Where Have You Been All My Life?

Once in a while you get one of those Barney Gumble moments, where you listen to a song and exhort: “Where have you been all my life?”. Last night, I’m catching up on all those Later…With Jools “Boogie Fucking Woogie” Holland1 I have recorded. There I am, thinking to myself “Ah, Ron Sexsmith, heard of him, singer-songwriter’s singer-songwriter, could be worth a try so I won’t fast-forward it”.

A few bars later, I’m thinking “I’m enjoying this”

One verse and chorus later, I’m trapped.

Come the end of the song, I’m rewinding back to the start of the song for another listen. Safe to say that I like it. In fact, I like it a lot. The song, “Get In Line” is one of those mordantly uplifting numbers, a little like John Grant’s “Chicken Bones“, a toe-tapping little number about telling someone to, in the marvellous words of Malcolm Tucker, fuck the fuck off. Though this song does it in a somewhat more delicate and parent-friendly way.

Now, I do have a soft spot the size of Montreal for a singer-songwriter who can do that whole finely crafted, beautifully honed thing. Like, say, Josh Rouse or M Ward or Laura Veirs. The kind of stuff that can happily live on Radio 2 despite being absolutely marvellous. Part of me worries that listening to music like this marks my descent into middle-age (sorry, Ron), or that sharing my tastes with the likes of Elton John or Michael Buble might end with me listening to their back catalogues too. But sod it. With songs as good as this, played as beautifully as this, who cares what company you keep?

Safe to say I’m going to be diving headlong into Ron’s amble back catalogue. I hear that recent album “Long Player Late Bloomer” is not so much touched by the hand of MOR than slapped by it, but frankly that doesn’t bother me too much. And with about 15 previous albums to trawl through, I may be some time. See you on the other side. If you have any recommendations as to where I should go next, feel free to comment!

1 Surely one of the most frustrating TV programmes ever. For every great performance (Devendra Banhart, M Ward, Joanna Newsom, Radiohead’s numerous appearances, and that truly jaw-dropping At The Drive-In performance2, which in one song demonstrating both exactly why they were such an amazing band, and exactly why that was going to cause their break-up), there’s always a pretty high duffer to decent ratio, a tedious nu-soul act every week, the tooth-gnashingly embarrassing intro, and the baffling lack of certain key artists, like – just to demonstrate who they’ve missed this year whilst on their current run, when all these artists were playing in London – Low, Bill Callahan and Sufjan Stevens.

MP3: Get in Line by Ron Sexsmith

Buy “Long Player Late Bloomer” here

2 Watch one half of the band trying to, you know, play the song, whilst the other half go totally mental. With the drummer in between just getting on with things. Oh, and Robbie Williams looks like someone’s just shat in his pint glass.

Catchup Verify

After many months of being too busy, tired or otherwise unavailable to write my usual well-thought out, pertinent and damn witty posts, I have a huge backlog of albums, songs, and random oddities to pontificate about. I realised the other day that some of my favourite records of the year have been totally unposted about, such as Low. I’ve been to great gigs, like M Ward, which have likewise been unposted. And some great tracks have popped out over the months, which I’ve totally missed.

The first of these being The National’s “Exile Vilify”, which debuted in the game Portal 2, of all places. Now you’ll not get any snooty anti-videogame tirade from me, no sirree. I’ve been playing the sodding things for a good thirty years, and some games, like System Shock series, have a deep and unshakable place in my heart, as pieces of art as emotionally powerful as anything Hollywood, Nashville or Manchester has to offer. Quite frankly, I’m just amazed that games are now such a part of the mainstream that the likes of The National are releasing records on games. Yes, of course bands have been videogame music for some time, what with Gran Turismo and the GTA series being almost as well defined by their musical content as the actual gameplay. But an esoteric wonder like Portal 2, featuring The National? We live in wonderful times, my friends, wonderful times.

Now, to have Mastodon doing the music for Skyrim1. That would rock.

1 Which leads me briefly onto this:

I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing this man’s games but have never known what he looks or sounds like. Which, I guess is where one area that games massively differ from music and film; you really don’t care what the people making the games are like.

Blg Pst

My word, is Torontonian Abel Tesfaye hawt right now. A day or so after posting his new mixtape (ha! tape!) as The Weeknd, entitled Thursday, the music blog world is all bejiggered with excitement. Just head over to Hype Machine and look at those hearts. Look at them!

Don't Fancy Friday Much

So who am I to say any different? Usually, I am, but not so much in this case. Cos whilst I’m not a massive fan of modern R’n’B (it’s taken some huuuge steps back after the high points of Aaliyah and Destiny’s Child), some of it does pique my interest, like that Duck fellow.

And The Weeknd follow his line of being a bit more thoughtful and, you know, not going on all the time about bitches and lurvin and whatnot. Oh, and there’s guitars too.

Download it here. Warning: may well be some songs about bitches and lurvin.

MP3: Rolling Stone by The Weeknd

Black, Black! (or WSTISNAITMB Part Two)

Readers of a more, shall we say, greater number of years on this sweet Earth may recall a dapper chap with the voice of a particularly morose angel named Black (or, to give him his proper name, Colin Verncombe), who released a pair of singles in the late ’80’s. The best known was “Wonderful Life” was one of those wonderfully miserable, yet uplifting songs, and was something of a European hit. On a (largely non-musical) forum I frequent, I mentioned this song and people of all ages and musical preferences united to say what a great song it was.

