Thursday, 28 April 2011

William, It Was Really Nothing - A Royal Wedding Playlist

With my tongue firmly in my cheek and a healthy dose of republican sentiment, here's my playlist to get you through the Royal Wedding today. You can listen to the whole thing on Spotify here.
  1. Great Britain - Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip
  2. God Save The Queen - Sex Pistols
  3. $1000 Wedding - Gram Parson
  4. The Prince - Madness
  5. The Frog Princess - The Divine Comedy
  6. Camilla - The Art of Noise
  7. Royal Correspondent - Manic Street Preachers
  8. Guest List - Eels
  9. The Marriage - Billy Bragg
  10. Katherine Kiss Me - Franz Ferdinand
  11. William, It Was Really Nothing - The Smiths
  12. Flag Day - The Housemartins
  13. The Bunting Song - The Good, The Bad and The Queen
  14. A Punch Up At A Wedding - Radiohead
  15. Street (Party) Fighting Man - The Rolling Stones
  16. Mash It Up Harry - Ian Dury & The Blockheads

Recommended music: 'The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner' by Fight Like Apes

As a marketing tool to draw attention to the album, the title of the new release from Fight Like Apes certainly does the job. But what awaits you when you get past the name? Fortunately, the 12 tracks of polyphonic potty-mouthed punk pop contained within more than live up to the promise of the epithet on the front.

The star of the show is Mary-Kate Geraghty's deceptively good voice. It's one of those voices that has a great range and depth while at the same time sounding like she doesn't even have to try. Juxtaposed with the noisy, bouncy songs and trooper-like amount of swearing, it's even more stunning.

The songs themselves are a enjoyable mixture of quiet bits & loud bits, slow bits and fast bits (often all in the same song), shot through with a fantastic amount of pop-skills and a healthy dose of irony. There are interesting dialogue samples, which are put to particularly good use on 'Waking Up With Robocop', which also contains the great line 'I remember when you criticised me about picking the Face over Mr T'.

The highlight for me is probably 'Pull Off Your Arms and Let's Play In Your Blood'. The lyrics start gently enough - 'You're not into older men but I guess no-one looks old in the dark' - but soon take a turn down the four-letter freeway, culminating in the genius couplet 'My well read friends informed that I was a cunt / But it's her own cunting problem, it's not my fucking problem I'm dumb' (the first time I've heard that particular derivation of the c-bomb dropped in a song). The song has a slow, mournful chorus of 'I can't keep writing songs about cutting you up' before ending in a joyous, double-speed bounce round the room whith everyone singing the title.

Closer 'Ice Cream Apple Fuck' pretty much encapsulates everything the band are about in 4 minutes - references to Woody Allen, self-medication, puke and alcohol, bitching about people they've known ('I will not take your shit you skinny cow / So let's produce a rope and drag it all out), more swearing, 3 different tempos and shouted backing vocals, all topped off with MayKay's luscious lung-bursting vocals.

Produced by Gang of Four's Andy Gill, which has added more depth and strength to their sound, this should be the album that allows Fight Like Apes to break out from their native Ireland (where the album was nominated for the 2010 Choice Music Prize for Album of the Year) into the UK and beyond.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Recommended music: 'First Wave' by Dam Mantle

Dam Mantle (a.k.a. Tom Marshallsay) is one of the brightest new stars to emerge from the increasingly brilliant and varied electronic music scene in the UK. If you liked releases last year from the likes of Gold Panda & Mount Kimbie, or more dubstep-type stuff from Joker, Skream and Magnetic Man, then imagine them played back to back (and sometimes all at once!) and you'll start to get a feel for what this sounds like.

I bought this album off Tom in a sun-drenched alley in Austin after watching him perform twice in 2 days at this year's South by South West Festival. Essentially it's a compilation of the tracks from his first two E.P.s 'Grey' and 'Purple Arrow' with 5 new tracks. The music is an intriguing blend of sound collages, cut-ups, dubstep rhythmns and some pretty solid beats. If at first listen it sounds just a bit too off-kilter to get into then stick with it - gradually patterns and shapes emerge as you immerse yourself in the soundscapes.

As you work through the album Tom seems to hone his style so that by the end of it you really get a sense of where his work is going. This bodes well for the future, as does the live set I saw him perform, which was almost all new material and was more than a match for anything on this release - especially the one where he sings a mad lyric about monks, which was my particular favourite!

Dam Mantle performing at SXSW 2011
If you get a chance make sure you go and see him live, dates lined up so far are;
  • 01.05.11 - Camden Crawl, London
  • 11.06.11 - Doune the Rabbit Hole, Perthshire
  • 09.07.11 - 1234 Festival, London
  • 22.07.11 - Wickerman Festival, Dumfries

You can listen to the whole album below, and then buy it here:

Dam Mantle - First Wave by forcefieldpr

There's a free download of the track 'Theatre' if you sign up below

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Recommended music: 'XI Versions of Black Noise' by Pantha du Prince

If you've looked through my blog you'll know that the original version of 'Black Noise' was one of my favourite electronic albums of last year. So I was eagerly awaiting these remix versions, and I've not been disappointed.

