Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Hang the DJ top spot for '08!

And so my two standout albums of the year: Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago has been much written about and debated but it’s an album i’ve loved since getting an early copy on import from the US. The story behind the album’s genesis seems too romantic for some people, but for me it’s just a great album – sad and bruised and hopeful all to once – that has been a genuine word of mouth success. It hasn’t been hugely marketed, as sometimes happens (yet, at least), it wasn’t mined for singles and spin offs, it was just allowed to sit there and be talked about and discovered. His live shows too were stunning, i saw him twice and the songs seemed at once the same and different as you saw them played by his three piece band. Top marks from me.

My second record of the year is the Northline Soundtrack by Willy Vlautin & Paul Brainard, a forty minute instrumental album that accompanied Vlautin's sophomore novel published back in February (which is the only original soundtrack i know by the author of a published novel). I do admit to a bit of a bias here, having worked on the novel, but this is a beautiful piece of music – think Ry Cooder’s Paris, Texas meets Ennio Morricone and you’re in the right dusty field. Fans of Richmond Fontaine will know all about Paul Brainard’s pedal steel playing (also with the Sadies, M. Ward etc.) but the arrangements he and Vlautin came up with for acoustic guitar, steel, drums, harmonica and trumpet were gorgeous, evocative and moving – from the haunting title theme and its refrain to ‘Doc Holidays’ , ‘Paul Newman Saves the Night’ and on. This is still only currently available with the original edition of the novel, but if this is your kind of thing you should really track it down (and the novel is a stunner too), here's a taster...

Monday, 22 December 2008

Albums of the Year '08

So don’t worry about old Maggoty (i’m still at 6th form College) Lamb from the guardian, 2008 was, for me, a great year in music. There were really strong returns from two old favourites who had looked in a bit of a mess with their previous albums (DBT and Calexico) as well as a fine new project from M Ward in conjunction with a strange-voiced actress (She & Him). Also from the US there was a brilliant, and obscure covers album (Vetiver), two very slow-burn records that up until recently wouldn’t have made this list (The Felice Brothers and The Hold Steady) and the UK debut of a brilliant new voice whose gig at the Borderline back in March was one of my favourites of the year (Dawn Landes – seriously her album is worth a buy).
Closer to home, it was a fine year for British music too, with a superb young debut (Laura Marling) a second from a man with some serious high-lonesome to his voice (Pete Molinari), again a brilliant live performer, and then there was probably the most popular and warmly received winner of the Mercury Prize ever (Elbow). So here are ten albums (in no order) to check out if you haven’t already. Finally, i've held back my very top two albums for tomorrow's post...

Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
Calexico – Carried to Dust
She & Him – Volume I
Vetiver – Thing of the Past
The Felice Brothers
The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
Dawn Landes - Fireproof
Laura Marling – Alas, I cannot Swim
Pete Molinari – A Virtual Landslide
Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

Friday, 19 December 2008

Guardian in 'moan' shock

Interesting piece from the Guardian Music Blog yesterday - inspired, annoying, or somewhere between the two? I'll leave that to you to decide...

Maggoty Lamb piece

Thursday, 18 December 2008

In brief...

and i won't be shy, today's the last day to order the book online if you want to receive it before xmas, so buy it HERE

If not, then you've still got a few days to get down to HMV, Zavvi, Waterstones or, even better, your local independent book shop.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

2008 playlist...

i was going to do singles of the year, but not many of these were singles as such. Instead i've gone for stand out tracks that have played again and again on my ipod or that i've used on mixes this year (with one exception, none of them are from my forthcoming albums of the year list)...

1. ‘Those Summer Nights’ Robert Wyatt & Bertrand Burgalat
70s styled Philly Soul from the great English eccentric in collaboration with a French guy I would never normally listen to, if I’m being honest. Totally brilliant.

2. ‘Young Love’ Mystery Jets
Moving on with a great bass line/riff this is the perfect adolescent pop song – and features the lovely Laura Marling as guest vocalist.

3. ‘Be the One’ Ting Tings
The best single from this girl/boy duo’s debut album, and it had some competition there (see also, 'Shut up and Let Me Go').

4. ‘Shape of my Heart’ Noah and the Whale
The year’s other great adolescent pop song, also featuring Laura Marling as guest vocalist.

5. ‘One Day Like This’ Elbow
Stand out track from their very fine Mercury-winning album… ‘I can only think it must be love’.

6. ‘Suffering Jukebox’ Silver Jews
Great lyrics and the saddest (and sexiest) backing vocal of the year.

7. ‘Soul on Fire’ Spiritualized
This tune is the perfect summary of everything Spiritualized – cracked vocals, gospel backing, strings, soul and fire in the lyrics.

8. and 9. ‘Better’ G N’R / ‘The Day that never Comes’ Metallica
My two ROCK songs of the year: Better was the one classic tune on Chinese Democracy and from Metallica’s fine return, The Day that Never Comes is awesome (dude), especially the middle section with its Thin Lizzy-like guitars.

10. ‘New York’ Cat Power
Jukebox was a bit disappointing, after The Greatest and her earlier covers album, but perhaps surprisingly this reworking of New York was great, a very sultry vocal and great arrangement by the band.

11. ‘Mykonos’ Fleet Foxes
Their self titled debut hasn’t quite made my albums of the year list, mainly as I didn’t think it was as good as their Sun Giant EP... where you can find this fine tune.

12. ‘Clear the Way’ Dawn Kinnard & Ed Harcourt
My favourite duet of the year, two distinctive voices that sounded amazing together.

An American Tune...

thanks to 'anonymous' who got in touch about Tom McRae's great post from Friday, here is a link to view the performance that Tom wrote about Paul Simon

My tracks of the year/2008 playlist coming up by the end of today...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

'Do they exist or did i dream them' pt ii

Anyone who might have been (?) following this blog from the start, will know that i asked back in September for some help tracking down the two Jodie Foster songs mentioned in Ali Smith's great list in the book. Well this weekend i got a sweet email from Christina (in America, i think)...

