Saw It Written And I Saw It Say

For some unearthly reason, on the warmest day of the year so far, a warmth most unexpected given it snowed less than two weeks ago, I took it upon myself whilst clearing up breakfast to listen to Nick Drake. I’d wandered into Rough Trade East a few weeks ago to watch the marvellous M Ward1 and decided to do the full £50 man and bought, amongst other things, “Pink Moon”. Had the first two records for years, but had been waiting for the right time to buy this one. Anyway, digressing – it was Sunday, warm, tidying, Nick Drake.

Imagine my surprise this morning then, when listening to The New Radiohead Album Which Is About As Exciting As Things Get In Indie Music These Days, I came upon “Desert Island Disk” and thought “Ooooo, that sounds familiar”. Of all the things I thought I’d hear in the new Radiohead album – which frankly, was the usual doom-laden tunes-unladen semi-grind of their output for about, ooh, 15 years – Nick Drake updated ever so slightly for this miserable decade wasn’t one. This is, my long-forgotten friends, a Good Thing. And after listening to the record a few times, I can safely say that I actually want to listen to it more, rather than approaching it with the kind of trepidation you’d have whilst listening to a Sunn O)))/Autechre MegaMix.

There’s still some of the anxiety which has been their stock-in-trade for the past 20-something years, now underlain by something approaching acceptance. Or at least a realisation that one simply doesn’t want to bask in other people’s discomfort as a pleasant way of passing the time. I had enough of Swans and the like in my teenage years, thanks, and I like my middle-aged melancholy with a wry smile these days, like Bill Callahan or Sun Kil Moon. I suspect they – all middle aged, middle class fellas – have just decided that life’s too short to always be glum.

So, best Radiohead album since OK Computer? No fucking idea. Ask me at the end of the year. I’ll do one of those lists. I promise.

Buy A Heart Shaped BoxA Moon Shaped Pool here.

Buy Nick Drake here. Just get the three original albums.

1 Who, upon listening politely to me saying his guitar playing sounded like a train, in a good way, responded with a slightly shocked, and with a raised eyebrow, “Well, thanks man”.

Keep Swinging

Slowly coming to conciousness to the news that David Bowie has passed away is definitely not the best way to start the day. In a day and age that everyone and their pet shagapoo gets called a genius, Bowie was a reminder that in the great, nearly empty safari park of old rockers there still lived some true, genuine, proper 100% geniuses1.

Bowie was one of those stars who was just there when I was growing up. A strange, alien presence in and amongst the white sliced loaf of mainstream music. The first time he really struck me was in the video for “Ashes To Ashes” – the padded cell, the procession in front of the bulldozer, his “mother” talking to him on the beach. For an eight year old, it was frankly quite creepy. But it most definitely was not what normal rock stars did, more than a decade into their careers.

For whatever reason though, I never went out of my way to listen to his music. Sure, it was always around; always a welcome presence on late-night radio during one dead-end warehouse nightshift job2. It’s only recently that I’ve started to listen to his old albums properly (the Five Years Boxset being key here) with Blackstar next on the list.

Musicians today could do with taking a leaf, or a thousand, from his book. Be different. Be ambiguous. Re-invent yourself. Look to the margins. Don’t do what everyone tells you to do. Be who you want to be.

And you can’t ever forget what impact he had on culture as a whole. His ethos of reinvention, of difference, of ambiguity, spoke to millions of people growing up in villages, towns and cities, who themselves felt different; who wanted to reinvent, who wanted to be ambiguous. After Bowie, it was ok to be who you wanted to be, not what people said you were. That changed people’s lives, much for the better. The world would be a much worse place without him.

Cheerio, mate.

1 I’m looking at you, Bob.

2 Roy Orbison being another.

Here Come Those Crazy Flutes

Picture the scene. A school run, two boys in the back, one playing with an ancient1 iPod. Some beautiful strings strings start playing, a minor crescendo, a piano chord. My wife thinks “What is this? Sounds lovely. Weirdly familiar”.

And then….”Don’t know what the fuck they talk about”.

Cue two boys laughing their heads off.

Thanks, Kurt.

1 2006.

The Fantastic Mr. M (can be bought here)

Happy Mew Year!

What’s he doing now? “Happy Mew Year”? Christ, it’s April. Not even the start of April, which even by his standards is dismal. He’s cast me aside and then picks me up again to do a new post about Mew? With a bleedin’ awful pun that he’s used before?

