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)

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*:

What Else Could It Be?

Excuses, excuses. This time it was chopping nearly half off the top of my middle finger in an unguarded moment chopping a carrot. Thankfully, there was not half as much damage as first appeared, and a couple of weeks on all I have to show is a rosy patch of shiny skin about a centimetre long. No photos, this time.

Which leaves me with a few articles piled up, resting in the fertile compost of my brain, awaiting my now-fixed and eager fingers to splurge them onto the screen. Oh, lucky you. And yes, the end of year is coming, and I’ve even started to write my end of year review. Lucky, lucky you.

Before those joys come perennial Loft and Lost favourites Lambchop. If I were ever to become passably famous and appear on Desert Island Disks, their “The Man Who Loved Beer” would be a shoo-in for one of the seven; probably, frankly, first on the list. Their skewed take on country soul1 has developed over the years, but hasn’t strayed too far from their righteous path of wondrousness, to the point that “A Hold Of You” or “Sharing a Gibson with Martin Luther King, Jr.” from their last album OH (Ohio) would happily have sat on their first record, back in the ‘90’s.

And with that, my heart can’t help but leap on hearing there’s a new record coming, titled Mr M, out on February 21st. Dedicated to Vic Chesnutt, keener fans will recognise, is something of a hero of the band, and whose tracks they have covered over the years. Here’s lead track “If Not I’ll Just Die”, and what a lovely thing it is too. Plus, it starts with a great bit of swearing. They are on one of their big tours next year, so be sure to catch them out on their travels, as not only are they a great live band, they also tend to enjoy hanging round the bar both before and after the show and chatting with their fans. Or getting arseholed with them and then giving them a lift home, which they once did with me. Lovely folks, though frankly I’ll be bringing a “1000 Greatest Jokes” book for Tony Crow.

1 Often erroneously called “Alt-country”; go and listen to some Eddie Hinton or one of the marvellous “Country Got Soul” compilations and you’ll know what I’m getting to here.

If Not I’ll Just Die by Lambchop Lambchop – If Not I’ll Just Die by MergeRecords

Buy their stuff from Amazon’s Lambchop Store.


A theme this blog returns to from time to time is how the blazes anyone’s going to make a living in the music industry these days. Artists can always go out on tour, but what about the labels that release their records? Records that no-one’s buying1? And how can anyone do something different to separate them from the ravening herd?

One relentlessly pursued idea has been to release records that are more special than before – from the usual “Special Edition” 2 or 3 CD sets, to Brooce Springsteen’s “Here’s a fuck-off load of offcuts and a documentary too” effort, The Promise2. Well, two gentlemen named Simon Joyner and Ben Goldberg have had the idea to set up a record label – Grapefruit Records – as a club, where you pay a subscription and get four vinyl albums a year, by known and unknown artists. That’s right, vinyl only. No CD, no download, nothing, just a 12” bit of polyvinyl chloride and some cardboard.

As an old bugger, I admire this no nonsense approach. Whilst I don’t do vinyl myself any more, what with it being a bit difficult to listen to a vinyl record on the Jubilee Line at 7:45 am, I do still love the sound, feel and the whole rigmarole of a beautifully produced record. And this certainly is an interesting idea; the first record features Kurt Wagner’s early recordings of Lambchop, the wonderfully quiet Nashville band who feature heavily in my entirely fictional top-1000 songs list. Hearing this early material would be a marvellous treat for any serious Lambchop fan.

Their mission statement reads:

Grapefruit’s mission is to expose fans to exclusive, challenging new music on vinyl while ensuring that the musicians actually get paid for creating their art.

If you’re curious, head over to their site now and have a look around at the roster of artists. I have absolutely no idea if this will work, but I wholeheartedly hope it does; it’s wonderful to see people with a good idea and a passion and desire for music try and do something a little different. Good luck, fellas.

MP3: Soaky In The Pooper by Lambchop

1 Well, they are, but not in the same numbers as before, and certainly not in the manner required to keep an industry in fruit and flowers.

2 Not bought this yet. Really ought to.

Albums Of The Decade (Part One)

No White Stripes, no Radiohead, no Flaming Lips, no The Streets or Burial or many other great bands. All those bands, and many others, made records with some great songs on (damn, Flaming Lips made the best song of the decade). These are all albums that I still play, still love, and still listen to all the way through. Now, I haven’t gone crazy in the descriptions because I know I’ll get to all of these artists as part of my Pitchfork 500 stint, so it’s 100 words or less. Long-time readers will know this is very, very hard for me to do!

