Friday, December 28, 2007

The Ubu Web

The Ubu Web is a great place. The You Tube for pretentious intellectuals and people who want to discover bits of cultural history they never knew existed. I could spend hours wading through obscure avant-garde film.

Where else could you find the surrealist classic, Un Chien Andalou?

Or documentaries on the situationist international or women in alt-rock?

Or Brion Gysin's cut up sound poem I Am?

A great resource:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Songs of the year

There was lots of great music out there this year, and much of it from way beyond the official charts. Individual songs often got lost in the mists, but these ones stuck with me over the year....

.kate nash : foundations.

This is such a clever song, lyrically. It's pretending to be upbeat and poppy but it's a pretty sharp disection of a relationship that's on the rocks. It surprised me and brought many a smile of recognition. I loved it.

.white stripes : you don't know what love is
For me one of two stand out tracks from the latest WS cd (the other being 300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues), which for the most part saw Jack White coasting and doing what Jack White does best. This is another song about a tricky relationship. It's pretty evil, but oddly full of love at the same time. This is someone the singer is still talking to, bargaining with, but it's a pretty tough message all the same.

.amy winehouse : tears dry on their own
Not a good year for Amy, and yet her album sold by the truckload and she was everywhere. This song summed it all up so well, and was a gorgeous slice of perfectly recreated clasic R 'n' B. Rehab was pretty iconic too, but unfortuantely became ironic. This one will stand the test of time. And Mark Ronson and the Dap Kings - wow!

.arcade fire : keep the car running
The best track from the excellent second album, it just got stuck in the brain, a mesmerising sound and good lyrics. Don't stop to park.

.esio trot : sally likes the beach boys
Sounding like it was created in their living room, this is 70 seconds of pure pop perfection. Straight out of Brighton, it doesn't come any better than this.

.feist : 1 2 3 4

This was everywhere thanks to that advert. But it's a catchy song, and helped define the year in music. I loved it.

.badly drawn boy : promises

The latest album was disappointing but this single from it, which got lost in the mists, is amongst the best things he's done.

.hiawatha telephone company : ship song

Finally, the best new song from my neck of the woods. At some point I'll get it recorded and posted online. But for me, it was a stand out.


1 Thanks to Heartache with Hard Work blog

2 Thanks to Who Killed the Mixtape blog

Friday, December 07, 2007

My favourite albums of 2007

It's that time of year again. There's been so much good music this year, although much of it under the critical radar. The usual suspects will no doubt turn up in the critical lists as usual, but critics and blogs seem to be getting ever more unreliable in the desperate charge to write about something, anything, as the next big thing. So, here's the albums that rocked my mp3 player over the past 12 months.

Southcoasting's 2007th Top of the Pops
right click on the songs to listen, click on the cover pics to buy

.blitzen trapper: wild mountain nation

Welcome to the new folk anarchy! Portland, Oregon is this year's Toronto, or last year's Seattle, or whatever. So many exciting bands are coming out of this city at present, but Blitzen Trapper were imho the finest. It just puts a smile on my face every time I hear it. I saw the BT play live and they were the maddest excuse for a band ever, teaming over the stage, swerving from Bob Dylan 1962-style folkiness into some kind of woodland-punk version of the Scissor sisters. Kind of a faux-pastoral urbanism. The songs are a crazy mix, and come across as veering ever so slightly out of control - but they turn on an innate beauty and soul which just takes you over. Even the Sun gave them a 4* review. Amazing.

.jane barthomomew : morning songs

Where Blitzen Trapper moved my head and made me smile, Jane Bartholomew moves my heart. This is an album of beautiful ghostly love songs, sung by an angel augmented by her own guitar or piano, and occasional strings. Unbearably precious and delicate and completely enchanting. Playing live, she puts down her handbag and kicks off her shoes and enters a brilliant world of her own. An absolutely essential release, only available through Jane's own website.

.nina nastasia & jim white : you follow me

Born in California, resident in New York City, Nina Nastasia has been writing songs for over a decade. By my reckoning this is her fifth album, although it was the first I'd heard. I saw Nina supporting an outstanding Adem in the beautiful Kemp Town chapel, and her songs and presence blew me away. The album is a beautiful marriage between Nina's strange ear for words and relationships, and Jim White's in-your-face rhythmic meladrama, which against the odds works brilliantly in combination.

.diamond family archive : pear tree

I recently blogged how wonderful Lawrence Collyer's latest CD (his fifth) is. Heart-wrenching emotional songs of love and hate, dark and yet strangely uplifting, wrapped up in a deep poetic intellect and an electric green accompaniment.

.okkervil river : the stage names
Another rich tapestry of urban Americana from Okkervil River, the Austin, Texas band incapable of being boring. Most of the songs on the Stage Names, their 5th album, were written in a small 4th floor walk-up apartment in Brooklyn. Apparently there were enough songs for a double album, so we may find a welcome further addendum, as there was for the Black Sheep Boy. But in the end the nine that made this cut are superb. The cover image is an embroidery by William Schaff. It's also excellent.