'I didn't know your blog existed until today when I saw Tom McRae's blog, which linked to his recent entry...

I'm writing because I scrolled through old entries and saw the one about two French songs sung by Jodie Foster. I don't know if you or anyone is still interested, but I can confirm that "Je t'attends depuis la nuit des temps" exists because I have a copy of it, clearly taken from vinyl or an old cassette because you can hear scratches at the beginning. I have no idea where, why, or how I got the song, but an Internet query led me to this very bizarre - but very amusing - video of her singing the song on TV.'

Sunday, 14 December 2008

And something not from 2008...

Thanks to all the guest post-ers this week, nice choices! I was at the St Giles' Bon Iver gig too, which was as special as Laura Barton made it sound.
I'm going to post my ten albums and tracks of the year lists towards the end of the week, but does anyone have a musical highlight of their own that they want to share? I have one Hang the DJ xmas goodie bag to give away to the person who's reply goes up.

In the meantime, and as it's Sunday night, here's something lovely from Aretha...

Friday, 12 December 2008

Tom McRae on Paul Simon

It seems a little defeatist to choose a TV appearance as my musical highlight of 2008, but here it is. Paul Simon singing 'An American Tune' on The Colbert Report, a couple of weeks after Obama had won the Presidency. No flag waving, no politicking, just one of the genius song-writers of the modern era singing one of his many quiet masterpieces. In that one moment he seemed to sum up the relief, the hope, but also the trepidation of a nation at the crossroads of history. And he did it all in a three minute performance on a half hour comedy show. "We come in the age's most uncertain hours and sing an American tune." Perfect.

Tom McRae Site

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Laura Barton on Bon Iver at St Giles Church, London

St Giles church sits a little way back from the road in central London, a stone's throw from Tottenham Court Road station, where the buses swing round onto New Oxford Street, and the pedestrians spill out across the pavements. On a weekday evening in early summer, when the trees in the churchyard hung heavy and waxy, Bon Iver played here at St Giles, a world away from the bustle outside, sitting quietly at the top of the aisle before an audience of some 200 people.
There was something about the Bon Iver album that lit me up. Released at the start of this year, For Emma, Forever Ago ran a mere 37 minutes long. Yet its nine songs proved more potent, more redemptive, more astonishing, than anything I have heard since Van Morrison's Astral Weeks.
I'd seen them played live in a number of locations, from the Social to the Scala, but I had never heard those songs sound quite so rapturous as that night at St Giles. Perhaps it was the setting that brought out the gospel tinge to Justin Vernon's voice, perhaps it was the instinctive sense of awe that descends whenever one finds oneself seated on wooden pews, before stained glass, breathing hallowed air. But as the evening unfolded in layers of falsetto, drums and steel guitar, the air quivered with utter devotion.
The audience that evening was largely made up of jaded music industry aficionados and hipster types, but by the end of the short, sweet set, there was a sense that we had all witnessed something monumental. For the final song, the band came out into the aisle to sing The Wolves (Act I and II), entirely without amplification. The audience crowded round, joined in, and afterwards cheered, applauded, whooped. I looked around and saw there row upon row of people — or perhaps we might call them believers — standing wet-eyed with joy.

Laura Barton

Bon Iver, Into the Woods...

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Peter Murphy on 'Go Easy' Ryan Adams & the Cardinals

Compassion is a tricky emotion to get across in a rock 'n' roll song. Full on pheremonal lust or cavalier Jack Nicholson couldn't-give-a-fuckery or total apocalyptic heartbreak, no problem. But any expression of empathy or caring runs the risk of sounding sappy.
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals pulled off the improbable this year with a song called 'Go Easy' off their Cardinology record. I'd never paid Mr Adams much attention before. I recall playing Gold a lifetime ago and thinking that if I wanted to hear a melange of Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the Band and the Rolling Stones, I'd play them all in quick succession. My loss.
'Go Easy' plays like a letter to an ex-lover embroiled in some awful fix which the singer can do little about. When Adams sings,"I will always love you/So go easy on yourself" he sounds at once strong and sure and terribly vulnerable – you can tell he's still cut up about this person, even though the romance has burned off. He sounds powerless to intervene, but unable to not care. 'Go Easy' leaves us feeling that little bit more human than we were before we heard it. Which is about all we can ask of a piece of music.

Peter Murphy/John the Revelator Myspace


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Richard Milward on My Bloody Valentine's return

My bloody eardrums! My musical highlight of 2008 was feeling like the Camden Roundhouse was about to lift off, space-shuttle-like, as My Bloody Valentine struck into their notorious twenty-minute noisy section of ‘You Made Me Realise’. Coming out of hibernation for the first time in twelve years, the band were like blistering badgers, tearing their way through a delightfully deafening set. Despite owning more-or-less the whole MBV back catalogue, it took quite a while to work out which song was which, so smothered they were in creamy, destructive fuzz. For days afterwards, I had a mini My Bloody Valentine serenading me in my sleep, like my eardrums wanted to cling onto them as long as possible; just in case they decide to disappear again. Or it could’ve just been tinnitus.

Richard Milward’s Apples

Monday, 8 December 2008

Willy Vlautin on Willie Nelson, Oregon State Fair Aug 29 2008

I try to see the old time country greats whenever they get near Oregon, but there aren’t many left. Merle Haggard just canceled his tour through this area because of health problems and Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Buck Owens are all now gone. But Willie Nelson is still at it and played the state fair in Salem, Oregon this summer. His lead guitar player recently retired, his drummer is so old he can only play a few songs at a time, and Willie was just back from carpel tunnel surgery. I didn’t know what to expect, but with his hands free of pain the 75 year old played guitar like an acid cowboy Django Reinhardt for over two hours. He carries the band on his back and brings together hippies and punk rockers and rednecks and musos and old people. They’re all there just to see him, and they all leave saying the same thing. “I didn’t know he was that good of a guitar player.” Willie Nelson is the last of the old greats, please go see him while you can ‘cause even Willie can’t live forever.