Oh, and there’s hardly anything from 2009. I need time and distance for this, you know.

Dongs Of Sevotion

Smog – Dongs Of Sevotion (2000)

Your one-stop shop for mordant observations on the misery of humanity, shot through with enough wit (“Dress Sexy At My Funeral”) to keep you coming back, again and again and again. I listened to this for much of 2000, and adore it still.

MP3: Dress Sexy At My Funeral by Smog

Buy “Dongs of Sevotion” (CD)

Levez Vos Skinny Fists Comme Antennas to Heaven!

Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (2000)

That slow, dreadful build up, that paroxym of noise. They’d never reached peaks like this before, and they, and Post-Rock, never did again.

MP3: Antennas To Heaven… by Godspeed You Black Emperor!

Buy “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven” (CD/MP3)

The Kingsbury Manx – The Kingsbury Manx (2000)

The sound of autumn, distilled into some wonderful songs. Soundtrack to many happy moments, staring wistfully at the rain through the window of a warm room. If doing that makes you happy, this record will make you happy.

MP3: Pageant Square by Kingsbury Manx

Buy “The Kingsbury Manx” (CD)

Great Cover, This

Lambchop – Nixon/Is A Woman (2000/2002)

Two albums? Yes. One is a lush, rich record, with big statement songs. The next album is stripped down, often with just and acoustic and minimal accompaniment. Both are wonderful and there’s nothing to choose between them.

Great Lyric: “This learning not to demonstrate your asinine and callous traits\It’ll take some practice”. I love that line.

MP3: Grumpus by Lambchop

Buy “Nixon” (CD/MP3)

Buy “Is a Woman” (CD)

Another Great Cover

Scary Man!  Scary Beard!

Bonnie Prince Billy – Ease Down the Road/Master and Everyone (2001/2003)

Two albums? Yes. One is a lush, rich record, with big statement songs. The next album is stripped down, often with just and acoustic and minimal accompaniment. Both are wonderful and there’s nothing to choose between them.

MP3: Wolf Among Wolves by Bonnie “Prince” Billy

Buy “Ease Down the Road” (CD)

Buy “Master and Everyone” (CD)

This Cover Scares Me More Than Bonnie Prince Billy

Jim O’Rourke – Insignificance (2001)

A few months ago I realised I’d not copied this onto my new iPhone (which is constantly full). When I got home the first thing I did was put on “All Downhill From Here”. For a bitter, twisted, hateful song about how much Jim hates people, and the world, it sure is an uplifting song. The best produced album of the decade.

MP3: All Downhill From Here by Jim O’Rourke

Albums Of The Decade (Part Two)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Three)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Four)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Five)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Six)

Buy “Insignificance” (CD)

Like my blog? Please help spread the word: Add To FacebookAdd To DiggAdd To RedditAdd To DeliciousAdd To TechnoratiAdd To StumbleUpon

Whisper From The Past – Lambchop

It’s been a long while since I listened to Lambchop properly. Yes, I got “OH (Ohio)”, and played it more than a few times, but years have passed since I last put “Nixon” or “Is A Woman” or even “What Another Man Spills” on.

I’d forgotten how good they were. Really, stunning, proper good, not that seems-good-for-a-while-until-the-novelty-wears-off good. Now, one day in the dark distant future I shall do a whole 1,000 word Pitchfork 500 Missing List spectacular on Lambchop, about why they are so fab and why everyone who doesn’t think so is wrong, but for now, I’ll leave you with a few old live tracks.

The Wondrous Mr Wagner Himself

The Wondrous Mr Wagner Himself

Recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2000, on their Nixon tour, these three songs show how wonderful a band they are. Gentle, richly textured songs, with more hidden depths than the Dale Hollow Lake, you find yourself drifting off into a world of strings, softly strummed guitars, horns, and a guy hitting a paint can with a torque wrench. Lovely.

In other news, hasn’t the football season come around quickly again? By the way, I have it on good authority that Mr Kurt Wagner is, as all the best people are, a Gooner.

MP3: Nashville Parent by Lambchop (Live)

MP3: The Old Gold Shoe by Lambchop (Live)

MP3: Theone by Lambchop (Live)

Buy Lambchop’s “Nixon” (CD) (And a right bargain)

Buy Lambchop’s “How I Quit Smoking” (CD)

Like my blog? Please help spread the word: Add To FacebookAdd To DiggAdd To RedditAdd To DeliciousAdd To TechnoratiAdd To StumbleUpon