It’s Not Just Me That Takes A Break

So here we go again. A month without a post and all those half-written articles are staring back at the screen at me, reproachfully, asking me why I don’t love them more. Saying “Look, I’ve been busy” just gets them to stare at me even more. Amazing how some blazing pixels can induce such feelings of guilt in a lapsed Catholic1 that I’m seriously considering going to confession.

The other site that’s taken a rather more serious hiatus is the fantastic Scarlet Mist. Why fantastic? Because the site was an easy, quick and painless way to sell tickets at face value to other music fans, rather than dealing with horrendous corporate rip-off merchants like Viagogo, TicketShyster and the like, or worse, dealing with touts outside the venue (“Nah mate, a fiver all it’s worth”). Back in September last year, they had to close their doors due to being targeted by criminals and have since reopened their doors with a new security model and a whizzy new messaging interface, and a new concept of finding likeminded people to go to gigs with.

Now I’m not too sure about that last one, but then I am a miserable old curmudgeon who finds being alone with 2000 other people once every few months a joyful experience (and weirdly I’ve met some nice folk at gigs when on my own, like the lot at Mastodon who were arguing whether they were Prog or not). Still, I’m sure some people will enjoy this kind of thing and who am I to complain?

In any case, it’s marvellous having Scarlet Mist back. I love it. Please, please use it when you’ve got a spare or when you just can’t face buying from a tout. There’s tickets for sale for all sorts of gigs now, all at face value, and every single person I have met whilst buying and selling has been an absolute delight. This is the truth.

1 I’m safely Atheist now, don’t you worry.

Albums 2011 – Part Two

Here’s Part Two of my list of my favourite things from 2011. And by things, I mean albums, songs, and gigs, as opposed to huge steaming piles of crystal meth.

(Disclaimer: I do not have anything to do with huge steaming piles of crystal meth. It’s all meow meow round here, you know)

Part One is over here.

The Others

Elbow – Build A Rocket, Boys!

The Seldom Seen Kid was always going to be a hard act to follow. Instead of trying to copy it, or repeat it, they retreated into themselves and made a lovely, personal record, that I originally though wasn’t quite as compelling. Until I listened to it again a few more times before writing this, and realising that, you know what, it’s excellent.

Feist – Metals

Not content with earworming us into submission with the likes of “1,2,3,4”, Feist took some time away and wrote this gorgeous paean to loneliness. A far more complete album than anything she’s made so far; musically fascinating, lyrically enthralling, she’s a talent far above her peers. Her next record is eagerly awaited, and I hope her head is in a better place for it.

Wye Oak – Civilian

A band sadly ignored by most, this duo continue to write some damned fine songs, and Civilian is their strongest record by far. The title track positively roars in its melancholy fervour, and the rest of the record ain’t bad either. Miss them at your peril.

MP3: Civilian by Wye Oak

Antlers – Burst Apart

A record that drove into view in the slipstream of the (far inferior) Wild Beasts, Antlers do that whole windswept, broken-hearted earnest indie-rock that comes close to The National in terms of latching itself into the sadder parts of your heart with silver fishhooks, and refuses to leave. Perfect for your inner teenager.

The Scottish Duo Duo

Bill Wells and Aiden Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older

An album seeped in both the usual grimness of Aiden Moffett’s subject matter of death and f***ing, mixed with Bill Well’s beautifully understated music. “The Copper Top” is the album’s majestic highlight; anyone who has ever been to the funeral of a loved one will nod wryly and blink back the tears, but this isn’t the only highlight. “Glasgow Jubilee”’s circular, poetic tale of a series of sex-obsessed Glaswegians will simultaneously make you smile as well as disgust you. “Dinner Time” is utterly creepy up until the song’s final payoff line. Perfect for your inner miserable sex-obsessed loner.

MP3: The Copper Top (Radio Edit) by Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

Lyrically poles apart from Wells/Moffat but sonically a cousin, this is a much gentler listen. Apparently recorded in a Scottish tea-room, this pastoral gem takes a little while to settle in, but once it does, becomes the perfect go-to music for those nights when anything more dramatic might just send you teetering over the edge.