Willy Vlautin Site

Friday, 5 December 2008

One Year Like This

So Elbow were deserved and popular winners of the Mercury Music Prize, Fleet Foxes got everyone into quite a frenzy, and even Axl Rose returned, but what were the real music highlights of 2008?

Starting on Monday will be the Hang the DJ Musical Moments of ’08, one post a day from five esteemed contributors: Peter Murphy, Richard Milward, Willy Vlautin, Laura Barton and Tom McRae. So tune in each day for some top tips and fine thoughts…

More of the Past

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Playlist ii

So here it is, the second Hang the DJ playlist (songs featured in the book, of course). I've failed to create a link up to Last FM so you'll have to rifle through your own collection/get downloading...

Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Changes – David Bowie
Common People – Pulp
If I Was Your Girlfriend - Prince
Let Me Down Easy – Bettye LaVette
I Put a Spell on You – Nina Simone
Stand by Your Man – Candi Staton
If you’ve gotta go… - Bob Dylan
Ramblin’ Man – Hank Williams
Debaser – The Pixies
Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis – Tom Waits
Till the Morning Comes – Neil Young

Look out here for news of the Hang the DJ 2008 best musical moments, which will run next week... plus the big xmas giveaway

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

More on Vetiver...

link here to the ever great aquarium drunkard site, who've dug up MP3s for four of the oringinals on Vetiver's EP Drunkard

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Into My Arms

Playlist ii coming up later this week, as promised. In the meantime, here's a video from playlist i, as featured in Kathryn Williams' list in the book...

Monday, 1 December 2008


Cat Power
I sometimes wonder if EPs are the music equivalent of short story collections (ie. they don't sell), but there are three just coming out that sound great (and would make fine stocking fillers come to think of it). Firstly the above pictured Cat Power's, which features (and it's quite a tracklist) the covers that didn't make her Jukebox album of this year:
1. "Auld Triangle (The Pogues)
2. "Dark End of the Street (James Carr)
3. "Who Knows Where the Time Goes (Sandy Denny/Fairport Convention)
4. "Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
5. "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) (Otis Redding)
6. "It Ain't Fair (Aretha Franklin)

Secondly, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's, Keep Me in Mind Sweetheart (the title track of which was a stand out on their Sunday at Devil Dirt album). And finally Vetiver's More of the Past. I posted here a little whil ago on the joys of their album Thing of the Past, so i'm really looking forward to more obscure discoveries on this one (which was originally meant to predate the album's release).

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Feeling listless?

Me too to be honest. Talking of lists, they've been a bit scarce recently considering this is a music list blog, but don't fear as various end of year 'best of' lists are being put together as we speak. I'm also working on a second Hang the DJ playlist, which i hope to post next week, along with a link to Last FM so you can listen to it there (if i can figure that out). In the meantime, here's the original Hang the DJ playlist, and rather fine it is too...

My Sharona – The Knack
Denis – Blondie
Take Me I’m Yours – Squeeze
There is a Light that Never Goes Out – The Smiths
Don’t You Ever Get Tired (of Hurting Me) – Bettye Swann
The Outdoor Type – the Lemonheads
Mushaboom – Feist
Fancy – Bobby Gentry
Funny How Time Slips Away – Willie Nelson
Where do you go to (My Lovely) – Peter Sarstedt
Suicide is Painless (Theme from M.A.S.H.) – Johnny Mandel
All the World is Green – Tom Waits
Into My Arms – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Tuesday, 25 November 2008


if you live in London and want to see some fine pictures of His Bob-ness then get down to the Proud Gallery Central, just off the Strand, for the exhibition of Jerry Schatzberg pictures from prime era mid-60s DYLAN
I doubt you'll be able to afford any of these lovely prints, but the exhibition at least is free.


Monday, 24 November 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good - delighted to report that Hang the DJ will be coming out in Italy, having been taken on by Elliot edizione, bello!

The Bad - the guardian review this weekend 'Sniffy' but i guess you've got to be in it to win it (or something).

The Ugly? I'm off to buy Chinese Democracy on the way home tonight, we'll see...

Friday, 21 November 2008

A Jockey's Christmas

Novelist, Richmond Fontaine frontman, Hang the DJ contributor (and dodgy horse-rider) Willy Vlautin has a great spoken word Xmas story just out - with backing music from Paul Brainard and others. I highly recommend it, and great cover art from Nate Beaty too

A Jockey's Christmas

for more info. and details on how to buy click here Richmond Fontaine site

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Flightless Bird

lovely version here of my favourite track from last year's Iron & Wine album, The Shepherd's Dog

Turns out the original version is going to feature prominently in the movie version of Stephenie Meyer's novel, Twilight (out in the UK in Dec), it's the song playing when Edward and Bella dance together at the prom, no less (i've always had a soft spot for teen dramas and Vampire movies, maybe it's my inner goth)
See here for trailer etc. Twilight

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Well hello there...

Time for some music: the Willie Nelson penned 'Funny How Time Slips Away' tops Jeb Loy Nichols' masterful list Country Goes Large: Ten Songs that Crossed the Border, but i'm pretty fond of this (unusually restrained) version by The King as well...

Monday, 17 November 2008

Always good to knock some bias'...

a fantastic review just in from the idolator website, with some nice shouts for Jonathan Lethem, Jack Murphy, Hari Kunzru and Tom McCrae among others. And it finishes by opening up something of a discussion about John Kelly's (terrific list) The Pecking Order - Ten Songs About Chickens
Project X review

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Sunday Herald

review, part of their Simply Read column, has just made its way to me, and while I have to admit it describes the book as 'indulgent as hell' (what's your point?!?) it does conclude nicely: 'sure to find a place in the toilet of the music lover in your life, it is also the only book this year in which you'll encounter the sentence: "It's not often that a singer writes a song threatening Santa Claus's life"' which is a nice nod to Peter Patnaik's great list on female murder ballads. For more of that click here, Pre-war Blues

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Drive by Robbery?

