Monday, 30 November 2009

miracle mile monday part 14

The idea of bluer skies and better weather as a barometer to the futre is a theme that pops up form time to time in Miracle Mile's songs. The second track from "Alaska" is "Weatherwise" which features some great pedal steel guitar and has one of the band's best choruses
There he goes, twinkel toes, you should know how to see things my way
Wishing my bluer skies to you
He'll go far, not as far as you are, to see things my way
Weatherwise broken cloud will do
You can buy Alaska here

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Lazy Sunday - Booley

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a track by Booley and comes from the lp "The Bathroom Floor"

It is one those mid tempo crafted melodic songs I love

It's only after I've done a search that I've found out Booley is an early incarnation of Duke Special whose first lp "songs form the Deep Forest" is a bit like an Irish Prefab Sprout

Friday, 27 November 2009

Singular Sounds E- An Emotional Fish

Sometime the sorting on media player is a little odd therefor singular sounds for E ends up being An Emotional Fish

Irish band An Emotional Fish were I think the first signing to U2's label (Mother Records). They released 3 lps which all charted in Ireland and I remember this single got a lot of airplay in the UK at the time of it's release. I still quite like this although it does run out of ideas/steam before the end and I do remember hearing the follow up and not being that impressed, thus this being the only track I have

Thursday, 26 November 2009

My indie past - The Beloved

One of the things I've got against the acid house scene of the late 80s (apart from that smiley face logo and the fact that people felt the need to blow whistles all the time) is that a lot of great guitar bands went to some raves took some e and started to produce some second rate dance music. The Beloved were a classic example. They went from the first track to the second.

One Hundred Words is one of those great lost songs, it reminds me a bit of New Order around time of "Temptation".

Time after Time is a pleasant enough pop song but I missed the band they were

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

My indie past - Treebound Story

Not much to say about Treebound Story except they featured a pre Pulp Richard Hawley. I've posted 2 tracks, the first "My Life's Example" came out in 1986 and I'm pretty sure I first heard it as part of John Peel's festive 50 and the second comes from the next ep released 3 years later and sounds like a completely different band. It is this second poppier track that i think is the best thing they did

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A Year in Books - Chris Steele-Perkins

A bit of a cheat this one as it is a book of photographs. "England my England" collects together a aeries of photographs taken over the last 35 years by Chris Steele - Perkins. It doesn't contain the best or my favourite photos, but together it represents a kind of cultural history that endless "Remember the..." programmes cannot capture. The subject matter on one hand is random , from the Debs ball to the reggae festival and the country fair and yet a theme forms ...all life is here.

I'll leave it to Michael Palin "These are wonderful images, showing just how revealing the lives of ordinary people, doing day-to-day things can be. They are glimpses of a country in doubt, sometimes in pain, but full of an indomitable spirit."

Why I like this book so much I think is that it covers pretty much the time I've been alive as result it seems that on every page there is a memory hiding

You can buy "England My England" here

Monday, 23 November 2009

miracle mile monday part 13

Miracle miles 4th lp released in 2003 is called "Alaska" and more than ever apart from the final track it feels like a book of short stories. Songs let us look into the lives of various characters before moving on to the next. By this stage the band consisted of Trevor Jones and Marcus Cliffe.

Trevor Jones on the band website - " A lot of these songs focus on the tricks that we use, the games that we play, and the skills we develop to stop ourselves becoming unglued"

I'll start with the title track and lp opener. It features some beautiful guitar playing. Lyrically it is the most explicit in terms of the songwriter as an observer and recorder. In this case the pay off is heartbreaking

Alaska - Miracle Mile

"The bundle at her breast, it's all they could hope for
From hair of fading nylon to perfect plastic toes"

On a separate note the band's website has been redesigned and has some great stuff on it.
You can also buy Alaska on the site here

Sunday, 22 November 2009

lazy sunday - the waterboys

Lazy Sunday and top of the pile is a Waterboys epic "Too Close to Heaven". This comes from the lp of the same name (compilation of unreleased tracks that were recorded about the same time as the "Fisherman's Blues" lp.) The tracks on this lp were abandoned in favour of the more traditional Irish sound that came to define this period.

