Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 104 Love and its Opposite by Tracey Thorn

104 - Love and Its Opposite - Tracey Thorn 2010

Tracey Thorn has one of my favourite voices in music and in the last 3/4 years has made a couple of solo lps that you feel if she was starting her career would give her a profile up their with the best of the current deluge of female singer songwriters.

Love and Opposites is a proper gown up lp .With themes that only really resonate if you've lived a bit of a life. Not in terms of the life of a rock and roll star but the mundane world of bringing up children , waking up middle aged, marriage breakdowns and having to find love again. It is one of the few lps I know that feels like it was made specifically for the 40+ of us.

The sound she has found takes the best of the acoustic EBTG and the textures of the more dance EBTG all complimenting a voice that sounds better than ever.

As ever the lyrics are sharp , showcased in the opening track about the cycle of friends divorces

It is a slow paced lp but she does pick it up for a song that sung by a mother to her daughter

Hormones - Tracey Thorn

There are a couple of unusual covers but they fit in so well without the writing credits you probably wouldn't spot them.

Finally I think the whole LP can be summed up by this next track , recorded at home it also features Ben Watt and so makes you wish for another EBTG lp

You can buy Love and Its Opposite here

Tracey has also released a Christmas lp (although more a winter themed lp) of mostly covers which you can get here

Monday, 29 October 2012

Desert Island Discs - 105 Magic Land of Radio by Obi

105 - Magic Land of Radio by Obi 2002

On my never ending quest to find the next Prefab Sprout I've bought some duffers and some gems. I thought I'd struck gold in 2002 with Brighton's Obi's debut lp

Dreamy vocals that tell of a better place, romanticism in the lyrics , and the interesting changes in tempo and melody that was the early Sprout's signature tune.

There is a bit of folk , a bit of country ad a lot of pop and classic songwriting. At only 8 tracks it leaves you wanting more rather than out staying its welcome.

the instrumentation is subtle and never showy with not a wasted note.

I've posted the a couple of tracks. Somewhere Nicer is a quirky little pop song that would have fitted right in on Steve McQueen and Piano Song shows they could knock out an anthem with the best of them

Somewhere Nicer - Obi

Piano Song - Obi

You can buy the Magic Land of Radio here

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 106 - Everyone is Here by Finn Brothers

106 -  Everyone is Here by The Finn Brothers 2004

Now for a cosy woolly jumper of an lp. The second lp as a duo following 1995's more experimental Finn, Tim and Neil Finn's Everyone is Here is pure melody based and is a collection of songs up thee with both Tims' solo and Neil's Crowded House lps.

The lp was actually recorded twice, an abandoned version was made with Tony Visconti before 6 months later being re recorded with Mitchell Froom who gives it that Crowded House feel.

Disembodies Voices shows their harmonies at their best  and Won't Give in would fit onto any Crowded House lp

A lot of the themes of the songs deals with families and memories and all showcase the brothers ear for a killer chorus

Nothing Wrong With You - The Finn Brothers

You can buy Everyone is Here here

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 107 - Mid Air by Paul Buchanan

107 - Mid Air by Paul Buchanan 2012

Paul Buchanan's debut solo lp seems to have met a bit of a mixed reception. Partly due to a sense of disappointment that it wasn't a Blue Nile lp , a feeling I guess heightened by the fact that Blue Nile thees are in place as words and phrases echo earlier songs, and of course there is that voice.

Two of my favourite tracks from the Blue Nile are Regret and early b side and Family Life , both of which are largely piano based songs , so Mid Air was always going to be a winner for me.

The short songs feel like sketches but ones that contain universal truths.This is a proper gown ups record made by and for someone who has been battered along on life's air currents and is now sending fragmented dispatches from the front. Memory , sadness and regret weave in and out of each other. This is another lp that I think will climb the top 125 every year .

Trev over at Hissy Fit has done a much better job than I ever could at writing about the lp and some individual tracks here .