So the result is in for the Uncut Music Award '08, and the winner is... Fleet Foxes Uncut
Now i like the album, don't get me wrong, but... (the fact that it's a debut i suspect had something to do with it) well, i just think The Drive-By Truckers album is a far greater work and, judging by the reaction to the shortlist , may well have been a more popular winner with other readers. Anyway, i've been meaning to do a longer piece on their album here for a while, so that will be following shortly.
In the meantime back to Fleet Foxes, and congratulations, it is a lovely album with some exceptional songs (Ragged Wood, Quiet Houses, He Doesn't know Why) but for me it was just a little disappointing, cumulatively, and didn't quite deliver on the promise of their earlier Sun Giant EP. I like the album though as i've said, and having missed the recent Shepherd's Bush shows have a ticket for their Roundhouse show in February. And if you're a fan and don't already have the EP above, i heartily recommend it.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

But is it any good...

Guns N' Roses crop up more than once in the pages of Hang the DJ, i'm pleased to say, and to many of us who grew up in the late '80s early '90s they remain a serious touch stone band (however ridiculous they, or Axl may be). Now 'Chinese Democaracy' is going to come in for some mighty flak when it's finally released next week, how could it not, but i for one will be buying it. I wish Slash, Izzy and Duff were on it, but you can't have everything i guess. Unlike the ridiculous micro review in OMM at the w'end (which failed to mention a single track - what is the point?) this review, below, from Rolling Stone even hints that it might be pretty good... here's hoping...


Monday, 10 November 2008

In Booktrust we trust

A lovely review from their fine website:

'It’s going to be hard in a short review to do justice to the sheer joy that this book stirs in the soul of the music lover; let’s say straight off that it’s quirky (dread word), funny, nerdy, inspirational, addictive and at times just plain weird. In fact, I defy you to read it through in anything less than one sitting...'

Click here for full review including a Duran Duran confession from James Smith, the reviewer...

Thursday, 6 November 2008

More Harcourt...

Here, for me, is Ed's strongest album. I'd also recommend his debut, the mini album Maplewood, stunning, or as a starting point his 2007 best of 'Until Tomorrow Then'. which is that rare thing, a best of that is actually well thought out and put together. All are available on Amazon, or any decent record shop, and put out by Heavenly records.


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Visit to the Burnt Pub

All in all last week was a good one for live music, as I also caught Ed Harcourt at The Hawley Arms on Wednesday night playing a short set ahead of the pub’s official re-opening on Friday. Now the Hawley sometimes gets stick for being a celeb hangout, or celeb-spotting hangout, but never mind all that, it’s a great music loving pub, and it was a pleasure to walk through their doors again. Alongside its ever fine jukebox, the phoenix like pub now boasts a great vinyl lined staircase and a vintage 1960s jukebox in the private/function room upstairs. Loaded with old 7 inches it’s a thing after my own heart (my first play, seeing as though you asked, was Bill Withers’ ‘Use Me’).

Anyway, back to the under-appreciated Ed Harcourt, I’ve been looking for an excuse to post a track of his for a while, so here, complete with some lovely animation, is ‘Visit from the Dead Dog’ (recorded at London's ToeRag Studio no less)

Monday, 3 November 2008

And here they are

with a little psychedelic garage rock... The First Inquisition pt. iv

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Sexy Sadies

I was lucky enought to see the Sadies at my favourite London venue last night, the Borderline. The brothers Good, Travis and Dallas (i shit you not!), were on fine form. Playing for nearly two hours they brilliantly channelled their influences of Dick Dale, Love, Calexico, the Byrds, the Kinks, Bo Diddley and a touch of Bluegrass. With Dallas looking so cadaverous he could have been a skeleton in a suit, these fellas were the real deal, a genius band who totally know what they're all about. Nevermind overhyped bands like the Hold Steady and The White Stripes, check out the Sadies' most recent album, 'New Seasons' (largely ignored on its release here in the UK), if you want to hear some serious rock'n'roll.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween – to mark the day, here’s a link 'Halloween'to a great track from Ryan Adams. As so often with Mr prolific, this gem was tucked away as a bonus track on the UK edition of the first of his slightly patchy Love is Hell EPs. Apparently it’s a song he’s never played live, but it’s an absolute beauty, and for me one of his finest. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Uncut Shortlist announced...

here it is in alphabetical order, the winner to be revealed in early Nov. I won't curse anyone, i hope, but any one of the first three would be a worthy winner for me. Click here shortlist for more details and reaction, one clear favourite certainly seems to be emerging from the responses they've been getting. (I've mentioned it before but sad there was place for Dawn Landes, Laura Marling or Pete Molinari, even on the longlist).

1. BON IVER – For Emma, Forever Ago (4AD)
2. DRIVE BY TRUCKERS – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West)
3. ELBOW – The Seldom-Seen Kid (Fiction)
4. THE FELICE BROTHERS - The Felice Brothers (Loose)
5. FLEET FOXES – Fleet Foxes (Bella Union)
6. THE RACONTEURS – Consolers Of The Lonely (XL)
7. RADIOHEAD - In Rainbows (XL)
8. VAMPIRE WEEKEND – Vampire Weekend (XL)

Monday, 27 October 2008

Out of season it may be...

but Robert Wyatt's new single 'This Summer Night' is genius, and surely a contender for the inaugral, but highly coveted, Hang the DJ single of the year (coming to a blog like this in about 8 weeks time). Following on from his fine album 'Comicopera' and ahead of a healthy re-issue programme of his back catalogue from Domino, this collaboration with Frech producer/composer Bertrand Burgalat is described as delivering 'a hymn to the sensuality of a Summers evening'. Well never mind that, it sounds like a classic slice of 70s Philly Soul to me... enjoy

Thursday, 23 October 2008

An Oldie but a Goodie...