I like it because only Mike Scott can do this kind of freewheeling

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Life of Live + Strange Covers

Going to poly in Leeds meant that it was only a matter of time before I went to see local heroes, The Wedding Present. I saw them 3 times in my 4 years in Leeds and the first time was the best. The later concerts suffered as they got a big LUFC following and there were always seemd to be mass fights breaking out, which for a professional wimp like me tended to spoil the experience. The first time was also to promote the debut lp George Best which I still think has some of their best songs on. I've posted 2 tracks from the re release of that lp

The first is an acoustic version which definitely wasn't played at the concert. It's a great example of David Gedge's lyric writing which is so natural they feel like snatches of conversations. I apologise there is a slight skip about halfway through this track (whenever this happens I always remember compact discs being introduced on tomorrow's world with the claim that they were indestructible - this was demonstrated by for some reason spreading jam on one)

The second is a cover of a Beatles track

Friday, 20 November 2009

Strange Covers - Heaven 17

When you think of Heaven 17 you probably think:

Lot's of synths, music to dance to, over the top backing vocals

When you think of Party Fears Two by the Associates you may think
Lots of synth with off the scale vocal gymnastics

Now forget all that and listen to this stunning cover version. Originally performed at a tribute to Billy Mackenzie it paints the song in a whole new light

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

God like Genius - Stephen Duffy

This God Like Genius is one of this country's most under-rated songwriters. He has

- recorded one of the best early 80s pop singles

- formed a folk band

-been in a britpop supergroup

- written and toured with an ex member of one of the Uk's biggest boy bands

- released an lp with Nigel Kennedy

- been an early singer with a bunch of New Romantics

Most people know that Stephen Duffy was one of the original members of Duran Duran before he left and was replaced by Simon Le Bon. He then went on to form a group called Tin Tin and kept the Tin Tin name as well as one of the songs " Kiss Me" when the band broke up. Kiss me, released in 1985 became one of those singles that everyone probably knows without really knowing much about who recorded it. Rather than post this which I'm sure you can get on 100 80s compilations or 80s blogs I've gone for the other great single from the first lp "Ups and Downs" (which was strangely part produced by Smiths and Blur producer Stephen Street)

Icing on the Cake - Stephen Tin Tin Duffy

After a second failed lp (this time without the Tin Tin in his name) and a one off lp under the name Dr Calculus (with Roger Freeman ex of Pigbag) he resurfaced in 1987 in the Lilac Time a band formed with his brother Nick Duffy. The lp was first released on an indie label before being re-released on a major. I've posted the first single. I remember it being played on radio one in a you'll never guess who this is type section. Against the rush of dance music and rave a gentle folk pop song didn't stand a chance. The single is one of those catchy songs that you think must be a cover as you cant believe that no-one else has come up the tune

Return to Yesterday - The Lilac Time

After supporting Dr and the Medics and appearing on TV with Roland Rat (boy did the record company know what to do with this band) Stephen Duffy started on the second lp "Paradise Circus" released in 1989. In his own words "I was obsessed with Crosby Stills and Nash , Neil Young and Iris Murdoch and thought myself an amalgam of all five" whilst "I would get on the train to Phonogram to meetings that confirmed our belief that they had signed us by mistake. They wanted a hit. On the way home a girl waved. You are the girl that waved at trains through the cool September rain. It didn't even make the top 100"

The lp is a bit of a mixed bag, you can hear the struggle between the style of the first lp and the pressure to have a hit.

Much to everyone's surprise the band weren't dropped and the option of another lp was taken up by Phonogram. This time they called in Andy Partridge of XTC to produce. Again the resulting lp has an element of conflict. There are 6 tracks produced with Andy Partridge who layered harmony on top of harmony. The remainder were rushed out in a week with John Leckie after Phonogram cut the budget half way through recording. The Andy Partridge tracks show a glimpse of what might have been. "And Love for All" was released in 1990 and needless to say none of the singles charted

To promote the lp the band embarked on The Free Love tour.

