Thursday, April 19, 2018

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Songs About People # 591 Willa Cather

The third of this three-part mini-series devoted to American female writers. And we close with Willa Cather, a Pulitzer Prize winner. This song comes from Nineties Nebraska Country Punks only album, 1996's Speed Nebraska.

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 8 Drag City

Based in Chicago, Illinois. 'Our version of music' is what they say they do. A great manifesto. The label has had a phenomenal roster of movers and shakers over the years including Will Oldham, Joanne Newsome, Pavement, Bill Callahan, Stereolab and Ty Segall. Here's the title track from the last Wand album. They have a new EP forthcoming next month.

Forty Days of Rain # 5 The Dramatics

Many of the best 'rain' songs give you a feeling of being really out there in it. Like here with The Dramatics.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 270 The Knickerbockers

Song of the Day # 1,550 Tenderfoot

Break Apart the new album from Tenderfoot, a quartet made up from two guys and two women from Brooklyn and Seattle, who formed in the latter city some years back,  is one of the most affecting records I've heard this year. It came out in February but I've only just come across it, and generally it's a very impressive achievement. Intimate and emotional, a rock record but a very considered and emotional one.  It gives me all of the succour I had hoped for from the latest Ought album which rather disappointed me. I'm glad that Break Apart is here instead.

Devoid of mannerisms, it has the intense warmth that I associate with Jeff Buckley, Patti Smith, John Grant or Perfume Genius' work. It speaks of rites of passage. Tenderfoot tag themselves a Queer Dream Folk band, a label that means very little to me but clearly does to them as a means of describing their intention and direction. Each track has a brooding but determined spirituality that speaks of battles fought and won and the determination to fight more if necessary and win those too. I only wish I could post more of it here. Hear it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Songs Heard on the Radio # 251 The Associates

Always great to hear Associates coming out of the radio. Such a wild, unruly sound.

Songs About People # 590 Edith Wharton

Part Two of a mini-series of three of American female writers of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century. Here Suzanne Vega remembers Edith Wharton's lovely figurines.

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 7 Play It Again Sam

Originally emerged in the early Eighties as a label for pioneering Industrial bands like Front 424 and Young Gods. Still sticking broadly to that remit thirty years and more on with artists like Agnes Obel, Brodka, Deus and Ghostpoet on the label. Here's another on the label, Joan As Policewoman.

Forty Days of Rain # 4 The Go Betweens

One of Robert Forster's very finest pop songs. A hit single in another, better universe!

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 271 The Trammps

Song(s) of the Day # 1,549 The Sufis

The new album from The Sufi's was the thing that attracted me most listening at my computer at work yesterday. Their third in all and released a couple of months ago it's a decidedly odd object, but a highly alluring one at the same time which drew me in the longer it played. 

The Sufis are an Anglo-Indian / American duo who have been releasing records since 2012 but this comes after a few years away. Once on Cornershop's label Ample Play, comparisons between the bands are appropriate because they both favour the funky and make music originally rooted in the Sixties.The first Sufis album seemed largely guided by The Byrds and 1967 Psychedelia..

Perhaps in the intervening years they've fast forwarded to 1972 as I was minded here of Nilsson, George Harrison and seventies Radio 1 daytime radio in addition to The Zombies, Velvet Underground and Soundtrack music. That point in time when Rock Music stopped being Psychedelic or Bluesy and started to turn slinky and jazzy. It has picture of a nun smoking a cigarette on a beach on its album sleeve and in many respects the record is as impenetrable as that image.

But anyhow I really liked it. Reminiscent of recent albums from MGMT and Foxygen in the way it channels the past but to my tastes better than either.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Songs About People # 589 Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, esteemed American poet and writer of more than 1,800 published ones during her lifetime. I imagine a staple of the American High School curriculum. Hence this song.

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 6 Slumberland Records

Long established American label for all things Indie having been putting out records since 1989. Distribute stuff by Allo' Darlin' D.A.Stern, Gold Bears, The Mantles and many more. Here's something new and slightly more Depeche Mode 'synthy' from Young Guv.

Forty Days of Rain # 3 Massive Attack

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 272 James Brown

Song(s) of the Day # 1,548 Jessica Risker

Big in Chicago, Illinois but surely destined to broader acceptance and appreciation this year with a debut album coming up.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 5 4AD

A label with a glorious history of course going back to the early eighties. Now have a much broader roster of course including U.S.Girls, Tune-Yards, Scott Walker, The National. Here's one side of the new Lemon Twigs single.