Richard Hawley's announced his special xmas show at the Devil's Arse in Castleton, Derbyshire, for Dec 5th this year. I can't make it, sadly, but the combination of Hawley and a winter cave in my beautiful home county of Derbyshire sounds a definite winner to me.

Check out the Devil's Arsefor tickets/details

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Fancy a taster?

Amazon UK now have their Search Inside facility up and running, so, for anyone wanting an online taster of the book before purchasing, click Search Inside for access to the first two lists in the book: Owen King's 'Spit it Out: Ten Essential Stutter Songs', and Sam Delaney's 'Teenage Flicks, So Hard to Beat: Ten Songs from Eighties Teen Movies'. Two cracking lists that will hopefully whet the appetite...

Monday, 20 October 2008

Radio City

Many thanks to Ireland's Newstalk, 106-108 fm who had myself and Richard T. Kelly on their Saturday night show, Culture Shock - with Fionn Davenport. They gave the book a great plug and our discussion included Alex Heminsley's 'Songs for the Dumped', John Williams' 'I don't want to go to Rehab' and of course Richard's 'Big Hearts, Big Hair: Ten Rockin' good Power Ballads'.

Fionn played some of The Who's 'Love Reign O'er Me' from Richard's list and finished up with Iggy and James Williamson's 'Kill City' - two fine choices for any Saturday night!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Suffering Jukebox in a happy town/You're over in the corner breaking down

from the Silver Jews new album, 'Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea', this is one of my tracks of the year. Checkout here for their website.
A great lyric and backing vocals to die for, you sometimes need a song like this to help you out (was a bit rough at the booker last night).

Friday, 10 October 2008

Things i'm loving...

in the first of an occassional feature, i'm going to recommend albums that i'm enjoying, whether they be new or old. To kick us off is Vetiver's super fine covers album from earlier this year...

Thing of the Past

To be honest, I usually shudder at the words 'covers album' - all too often being contract fillers by bands about to be dropped - but Vetiver's album is a defninite and gorgeous exception. This was also for me one of those rare purchases where it was playing in the store as I was browsing and I had to ask what it was and buy it there and then. Eschewing the usual familiar alt/folk-rock covers (Dylan/Cohen/Young) this delves into rarer territory and as such allows the band and Andy Cabic's voice to really inhabit these songs. It's a bit like watching a film with great actors in you've never seen or heard of before. Probably the best known song here is Loudon Wainwright's 'The Swimming Song' - which, maybe not coincidentally, is also about the most faithfully rendered - but elsewhere there are real gems. The standouts for me are 'Lon Chaney' and the Michael Hurley penned 'Blue Driver' (which he takes lead vocal on), but the whole things is lovely, unusual and inspiring - music to lift the heart!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

That's the Power of Love!

Did anyone else hear Sam Delaney's surprise caller on the Eamonn Holmes show last Saturday? None other than Mr Huey Lewis himself, in town to play in some Pro-Am golf tournament (rock'n'roll), he rang in to chat with Sam about his 80s-tastic list from Hang the DJ, 'Teenage Flicks, So Hard to Beat: Ten Songs from Eighties Teen Movies' topped by, naturally, Mr Lewis and the News' signature tune, as memorably featured in Back to the Future.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Today's new guest list is from Richard Evans of RememberTheEighties!

What my school tie-knot said about me or the soundtrack to 1980's playground conflicts...

In 1980 a vigorously healthy rock scene saw Deep Purple and AC/DC top the UK album charts and an impressive succession of rock singles go on to attain classic rock status. 1980 was also the year in which 2-Tone led a mod revival whose influence was nothing short of phenomenal. In 1980 I was twelve and it had to be one or the other. Mod or rocker. The battle lines were drawn.

I nailed my personal colours to the mast of heavy-metal, and spent far too many hours planning how the patches and embroidery would look on the back of my denim jacket. Should I ever get one. Lunchtimes at school became a daily battleground of scuffles between gangs nominally dubbed mods and rockers. Playground politics dictated that as a rocker I must close my ears – and my heart – to what we then broadly described as 'mod' music, and consequently to some of the most exciting and enduring music to emerge from the year.

2-Tone's frequently politically charged output was probably wasted on me and my pre-teen peers, although the same could probably be said for rock's rather more straightforward themes of hedonism and misogyny, but both movements had a huge influence on school fashion. Sartorially I had it easy, the standard uniform for rock fans was leather or denim jackets adorned with badges, patches and embroidery, beyond which pretty much anything scruffy was fine. On the other side of the playground it was a lot more difficult; parkas, blazers (school blazers, naturally, do not count) or Harrington jackets adorned with Union Jacks, RAF targets and 2-Tone badges were the mod staples, worn over Ben Sherman or Fred Perry shirts with skinny ties, drainpipe Sta-Prest trousers, white socks and loafers, brogues or bowling shoes.

Naturally being twelve years old only a few of us had the necessary resources to adopt the full regalia of our chosen side so instead we had to work with what we had and fortunately the distinction was very easy; the mods wore their school ties with small, tight knots while the rockers wore the biggest, loosest knots they could produce.

This list is my soundtrack to the conflict of that year and contains five loose-knot singles from 1980 - the ones I was allowed to love - and five tight-knot singles, which I could only love in secret. The list is in no particular order and needs no particular explanation but I would like to put it on record that I consider 'Ace Of Spades' to be the greatest rock single of all time.

- MADNESS 'Baggy Trousers'

- MOTORHEAD 'Ace Of Spades'

- THE BEAT 'Mirror In The Bathroom'

- RAINBOW 'All Night Long'

- THE SELECTER 'Three Minute Hero'

- SAXON 'Wheels Of Steel'


- JUDAS PRIEST - 'Breaking The Law'

- THE JAM - 'Going Underground'

- RUSH - 'The Sprit Of Radio'


Thursday, 2 October 2008

Hang the DJ - today!