"It was a shambles, setting up in parks and playing for a handful of people, or Peterborough town square where a clock started to chime as we began playing and continued throughout the set"

The Laundry - Lilac Time

After finally leaving Phonogram, The Lilac Time signed to Creation records for 1 lp "Astronauts" a much more stripped down sound, closer to the essence of the first lp now that the pressure from Phonogram to have a hit was no longer there.

In Inerva Gardens - The Lilac Time

The Lilac Time went into a prolonged hibernation during which time Stephen Duffy recorded "Music in Colours" with violinist Nigel Kennedy (after discovering a shared love of Aston Villa) in 1993 as well as solo lp "Duffy" in 1995.

Natalie - Stephen Duffy and Nigel Kennedy

 He finally also had another hit. After all the great songs he'd written, this was the annoying "Hanging Around" recorded as Me Me Me with Alex James from Blur and Justin Welch from Elastica. Thankfully it was a one off.

1998 saw the release of the next solo lp "I Love my Friends" and one of the strongest sets he has produced. The lyrics felt more autobiographical. The music is a bit of mix of a guitar sound which reflected the trend at the time with gentler acoustic songs more in line with the Lilac Time.

I've posted two tracks that reflect the 2 elements of the lp

In 1999 Stephen Duffy reformed the Lilac Time and since then the band have released 4 lps all on different labels. These records are much more consistent in sound with a big reliance on acoustic instruments

Family Coach from Looking for the Day in the Night 1999

My Forest Brown from Lilac6 2001

We Used To Be So from Keep Going 2003

Happy Go Lucky from Run Out Groove 2007

The final incarnation for Stephen Duffy is the one off Devils lp. The story goes that he found an old tape of songs he'd written with the early version of Duran Duran and after a chance meeting and reminisce with Nick Rhodes the two of them got together and recorded the songs ( not changing the lyrics and using only early synths) and released them on the "Dark Circles" lp in 2002. If you are thinking Rio or Planet Earth then think again. These are more like the early synth bands such as pre Dare Human League , Cabaret Voltaire etc. A glimpse of what might have been and not a whiff of a beach in Sri Lanka.

Dark Circles - The Devils

Signals in Smoke - The Devils

In 2004/05 Stephen Duffy finally hit payday in that he co wrote 2 songs for Robbie Williams greatest hits package and then co wrote the whole of the singers next lp (The one before the career threatening Rudebox). This turned into to touring as guitarist on the accompanying world tour.
Anyone who has followed the downs and downs of Stephen Duffy's career wouldn't begrudge him his time in the sun and the royalties should pay for a few more Lilac Time lps
This post was partly inspired by the fact that a documentary film has just been released. "Memory and Desire - 30 years in the wilderness with Stephen Duffy and the Lilac Time.

As his the lyrics form his last lp says
 My epitaph will be
“In dazzling obscurity
He played his songs for free
And a royalty

Finally his website is worth a visit where he writes a very entertaining if erratic blog with photos
For those that want more a great site is duffypedia

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Singular Sounds D - Dalis Car

Dalis Car were a short lived partnership between Bauhaus lead singer Peter Murphy and Japan bassist Mick Karn. For some reason on my pc I've got one track by them, which isn't even the lp's only single. Listening to it now, it hasn't dated that well. it has a pseudo Japan type feel to it. I've had to resort to Wikipedia to tell me that the duo didn't spend that much time together in the studio preferring to exchange tapes instead. Those feeling harsh could say you can tell. One for Japan and Peter Murphy completests only i fear

Monday, 16 November 2009

crushed by the wheels of industry

Well all good things must come to an end. Today is my first day back at work following 3 months of adoption leave. As I've not managed to win the lottery in those 3 months, it is back to the 9 to 5 (in reality 8 to 7). I'm going to keep the blog going but I doubt I'll manage the one post a day - hopefully 3 or 4 a week

"work ha!"

Sunday, 15 November 2009

lazy sunday - Roxy Music

Top of the shuffle pile this week is an early Roxy Music track "Editions of You". This version comes from the compilation lp "The Early years"

I like it because it rattles along at a great pace with a great vocal before Bryan Ferry smoothed off all the rough edges from his singing croon. Also you cant beat a random "ooooohhh"

You can buy the Early Years here

Saturday, 14 November 2009

My long lost indie past - Metro Trinity

Guitars that jangle - check

Melancholic songs - check

Slightly mannered vocals - check

Love gone wrong lyrics - check

Obscure releases that didn't sell - check

Metro Trinity should have been one of my favourite bands. However they released one ep and then seemed to disappear.