Wilco – The Whole Love

(Note: I forgot to paste this in on the first draft, so apologies to anyone who gets the email. Sorry!)

Being around for the best part of twenty years can mean that it’s hard to keep things fresh. Wilco, then, did superbly with The Whole Love, their strongest for years, if not quite at the heights of their best. I even wrote a review, you know.


That’s Part Two done with then. Part Three is over here.

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

Look At What The New Year Did Now

First off, Happy New Year. Hope your head is ok. Mine is, thanks to not really drinking last night. Hurrah!

Following on from yesterday’s post on James Blake, I was reminded of the lovely duet between Feist and some fellow called Little Wings. Or rather, he’s called Kyle Fields. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of him before, but he’s definitely doing the whole beard and nice singing thang rather well. Feist seems fond of him too.

Isn’t that just the thing to soothe a troubled brow? The video’s from the new Feist documentary named “Look At What The Light Did Now“, now available from Amazon.

MP3: Look At What The Light Did Now by Feist and Little Wings

(MP3 from I Am Fuel, You Are Friends)

Limit To Your Bass

Cover versions are tricky blighters. If you’re a musician, and you love a particular song, how better can you pay homage than to drip your huge talent all over it, like a bear eating a large, honey-filled beehive? Except, of course, for those pesky bees stinging you. Those pesky bees being a metaphor for the fact that most cover versions are about as welcome as being stung by a hive full of grumpy bees. Even if you are a fierce, thick-skinned bear.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

New Years Resolution #1: Stop It With The Stupid Metaphors

(Yeah, like that’ll happen).

Anyway, cover versions. A few people recently have mentioned the new James Blake record that’s out on 7th February. Lead single is, yes, a cover of Feist’s “The Limit To Your Love”. Now, Feist’s music is tough to cover, largely due to the fact that she’s got a voice that would charm the devil into doing charity work, and partly due to the fact that this voice – and her undoubted talent as a musician – covers up the occasional iffy song.

And funnily enough, “The Limit To Your Love” is one of those. On The Reminder, it’s one of those songs that you listen to a little on sufferance because you know wonders like “1234” and “Brandy Alexander” are coming up soon. What makes it more than bearable is her performance rather than the song itself.

A Small, Blurry Picture

So, this is a brave choice for a cover. James’s voice is good enough, but doesn’t quite match, oh you get the idea. What he does to try and make this interesting is to overlay some huge bass onto the fairly conventional slightly-glitchy-electronica-by-numbers-with-some-piano bits. As my friend D commented, you need to be listening to this on some biiig speakers, not tinny little computer ones. Or little earbuds. So maybe I’m missing out a little, and need to hear this playing in some achingly trendy Hoxton bar at 1am.

(Oh, and stop pronouncing “waterfall” as “wa’rfall” like some gutteral East End urchin. You went to Latymer, for Christ’s sake).

As for the rest of the record, is it a work of genius or Jamie Cullum with a laptop and Autotune? Only time will tell, my friends.

Enjoy whatever you’re up to tonight, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. 2011 tomorrow. Holy moly, where did this year go?

James Blake – Limit To Your Love by TheDropFather

Pre-order “James Blake” here.

Albums Of The Decade (Part Five)

So, here’s part five of my series of personal albums of the decade. No Radiohead, eh?

Albums Of The Decade (Part One)
Albums Of The Decade (Part Two)
Albums Of The Decade (Part Three)
Albums Of The Decade (Part Four)


Midlake – The Trials Of Van Occupanther (2006)

I recommended this to a friend’s husband. He called the next day to complain about “Horrible 70’s soft-rock”. I told him to give it a chance. A month on and he was playing it every day. The greatest ever concept album about a mathematician living in a 19th Century American town.

