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...