All I know about them is

1) their first release was a shared flexi disc with the inspiral carpets

2) one of their songs appeared on "Sound of Leamington Spa vol 1" compilation

3) they released one ep "Die Young"

4) Strangest of all they featured 2 future members of the Doves

I heard one of the tracks on John Peel and bought the Die Young ep. I've posted the complete ep as I'm pretty certain it is impossible to get hold of.

Slip away (which shows why you should never trust a Peugeot driver)

Friday, 13 November 2009

My long lost indie past - C86

In my first year at poly the nme issued the infamous tape "C86" showcasing all things indie. It has been credited with shoving indie guitar bands into the limelight and kick starting a movement. As with most things hindsight tends to have over inflated its importance, but at the time the bands who featured and others with a similar sound tended to dominate the singles i bought (a majority with some spectacular exceptions couldn't keep the quality going over an lp)

The full track listing was as follows

Side one
1.Primal Scream - "Velocity Girl"
2.The Mighty Lemon Drops - "Happy Head"
3.The Soup Dragons - "Pleasantly Surprised"
4.The Wolfhounds - "Feeling So Strange Again"
5.The Bodines - "Therese"
6.Mighty Mighty - "Law"
7.Stump - "Buffalo"
8.Bogshed - "Run to the Temple"
9.A Witness - "Sharpened Sticks"
10.The Pastels - "Breaking Lines"
11.Age of Chance - "From Now On, This Will Be Your God"
Side two
1.The Shop Assistants - "It's Up to You"
2.Close Lobsters - "Firestation Towers"
3.Miaow - "Sport Most Royal"
4.Half Man Half Biscuit - "I Hate Nerys Hughes (From The Heart)"
5.The Servants - "Transparent"
6.The Mackenzies - "Big Jim (There's no pubs in Heaven)"
7.Big Flame - "New Way (Quick Wash And Brush Up With Liberation Theology)"
8.Fuzzbox - "Console Me"
9.McCarthy - "Celestial City"
10.The Shrubs - "Bullfighter's Bones"
11.The Wedding Present - "This Boy Can Wait"

Most have disappeared to the world of occasional appearances at inflated prices on ebay. Some's influence outlived them and some are still going (although in the case of Primal Scream a million miles away from this sound.)

A few of the blogs I've been reading recently has reignited my love for some of these singles so I'm going to start posting a few

I'll start with 3 bands that featured on C86 and for me sum up 3 different categories

1) Patchy in the extreme - Mighty Mighty were a Birmingham band who released 1 lp and 6 singles. They summed up some of the bands from this era in that they had moments of brilliance and moments that just passed me by. I've posted what i think is their best track -

Once its gone so far there is only one way to go

2) The ones that Got Away - Bodines released a fantastic lp produced by Ian Broudie called "played" which the record company spent a load on , failed to sell and then saw the band dropped. I've posted their best single "Therese". It reminds me a bit of Orange Juice's Felicity (okay its got a girl's name as a title but it does jangle along at a great pace)

And I've found that it knocks me to the ground

It scares the health out of me

3) The Start of something Brilliant - The Wedding Present became the best known of the C86 bands (until Primal Scream blissed out) and are still going strong. David Gedge's lyrics are always great almost conversational in style and Favourite Dress are among his best

To see it all in a drunken kiss, a strangers hand on my favourite dress

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Places to visit extra

I wrote today's post about 2 weeks afo and since then I've discovered 2 more great places to visit that are too good not to mention

Following on from a comment left on the Alarm post I've discovered a great blog 70 suns in the sky which if you like alternative/indie music from the 80s 90s (and who in their right mind doesnt) is a must as it has some great tracks on

Second one is Off the record which is a pretty varied mix but among recent posts, featured the Paul Quinn and the Independant Group LP "Will I Ever Be Inside of You"

Places to visit

I've been trying to widen my blog reading recently and from following random links ( abit like playing a blog version of tag) I've found some great new sites.