For me every new listen means another phrase will stick in my mind as I pin my own memory to it so the whole thing  has become a collage of emotion

You can buy Mid Air here


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 108 - New Gold Dream by Simple Minds

108 - New Gold Dream (81 82 83 84) by Simple Minds  1982

Has there ever been an lp where the cover, the title , the music and the vocals fitted so well together.? This was from a time when pop music meant something and was being made by a bunch of people who if not  all as intelligent as they thought they were, wrote words and sounds lifting themes from films , books , ideas , all married to perfect pop songs ... and then ,as garry Mulholland wrote in his excellent Fear of Music ,Thriller came along and ruined it all. Well that is for another drunken conversation.

New Gold Dream was made at a time before berets , white smocks , and bloody doves. The music shimmer the lyrics can be summed up in Colours , Love , Gold,  and a singer whose ego somehow allowed for his vocals to be mixed so far back to create that woozy , summer dream feeling.

Oddly for an of guitars and keyboards weaving in and out of each other , it is the drumming that sticks most in my mind. It is a groove based lp and the fact that 3 different drummers are credited must mean that producer Peter Walsh deserves a lot of credit for the fell of the lp.

Never is that groove better nailed than in this track

Big Sleep - Simple Minds

I remember looking at the band photo on the back and thinking that they all looked so damn cool and prompted a first failed experiment using hair gel to slick back my hair.

I've no idea what the 81 , 82 etc countdown meant but it made for a great chorus on the title track, a tower of a song that didn't even make it as a single.  Then again when you release 3 bits of perfect 7" vinyl as Promised You a Miracle , Someone Somewhere and still for me their career highlight Glittering Prize then you can keep such gems as lp tracks

The lp is back in the news as the band have been touring their first 5 lps live and that made me dig out the old Paul Morley review here which is so pretentious it is funny.

I heard an interview with both Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill recently and they both seemed like thoroughly nice blokes. That fact and the reminder of how good this lp is is almost enough to forgive the cringeworthy Belfast Child and Mandela Day....... almost

You can buy New Gold Dream here

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 109 - Dare by The Human League

109 - Dare by The Human League 1981

Has pop music ever been so bright and shiny? I'm not really sure what to say about an lp that I guess you'll all know as well as I do.

I can distinctly remember the day I bought it. That morning on the school bus someone brought the lp into school ,  I remember him getting it out of his bag and us all marvelling at the whiter than white cover , the Vogue inspired photos and the bight blue and pink. Even the explanation mark after the title seemed like a challenge. The impact was doubled by the fact it was a glorious gatefold. It was about as far away from the fens with its weird obsessions with C and W and speedway as you could get.

Just as importantly there wasn't a pork pie hat, pair of Doc Martins , thin tie or black and white chessboard pattern to be seen..

I rushed out that dinner time to Boots and spent my weeks dinner money on the lp (starving for Phil Oakey!)

Playing it at home bought the world of top of the pops into my bedroom.

Over time the light has dimmed with over familiarity (Don't You Want Me especially) and my favourite track today is Seconds (about the JFK killing) however the recently released special edition took me back to a time when their singles were genuinely exciting

And can a truer sentiment exist in any other pop song

Everybody needs love and adventure
Everybody needs cash to spend
Everybody needs love and affection
Everybody needs two or three friends

Things That Dreams Are Made Of - The Human League

Could it last? Well at first I thought so with 2 cracking singles but then what seemed like an age and Hysteria. Great songs but missing Martin Rushent a slightly stodgy production before I lost faith for a while with the Jam and Lewis produced Crash

You can buy Dare here , but I'm sure you already have it

Friday, 19 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 110 - This is Big Audio Dynamite by BAD

110 This is Big Audio Dynamite by Big Audio Dynamite 1985

I was never really a big fan of the clash , a couple of years too young to buy into all that gang myth. I had Combat Rock and the London Calling single but that was about it

However with Big Audio Dynamite now that was a gang I wanted to be in. It is difficult to imagine just how exciting this band was when it came on the scene . They certainly weren't the first to use samples , but when EMC2 came out with its smart lyrics , film dialogue (lifted from Performance) . indie guitars , swirling keyboards and a beat that you could dance to , well you did wonder if music would ever be the same

There was a time when I revelled in all the Nic Roeg references and knew the words to the song off by heart. Replaying the lp now I start to mouth along as they are still firmly stored in some dark corner of my brain.

