Monday, April 30, 2018

Songs About People # 598 Queen Victoria

One of Leonard's lesser known classics. He wrote so many of course. A fascinating lyric, this appeared as an extra track on Live even though he never actually played the song in concert.

Forty Days of Rain # 17 Missy Elliott

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 258 Madonna

Song of the Day # 1,562 Fourmyla

Number One in the New Zealand singles chart in 1969. Chosen as the best song from that country ever in a poll forty years on, the band had a string of Top Twenty hits between 1968 and 1971.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Sex Pistols

The first picture of the band. Taken by John Gray, in Chiswick, London, in 1975.

Forty Days of Rain # 16 Echo & the Bunnymen

'All at sea again...'

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 259 The Beatles

Song of the Day # 1,561 Captain Suun

The misspelling of words in band names threatens to reach epidemic proportion. Kids today! Here come Captain Suun, a group of youths from Bristol with their debut single Beach Burrito, an altogether remarkable record considering their tender years. It has a loose western swagger that positions itself in the imaginary space between Beta Band and Allah Las. A beach burrito for those who are curious, is a burrito you eat on the beach. I imagine it's also a euphemism for couch potato given the general way the song rattles along with carefree slacker abandon. These boys should slouch far.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 260 War

Forty Days of Rain # 15 Bob Dylan

And here's the man himself from that record.

Song of the Day # 1,560 Nada Surf

Veteran Nineties band, best known for their hit in the middle of that decade, Popular and held in great disdain by Pitchfork website, possibly for being closer to Weezer or The Killers than Pavement or the Strokes. This though  is a fine, beautifully paced song from 2002's Let Go which namechecks one of the finest albums of all time and has a video which captures some of the romance of New York City.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Forty Days of Rain # 14 Buddy Holly

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 261 Run D.M.C.

Song(s) of the Day # 1,559 Ebo Taylor

Already assured of the Octogenarian album of the year here on It Starts With a Birthstone. An extraordinary record from Ghanaian musical legend Ebo Taylor called Yen Ara just out. Brimful of good time, swaying Afrobeat rhythms and melodies but also blessed with ingrained consciousness and wisdom, Taylor's Yen Ara, his first for five years is an response to  Pete Townshend's 1965 riposte 'Hope I die before I get old...' as doing so is neither inevitable or necessary.

Ebo is mighty sure of that. Six decades into his musical career where he's worked with all manner of legends including Fela Kuti who he first came across during the days when Kuti was developing his masterplan in London, this is a mighty sturdy album. The record never lets up either in terms of the essential positivity of its message or relentless Afrobeat vibes.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Forty Days of Rain # 13 Madness

The sun and the rain. But over the course of the song, the rain just edges it. Taking a four day break from the Record Label series as I have things to do but the rain will keep coming.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 262 Joe Tex

Songs About People # 597 Stevie Nicks

and here they are again with a song for Stevie!

Song of the Day # 1,558 The Bilinda Butchers

Any band that takes its name from that of My Bloody Valentine's iconic guitarist is worthy of note. The San Francisco trio, who have been making records for six years or more, also put out very good product, very much in the mold of MBV but worth investigating for its own merits and value. Here's their latest single, Girlfriend, accompanied by a wonderful video filmed on the Beijing underground with English, Chinese and Japanese subtitles ahead of a set of Asian tour dates and we assume a new album. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 289 Hot Chip

Getting into Hot Chip partially due to the Song for the Day on It Starts With a Birthstone today. This was the song I put on at Rosie's. Dance music for middle aged men who can no longer really dance.

Songs About People # 596 Roy Orbison

Magic Numbers tip their hats to the 'Big O'.

Bob Dorough 1923 -2018

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 15 Mexican Summer Records

Brooklyn label, active since 2009. Artists include Jessica Pratt, Cate Le Bon, Allah Las, Ariel Pink and Drugdealer. And also Jessica Williamson, this comes from her forthcoming album, Cosmic Wink, due in May.

Forty Days of Rain # 12 Ann Peebles

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 263 Bo Diddley

Song(s) of the Day # 1,557 Alexis Taylor

Middle Aged Hipster record of the month. Beautiful Thing the second solo album from Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor is something of a still point of the turning world. There's a lot of meditative peace on the record, a plinking electronic soundscape that nods to different dance genres to provide the backdrop to Taylor's plain and unadorned vocals. It's all as austere and designed for purpose as Scandinavian furniture design. 