"There and Back Again" - takes its name form a compilation that Sarah records brought out before it ceased to exist. Therefore there is a distint emphasis on all things twee

"Noisebox Music Collection" - a site from the US although loads of posts on UK indie bands. Remit is a bit wider than the previous site and not scared to get poppy

"Town Full of Loser" - has some great compilations (including posts that focus on who has appeared that week on "later") and a real varied mix of music

"2 U I Bestow" - focus on Irish music both new and old. If you like melody then this is a great place to discover new stuff

"indie.fference" - indie is in the title embraces everyithing form the jangletastic Man from Delmonte to dodgy early 80's act Blue Zoo.

Coincidence v Fate - this has some great lost tracks posted

Anyway happy reading

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Life of Live - The Alarm

I've know idea how I ended up seeing the Alarm . They were touring on the back of breakthrough singles 68 guns and where were you hiding. I went with a a few friends I'd met in halls of residence so I can only assume there was nothing else was on that night (one of them had the lp). I remember 2 things

1) Me and my friends seemed to be the only people in the audience who didn't have hair like the band. (the amount of hairspray must have been a fire risk) It did prompt a bit of a discussion as to where all these people were in the daytime

2) The bands following were intense. Before they came on the audience performed their own version of a Blaze of Glory. I've never experienced an atmosphere like it. It was as if they had already played a set and were coming on for an encore. As a result of the atmosphere and the energy the band put in we all ended up leaving genuinely shocked at how good they were.

We didn't convert though (none of us had the hair for a start) we went home and listened to the one fan's lp and all agreed it sounded like a different band

Anyway here is what they are probably best known for

68 Guns - Alarm

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A year in books - What's For Dinner Mr Gum

There was big excitement in our house this week as the bedtime story book is the latest in the Mr Gum series. These books are written by Andy Stanton and feature the rather strange inhabitants of the town of Lamonic Bibber. Where the forces of good (Alan Taylor a small man who happens to be made of gingerbread, Friday O'Leary who believes that the truth is a lemon meringue and Polly who "has a heart so brave it would fight a lion if the lion deserved it, for instance if he'd been trying to rob pencils") are in a constant struggle against the forces of evil (Mr Gum who hated children, animals, fun and corn on the cob and Billy William the Third who runs Right Royal Meats the worst butcher's shop in the world).
This latest story has Mr Gum and Billy William falling out after Mr Gum started to buy his food from Greasy Ian's house of Slops kebab shop. So begins the Dinnertime Wars.
"One Week later Mr Gum was sitting out in his garden relaxing in his favourite broken deck chair and reading a copy of the History of Kebabs, which Greasy Ian had lent him. Mr Gum hated reading but he liked looking at the pictures. One of the pictures showed a small boy crying because he'd eaten too much chilli sauce. Another showed a vegetarian being attacked by doner kebabs"
A bit like Flight of the Conchords, Mr Gum divides opinion in our house, I love it and often burst out laughing as I'm reading it to my son (who also loves them). My wife hates them
If you have 5/6/7/8 yr old children give them a go - there is more imagination and humour in one chapter of these than 100 horrid henrys
The series consists of in order
You're a Bad Man Mr Gum
Mr Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire
Mr Gum and the Goblins
Mr Gum and the Power Crystals
Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear
What's for Dinner Mr Gum
Mr Gum has his own website which you can find here
You can buy all the books here they seem to be between £3:50 and £5:00

Monday, 9 November 2009

Now and Forever in Hopeland

I've held up posting about this the new lp by Trevor Jones, Miracle Mile's singer and songwriter. Mainly because I've learnt that with the Miracle Mile lps the first hearing can produce a "well that was nice" response, however slowly but surely the melodies and words shine through and before you know it , is is dominating the cd player. Therefore I've played this lp loads over the last 3 weeks to get to the point where it is top of the played pile.