Honestly, I don’t know why he doesn’t just pack it all in. Eight posts last year, and now it’s the 18th April and he takes it upon himself to try and post the new news that was released two months ago. What’s worse, I know from his phone, that cheeky little scamp, that he even watched the video on the day it was released. He could have got home, spent a few minutes on that snazzy PC of his and bish, bash, bosh, new post, sit down for dinner with his lovely wife. And then he could have got going on all the other cracking stuff he’s been listening to, like Dan Mangan and Father John Misty and all that Aphex Twin stuff and the Go Betweens box set and all that, rather than staring into the middle distance and deciding whether to play Elite:Dangerous or Shadows Of Mordor. Such a geek, I tell you. Could be worse, I suppose. Could be DOTA.

Where was I? Oh yes, he could have said something about their gig at the Roundhouse in May. Or what the new album’s called. But no. One shabby re-used pun. Lazy little blighter.

And he missed my birthday too.


(Mew’s new album, +- <sup>1</sup> is out 28th April. New songs below, and they are pretty fine)

1 Yes, really.

Albums of 2014

Here’s my favourite albums of 2014, following on from yesterday’s Songs Of 2014. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Album By Grumpy Scots That I Haven’t Quite Listened To Enough Yet (Redux)

The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave

After a somewhat disappointing third album, and severe financial difficulties making the band seriously consider packing it in, NWTBHANWTL had to be good. It’s more than good. Their most coherent album, featuring slow songs and everything, it rightly gave them more of the limelight than previous records, and has even gone on to win some Album of The Year awards. I would have done too, except, honestly, I haven’t listened to it enough. Whether it’ll bring some more money in remains to be seen; if they can break America in the same way as Frightened Rabbit (who have 10x the YouTube views for their videos) and get some of the daytime play Chvrches get, they’ll be made. I certainly hope so. There’s no band out there who deserve a bit of success more than this lot.

Buy “Nobody Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave” Here

Album By Slightly Less Grumpy Scots

King Creosote – From Scotland With Love

This was my soundtrack in the runup to the Scottish Referendum, listened to before it had the opportunity to be reclassified as World Music. Boom tish. I’m here all week. Try the ribs.

In seriousness though, this was a lovely, warmhearted paean to Scotland, created for a documentary made from archive footage. As ever with KC, you’re coccooned in his soft voice, beautiful instrumentation, and hardly a chorus or middle eight to ruffle the feathers.

Buy “From Scotland With Love” Here

Album by A Band That Had Hit The Wall

Wye Oak – Shriek

Where to go for Wye Oak, who’d taken the guitar+drums formula about as far as they could? Keyboards+bass, of course. Normally this can spell a bit of a disaster, but with Jenn Wasner’s ambition, focus, and freakishly good bass playing, they made a record that almost stood up to “Civilian”.

Buy “Shriek” Here

Guiltless Pleasure Album

The Vaselines – V For Vaselines

Sheesh, another Scottish album, though I thought this lot were from Noo Joisey or Ohio or somewhere similar, holed up in a garage, rather better appointed now that they had nice jobs in selling insurance or something. They’ve been around for years, apparently, and this was a comeback album of sorts. Still filled with vim and vigour and pop nous. An excellent album to play when you don’t want to think too hard.

Buy “V For Vaselines” Here

Post-Rock Album Of The Year

Jakob – Sines

A comeback album from a New Zealand band whose three members had all had major hand injuries in the last three years. I must say I know nothing about them other than the fact that they are from New Zealand and they have all had major hand injuries. And that this is a comeback album. Errr….maybe I should try doing some research. More on the Russian Circles side of the post-rock continuum, it doesn’t break any new ground. Great album though.

Buy “Sines” Here

The Album Of The Year

Spoon – They Want My Soul

How does a band keep going after x albums and y years? You can change your sound (see Wye Oak, above), or just refine and tighten until every song on the new record is a glistening jewel. God only knows how many times I’ve played this record this year. It’s been my go-to album on the commute, in the office, and at home. I’ve had to stop playing it as I feared I’d wear out the memory on my iPhone.

Buy “They Want My Soul” Here

So, there we go for another year. Hope you have a fantastic 2015, and please visit the site from time to time to see if I’ve managed to drag my sorry ass to the computer to actually post anything. Unlikely, but you never know. Thanks for reading.

Songs Of 2014

Funny old year. As I’ve only posted 7 largely ignored screeds over the year, it’s a bit presumptuous to do a roundup of the year. But as I’ve listened to a bunch of good stuff, I might as well do something, eh?