So the book's officially published today - 'super thursday' no less (the day when around 800! titles are published for the xmas market) - but i ain't scared... much

Nice review in the Metro yesterday 'If you like nothing better than a good list, then Hang the DJ will make you positively giddy ... Entertaining and addictive' and i really enjoyed the interview on the Nemone show. She was very lovely about the book and played Blondie's 'Heart of Glass' and Bobbie Gentry's 'Fancy' amid the chat - two fine tracks from the pages of the book. You can listen back if you follow the link in the post below, and listen out also for Sam Delaney on the Eamonn Holmes show around 10 0'clock this saturday for more Hang the DJ talk.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

It's only Rock'N'Roll (but I like it)

Tune in to BBC6 Music today at 2pm to hear an exclusive first interview about HANG THE DJ, Live on the Nemone show!
Listen to the show

It was also reviewed on Up All Night on BBC Radio 5 last week, along with Richard Price's great new novel, Lush Life
Read the review

And finally check out the Metro Newspaper tomorrow morning for some more (hopefully positive) Hang the DJ coverage!!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Jingle jangle morning, it's The Clean!

Andrew Benbow's rough guide to the Dunedin Sound - 'Heavenly Pop Hits from the Airborne Convent' - is one of book's southern hemisphere highlights (!), a great exploration of a fascinating 80s indie scene. He posted this gem from youtube on the facebook site for my birthday last week...

Friday, 26 September 2008

UNCUT music award '08

Uncut have just announced their inaugral best album award, with a 25 strong longlist. It seems a great idea to me, an award unrestricted by age or nationality, and it's been a really strong year for albums too, so a good time to start it up.

I'm a little disappointed that neither Laura Marling nor Pete Molinari made it on there, two fine British albums, and i'd also have included the wonderful Dawn Landes, but it's a great list nonetheless, and it'll be interesting to follow this one through. My pick for what it's worth (probably once again condemning them both!) would be either Bon Iver's 'For Emma, Forever Ago' or Drive-By Truckers' 'Brighter than Creation's Dark' (more to come on the latter of these two here very soon), one small and intimate, one sprawling and expansive.

See link for the full longlist and further details

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Check out that finger clicking!

Dodgy video it may be, but here's my birthday pick for today, from one of my all time favourite bands.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

One More Time: A Sunday Soul Session

A friend who recently read the book commented (in a good way!) on the amount of soul music that cropped up - a particular shout for Jeb Loy Nichols’ brilliant list, Country goes Large: Ten songs that crossed the Border - and asked for some more good recommendations. The following list is pretty varied, from the classic Southern Soul of Muscle Shoals and FAME to some of the great Stax and Atlantic tunes, but all of it perfect Sunday music...

10. ‘Ordinary Joe’ – Terry Callier

One of my favourite songs of all time - great rhythm and an amazing vocal - impossible not to sing along to.

9. ‘Make Me Yours’ – Bettye Swann

Brass, backing vocals and Bettye Swann’s voice.

8. ‘If You’re Ready (come go with me)’ – The Staples Singers

Pure genius, and a bass line to die for.

7. ‘What Condition my Condition Is In’ – Bettye LaVette

The better known (and slightly differently titled) version of this is the weirdly psychedelic country version by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition (memorably featured in The Big Lebowski bowling/dream sequence) but this very different take from Betty LaVette is equally great. Far funkier, as you’d expect, it also has at the end (too briefly if you ask me) some of the best backing vocals I’ve ever heard. You can find this on the excellent Dirty Laundry compilation - well worth a buy.

6. ‘The Weight’ – Aretha Franklin

As with the above, one of the great things about soul music is the way people re-interpret songs and, from Aretha’s This Girl’s in Love With You album, this is a superb arrangement of The Band’s classic tune, led by Duane Allman’s peerless slide guitar.

5. ‘Fast Train’ – Solomon Burke

Written by Van Morrison, this is perhaps the standout track on Don’t Give up on Me, Solomon Burke’s comeback record, which came out on the Fat Possum label in 2002. Hammond organ, great acoustic guitar, drums high in the mix and the King’s voice up front (with great female backing) this is a real hairs on the back of the neck song.

4. ‘Come Home Baby’ – Rod Stewart and PP Arnold

Rod at his soulful best in a great duet with the under rated PP Arnold.

3. ‘To Love Somebody’ - Nina Simone

Again this is just class, the power of her voice matched by the complex arrangement and playing of the band. This song just gets better and more intriguing the more you listen to it.

2. ‘Too Hurt to Cry’ - Candi Staton

Another broken hearted classic from Candi Staton’s early FAME recordings, I highly recommend the 2003 Capitol compilation of these.

1. ‘Use Me’ – Bill Withers

This is ballsy Bill as opposed to ballad Bill, and all the better for it in my book. The version on Still Bill is great, but even better is the barnstorming, near 9 minute, version that opens his1972 Live at Carnegie Hall album, ‘One more time? One more time!’

Thursday, 18 September 2008

With the first guest list to date, here's the brilliant (and noisy) Richard 'APPLES' Milward

Howl: Ten Noisy Songs to Annoy your Neighbours / Arouse your Neighbours’ Dog

Famously, the ears of humans and canines are susceptible to a differing range of frequencies. While dogs lovingly obey anything emitting extreme high frequencies (for example, those ‘inaudible’ whistles you’d see on One Man and His Dog), human military men have been known to use white noise as a torture technique.
On a few occasions in my life, I have been likened to a greyhound. Not only do I share the same skinny, lanky physique, I also share a love of strange frequencies, especially in the context of what’s commonly known as ‘music’.
One man’s terrible racket is another man’s Art Rock. And, while a dog may well be a man’s best friend, they might not specifically share the same taste in music.
Perhaps if Fido was given free reign in a record shop, off his lead, the following records might be brought back to you, covered in ecstatic dribble.
Roll over, Beethoven…

10) Sonic Youth – ‘The Diamond Sea’: What appears, on the surface, as a gorgeous glittering ditty, gradually plunges the unsuspecting listener into an eleven-minute tidal wave of guitar crashing and cascading backwardy drum splishy-splashing.

