New Year New Music Part 2 – Paul Thomas Saunders

I got an email from a PR before Xmas. Ok, I get a lot of emails from PR people and each one provides me with a little burst of guilt in recognition of the fact that I will never, ever listen to the stuff they are sending.

Except this one was different. It told me that Paul Thomas Saunders – a longstanding favourite round here despite the fact he’s only ever released a handful of EP’s – has signed to Atlantic Records. Atlantic! Home of some fucking great soul music! And…er….The Darkness! Despite that, it’s been wonderful to see an artist who first came to my attention1 a few years ago when he was releasing tracks here and there on tiny labels, to get A Proper Record Deal. Yes, such things still exist.

And here he is with a new track. He’s parked the reverb-laden guitars for reverb-laden keyboards, but the glorious other-worldliness remains, and I can imagine the new EP Good Women will be filled with much the same. Have a listen to taster track “Mutually Assured Destruction”, below.

The EP is available on iTunes and Amazon.

Go buy.

1 Thanks to a PR person who wasn’t even representing him; she just loved what she’d heard and was spreading the news off her own back. He’s that kind of artist.

Albums 2011 – Part One

Well, it’s been one of those years. For one reason or another, my record searching out ability, and time or inclination to sit down and write something about records, has been seriously curtailed this year. And so it seems appropriate that the first two records in my list weren’t even released this year. So it goes.

The Obligatory Album From Last Year That I Only Heard This Year

Cotton Jones – Tall Hours In The Glowstream

Tipped off by the marvellous Song, By Toad, this was my go-to album for the first few, dreadful months of the year. I almost wish I hadn’t listened to it so much as it’s now extricably linked to a horrible period of mine (and my friends) lives, but sod it. A great record and one I wish many more people would buy.

MP3: Sail Of The Silver Morning by Cotton Jones

The Obligatory Album From A Few Years Ago That I Only Heard This Year

Sam Amidon – All Is Well

Seeing Laura Viers live was a pleasure enough, but not as much of a pleasure as seeing support act Sam Amidon and going “Whoa! Dude! This rocks!”. Ok, I didn’t say that. But as I texted my wife (who was late) with a “The support act is brilliant” and rushing her through the Union Chapel to our seat at the front, I realised I’d found a new hero. Sam Amidon takes old, old songs and plays them with that wonderful ability of making something complicated sound simple. I dare you, go and try and play “Wedding Dress”; not as easy as it sounds.

MP3: Wedding Dress by Sam Amidon

Career Highlight Albums From Artists With Long Enough Careers Already

This year, three bands/artists have made unexpectedly great records that stand up in comparison, or even outshine, anything they’ve done before. In no particular order:

Low – C’mon

Call me strange if you like, but I’d say that this is Low’s best actual album, as in, a record you want to listen to all the way through, again and again. Yes, “Secret Name” and “Things We Lost In The Fire” may be slowcore’s finest moments, but when did you last listen all the way through, eh?

MP3: Try To Sleep by Low

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Again, other albums may have better individual moments, but this was Mogwai making a record that felt more complete than anything before. And “George Square Thatcher Death Party” is song title of the year, no question. Excellent performed live, too (

MP3: Rano Pano by Mogwai

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Already won the Mercury Prize and likely to top most writer’s lists, and deservedly so. There’s no-one else out there making records like this.

MP3: The Words That Maketh Murder by PJ Harvey

The Obligatory Nod To Bill Callahan and Will Oldham

Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

With every Bill Callahan album, once you get over the inital obsession, you find two or three superb songs in amongst a bunch of other good songs. Those songs may well vary by listener, but you can be assured they’ll stand up against anything he’s done before. Show me someone still doing that.

With Apocalypse it’s “Baby’s Breath” and “Riding For The Feeling”. The former is plain creepy, the latter one of the finest evocations of a travelling artist you could ever hope to hear. Even now, 50-odd listens on, I’m still gobsmacked at just how beautifully composed it is. Not his best album, but it’s sure as hell better than what most other artists can produce.