Forty Days of Rain # 2 The Loft

The first of only two singles from Creation in a glorious short career.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 273 Jackie Wilson

Song of the Day # 1,547 Nora Dean

Spooky old reggae single!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Forty Days of Rain # 1 Roddy Frame

And to follow that, having enjoyed compiling the 'Moon Cycle', here's a 'rain' one. And taking Roddy's advice we'll make it forty days rather than thirty.

Moon Cycle Playlist

 A playlist of the series which finished yesterday.

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 4 Tapete Records

Based in Hamburg, Germany, Tapete Records is something of a resting place for the maturing, thoughtful singer songwriter. Robert Forster, Pete Astor, Lloyd Cole and The Monochrome Set have all made their home on the label. As have numerous others. Appropriately, here's something from a much younger German band.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 274 Sam Cooke

Song(s) of the Day # 1,546 Say Sue Me

'The best pure indie-pop record of 2018 (so far) is not from Brooklyn or Glasgow or Melbourne or Olympia but Busan, South Korea. The album, Where we Were Together from the band Say Sue Me, is a perfectly paced fusion of jangling guitars, bouncing bass and sighed melody...'

In this year's World Cup Finals, coming up in a couple of months, South Korea will be fronted by probably the best footballer currently from Asia, Heung Min Son who plies his wares in North London playing for Tottenham Hotspur. It will be interesting to see what he can do. In the same way if Indie Pop hosted a World Cup, South Korea would be able to supply more interesting dark horses, in the shape of Say Sue Me, a fine band, who have just released their second album Where We Were Together.


Unsurprisingly, given the quality of last year's eponymous debut, it's a rattlingly good record. The traditions of this stuff are firmly established by now, rooted in C-86 and bolstered by any number of bands from many countries who have been more than happy to chip away at the same stoneface in the three decades since. Say Sue Me have no plans to kick over any statues, but why should they? There will be plenty who will be more than happy with what they've done here.

Yet within the confines of this sound it's actually quite a varied record. Sometimes surfy and meditative, sometimes chirpy and energetic. Songs sung in Korean, songs sungs in English, short tracks and one stretching to almost eight minutes. All with one thing in common. That of being uniformly excellent. A sparkling record!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 3 Bella Union Records

Founded in 1997 by Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde of The Cocteau Twins and now run by Raymonde alone, it's one of the most eclectic and interesting labels of all. With an incredible set of artists including Emmy The Great, Ezra Furman, John Grant, Laura Veirs and Susanne Sundfor. And here's the latest song from Beach House.

Songs About People # 588 Neutral Milk Hotel

A song for the ultimate cult band from The Gifted Children.

Moon Cycle # 30 Kikagu Moya

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 275 Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes

Song(s) of the Day # 1,545 Peach Kelli Pop

Peach Kelli Pop is some kind of genius. Short, sweet songs in The Ramones mould between one and three minutes and a new album coming up soon.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Songs About People # 587 Alan Bean

The fourth man on the moon. After retiring from NASA he dedicated much of his energy to painting, documenting his experience in space. Still with us, at the age of 86.

Moon Cycle # 29 Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Written by Paul and Linda McCartney and first recorded on RAM. But it might well have been written with Screamin' Jay in mind.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 276 The Dixie Cups

Papernut Cambridge

And to follow that, an article I wrote about a wonderful Papernut Cambridge album a couple of years back: 

Song(s) of the Day # 462 Papernut Cambridge

: A great weekend with a good friend coming up from Cambridge and staying for a couple of days. Beer, talk of the past, football, music. Co-incidentally Papernut Cambridge is my discovery of the week, particularly their album from last year There's No Underground, (strangely a line from a Go-Betweens song, You've Never Lived, is that deliberate?). A peculiarly English album though. Haunted by the ghosts of Syd Barrett, Luke Haines, Robyn Hitchcock, Lawrence, Tajinder Singh, Ray Davies, Steve Marriott, Marc Bolan and Jesus and Mary Chain (Scottish I know but there's definitely some of that resigned lilt in the vocal delivery).