9) Steve Reich – ‘Four Organs’: Through the precise, repetitive stretching and lengthening of the notes of one simple chord, Steve Reich and friends produce an oscillating, mind-bending effect with four unassuming Farfisa organs. It’s a bit like listening to the Doors or Small Faces in extreme slow-motion, in a fishtank, standing on your head.

8) The Beatles – ‘Revolution 9’: A brave excursion into musique concrete, ‘Revolution 9’ may well be the loveable, longhaired Liverpudlians’ oddest moment. You certainly can’t dance to it – not even the Watusi or the Twist, despite what John Lennon keeps telling you…

7) Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music: A sardonic ‘fuck you’ to the record industry, or genius precursor to ‘noise rock’? While it’s a long stretch from his previous effort – Sally Can’t Dance – despite all the cacophony, Metal Machine Music does have some wonderfully tuneful squeaky moments!

6) My Bloody Valentine – ‘You Made Me Realise’ (live): Turning the churning 40 second noisy interlude of the original into a 20 minute barrage of white and brown noise, ‘You Made Me Realise’ makes you realise why My Bloody Valentine give out free earplugs at their gigs.

5) Azusa Plane – ‘No Future’: While not specifically aggressive or offensive, to the untrained eardrum the late great Jason DiEmilio’s swansong appears to be merely a recording of microphones being dropped, guitars detuning, accompanied by the odd musical note here or there. Pushing the limits of his Fender to extreme minimalism, this is perhaps as delicate and heartbreaking as musique concrete can reach.

4) Velvet Underground – ‘European Son’: If Ornette Coleman had recorded Free Jazz in the heights of punk with an arm full of amphetamine, the result may have sounded like this. Paving the way for bands such as Sonic Youth and Spacemen 3, here the Velvet Underground mix melody and meltdown into a monstrous musical Molotov cocktail. Marvellous.

3) Anything by Merzbow: The musical equivalent of having your ears fed through a variety of heavy industrial machinery.

2) Atari Teenage Riot – Live at Brixton Academy 1999: Fraught by night-by-night rioting, arrests, and drug psychosis, Live at Brixton Academy 1999 is a digital primal scream; an aural document of Atari Teenage Riot’s eventual break-up. While the band have never been known for their singalong pop, this gig in London supporting Nine Inch Nails presented such an intense, pulverising barrage of computerised white noise, even hardened fans threw down their ATR t-shirts in disgust.

1) John Coltrane – Ascension: Recorded only a year after his wholesome, tuneful magnum opus, A Love Supreme, Ascension sees John and pals embarking on a quest to find complete musical freedom, encountering all manner of atonal skronk along the way. The original liner notes confess ‘this record cannot be loved or understood in one sitting’. Whether your eardrums can withstand it or not, Ascension is a revelatory masterpiece; 11 musicians smashing convention, playing with the wondrous, manic abandon of naughty schoolkids.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

In the Woods, Forever Ago

Bon Iver's debut album came out to great fanfare earlier this year, and much has been written about the way it deals so beautifully with themes of isolation, loss and abandonment. Above all though, for me, it's just one of those rare, natural, word of mouth successes that make you feel better about the world. Its title track, For Emma, was released yesterday as a 7inch single – I’ve bought one as my choice for my friend Douglas' vintage jukebox, coming to a pub near you soon (if you live in Camden, at least) - and here borrowed from Justin Vernon's website, is a rather lovely new arrangement of this rather lovely song...

Bon Iver - "For Emma" from MySpace Transmissions

I won't make a habit of writing here about books i've worked on (promise), but the album was first brought to my attention earlier in the year, before 4AD picked it up in the UK, when a friend noticed the-man-in-the-cabin-in-the-wilderness back story bore some resemblance to a novel we published the previous year, Gerard Donovan's gorgeous, and troubling, Julius Winsome. So, if you're fan of the album i recommend this too (click on image)...

Julius Winsome

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Carried back to form...?

Calexico’s new album Carried to Dust was released this week (www.myspace.com/casadecalexico), and after a couple of quick spins I’m glad to say it sounds pretty great. In honour of this - and a return to their more instrumental, less song based approach - here’s a list of ten great instrumentals to check out…

10. ‘Misty’ Friends of Dean Martinez
A ’95 Sub Pop release, The Shadow of Your Smile featured members of Calexico and Giant Sand, and is well worth tracking down if you can. Track 10, Misty, is particularly good, an accordion led piece that kicks things off here in fine, ramshackle style.

9. ‘Nashville Skyline Rag’ Bob Dylan
A lovely up tempo instrumental on which the great rock lyricist takes back seat to the band that backed him throughout his (for me) underrated Nashville Skyline album.

8. ‘Blackmountainside’ Led Zeppelin
Controversially inspired by a Bert Jansch (see below) arrangement of a traditional folk tune, ‘Blackwaterside’, this instrumental from Led Zeppelin I showcased Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar playing. A raga style, played in an open tuning, it’s every bit as dark and powerful as any of the heavy, electric blues they’re better known for.

7. ‘Anji’ Bert Jansch
The holy grail of folk guitar, this tune was originally written by Davey Graham, but was made famous by his protégé Bert Jansch (in turn a key influence on the acoustic playing of both Neil Young and Jimmy Page). Based around an Eastern rhythm, it’s a brilliant, otherworldly piece of music.

6. ‘Albatross’ Fleetwood Mac
The most famous tune of the band’s first incarnation, led by the blues guitarist Peter Green, ‘Albatross’ is a beautiful instrumental. If you only know Rumours era Mac, I urge you to go back and listen to this.

5. ‘El Tiradito’ Richmond Fontaine
Richmond Fontaine are a band influenced by Morricone’s classic Western soundtracks as much as other so called alt-country bands. This track taken from their album Thirteen Cities – recorded at Calexico’s Wavelab studio in Tucson, AZ – opens with whispering acoustic guitar and pedal steel which then builds on brooding, distorted chords before opening up with a gorgeous slow guitar break.