MP3: Riding For The Feeling by Bill Callahan

Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Wolfroy Goes to Town

After a number of disappointing records, Mr Funky Beard himself has toned things down again and made his best record of recent years. Like Apocalypse, it recalls his greatest years but doesn’t repeat them, but unlike Apocalypse it doesn’t really stand up to the comparison. But then, this has the definite feel of a grower to it, so maybe next year I’ll be raving about it.

MP3: Quail And Dumplings by Bonnie Prince Billy

The Obligatory Instrumental Post-Metal Album

Psychic Paramount – II

Fantastic. Noisy. Absolutely f**ing barmy. The moment during DDB where the mad post-Krautrock intro suddenly, without any warning, thunders into a churning, destructive noise, is possibly my musical highlight of the year. I suspect that is what a train crash sounds like. And you know those bands who have an opener called “Intro”, and make it a nice, easy introduction to an album? II’s “Intro” lets you know exactly what the record will be like. Barmy, like I said.

Honorable mentions: Russian Circles with Empros and Mastodon with The Hunter, neither of which I’ve listened to enough yet (and yes, I know that Mastodon aren’t instrumental, but I can’t be arsed to do a separate thing)

The Obligatory Acoustic Instrumental Troubadour

Michael Chapman – Trainsong

Fantastic. Not noisy at all. And not barmy either; just utterly beautiful. What this man can do with a single guitar at the age of 70 is beyond 99.99999999% of the world’s guitarists, and yet his supreme technical skills never get in the way of a damn fine tune.

MP3: The Last Polish Breakfast by Michael Chapman

The Obligatory Paul Thomas Saunders Mention

Paul Thomas Saunders – Lilac And Wisteria EP

How, or why, this man is not a household name yet is beyond me. “Appointment In Samarra” is the most beautiful, melancholy piece of music I have heard all year. I just wish he’d pull his horrendously talented finger out and write a full CD of songs.

Well, that’s Part One out of the way. Part Two, in all its slightly shorter glory, is over here.

Back, Redux, Again

Look, I know I keep saying I’m going to post more, but something’s come up. Whilst I don’t sometimes talk in detail about my personal life (injured limbs and hangovers notwithstanding), I’ll just say that something truly wonderful happened last week, even if said wonderful thing’s sole role in life currently is to sleep, eat and poo. With a bit of crying thrown in.

So I may as well just close down the blog now. Except I won’t, I’m far too addicted to the sound of my own voice. Or the nice little shapes my words make on the screen. If you fancy keeping up with the blog without the hassle of RSS or clicking on a favourite, just click on “Subscribe” over on the right hand side. Go on, do it.

In any case, I’ve got some new music to talk about. I’ve posted about Paul Thomas Saunders before and he’s one of those artists that I’ve been longing to hear more of. I’ve only had a handful of tracks to listen too, culled from various compilations and blogs and the like, and those songs have the ability to send me away from the churning throng of Canary Wharf station in rush hour to a place somewhere that’s as calm, peaceful and loving as a womb. Paul is one of those rare musicians – like early My Morning Jacket or M Ward – who understand how to build an ambience, an atmosphere, a sense of place in their music.

He’s got a new EP out named “Lilac And Wisteria”, and we can finally listen to a proper piece of work. I’ve only heard a couple of songs from it: “Appointment In Samarra” (Soundcloud below) and the free download “Silhouettes of an English Rose” (from his website here). Both tracks are superb; I’m not going to say “Oh, if you like SoAndSo you’ll love this” because, frankly, if you don’t like these songs you should just stick your fingers in your ears and walk around yelling “LA LA LA NOT LISTENING TO ANYTHING ANYMORE” because you don’t deserve the joy that such music can bring. The EP’s four quid. Four quid! That’s a pint in a pub in London, and is a tiny price to pay for something so wonderful.

Yes, I have ordered a copy. He’s playing live in London soon. I am going to miss it. Bugger.