MP3: Head Home by Midlake

Buy “The Trials Of Van Occupanther” (CD)

Tap That Table

The National – Boxer (2007)

A raging indictment on modern America, possibly. The best drumming, ever. I’ve played “Apartment Story” more than any other song in the last two years, according to my iTunes.

MP3: Brainy by The National

Buy “Boxer” (CD/MP3)

Don't Fancy Yours Much

Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog (2007).

Or how a folk-rock balladeer can fill his sound out and make a wonderful, lustrous album. The stripped down acoustic versions are bizarrely even better.

MP3: Innocent Bones by Iron and Wine

Buy “The Shepherd’s Dog” (CD/MP3)

Or, A Reminder To Get A Better Graphics Artist Next Time

Feist – The Reminder (2007)

I really wasn’t sure about putting this in the list. Great singer, great musician, some great songs, but the album? Then I listened to it again and changed my mind. It’s great. Though I think she could do much better.

MP3: My Moon My Man by Feist

Buy “The Reminder” (CD/MP3)

See Feist and Sam, Now This Is An Album Cover

Band Of Horses – Cease To Begin (2007)

Like Josh Rouse, there’s nothing revolutionary about this album, it’s just superb, melodic, dramatic, emotional alt-rock.

MP3: No One’s Gonna Love You by Band Of Horses

Buy “Cease to Begin” (CD/MP3)

Albums Of The Decade (Part One)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Two)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Three)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Four)

Review – Dark Was The Night – Various Artists

Dark Was The Night is a new charity compilation released by those lovely folks over at 4AD. It features a bunch of newly recorded songs, both new songs and covers, by some of the brightest and greatest bands around at the moment, from Grizzly Bear and The National to Feist and Sufjan Stevens. The charity Red, for AIDS sufferers around the world, is the benefactor, and the album assembled by the Dessner brothers from The National.

Now I’ve got to say that some of the bands on here are top favourites round L&L Mansions, so I was rather keen to give this a spin (can you spin MP3’s?) to see what they’d come up with. And it’s mostly pretty good. A few things I have learned from this album. Some artists can be covered, like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. Others, like Nick Drake, just sound like weak interpretations, no matter how skilfully done. Sorry, The Books. That the pairing of Anthony Johnson’s voice and Bryce Dessner’s guitar is a match made in heaven (and I’m not really much of an Anthony fan). That The Decemberists still sound like an American Levellers. That Sufjan Stevens, though a genius, isn’t always perfect. And neither are Arcade Fire, bless them.

That My Morning Jacket have a nice line in 50’s doo-wop. That Dave Sitek, stripped of much of the cleverness of TV On The Radio, can be suprisingly charming, though still bizarrely reminiscent of AR Kane. That Stuart Murdoch sounds like a Scottish Nico. That Cat Power, Buck 65 and Spoon should go and take a long, hard look at themselves for what they have done.

Feist and Grizzly Bear combine on the old Grizzly Bear track “Service Bell”, which is not quite the sum of its respective parts. But Grizzly Bear’s own track “Deep Blue Sea” is one of the highlights, and finds them in pleasant acoustic live mode rather than we’re-going-to-creep-you-out Yellow House mode. And the track is followed up by a new The National song, “So Far Round The Bend”, featuring a string and horn arrangement, from Nico Muhly, who’s also worked with Grizzly Bear on their new album Veckaitimawhatsit (by the way, check that link out – a blog purely devoted to the new Grizzly Bear album). Incestuous? Ah, who cares if the music is great. And this song’s a peach, boding well for whatever The National do next. For yeah, sayeth the Lord, Boxer was top.

And there are loads of other decent tracks on here. I haven’t even started wittering on about Yo La Tengo or David Byrne. Or Iron & Wine. Or how I still don’t get Bon Iver.

Anyway, charity albums have a habit of having a couple of good tracks with lots of filler, or re-released material. Dark Was The Night manages to serve up a whole load of what’s called alternative music these days, and it’s a treat for fans and newcomers alike. You might even find yourself listening to it a whole bunch of times. Well done, folks.