But my preference was for the preceding single, “Sweetest Smile”. This is the kind of song you’d always hoped Leonard Cohen would write but never quite did. Starting with the none-more-forlorn line “I think my heart must be made of clay\’cause everyone said it would be broken someday”, this defiantly minor-key song tells the tale of a broken heart in the starkest terms, all sitting on the floor with your head in your hands. A less talented musician than Colin could have made a real mess of this, but it’s beautifully judged, just the right side of maudlin, and quite perfect.

Hearing that he’s still releasing records was one of those pleasant surprises that makes you suspect that there’s still hope for the music industry. Indeed, Colin’s re-recorded some of his older songs, and as you can hear, his voice has got even richer, what with an extra twenty-odd years of living under his belt.

There’s a new compilation of his work being released in early September called “Any Colour You Like”. More info on his website here. Lovely to hear his songs again, and especially that voice. What a voice. Personally, I’d like to hear what he could do if he reworked these songs completely, rather than re-record them (even if he’s done it very well), but you know what? I’m not complaining. Superb stuff.

MP3: Sweetest Smile (2011 Re-Recording) by Black

Oh, and talking about Black always makes me think of this:

We crawl on our knees towards our doom, indeed.

Let’s Go There

Come the glorious revolution, not liking Feist would get you put up against the wall and shot quicker than you could say “But Sea-Lion Woman is incredibly annoying!”. How can you not love her wonderfully warm, smoky voice, her marvellous way with words, and her superb let’s-all-dance-right-here videos? What’s more, she’s a captivating live performer, capable of making the toughest of crowds eat from her hands.

But it has to be said that she’s never made a great album. Some of her songs are amongst my favourites over the last few years; I’m looking coyly in Mushaboom, 1234 and Brandy Alexander’s direction right now, but neither Let It Die nor The Reminder have shown the world exactly what a fine talent she is. Maybe new album Metals, out on 3rd October, can change that. Here’s lead single How Come You Never Go There, in all its sultry beauty.

Pre-Order Metals Here

Do You Remember The Good Old Days?

Living in a city currently wracked by rioting driven more by wanting a nice new telly than any overriding political motive is something of an odd experience. The fires and looting haven’t touched my part of the city (yet), but the police sirens and helicopters were going well into the early hours. Stories coming out this morning include the destruction of family businesses that have traded for over 150 years and two Michelin starred restaurant (and L&L fave) The Ledbury being attacked by masked looters (thankfully the author of the piece was only robbed of her rings, rather than being physically hurt, but it’s still an horrendous experience).

The overriding sensation isn’t one of sympathy for the anger of communities struggling under deprivation and police aggravation, as was the case in the 1981 riots in Brixton and elsewhere, but of anger at the selfishness and criminality of the looters. If there is any genuine grievance on the part of the rioters, it’s certainly not coming across in the media.

One more pleasing sign is how communities are pulling together to fight off the rioters, and helping shops and other businesses clean up. For whatever you feel about human nature following the last few nights events, you can’t help but have your heart warmed by how many people are choosing to help their neighbours, friends, and total strangers. Good on you.

I was only a kid in 1981, but I remember the feeling of dread that had enveloped the nation. This seems to be something different (aside from in Tottenham, where there had been a peaceful protest before things went wrong). I just hope people see sense before someone gets killed.

MP3: Ghost Town by The Specials

Buy “The Best Of The Specials” (CD/MP3)

Crazy! Horses!

Sweden’s I Break Horses tick lots of my boxes. Swedish. Named after a Smog song. Purveyors of dreamy psych-pop. Errr…..that’s about it. I’m easily pleased.


Except I’m not that easily pleased, of course. It’s just that they are quite good1. Having heard some demos last year and liking them, I’m glad to hear they have an album out this month, named Hearts. Here’s a track from it, named “Winter Beats”. In typical L&L fashion, I heard this a while back and forgot to post it. Along with my M Ward and Low live reviews. And other stuff. Bah.

Looking forward to this album, I must say.

1 I can just see some eager PR jumping all overthat quote. “I Break Horses are Quite Good” – Loft and Lost. Go for it, folks.

MP3: Winter Beats by I Break Horses
Pre-order Hearts here.

To Be

I’d love to have more time to spend on this blog. I’ve never been the kind of person who likes to just write something on the spur of the moment; rather, I like to ruminate, sometimes for weeks or even months (as long suffering readers of my Pitchfork posts will attest to). And when Real Life pops along with its dirty nappies and project plans and whatnot, other, less necessary things such as this blog, get shoved to the side. Sorry, blog. I do love you, honest, I do.

So maybe I should just post stuff that I come across with little or no explanation or ceaseless wittering. Shall I try? Ok, here goes.

Here’s a new track from Best Coast. Fronted by the charming Bethany. It’s a charming song, and after two listens, I think I prefer it to most of Crazy For You. Except “Girlfriend”. And “When I’m With You”.

How did that go?

MP3:How They Want Me To Be by Best Coast

Buy “Crazy For You” (CD/MP3)