The lp feels a lot more reflective that Miracle Mile's music a mood heightened by the fact that half the 26 tracks are spoken word pieces. These poems are set to just piano or guitar,and as ever the playing is exemplary, and on occasion the voice stands alone. Both the poems and the songs often feel like you are peering in a window into other lives before moving on. This is definitely one of those lps that needs to be heard in one listening, it harks back to the skill of putting an lp together before the curse of the "shuffle"

The music manages to be both sparse , in that it is often just guitar or piano but also warm as light and shade are provided by violin and viola , brushed drums and double bass.

The lp was written over the course of 12 months whilst Trevor lived in a Corsican village and I think the music and the mood are both a perfect reflection of this. The songs touch many emotions, sadness, hope, regret but always returning to love. All summed up in the final song "Homeward"

"Love isn't hard to find as long as you carry hope in mind

If hope isn't easy found call me and I will be homeward bound"

I haven't posted any tracks partly as I've said I think the lp needs to be listened to as a whole, however if you visit the website here - you can hear some of the songs. If you listen to one , make it Hopeland the title track which is just gorgeous

There is also a great piece on what lead to the writing of the lp

In short if you liked any of the Miracle Mile tracks I've posted or you want something to go with a whisky and an autumn evening then buy this lp. You can get it at the band's website here

Miracle Mile monday - part 12

Final track from "Slow Fade". Miracle Mile's 3rd lp.

I've posted the lps final and title track. It is a largely spoken piece before ending with a "this is a slow fade" refrain. Along with the opening track which it shares it lyrical theme it provides a great bookend to the lp

Slow Fade - Miracle Mile

"When it is over it is gone, say nothing lies where memory belongs except maybe regret , this is a slow fade"

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Lazy Sunday - Tom McRae

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a bit of singer songwriter. This comes from Tom McRae's third lp "All Maps Welcome". On this one he tried to flesh out his sparse sound. I think it really works on this as I like the way it builds up before it is stripped back down again

So take a card and put it back
Hide the face and cut the pack
The future's not that clear
Light me a smoke
I'll tell you a story
Of how the west was won

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Great Singles - Night Train

I was reading a post about Visage here, at the rather wonderful Castles in Space blog. Visage were a strange mix of members of Magazine and Ultravox along with a nightclub dj and fronted by professional new romantic Steve Strange. All the make up and clothes got in the way and tended to cloud over what were a number of great singles. Fade to Grey is the one that appears on every 80s compilation. However the 2 released from the second lp "The Anvil" were the best. The Dammed Don't Cry as featured on the link is probably the better of the two but closely followed by "Night Train".

I am the proud owner of this single in picture disc format and can distinctly remember when I bought it.

I was 15 years old and the school trip was down to London to see Julius Caesar at the barbican. It was a matinee performance and although we arrived in London at 11 we didn't need to be at the theatre until 3 or something. What we did in the meantime was up to us. The only criteria is that we split ourselves up into groups of 4. Imagine that happening now allowing a bunch of 15yr old boys to wander about London town for the day on a school trip! Little did we realise at the time but it was also the day of the IRA Hyde Park bombings. Being our first time in London we all thought that the endless sirens and blocked off roads were normal.

Being an all boys school our groups did what most of the class did which was after a quick scary walk through soho we all headed to our true mecca which was Oxford Street HMV. In this Aladdin's cave I came out with among others the single to Night Train (there wasn't a hope of getting picture discs at out local Boots). I didn't play it that much as being a picture disc is was slightly warped which gave it a weird speed up slow down sound, which most of my friends thought a massive improvement.

my only other memory is us all laughing at the line "Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look" as Cassius was played by the fattest bloke in the cast.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Singular Sounds C - Clint Boon Experience

Singular Sounds for C - well it could have been Cardigans , Charlatans , Chemical Brothers or Cornershop. However for each of these the fact I only have one track means it tends to be the obvious one. Therefore I've gone for The Clint Boon Experience. Former keyboard player in the Inspiral Carpets (as you might guess from the opening keyboards), this is a track i heard on the radio and rushed out to buy. It is very catchy and a bit like sweet food , I played it to death and then got a bit sick of it. I've no idea how representative it is of other stuff they have done. I obviously didn't think much of the b side as I've not bothered to put it on the pc.
you might find this a great bit of undiscovered pop or it may have you running for some abstract noise merchant
This is a new revolution

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Life of Live - Icicle Works

Before going to poly i spent 8 months living in Worcester doing voluntary work. The flat I shared wasn't in the best part of town being right next to the sauce factory. One of my co - volunteers was someone called Jez who was 3 years older and therefore had an extra 3 years worth of music collection all stored on C90 tapes. Luckily all I had with me was a small tinny tape recorder and so over the 8 months I worked my way through his collection and discovered loads of stuff that over time became favourites that last to this day.

