Well, wouldn’t you know. After a couple of days having Grandaddy songs playing in my head, kitchen, and in front of my six year old son (who tried dancing to “Now It’s On”, bless his little cotton socks), I saunter onto the Drowned In Sound board and find that Grandaddy are reuniting for some gigs. Grandaddy! Gigs! They are a band I only managed to see live once, in a club in Basel, of all places, playing to about 20 vaguely interested Swiss folk and a smattering of ex-pats who were far more interested. And they were great; despite there being some obvious tensions in the band, they sounded good, looked like a bunch of skaters, truck drivers and odd-job men who’d decided to form a band singing about robots, and generally made it more than worth the train ride from Zurich.

For they are one of the Great Lost Bands of the 90’s/00’s. I’ll never understand why they didn’t make it big (or at least bigger); they made music quite unlike any of their peers, mixing weird old analogue synths with fuzzed guitars, with the sweetest tunes you can imagine, sung by a man with the resigned air of a fellow who’s just seen his girlfriend run off with a snowboard instructor, singing tales of broken robots, miners on a distant planet viewing their loved ones but unable to talk to them, the perils of doing science, paeans to the outdoor life and how cities slowly kill you, and that’s just off one album. The songs were wistful, funny, achingly sad, thoughtful, whimsical, wry and pointed. They felt utterly human, even when singing about how their robot had died.

Unlike 99.999% of their contemporaries, they were about modern life, about suburbia, about dull jobs, about sci-fi, about skating, about cats, about anything that Jason Lytle was curious about. I’ve missed them, and seeing him play solo back in 2010 was a highlight of my gigging career.

I can only hope they play some shows in London.


Crystal Lake:

Hewlett’s Daughter:

El Caminos In The West:

Buy stuff from Grandaddy’s Amazon Store.

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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New New Music – Jason Lytle, Beirut, Odawas

After my last post of old new music, here’s some newer music. Hey, finger on the pulse!

Jason Lytle, of the sadly defunct Grandaddy, has started to trickle out some songs from his new album. Grandaddy, in my eyes, were one of the finest bands of the naughties (I hate that word but can’t think of anything better). “Crystal Lake” and “Hewlett’s Daughter” still make me go a bit teary. Once saw them playing to about 20 people in Basel, in Switzerland; whilst it was such a shame that hardly anyone came to the show, they still rocked out and looked ever so happy to be there. They’re one of the few bands to properly describe the modern world in song, in a marvellously delicate and detailed way. So, it’s nice to hear the new tune Flying Thru Canyons on his Myspace site. A delicate, piano-led slowie, a little like “Underneath The Weeping Willow”. Can’t wait for the album.

Rather quickly, I can’t understand why Grandaddy are missing from the Pitchfork 500 list. A bizarre omission which I am sure to return to.

Beirut seems to be on a quest to record albums in a different musical style, going from Balkan-esque on Gulag Orkestar (replete with accordians and Slavonic sardony), to French-esque on The Flying Club Cup (replete with more accordians and berets), and now moving into Mexican-ese with March of the Zapotec. I’ve got to say, he’s a brave man, but his charismatic style and eye for a good tune usually sees him through. This track, La Llorona, is one of the highlights of the new album, available from here.

I love Mariachi horns, me.

Odawas. Now, I can’t say a huge amount about these two chaps as I haven’t really found out much about them; I just stumbled across them somehow (the wonders of the Internet, eh?). They’re from Bloomington, Indiana (well, someone has to be) though they have now resettled in California, where it’s warm. This track, taken from their website, is a charming bit of dream-pop in the vein of finest mid-80’s New Order. And some other people. The new album’s called The Blue Depths.

Lastly, is it wrong to really like this?

Harmless Lovers Discourse by Odawas

La Llorona by Beirut