Although there were 11 tracks on the original, '11 versions...' only contains mixes of 5 of them, but they're sufficiently varied for that not to matter. The three versions of 'Welt Am Draht' range from a dark, Underworld type throb through a strange horn-parping version to Animal Collective's mix with tribal drums and new vocals, which you can listen to here:
Welt Am Draht (Animal Collective Remix) by Pantha du Prince

Meanwhile 'Stick To My Side', which originally featured Animal Collective's Panda Bear on vocals, is treated to no less than five mixes. These vary in pace and texture so much that you could actually be listening to 5 completely different tracks, the pick of the versions being the gentle, bell-chiming version by Walls, and Four Tet's upbeat mix in his usual style - you can hear this one below:
Stick To My Side (Four Tet Version) by Pantha du Prince

The other three tracks to receive the remix treatment are 'A Nomad's Retreat', 'Satellite Sniper' and 'Lay In Shimmer'. The album works perfectly as a companion piece to the original, but is also good enough to enchant anyone who's not familiar with the source material

The vinyl version only contains 5 tracks (it's called 'V Versions of Black Noise'), but it comes with a download coupon for all 11 anyway so it's worth getting, as usual my copy came from Rough Trade East .

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Record Store Day 2011

It's mid-afternoon and I've returned from the frenzied orgy of consumption at Rough Trade East. Despite the doors opening 45 minutes late the staff were as friendly and helpful as ever, and I managed to get hold of most of the things I wanted (we were too far down the queue for Radiohead, and The White Stripes delivery from Third Man Records hadn't arrived).

Well done to Spencer Hickman and all of the team for putting things together - for us it's not a rarity to visit the shop and snap up some vinyl, but I'm sure there must have been a few in the queue who were losing their vinyl virginity.

Here's a list of what I bought (in the photo above, left to right, back to front);
  1. Purling Hiss / Puffy Areolas - split 12" (ltd. to 750)
  2. Anoraak / Team Ghost - split 7" (blue vinyl)
  3. Grinderman - Evil Remixes - 12" & cd (ltd. to 750)
  4. Gorillaz - The Fall - LP (ltd. to 500)
  5. Gold Panda - Marriage Remixes - 12" (ltd. to 600)
  6. Jenny & Jonny / Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris - split 7" (blue vinyl)
  7. Foo Fighters - Medium Rare - Covers LP
  8. Franz Ferdinand - Covers EP - (ltd. to 1000, orange vinyl)
  9. The Kills - Satellite Dub mixes - 10" (ltd. to 1000)
  10. Bibio / Clarke - split 12" (ltd. to 500)
  11. Rekords Rekords sampler - 10" picture disc (ltd. to 1000)
  12. Mute Vorwarts - exclusive Mute tracks - orange vinyl 12" & cd (ltd. to 1000)
  13. Wild Beasts - Albatross - 7" (ltd. to 250)
  14. Arctic Monkeys - Don't Sit Down... - white label 7" (ltd. to 3000)
  15. Gil Scott-Heron - It's Your World - 7" (#111 of 300)
  16. Toro Y Moi / Cloud Nothings - split 7" (ltd. to 150)
  17. Moon Duo - Scars (Sonic Boom mix) - 7" (ltd. to 500)
  18. Metronomy - The Look - 7"
  19. The Clash - Magnificent 7 - numbered cd
  20. Sound It Out - the official film of Record Store Day - DVD (ltd. to 500)
(The last 3 aren't in the picture because I went back on Tuesday to get them.)

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Recommended music: 'Holy Ghost!' by Holy Ghost!

Probably the most unashamedly pop record that DFA records have ever released, this debut release from New York's Holy Ghost! (one of the most difficult bands on the planet to Google successfully) sound like Hot Chip would do if they were formed in the '80s in the USA. While it's fair to say that there's no great depths to the lyrics, the style and quality of the songs shine through.

First track 'Do It Again' is one of the album's highlights, with its James Murphy-alike vocal refrain and insistent rhythmn, and next up 'Wait and See' is almost as good. 'Hold My Breath' has a keyboard riff that keeps threatening to turn into the hook from MGMT's 'Kids', and then 'Say My Name' hits you with a funky keyboard bass the likes of which I haven't heard since I last stood in front of a Yamaha DX-7.