He had a copy of "7 Singles Deep" by the Icicle Works. All i knew about them at the time is the one hit wonder tag of "Love is a Wonderful Colour". After some tape to tape recording, for a period of time i could not stop playing these 7 songs.

On starting poly, I saw they were playing live in the first term and rushed out to get tickets, even persuading a couple of doubting new friends to come along. They were doubting because at the time the Icicle Works were a bit of a joke with the esteemed music press with each single seemingly greeted with scathing reviews.

Live, I think they were one of the best bands going. Ian Mcnabb was a natural front man and all the songs seemed much bigger than they did on record. The band often seemed to change the arrangements adding snatches of cover versions , extra verses , longer instrumental breaks in.
The 2 tracks I've posted really stick in my mind. Hollow Horse was just a rush of energy and Birds Fly with its manic drumming and almost chanting chorus created what seemed like just one mass of dancing and singing. I'm afraid listening back to the 2 studio versions I've posted they don't come near to capturing how i remember them live. Having said that they are still mighty fine songs!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Why i love country music - Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter isn't exactly country more if you had to give him a label Americana. This is a term used an awful lot by Uncut magazine which i used to get for a couple of years. I stopped in the end as i realised that their end of year top 50 albums bared little relation to what I liked. Without sounding jingoistic the it seemed as if to get a good review or be album of the month you had to be an American, it is as if the journalists were just too in love with the american guitar band dream (probably as a reaction against all things britpop). I discovered some great stuff through Uncut especially Sufjan Stevens and Midlake. But like Britpop before it the good stuff also came with a lot of dross. The likes of Ryan Adams would send Uncut in 5 star heaven whereas I was wondering why a review of the Hobotalk cd would be hidden in the margins. End of rant and like any rant it doesnt make that much sense or stand up to that much scrutiny

Anyway Josh Ritter a bit like Josh Rouse initially found more success in Europe rather than his homeland, in this case Ireland. Helped by the fact that he supported the Frames whose guitarist produced his third lp as well as headlining his own Irish tour.

Josh Ritter has released 5 lps , the first self titled is a USA only release in 1999. Available in the UK are

Golden Age of Radio 2002

Hello Starling 2003

The Animal Years 2006

The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter 2007

The last seeing a change in direction in that Josh Ritter changes writing style away from writing with a guitar and towards using an upright piano that at the time he didnt really know how to play. The sound of this lp is a bit rougher and experimental. As a result the songs sometimes can seem a bit drowned in instrumentation.

For me he is at his peak with Hello Starling and Animal Years that are more crafted in feel. I've posted a couple of tracks from both these lps

Kathleen - from Hello Starling

Snow is Gone - from Hello Starling

A Girl in the War - from The Animal Years (lyrics mentions the Dove from Above - sadly i don't think this is a reference to Vic Reeves)

Wolves - from the Animal Years

Josh Ritter's website is here where you can download a couple of tracks form each of his lps

If you like them you can buy them here

Monday, 2 November 2009

Miracle Mile Monday - Part 11

The 3rd track from The Miracle Mile's third lp

Another deceptively simple song, simple in the way that in its striped down form every word, and note has its place, nothing is wasted.

A song of love built around the Guggenheim art gallery. I've no idea if it is autobiographical , but the bit about Annette Benning taking a photograph is just the kind of strange detail that could only happen in real life or anyway I'd like think so

Pause and say a prayer to Frank Lloyd Wright

You can buy Slow Fade that features this track here

Sunday, 1 November 2009

lazy sunday - tim booth

Lazt sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a track from Tim Booth's solo lp Bone. It has a much loser, more groove based sound than James although this is the type of mid paced ballad that normally ends a James lp and suits his voice really well

You can buy Bone here