Just as I like Scandinavian furniture designs I like this with some reservations. Second and title track Beautiful Thing is just that, one of the best things I've heard this year. Ratcheted up by rolling and building House momentum over the course of its five minutes to something quite magnificent. Taylor is someone who is taken very seriously, hence the instant Quietus and Pitchfork in-depth scrutiny of the record. He deserves it, this is very good stuff but the self-conscious hip artiness sometimes jars, especially when it veers over to the middle of the road and suddenly Taylor is just as much Elton John or Moby as he is Leftfield or Alex Chilton and you question the authenticity of the emotions and the project as a whole. At times like these you get the sense that this is all being aimed a little too cynically at a coffee table as much as the people sitting around it. For what it does well though, and that's a good 60 % of the album, I salute it. I'm certainly open to persuasion from the remaining 40. Time will tell.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Songs About People # 595 August Holland

A track from Beirut's most recent album, 2015's No,No.No. Named after a rather obscure American landscape and still-life painter, I could only track one rather poor photograph of him down so you get some of his work instead.

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 14 Heavenly Recordings

An impeccable history and present. In the Nineties, Flowered Up, Manic Street Preachers, Saint Etienne, Beth Orton. Now, Saint Etienne, The Orielles, Gwenno, Baxter Dury and this, Mattiel, from her wonderful, self-titled debut, in the process of being re-released by the label.

Forty Days of Rain # 11 Sir Douglas Quintet

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 264 The Four Seasons

Song(s) of the Day # 1,556 Ganser

At any moment in time, there is a band dressed in black playing dark, angry and twisting songs in a dingy basement somewhere in the world to an appreciative audience of like-minded people dressed in a similar way. If you're living in Chicago, Ganser is that band and they may well be playing in a basement somewhere soon near you.

Their debut album, Odd Talk is just out. Some time in the making, it's a bruised and worthy statement. Clanging, discordant and throbbing with unease, meance and dark invention. I was never quite sure where it may be going from one moment to the next. London's H.Grimace made my Post-Punk meets Goth album of 2017 in Self-Architect, Odd Talk is making a brave, early claim for that crown this year.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Songs About People # 594 Mama Cass

Buddy Rich Band play a song called Big Mama Cass. The connection between the track and the woman remains slightly unclear. At least to me. From 1968 at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas.

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 288 Sunhouse

A joy to find this, one of my very favourite songs, appear on the Rosie's jukebox twenty years on. From the soundtrack of Shane Meadow's Twenty Four Seven.

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 13 Merge Records

Based in Durham, North Carolina. Founded in 1989. The number of notable bands and artists who have recorded on the label at some point is legion. I'll give you Arcade Fire, The Clean, Dinosaur Jr. Eleanor Friedberger, Lambchop, Neutral Milk Hotel, Spoon and Superchunk. And here, from the forthcoming Essex Green album.

Forty Days of Rain # 10 R.E.M.

A song I come back to again and again. Played here when it had no title on the band's first performance on the David Letterman Show when it had yet to be given a name. No mention of rain in the lyric.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 265 Nathaniel Mayer & the Fabulous Twilights

Song(s) of the Day # 1,555 DRINKS

Hippo-Lite the second album by DRINKS, a collaboration between Cate Le Bon and The Fall and White Fence's Tim Presley, was released last Friday. Recorded in isolation from the modern distractions of internet, smartphones and TV in Saint-Hypolyte-Du-Fort a small town in the South of France, it's self-consciously weird and improvisational, made as much for the pairs' own satisfaction as for the outside world's.

Recalling two great experimental eras of Rock music, the early Seventies Hippie playgrounds of Kevin Ayers, Faust and Gong and the Post-Punk adventuring of Slits, Young Marble Giants and The Raincoats, Hippo-Lite slots into this great non-conformist tradition as snug as a bug in a rug. If Corner Shops and Real Outside are hit records from an alternative better universe, Ducks, (as much of a statement as the Avant Gard pop songs mentioned just now), hoists the freak flag to its own great tuneless and shapeless glee and surely to many listeners irritation and discomfort. The record seems sure to be a grower. I look forward to that taking place greatly.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Songs About People # 593 Lev Bronstein

A song for Lev Bronstein, (better known as Leon Trotsky), by Eighties Trotsky-ites with tunes The Redskins. Lev Bronstein is the first song on here.

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 12 Damnably Records

London based label currently riding something of a wave in the light of the recently released Say Sue Me record, surely one of the albums of the year so far. Also on the label are Shonen Knife, Otoboke Beaver and Leggy. And here are Wussy from Cincinnati, Ohio, with a taste of their new album What Heaven Is Like. An intriguing taste too.