.radiohead : in rainbows

What's to say? Frustrating of course, yet inspiring and possibly their best album since OK Computer. The distribution mechanism brought home things that were already happening elsewhere in the industry, but the music was what mattered, and it was intriguing, innovative and exciting. No memorable songs of course, and arch-modern aural wallpaper at times, but still well worth the £1.10 I paid for it.

.josh ritter : historical conquests of josh ritter

Sounding strangely historical, classical and yet poetic and folksy and 1972. There are hints of Gilbert O'Sullivan. That's a good thing.

.jens lekman : night falls over kortedala

Somehow our Swedish pop genius does it again, falling on just the right side of classic romanticism.

.blanket : blank it

Awesome album from Brighton-London band, also featuring Lawrence Collyer. Strangely hypnotic, simple and brooding. One of these days we'll all be made of rubber. Hear it now.

.caribou : andorra

A divine eclectic mix of styles, like a hyper-modern Beach Boys and Beatles.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Diamond Family Archive

I am busily compiling my best of 2007 list for this blog, and the diamond family archive's Pear Tree is definitely up there with the best of this year's releases.

~"it's strange how we listen to songs of love and hate but we don't hear the love songs until it's too late" (Pear Tree)

Trance-like and intimate, folksongs for darker hearts, Laurence Collyer's mesmerising live performances are hard to translate to record (and this is his third album this year) but on Pear Tree they do. Chilling evocative lyrics coupled with a droning countryfied guitar and assorted accompaniment, this is DFA's finest recording yet. Imagine how Bob Dylan and the Band might have sounded if they'd been holed up in a cold drizzling English countryside with only bottles of cough syrup and Lou Reed's Berlin LP on constant rotation. It's that good.

This CD, like the previous DFA releases, is only available in extremely limited numbers from the superb Woodland Recordings label. It is destined to be a classic, if only anyone gets to hear it.

Two songs below, one from Pear Tree and one from the album shared with the excellent The Great Park from earlier this year.

And if you want more Lawrence, get the fab new Blanket album.

~"I'm sorry for all of my mistakes, but why can't
we talk of something else, something beautiful, something outside of

We could always stay close, close enough to reach
each other's throats

(Making friends)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

24 Acts in 81 minutes

"24 Acts in 81 minutes. It pays to improve your word power!"

Before C86 there was C81...

This was probably my most important introduction to decent independent music, way back when I was just out of short trousers... the first outing for Scritti Politti's the sweetest girl... most people's introduction to Postcard records... Compiled by the NME journalist Roy Carr and a Rough Trade PR person, it's the most awesome and eclectic mixtape ever, and cost about £1.25 to readers of the NME!

This copy has been taken from an original cassette because this major history piece has never been reissued on CD (unlike the C86 compilation, which was issued as a fifth anniversary memorial to this one). It still sounds good though. If it is reissued, obviously, I would insist that you go out and buy it, but until then

Download the full cassette:

Track listing

Side one

  1. "The "Sweetest Girl"" – Scritti Politti (6:09)
  2. "Twist and Crawl Dub" – The Beat (4:58)
  3. "Misery Goats" – Pere Ubu (2:26)
  4. "7,000 Names of Wah!" – Wah! Heat (3:57)
  5. "Blue Boy" – Orange Juice (2:52)
  6. "Raising the Count" – Cabaret Voltaire (3:32)
  7. "Kebab Traume (Live)" – D.A.F (3:50)
  8. "Bare Pork" – Furious Pig (1:28)
  9. "Raquel" – The Specials (1:51)
  10. "I Look Alone" – Buzzcocks (3:00)
  11. "Fanfare in the Garden" – Essential Logic (3:00)
  12. "Born Again Cretin" – Robert Wyatt (3:07)

Side two

  1. "Shouting Out Loud" – The Raincoats (3:19)
  2. "Endless Soul" – Josef K (2:27)
  3. "Low Profile" – Blue Orchids (3:47)
  4. "Red Nettle" – Virgin Prunes (2:13)
  5. "We Could Send Letters" – Aztec Camera (4:57)
  6. "Milkmaid" – Red Crayola (2:01)
  7. "Don't Get in My Way" – Linx (5:15)
  8. "The Day My Pad Went Mad" – The Massed Carnaby St John Cooper Clarkes (1:46)
  9. "Jazz Is the Teacher, Funk Is the Preacher" – James Blood Ulmer (4:03)
  10. "Close to Home" – Ian Dury (4:13)
  11. "Greener Grass" – Gist (2:32)
  12. "Parallel Lines" – Subway Sect (2:38)
  13. "81 Minutes" – John Cooper Clarke (0:13)

And if you liked that, you'll like these:

25 Years of Rough Trade Shops
Rough Trade Shops - Indiepop Vol.1
Rough Trade Shops - Post Punk Vol.1
Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984
North By North West: Liverpool & Manchester from Punk to Post-Punk & Beyond
Do It Yourself: the Rise of the Independent Music Industry
John Peel - Right Time Wrong Speed
From Brussels With Love
Pillows and Prayers

and of course

Cd86: 48 Tracks from the Birth of Indie Pop

and this book...

Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture

well, Xmas is coming after all...