The lp couldn't quite top the single but it came dam close. A real record of the times, covering the slide into corporate globalisation (Sony ) apartheid (Party) unemployment (Bottom Line) and Aids (Stone Thames) but not with slogans and preaching but with lyrics oblique enough to make you think.

The epic opening track starts with some western dialogue backed by a unrelenting drum beat that leads to an epic 6 mins of the Good Bad and the Ugly meets Brixton

Medicine Show - BAD

Could they keep it up , well the 2nd lp came and it had some good songs on it , but involving Joe Strummer felt like looking back and by that time there wasn't the shock of the new as every man and his dog was throwing in samples.

You can buy This is Big Audio Dynamite here

On a completely separate note I've just bought the debut lp of Australian band The Last Dinosaurs. When they don't stray too far into American powerpop territory they make songs that jangle along and make you long for summer

You can buy the lp here

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 111 - Crown and Treaty by Sweet Billy Pilgrim

111 - Crown and Treaty by Sweet Billy Pilgrim 2012

The second of this year's releases to make the top 125. The opening track Joyful Reunion for me sums up everything that is good about this lp and everything that might put people off. There are familiar instruments but somehow they sound different ( The song sounds like the Penguin Cafe Orchestra backing a 70s soul band) , subtle and sudden changes in direction, lyrics that make you think and a soulful vocal in the Peter Gabriel /Guy Garvey mode.

If there was a criticism it is that as the rough edges of their Mercury nominated debut have been smoothed off and to some extent there are occasions where they stray into Elbow territory, not that this is a bad thing.

Other times it reminds me of the 1st Blue Nile lp not in style (although I think they would make a great backing band if Paul Buchanan ever makes another lp) more in that straining to hear the subtleties of the instrumentation you do find yourself wondering what on earth made that sound (could be a  guitar or just as likely a bag of spanners)

Part of the joy of the record is listening to how the band weave the disparate atmospheric and experimental parts into something that on one level is quite conventional but on another steeped in experimental soul.

It is one of those lps that is full of discoveries and each track has something that pulls you to attention , whether a contrasting boy girl vocal , choir like harmonies , sampled dialogue or just the simply exquisite playing..

If the lp starts with some alternative dimension 70s soul then it finished with a just as beautiful , but just as odd country hymn

You can buy Crown and Treaty here

On a completely separate note a year in reading continues with Rapture by Liz Jensen a strange mix of eco disaster , psychological thriller , love story , religious fundamentalism and the supernatural all combined in a Magaret Atwood type brew which you can buy here

Monday, 15 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 112 - Howdy by Teenage Fanclub

112 - Howdy by Teenage Fanclub 2000

Teenage Fanclub known for massed guitars married to west coast harmonies and a healthy fixation with Big Star. I'd bought Bandwagonesque and played it a lot and then didn't play it at all and didn't buy anything else

For some reason I did buy their sixth lp Howdy maybe because of the lead off single

More Byrds than Big Star it was simply the sound of summer.  The whole lp consists of potential singles all pretty much following the same template but benefiting from the high quality threshold that having 3 songwriters must bring.

It is as if the band have mellowed with age , and some sparklingly clear guitar sounds weave in and out of the harmonies.