Best Lambchop/Jeff Buckley Mashup

The Antlers – Parade

Fantastic. Written about at length here, and brings a warm smile to my face every time I listen to it.

Buy The Antlers “Familiars” Here

Best Instrumental Guitar Piece

Runner Up

James Blackshaw – Fantômas : Le Faux Magistrat Part 4

Fantômas : Le Faux Magistrat isn’t James Blackshaw’s best album, though it is certainly an interesting one. The first recorded with something approaching a full band, a live recording made to soundtrack a silent movie, the album is around 75 minutes long. But it’s this five minute section I kept coming back to (around 02:50 in the video below):

Buy “Fantomas: Le Faux Magistrat” Here


William Tyler – Whole New Dude

Boy, can this guy play guitar. I met Lambchop many years ago, and Kurt Wagner said something to me about the fresh-faced chap who’d come on tour to play guitar with them. “The kid can really play guitar. We’re really pleased he’s with us”. For years, providing atmosphere and the occasional rollocking line (such as on “National Talk Like a Pirate Day”), it wasn’t obvious exactly what he could do. On his solo albums, he’s demonstrated that he’s up there as one of the best fingerstyle guitarists currently doing the rounds. And on “Whole New Dude”, that he can play with a full band too.

Buy “Lost Colony” Here

Best Line

Perfume Genius – Queen

“No family is safe when I sashay” is this year’s “The only words I’ve said today are ‘beer’ and ‘thank you'”. As in, distilling absolutely everything there is to say about a character in one hugely memorable line. It’s the kind of line that empowers people, and it’s the only time I think I’ve ever read YouTube comments on a song and not wanted to wipe out the entirety of humanity.

Buy “Too Bright” Here

Best Random Appearance of Bonnie Prince Billy in a Videogame

So there I am, playing/listening to the wonderful Here And There Along The Echo, the most recent interlude in the Kentucky Route Zero series, when the voice on the other end of the phone starts singing about the animals he catches and eats along the Echo River. The voice sounds strangely familiar. On getting to work, I find out it’s our old friend Bonnie Prince Billy. As though it could be anyone else.

And whilst we’re at it, Too Late To Love You. Not for the song as such, but the direction. Manages to be one of my musical and gaming highlights of the year.

Best Mid-Life Crisis

Runner Up:

Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting On You)

One of the knock-out moments of the year. A true “What the hell is he doing?” statement, and a sign that rock music can, even in its dotage, still surprise you. Shame the rest of the album didn’t hit the same heights.

Buy Future Islands “Singles” Here


Sun Kil Moon – Ben’s My Friend

Wow, has Mark Kozalek been having a mid-life crisis. First he releases another album of low-key, slightly alarming acoustic songsmithery (the one about all the women he has slept with is rather more than just slightly alarming), topped by this brutally honest tale of a mid-life breakdown. Then he starts yelling at bands half his age at festivals, releasing songs asking them to do rude things to him, printing t-shirts calling audience members rednecks, the whole shebang. Can’t say I blame him. The youth of today are fucking annoying.

Buy Sun Kil Moon “Benji” Here

And so, my friends, this is my song of the year. Maybe it’s a sense of my own impending middle age that has struck an AmDim7, but who cares? This is a fantastic song that deserves a wide audience of paunchy men, who spend their weekdays in jobs that they have a growing sense of dislike for and their weekends cycling around Surrey on £1,000 road bikes, clad in lycra. Slowly.

And on that note, I’ll leave you for today. Tomorrow, Albums of the year. Two posts in two days? You’ll believe it when you see it.

This Year Will Be The Year We’ll Win

May, 1997. Jeff Buckley, drained from the fraught and aborted efforts to record his second album, turns down an offer from a friend to try recording in Memphis to instead head to Nashville. He’s not sure what he’ll find there, but he’d heard the work of an obscure band called Lambchop, whose 1996 album “How I Quit Smoking” had kept him sane following the crazy Grace tour.

He gets Kurt Wagner’s number, and once Kurt’s finished sanding floors for the day, the two of them meet for a beer or two. Kurt talks about his love for Southern Soul, such as Eddie Hinton, and Jeff’s intrigued, telling Kurt about his mental block trying to write new songs. Kurt suggests they go back to his place, they drink late into the night, listening to old country soul records, Jeff singing along to Kurt’s blue-eyed soul chops on his old Gibson, paid for thanks to a particularly generous customer and some weekend work.

Over the space of a few days they get some songs together. The two of them hook up with the remaining 15 members of Lambchop and record a few demos.