Track 5 is 'Jam For Jerry', and just makes me want to know who Jerry is and why he deserves a track, but 'Hold On' is much better, with a throbbing bassline and a great tune, this is one of the edgier tracks on the album. The (holy) ghost of New Order rears its head on 'It's Not Over', even down to the use of a Bernard Sumner lyric 'It's a problem of mine' (from Bizarre Love Triangle). 'Slow Motion' glides past easily before 'Static On The Wire' gives a Human League vibe a funk makeover with great results. Then the big guns are wheeled out as the legendary Michael McDonald makes an appearance on closer 'Some Children'.

Maybe not life-changing, but certainly life-affirming.

You can download 'Wait and See' below.
Holy Ghost! - Wait & See by DFA Records

Recommended music: 'The English Riviera' by Metronomy

It's quite an achievement to make an album about, and inspired by, his childhood in Totnes (The English Riviera) sound like a record that belongs in the sunny and stylish French Riviera, but this is what Joe Mount and his band have accomplished.

From the opening title track - a short instrumental with the sound of seagulls - the atmosphere is set. If you're English of course, seagulls will invariable make you think of faded seaside towns and childhood holidays, but as Joe has pointed out 'Seagulls are everywhere...Cannes, they're in Miami, they're in LA. For some people it's like...Muscle Beach and rollerblading'. The song segues into 'We Broke Free', a great early track with Joe promising 'I'll take you out round town, I swear you'll never witness anything quite as fine'. Then 'Everything Goes My Way' shows a new level of sophistication for the band, as Joe performs a stylish duet with Veronica Falls singer Roxanne Clifford.

'The Look' then drifts into view - I didn't realise until I heard it in the context of this record how much the fading in keyboard at the start sounds like an old-fashioned end of the pier Wurlitzer. This is followed by 'She Wants' with a groovy retro bassline and a very '80s feel (and a bit that sounds like The Police). 'Trouble', like a number of tracks on the album, has some nice guitar work - this track in particular sounds the most band-focussed, a traditional mix of drums, bass & guitar that Joe wouldn't have achieved had he stayed holed up in his bedroom studio on his own (apart from the weird Sparky's Magic Piano vocals in the middle, that is!).

Lyrically 'The Bay' is probably the most direct in referencing the south coast - 'This isn't Paris, this isn't London...if you want to go I'll take you back one day', all set to one of the best tunes on the album. 'Loving Arm' is more reminiscent of earlier work, with simple keyboards and slightly obscure lyrics (what exactly is a Loving Arm?), while 'Corinne' mixes a quirky keyboard pattern with tales of a broken heart. Then 'Some Written' provides a moment of calm (and is that a flute?) before building up to a climax (and is that a kazoo??).  Finally 'Love Underlined' takes our hand and whisks us onto the dancefloor for a quick spin before closing time.

Having been a bit disappointed by the previous record 'Nights Out' (and all the accompanying superlatives from the NME et al) this one more than lives up to expectations. The quirks and squelches of its predecessor have been smoothed out while still retaining a personality and a sense of fun. Equally the previous dancefloor focus has been reigned in to produce a much warmer record that is suitable for anytime listening - day or night. There's a certain timelessness to the album - it sounds a bit 70's, a bit '80s, but also current, in a way that isn't likely to fall quickly out of fashion. It's only April, but this could already be your soundtrack for the summer.

You can get a free download of 'She Wants' below.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Dusting 'em down #2: 'This Is Hardcore' by Pulp

With less than 2 months to go until the reformed Pulp start hitting the festival circuit, I'm sure there'll be some discussion and exploration of their back catalogue. Attention will no doubt be focused on their breakthrough album 'Different Class', which is understandable - it contains their biggest hit 'Common People' and plenty of other great songs, including the controversial (at the time) 'Sorted for E's and Wizz'. You might remember that the cover for 'Sorted...' featured instructions on how to make a wrap of speed, thereby prompting one of the Daily Mirror's most famous headlines - 'Ban This Sick Stunt'. 

But as good as 'Different Class' undoubtedly is, it was never my favourite Pulp album - that honour goes to 'This Is Hardcore'. Released in March 1998, some two and a half years after its predecessor, '...Hardcore' is a very different beast. Darker and more melancholy, its subject matter derives from the experiences the band went through after the success of '...Class'. Jarvis Cocker was (allegedly) now battling cocaine addiction, and suffering from the break-up of his long-term relationship. These factors, together with the long tours the band had undertaken to promote the Mercury-award winning 'Different Class', have clearly influenced the song topics on the album.

Opener 'The Fear' deals with a drug comedown, while 'Dishes' fosters Cocker's sens of inadequacy with one of his most famous lyrics 'I am not Jesus, though we have the same initials'. 'Party Hard' is an alcohol and drug-fuelled binge, while 'Help The Aged' brings into focus the fate that awaits us all, and questions whether we'll be able to continue behaving disgracefully in our dotage. As it says on the back of the cd booklet 'It's OK to grow up - just as long as you don't grow old. Face are young'. For me this is the start of the album's purple patch, a 5 song centrepiece which continues with the title track. A six minute treatise on the degrading mechanics of sex and how pornography can distort the act, 'This Is Hardcore' marks the peak (or should that be trough?) of the album's despair. It's followed by 'TV Movie', in which Jarvis views his life as a poorly made, low budget film made for TV, and then 'A Little Soul', the most emotional song on the album, wherein Cocker warns his estranged son not to turn out like him. Finally in this run of brilliant tracks 'I'm A Man' questions the meaning of life in the face of unreal advertisements.