I've posted one of Norman Blake's contributions the simply gorgeous final track of the lp

If I Never See You Again - Teenage Fanclub

You can buy Howdy here

on a completely separate note you wait ages for one scottish 80s pop band to release something new and then 2 come along. Following Deacon Blue's new lp . Love and Money have just released Devil's Debt. It takes the best elements of their best lps with a slightly earthier sound .. its great and you can buy it here

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 113 - Hello Starling by Josh Ritter

113 -  Hello Starling by Josh Ritter 2003
Looking like a romantic poet on the cover Josh Ritter's second lp has a folky rock sound and a worn in vocal that makes the whole thing feel timeless, in that it could have been released in anytime during the last 30 years.
Starting with a plucked guitar and a deceptively sing along long song that invokes the spirit of Nick Drake (Bright Smile), the lp has guitar , Hammond organ and percussion welded together in a crisp sharp sound.
There is an easy comparison to Dylan especially in the panoramic lyrics of the following
What pulls the lp above the usual Americana is a focus on tunes (it isn't a surprise that Ritter found success in Europe before his homeland) as well as a real sense of joy in a number of the songs which also gives the lp a real ebb and flow
This is one of those lps where I'm not that much of a fan of any of its obvious influences and whereas a someone steeped in some of the sounds' roots would probably call it a pale imitation I just think it a great set of songs with a backing that allows them to breathe
You can buy Hello Starling here

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 114 - Given to the Wild by the Maccabees

114 - Given to The Wild by the Maccabees 2012

Last year was pretty sparse as far as classic lps was concerned however so far I think this year has been a bit of a vintage. If you add that to the fact that it was always likely I'd fall into the trap of the magazine best of polls, when some a few recent okay lps seems to rise above classics, then it isn't that much of a surprise to find the first of 3 of this year's releases in the top 125.

The Maccabees had made a couple of lps of slightly arty , spiky guitar lps before this years release. originally i had their debut in my top 125  (it reminded me a bit of very early James), however since its release in early Jan this lp has just sounded better and better.

Give to the Wild is a step change , it is the sound of a band who have set out with a conscious intent to make a record that takes them to the next level.

There are waves of synths , layers of guitars and a vocal mix that washes over the backing track. Blasts of trumpet again recall James , but this time the James of Seven. All helped by 4 stunning singles


The whole  lp combines a great feeling for textures and layers in sound , and art school type feel all hooked up in some killer tunes

you can buy Given to the Wild here which is a fiver well spent

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 115 - 24 Years of Hunger by Eg and Alice

115 - 24 Years of Hunger by Eg and Alice 1991

Quoting from one of my previous posts Featuring a model and a former member of Brother Beyond the signs were not good. However, the lp 24 Years of Hunger somehow managed to on one level be the smoothest of dinner party background music, with a set of arresting songs that were full of interesting and unexpected little quirks that stopped the whole thing slipping into the land of the bland.

That was written for a post about one of my favourite singles ...

Indian - Eg and Alice

When you think 1991 was full of Nirvana , Pearl Jam , Guns n Roses bloated Use Your Illusion , etc with the number 1 singles too depressing to mention, it is no surprise that both the single and the lp disappeared form trace.

I always wondered if the record company thought they had another Simply Red or Sade on their hands. At first listen the lp is very deceptive. it is smooth, polished and a tad non descript. Listen closely and the little quirks appear, strange little changes in tempo  and melody , odd instruments and lyrics that are clever enough to mean something but vague enough to mean different things.

I was never quite sure if the lyrics were personal of short character studies. As they came and went so quickly details of how they formed are scant. I've always wandered how they came together

It all adds up to on one level make it feel like some kind of subversive dark record on the other the perfect chilled dinner party background

Gradually a cult started to form with Q making it one of their top lps of the 20th century. However by then it was too late as any copies were already going for silly money.

Mystery Man - Eg and Alice

Eg is now a successful songwriter for hire and has 2 great solo lps to his name. Alice has also released a couple of solo lps and some contributions with Unkle. I've not heard the solo lps but she does feature on a killer track on Eg's latest solo lp

If you have money to burn then you can get the lp here - lets hope for re release. As it is it remains a lost classic

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 116 - Fly Yellow Moon by Fyfe Dangerfield

116 - Fly Yellow Moon by Fyfe Dangerfield 2010

I'm a big fan of the guillemots and was really looking forward to the release of Fyfe Dangerfield solo lp especially as the pre release blurb talked about a more introspective approach and songs about love.

