits In East London

    “Ah, The Troxy, we meet at last”.

    After two aborted attempts to get to London’s newest swish venue, The Troxy, in the past two weeks – missing The Flaming Lips due to a prior engagement (hey, Kate!), and Monsters Of Folk due to illness – it was nice wandering down Commercial Road to see Frightened Rabbit there. Well, when I say nice, I mean it was nice not getting mugged. Let’s just say the Troxy is a salubrious venue in an insalubrious part of town. The barstaff are nice, if somewhat disorganised, and the vast team of people working in cloakroom seem cheery enough.

    I was at the Troxy to watch Frightened Rabbit support Gomez, seeing as I’d managed to miss them at The Lexington earlier in the month1. Now, I’ve only known about Frightened Rabbit for about a month or so when I was sent a link for the video to their new single, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”. To say I was gobsmacked is not even the half of it. I’ve played that bloody song 43 times according to my iTunes, and their last album “Midnight Organ Fight” has been played rather a lot in the past couple of weeks.

    Since recording that album, they’ve expanded to a five-piece, and they shambled onto the stage and launched right into “The Modern Leper”. The audience was bigger than you’d normally expect for a support act, and they were treated to Scott’s impassioned yelling of the final chorus (“Well, are you a masochist, to love a modern leper, on his last leg?”), joined by his brother Grant on drums who was happily yelling away too. The band then tumbled through “Old Old Fashioned”, with Grant again going, frankly, a bit mad. The reception was positive, if somewhat muted.

    But if the crowd weren’t quite sure about the Rabbit after the two opening tracks, they should have had their minds made up by “Good Arms vs Bad Arms”. It’s a great song on the album and it’s even better live, with the rest of the band providing lovely backing vocals to Scott’s entreaties to his ex to “Keep her naked flesh under your favourite dress”. That song got the hairs on my arm standing to attention, I can tell you.

    During “Fast Blood”, Grant’s attitude veered between frantic and laconic, which is quite a trick if you can manage it. There’s a lovely thick richness to their sound, with various band members swapping guitars, keyboards, odd pedal things and a lone bass. Not sure the sound guy was quite up to it, though, as the sound sometimes descended into swampiness2.

    Then came “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”. As Scott introduced it, there were more than a few cheers from the audience, which got him looking up at the crowd, astonished. Slower than on record, it’s still best song you’ll hear all year. There’s a gorgeous Calendonian melancholy to it that perversely lifts the soul. 43 times in my case.

    The last pair of songs – “My Backwards Walk” and “Keep Yourself Warm” – show the band’s darker lyrical side. Now, when I first posted about FR, I said that they were much lighter in tone than their compatriots The Twilight Sad, which prompted a comment from a lovely chap called Drew pointing out that their lyrics were somewhat darker than I’d realised. And indeed, he is quite, quite right. For example, “My Backwards Walk” starts off with Scott talking about how he keeps returning to a woman he shouldn’t return to, including the great line “These trousers seem to love your floor”. The song then ends on a far darker note of the repeated line “You’re the shit and I’m knee-deep in it”. I wonder what the massed hordes of Gomez fans thought about that one?

    Even better, the last song has the great, bitter, twisted line “It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep yourself warm”. Oh, and then “I’m drunk, and you’re probably on pills, if we’ve both got the same diseases, it’s irrelevant, girl”. Charming words for sure, and part of the reason why they are such a cracking band. They say things that your brain might conjure up in dark, desperate moments, and chuck them on top of songs filled with tunes and hooks. It’s a combination many bands grasp at and by and large fail, but Frightened Rabbit succeed with aplomb. What’s better, they can do it live too.

    When leaving the stage they got a huge cheer, and hopefully won over a fresh set of new fans. On collecting my bag, the cloakroom staff (and someone in the queue) asked why I was leaving. I told them I’d only come to see the support act, had to rush home to babysit parent3, and then gushed over-verbosely for a couple of minutes. One guy said “That’s quite a testament to how good they are, I’ll check them out”. Mate, do it. There aren’t many better bands in the UK right now.

    Catch them on tour now round the UK, supporting Gomez (on some nights) and Modest Mouse (on others). One day, with any luck, they’ll be bigger than both of them. And if “Swim” is anything to go by, new album ‘The Winter Of Mixed Drinks’ (out next March) will be a real treat.

    MP3: Swim Until You Can’t See Land by Frightened Rabbit

    MP3: Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms by Frightened Rabbit

    1 Even though it may seem that way, I’m not totally and utterly disorganised or anything. Honest.
    2 Which, curiously enough, my friend S mentioned about the Monsters of Folk gig. Though she put it more along the lines of “I was going to punch the soundman because he was shit”.
    3 A shame, because I wanted to see Gomez again. I love their singer, and the quote I once heard of “Somewhere, in the Mississippi basin, there’s a grizzled old blues guy who sings like Morrissey”.

    Buy “Midnight Organ Fight” (CD/MP3)

    Run Rabbit Run

    Writing a music blog has its ups and downs. Sometimes, you get the feeling that every song you listen to, you’re doing it to see if it will fit into the blog and you spend your time trying to find an interesting thing to say about it (and usually failing). For the worrisome types like me, that can get very wearing.

    But other times, you hear something new and within the first ten seconds you just think “This is special. Really, really special”. I’ve had it in the past with the likes of Grizzly Bear and Broken Social Scene. I got that today with Frightened Rabbit.

    Hailing from the same record label – Fat Cat Records – as The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks, they come from the charming Borders town of Selkirk. Maybe it’s the beautiful rolling countryside or the elegant Courtroom in the Market Place (you can tell I’ve been on Wikipedia, can’t you?), but they are an altogether cheerier proposition than their labelmates.

    The Glory Of Selkirk

    The Glory Of Selkirk

    That’s not saying much, mind.

    So anyway, I caught the video to their new song “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”, and it blew me away. I mean, the video is a thing of sheer beauty, with that crystal clear digital look illuminated by swaying torches, but the song is something else.

    Starting with a chiming guitar line reminiscent of Johnny Marr’s gentler moments, the song turns into a rollicking singalong replete with strings by Hauschka and a horn section. I can’t stop playing it. As singer Scott explains:

    “’Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ was the title I had in my mind before I even started writing the album; I was becoming more and more interested in the idea of a rejection of the habits and behaviour most people see as normal, and in turn embracing a certain madness. It’s about losing your mind in order to reset the mind and the body. Forget what’s gone before and wash it out. This is not necessarily a geographical journey, as the ‘swim’ can involve any activity in which you can lose yourself. It’s a good introduction to the record as the theme unravels therein.”

    That’s what you get if you go and live in tiny seaside towns in Fyfe. Must try that myself, as it seems to have done him the world of good.

    No Wonder They Are Frightened With That Lot Behind Them

    No Wonder They Are Frightened With That Lot Behind Them

    Then, digging around a bit, I found a b-side, a marvellous cover of N-Trance’s “Set You Free”, which somehow turns a Euro-trance number into something Bonnie “Prince” Billy would have knocked out in his prime. Utterly fantastic.

    Anyway, the single is out in November and there’s a whole bunch of live shows here. Must get me a ticket for that Troxy show.

    I really like this blog writing business, you know. And I think I’m going to be exploring this lot’s back catalogue….

    On another note, thinking of Selkirk reminded me of the phrase “Gone To Falkirk”, which reminded me of this:

    Surrealism at its very finest.

    Buy “Midnight Organ Fight” (CD/MP3)

    MP3: Set You Free (N-Trance cover) by Frightened Rabbit

    MP3: I Feel Better by Frightened Rabbit

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