'Seductive Barry' and 'Sylvia' are 2 of Cocker's people pen portraits and then, for the last 2 tracks, the album takes an interesting (left) turn into politics. 'Glory Days' started life with a different set of lyrics as a song called 'Cocaine Socialism'. This was an attack on the day that Tony Blair invited the likes of Noel Gallagher (who went) and Cocker (who didn't) to Downing Street to celebrate the succes of New Labour and listen to his ultimately empty promises for the future (this song later surfaced as a B-side to 'A Little Soul'). The album version 'Glory Days' covers more generic disappointments and failures, with lines like 'Raise your voice in celebration of the days that we have wasted in the cafe in the station' and 'I could be a genius if I just put my mind to it'. Finally 'The Day After The Revolution' deals with the day after the election victory, as hangovers and reality set in. On the original vinyl of the album that I bought at the time, the song ends with a concentric groove, so that the final chord is permamnently looped and the needle never leave the vinyl - a fitting end for a song that implies that although on the surface things have changed, beneath it everything in constant.

So if you're new to Pulp, by all means check out 'Different Class', but don't stop there. For a true snapshot both of Cocker's life, and the state of the UK at the time, head to 'This Is Hardcore'.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Recommended music: 'Cat's Eyes' by Cat's Eyes

Are duos the next big thing? Hot on the heels of the Moon Duo album comes this release from Cat's Eyes, formed by Faris Badwan (The Horrors) and Rachel Zeffira, who bonded over a mutual love of vintage girl groups and '60s Italian pop. The resulting songs veer from swinging sixties film soundtracks (mainly featuring Zeffira's vocals) to more gothic influenced tracks where Badwan takes the lead.

The opening title tracks has a short spoken introduction and references to 'the pack' in a clear homage to The Shangri-Las, while 'The Best Person I Know' starts with an Air chord sequence before developing into a sensual love song. 'I'm Not Stupid' is a string-laden lament to losing in love, while 'Face In The Crowd' perfects the '60s boy/girl vibe, complete with twanging guitars and horns.

Next up is 'Not A Friend', the most civilised break-up song you've ever heard - backed by strings and woodwind, it's short and to the point. Then the whistling on 'Bandit' lends the track a spaghetti western feel. 'Sooner or Later' puts The Horrors through the orchestral looking glass, the discordant strings suddenly clearing to reveal a droning, hypnotic and menacing track.

The lightness of touch is restored on 'The Lull', before 'Over You' picks up the pace with a strangely Gallic charm. In my head the track comes with a sun-drenched, slightly out of focus video in which a girl with long blonde hair casually tosses her locks while riding around Paris on a moped (my head is a strange place). Appropriately enough 'I Knew It Was Over' closes the album with a resigned sigh and more musings on a broken relationship.

Curiously uplifting for an album featuring twice as many break-up songs as getting together ones, this is an accomplished piece of work which deserves to be acclaimed as far more than just a side project.

You can sample snippets from every track on the album below.

Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes Album Sampler by Cat's Eyes Music

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Recommended music: '7Fingers' by Anne Muller & Nils Frahm

A fascinating blend of classical and electronic music, this is the first release from the pairing of Berliners Nils Frahm and Anne Muller.

Frahm is normally more known for his solo piano work, while Muller is a cellist. On this album, while Muller's cello still shines through, Frahm is hard at work creating the electronic soundscapes for her to play over. The more overtly cello-based songs sound modern and ethereal, but it's those with the electronics to the fore which are the most successful. 'Show Your Teeth' is almost pure electronica, while the most successful joining of the two styles is 'Journey For A Traveller', a track that takes you on a musical journey from electronic to classical and back again, while perfectly evoking a sense of motion.

The album is out now on Erased Tapes Records, who've also put out releases by Peter Broderick and Olafur Arnalds, and is well worth investigating. In the meantime you can listen to the title track here:
Nils Frahm & Anne Müller – 7fingers by erasedtapes

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Someone Great has gone - LCD Soundsytem's last ever gig

As the song once said, 'It's a sad sad situation' - LCD Soundsystem are no more. I'm sure we'll hear more from James Murphy in the future, but for now the glorious juggernaut that was the live LCD Soundsystem machine is no more.

If, like most of the universe, you missed the last show at Madison Square Garden, you can watch the whole thing here:

Try not to cry into your beer as you watch it...