Here’s one, called Parade.

Ok, ok, so the smart ones amongst you will know I’m talking crap. But you have to admit, there’s more than a touch of a mystery Buckley/Wagner crossover in The Antlers album, “Familiars”. The gentle, relaxed semi-acoustic guitar, the swish of the brush on the snare, the horn section, and above all, Peter Silberman’s vocals. He’s one of the few vocalists who has taken what was so special about Jeff Buckley’s vocals and made them his own; not the three-octave range or sudden changes in tone, but the lovely caress at the moments you least expect it.

Antlers have moved on from being a slightly less miserable Interpol to something far more interesting; mixing that Brooklyn sound with the South, and coming up with a truly lovely record. Well done, chaps.

Buy Familiars here (CD/MP3)

And as an extra bonus, have yourselves a listen to this:

And of course, some early Lambchop, about it all going wrong after doing some acid. Not that I’d ever do such a thing *cough*:

Let’s Go Lose Track Of Time

What’s the sign of a good – scratch that – goddamn great album?



Nah. It’s when a mention of it somewhere; a magazine, a blog post, a billboard, makes the title track come barrelling into your mind like an over-friendly Great Dane1, knocking you over, licking your face and wanting a quite unreasonable amount of attention. Possibly a touch of frottage. Got that today, I did, with Spoon’s They Want My Soul.

This, my friends, is what a great album sounds like. It’s gonna have some competition come the End Of Year lists, but my betting is firmly on it topping quite a few. Especially for the guitar solo, and the line “Educated folk singers want my soul” in They Want My Soul:


Buy it here.

1 Not Nicklas Bendtner, clearly.

Are You Him?

AFX Reminiscence #1:

Years and years ago, I was wandering down a street in London and on looking through the window of a rubbish coffee shop, saw someone I thought was the Aphex Twin. I wandered in, said “Are you Aphex Twin?” and he said “Fuck off”.

It was him, I reckon.

AFX Reminiscence #2:

Even more years and years ago, I was driving just south of Gateshead (just past where the Angel Of The North would end up being, but well before it ended up being there), doing a ludicrous speed in a Morris Minor. I’d just driven a good 300 miles in a stupid number of hours and I wanted to get to my flat, it was dark, and I was playing “Digeridoo” so loudly the speakers were popping. Happy times.

AFX Reminiscence #3:

Listening to “Selected Ambient Works vol 1” back in the day when I used to like staying out until very, very, very late, and would eventually get home after Rockshots and then Libby’s house, or Neil’s house, and try to sleep, with this wonderful album blocking out the sounds of more sensible people than me getting up and going to work.

So you can safely say I’m mildly amused that he’s back. Following the Blimp shenanigans, and the Tor-only tracklist for the new album, comes an actual track. Yes, a track. With a proper title and everything. Rather than “zszxzff66f (acd phrenze mix 97)”. Or “*++¦~”. Or “BUMFELCH”.

Of course, it sounds a great deal like him, but with something approaching a proper tune and squelchy bits. It’s like he’s never been away. Because he hasn’t. He has always been with us, grinning at us, as you close your eyes just before you sleep.

Pre-order Bleep here and don’t forget to tick the box.

Oh, and:

Amazon’s Aphex Twin Store

I’ve Been Waiting On Me

So there we were, driving back from the Midlands one warm early summers evening, with Radio 2 on. Now, I generally don’t find myself listening to Radio 2 very often, what with the memory of “Sing Something Simple” and other such 70’s horrors, but there are times that I simply can’t face another children’s album, the kids won’t accept Radio 4, and we’ve already sung ourselves hoarse to The Best Of Blondie (the one album we can all agree to). As we’re driving down the M1, sun setting off to the right, warm keyboard stabs come over the radio, with a driving bass and none-more-Phil-Collins drums.

Something clicks – I like this! – but it’s a song that feels like I’ve not heard in years. What is it again? Sounds familiar…ah yes, it’s that Future Islands track. The one with the “drunken divorced dad dancing at a wedding” performance on Letterman.

And then a thought struck me. Future Islands? On Radio 2?

And then another thought struck me. Years since I heard this? It was released in March. This year.

Time truly does fly.

If you think this is my way of saying that I’m a lazy git who can’t be bothered to post much, then you’d be right. Do you think I care?1

Buy Future Islands “Singles” Here

1 Of course, I do care. For all you loyal readers out there, I wish I had the time and inclination to post more, and one day, I surely will.