Forty Days of Rain # 9 Charles Trenet

Drip drop, drip drop effects. Exactly what you want from a good rain song.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 266 The Michael Stanley Band

Song(s) of the Day # 1,554 Laura Veirs

In the UK we have a well-established brand of assorted chocolates called Quality Street which are virtually embedded in our national consciousness. Each tin of it, (often bought by families at Christmas), offers a selection of choices, of soft-centres, nuts and toffees, all wrapped in differently shaped and coloured wrappers. Nobody, but nobody, likes every flavour, and people will tend to sift through the tin every time that it's passed to them in search or their own personal favourites, leaving the selections they personally disdain for other poor unfortunates or someone who actually favours that choice.

For me the recently released The Lookout, incredibly the tenth solo album from American Folk stalwart an experience akin to the Quality Street conundrum. I'm finding it impossible to love it all. The record seems to me to be largely about trying to work out how to maintain grace and personal integrity in a world that's increasingly ugly and random. Some tracks have a serene spooky quality that I'm much drawn to. Others come across as rather worthy and staid.

Uncut Album of the Month a couple of issues back,it's a worthy recipient but not all of it chimes with my personal tastes. So I'd recommend that you seek out Everybody Needs You, Seven Falls, Watch Fire, The Meadow and Lightning Rod as the kernel of the record I'd like to have heard. As with a tin of Quality Streets there's much to greatly enjoy.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Songs About People # 592 Judee Sill

Neat, Jazz tribute to the tragic but truly gifted Judee Sill.

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 11 Saddle Creek Records

Based in Omaha, Nebraska with Big Thief, Steff Chura, Hop Along, and Sam Evian among other artists on the label. And this from Palehound, released a couple of months back.

Song(s) of the Day # 1,553 Emma Tricca

Now here's something quite new and quite thrilling. The third album from Italian born and bred singer songwriter Emma Tricca, St Peter. It's a Folk record, evocative to me of the best records from the golden era of that sound of the Sixties and Seventies.

Tricca's voice has the otherworldly qualities of Karen Dalton and the record is textured, weaving and highly inventive. Recorded in New York and augmented by a classy band of Steve Shelley, (Sonic Youth) on drums, Pete Calub on bass and the Dream Syndicate's Jason Victor's particularly prominent guitar. Supported by a number of other contributors including Judy Collins, and Howie Gelb the record might call to mind Vashti Bunyan, Davy Graham and Laura Nyro, by Tricca has her own stride and walks her own walk. An album that on only a couple of plays has already taken a fierce grip on my imagination, St Peter is a record that something quite apart from anything else I've heard this year. A rites of passage experience. As resonant and evocative as a great novel.

Forty Days of Rain # 8 Felt

One of many golden moments from the early albums of Felt.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 267 John Cougar Mellencamp

Friday, April 20, 2018

Girl Ray

Perhaps an early manifestation of Record Store Day which is tomorrow. A limited 7 inch single from the wonderful Girl Ray who made such an impression with their debut album Earl Grey last year. 'Lilting' in the way their best stuff is!

Thirty Independent Record Labels # 10 Milk! Records

The new and third taster from Courtney Barnett's forthcoming album, Tell Me How You Feel, is a welcoming opportunity to focus on Milk! Records which she set up a few years back with partner Jen Cloher. It's another fine track, full of open late Velvet Underground riffing before decided mid-track to go somewhere else, rather than go for the full What Goes On or Rock and Roll Effect. Judging by these three the album itself should be a blast.

As for Milk! Records itself, naturally, Courtney's vast success over the last couple of years has led to her dwarfing everything else on the label to some extent. Nevertheless, there's much else that's well worthy of investigation. Cloher herself, Jade Imagine, East Brunswick Girls Choir and Loose Tooth for starters.

Forty Days of Rain # 7 The Turtles

Some bands sing songs about the rain and some don't. So while Kraftwerk and Stereolab don't, R.E.M., The Go Betweens, The Velvet Underground and Echo & the Bunnymen do. And so did The Turtles, one of the most underestimated American bands of the Sixties. This comes from their great 1969 album, Turtle Soup.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 268 Mel & Tim

Song of the Day # 1,552 Lay Llamas

Italian electro duo with a taster for their forthcoming album. In the mould of Hookworms and Goat with a welcome touch of motorik rhythms. Groovy!

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

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