It's a very specific record and struck an immediate chord as soon as I heard its first notes . It's now on repeat play. Deeply evocative of suburban avenues and England's dreaming. Here's a paragraph from The Quietus review;

 'This is a great rock & roll record. Ian Button may be "haunted by the insects in his dark imaginings", as he intones on opener 'The Ghost Of Something Small', but outside that buzzing hook-laden head of his, it's a leisurely ride through glittering neon, the fluorescence that illuminates rock's shadowy nighttime world. The lights that feel like they're never gonna end whilst terminating all too quickly – there's 12 songs in 30 minutes here. But no matter, press play again and we're back amidst the exiled warriors on Electric Main Street. Just as one would never fault T. Rex for being derivative, so here the nods to rock's past – The Stones, Bolan himself, The Replacements, Kinks, and Mary Chain – are simply the lineage continuing itself. All sung in that sweet sinister voice a la Jim Reid, with just as sharp an ear for melody.'

Ian Button was previously in Death In Vegas and Eighties under achievers Thrashing Doves. The record sounds like someone who's done a long, studious apprenticeship and is now coming into his own. He knows his stuff, and has a small, beautifully formed vision.  He's listened to a few records in his time. The album is drenched in influences but nothing is slavishly aped and he makes something quite his own of it.

The record contains more golden moments then many feted Creation bands achieved over the course of entire careers. Each song is beautifully and lovingly crafted. The lyrics are wry, observant and consistently witty. A memory of a childhood world that is gone now but still there in the streets, the sounds and smells that remain. Anybody who loves guitar music, has a certain record collection and a few years in the tank will respond to what the album is saying. The band is still a small, independent, cottage industry concern on the wonderfully named Gare du Nord label. They deserve to outsell the increasingly ludicrous Noel Gallagher but of course will not. The world is wrong. Do yourself a favour and track it down.

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 2 Gare Du Nord

So only fit to move onto the record label. Gare Du Nord, one of my favourite things at the moment. Clearly run on a budget but that in itself is a considerable attraction. They have Papernut Cambridge, they have Cold Spells, Joss Cope and District Repair Depot. They also have American and German artists and name themselves after a large station in Paris but they are nevertheless beautifully English, even if it is just English people on their way to France for a break. They have a compilation album called Ebbsfleet International to illustrate this. What more could you want? Everything they release is of interest in some way.

Song(s) of the Day # 1,544 District Repair Depot

Whimsical. That's the name of the game with District Repair Depot's eponymous album, released recently on Gare Du Nord Records. It's a train of thought and songwriting first set in motion by Ray Davies and set in stone the moment Syd Barrett decided to sing, 'I've got a bike, you can ride it if you like..' A train of thought that's kept English bands and artists like Robyn Hitchcock, XTC, Television Personalities, Julian Cope, Bevis Frond and Cleaners From Venus more than happy ever since. The sound of wet England, rainy afternoons, second hand shops, libraries, and railway station waiting rooms.

And District Repair Depot do this tradition very proud. It's a slightly variable record in terms of quality but it essentially sticks to the established tradition described above and cast a small spell over the course of its eleven tracks. Don't expect to be desperately surprised but if you know and like this stuff you should at least be charmed.

A core kernel of this school of thought is a wilful, yet oddly determined sense of under achievement, a key feature of the British character. So if the record really doesn't merit more than seven out of ten you can't help but suspect that this is the mark it is secretly hoping for. And anyhow, opening track Barry Jones is something of a classic in itself. District Train Depot paint a world that is forever England.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 1 Sub Pop

Time to flex my muscles with a new series. Focusing on current Independent Record Labels and starting with one of the most enduring of all. Originally the home of Grunge of course and long associated with that sound, it now has a far broader remit and a fine roster; Beach House, Father John Misty, Frankie Cosmos, Goat, Jesca Hoop, Low, Mark Lanegan, The Notwist, Shabazz Palace and Sleater-Kinney are on the label among numerous other notables. Including Melbourne's splendid Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever who have just released this blistering preview of their debut album Hope Downs, out in June. The song is called Talking Straight.

Songs About People # 586 Vida Blue

Funky like a train. 1971 single by Albert Jones in honour of the then Oakland Athletics, when that was a very cool thing to be. They went on to win the World Series from 1972 to 1974 with Vida Blue often on the mound.


Moon Cycle # 28 Cat Stevens

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 277 Chuck Berry

Song(s) of the Day # 1,543 Delsbo Beach Club

Swedish bands tend to do that C-86, Sarah Records, fey and carefree thang very well, while maintaining a Scandinavian feel to proceedings. Delsbo Beach Club, from the here and now, illustrate that point. These are their opening statements, delivered in confidence and with touching yodelling vocals and shimmering guitar, bass and drum backing which promise much for the future.