4. ‘Green Onions’ Booker T and MGs
As the Stax house band, Booker T and the MGs are one of the most influential bands in the whole history of popular music. An inter-racial band at the height of the civil rights movement, they played with everyone from Otis Redding to Sam & Dave to Wilson Picket (and later the Blues Brothers and Neil Young). This, their signature tune, showcases everything that’s great about this band, and is one of the all time great dance floor fillers.

3. ‘A#1’ The Sadies
From the Sadies third album Stories often Told, this track is a great example of the way they fuse surf guitar, country and psychedelia and, as with Richmond Fontaine and Calexico, pretty much all their albums feature great instrumentals.

2. ‘The Emperor of Wyoming’ Neil Young
Perhaps only Neil Young would opt to open his long awaited album with an instrumental, but this gorgeous country waltz, is a beautiful laid back, original start to one of rock’s most interesting and contrary recording careers.

1. ‘Paris Texas’ Ry Cooder
From Wim Wenders’ great film. Ry Cooder’s sparse and melancholic slide guitar is surely one of cinema’s all time great musical moments, perfectly married to the image of the man appearing out of the desert.

No grand prize, but thanks to Andrew Benbow for this (quite strange it has to be said) Jodie Foster clip...

Not exactly what you're looking for, but the attached is Jodie and Clo-clo ( R.I.P.) performing a whizz! bang! pop! version of Gainsbourg's Comic Strip on le telly.

Jodie and Clo-Clo

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Does my vote count for nothing?

Sorry Laura, great news for Elbow though, so congratulations to them, The Seldom Seen Kid is a fine album, songs like 'Grounds for divorce' and 'One Day like this' are brilliant, but it's 'The Fix' featuring a certain Mr Richard Hawley, that's the one i've been listening to most recently - well done! I also highly recommend Guy Garvey's 6 Music show, 10-12 on a Sunday night.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Mercury Prize

It's the Mercury Music Prize tonight, and my vote's for Laura Marling by a country (folky?) mile. Let's hope this vote of confidence doesn't ruin her chances...

'Do they exist or did I dream them?'

Featured in Ali Smith’s lovely Hang the DJ list ('Chance Meetings and Perfect Marriages') are two tunes sung in French by Jodie Foster, no less, ‘Je t’attends depuis la nuit des temps’ and ‘La vie c’est chouette.’ As Ali explains though, these were on a long-since-lost cassette tape given to her by her pen pal (Debbie from Blackpool!).

So my question is, can anyone help track down a copy of these songs, or send them in? The only other clue is that they were from a film called Moi, Fleur Bleu. I promise a reward of some (musical) kind for any help received ...

Monday, 8 September 2008

Music from Meadows Town

I recently saw Shane Meadows’ new film, Somers Town, a beautiful short film that I highly recommend (ignore any of the reviews that made disparaging comments about the fact Eurostar contributed some funding to the film, it doesn’t compromise it at all).

I’m a big fan of Shane Meadows’ work in general, and one of the things (among many) that always mark his films is his use of music. So here are ten tunes he’s memorably used, some of which I already knew, some of which were new to me...

10. Sunhouse were a short lived Midlands band whose sole album Crazy on the Weekend was born out of the soundtrack work they did on Meadows’ debut feature film, 24/7. A couple of songs were used in the film, but I’ll kick off with ‘Crazy on the Weekend’, the first song on what’s something of a great lost album.

9. Shot in b&w, 24/7 was a debut film that featured some memorable images, but perhaps none more so than the boxing club boys being led in silhouette along a ridge in the Peak district (in the pissing rain, of course) to the sounds of the Charlatans ‘North Country Boy’.

8. This is England has a master-class period soundtrack, featuring ska, two tone and other 80s classics. At number 8 is the first of the three Toots and the Maytals tunes used. They’re all great but this one, with its brilliant intro, is up first, ‘54-46 (that’s my number)’.

7. For Dead Man's Shoes, Meadows’ homage to the violent Spaghetti Westerns of Peckinpah, he took a turn away from his largely British based music to the more atmospheric sounds of Americana. Things start in fine fashion with Smog’s lovely and spooky 'Vessel in Vain' - "I can’t be held responsible for the things I’ve seen" - which can be read as a kind of a mission statement for what’s to follow.

6. And on to the title track (nearly) ‘Dead Man’ by the ever genius M. Ward. As many great Americana tunes do, this combines gorgeous melody and instrumentation with an elusive, mysterious atmosphere.

5. From the end of This is England, The Smiths ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’ is the perfect expression of the film’s theme of adolescent confusion and yearning (they used a cover for this, I know, but I’m guessing that was for budget or permissions reasons, so I’d seek out the original).

4. ‘Going Down’, an early Stone Roses classic is the perfect choice at the end of A Room for Romeo Brass, a suitably upbeat soundtrack to the film’s cathartic, hopeful, magic show ending.

3. The soundtrack to Somers Town was done by Gavin Clark, the front man of the aforementioned Sunhouse (and the person who covered the Smiths song above), and Ted Barnes. They were subsequently in Clayhill, but the score they provided here sounds more inspired to me, and at no. 3 is the instrumental theme, ‘Raise a Vein’, which acts as a kind of refrain through the film.

2. At 2 is the same film’s final tune (‘Painted Glass’, I think it’s called), with its lovely French feel, suitable to the film’s escapist coda. Again, some of the critics didn’t like the ending, but surely they were missing the point - the shift to colour should have been a clue to them...

1. And in at no. 1 is ‘Corpses in their Mouth’, still my favourite Ian Brown solo track, which plays as Romeo goes with Gavin to the hospital in A Room for Romeo Brass. This moment of calm and friendship is also the final scene before Paddy Considine’s stranger enters the film and everything changes.

ps. If anyone knows how to get hold of a physical copy of the soundtrack to Somers Town then please let me know. I can’t see it listed to buy anywhere...