I remember it had a reasonably quiet release until this happened

I Think the lp was then re released with this on, but the version I've got is the one without the Billy Joel cover and i think it is better for it. Not that there is anything particularly wrong about it but the advert itself and the publicity it generated kind of comes to dominate the rest of the tracks
Things get off to a good but slightly disappointing start with When You Walk in The Room . The song itself is great but the production is the kind of everything thrown in there approach that characterised the last 2 Guillemots lps, but with less polish. on first hearing it felt a bit unfinished although as I played it  more, the hooks started to dig in. 
The message is set early though with "I can't help it if I'm happy"
The same can be said of one of the lps singles Faster Than a Setting Son. A great song but jars slightly with the rest of the lp. Compare and contrast the single version with a live version
It sounds like I've got a downer on one of my top 125 . I do like both these tracks but what comes around them is so much better in terms of an overall mood.
Eight other stunning love songs , some simple acoustic tracks , some with a sparse electronic background , some a little lusher with added strings. Here are a couple of live stripped down versions of the more acoustic tracks
Finally here is my favourite track from the lp
Listening back to the lp I was kind of tempted to move it higher as it is one of those that gets better the more I play it and think if it was 10 years older it would have probably been a lot higher
You can buy Fly Yellow Moon here

Friday, 5 October 2012

Desert Island Discs 117 - Fried by Julian Cope

117 - Fried by Julian Cope 1984

This is the lp where Julian Cope's mad as a hatter reputation reached fruition . The cover starts things off with a naked Julian under a turtle shell playing with some of his collection of toys cars on top of a slag heap.

Then to the music where Reynard the Fox kicks things off. It starts off as a fairly straightforward psychedelic rock song until his spoken interlude ends with the singer "spilling his guts all over the stage" and  kick starts a final wig out. It instantly became alive classic

The rest of the lp is a mixture of fragile songs  and pop hooks..

The groove based single Sunspots is a glorious pop song but failed to ignite public interest and it seemed tobe the view that Julian had blown it  (which made the Lazarus like return of Saint Julian all the more surprising)

The remaining in tracks excluding the rockabilly thrash of Bloody Assizes are quieter more reflective , with an almost demo feel to them.

The best track for me shows that no matter how much he tries to hide it the simple pop song is what he does best

Bill Drummond Said - Julian Cope    (the Bill Drummond reply "Julian Cope is dead" isn't half as good)

An English treasure at his eccentric best you can buy Fried here

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Desert Island Discs -118 Tales of the Expected by The Red Guitars

118 Tales of the Expected by The Red Guitars 1986

The Red Guitars had released a great set of singles and debut lp that combined African Rhythms within a rock/pop format long before Paul Simon had been to Graceland. I'm guessing that most people who like the Red Guitars would say that the first lp is by far the best, however I've got a soft spot for the follow up Tales of the Expected.

Internal tensions had led to a change in lead singer who brought with him an American obsession in the lyrics and in a number of the songs a much more straight forward rock approach

Jackie Onassis cry me a river
I'll sing you every kind of blue
When the storm breaks
We can take a car ride
Down to some californian beach
We can swim out of reach

Over time though subtle changes in direction and tempo start to emerge and the whole lp has one of my favourite guitar sounds

With a strange sense of contrariness the first single is a gorgeous track .. but not really a single, no chorus a fade in that takes an eternity and a meandering instrumental fade out with a final mumbled lyric.

The guitar playing is exquisite and the lyrics have a great conversational style and if this was top 125 singles this would be up there

National Avenue (Sunday Afternoon) - the Red Guitars

This was followed up with an even slower song got to number one in the indie charts (remember when they meant something?) . It either runs out of ideas at the end or builds to great crescendo depending on your view.

Be With Me -  The Red Guitars

The rest of the lp is more up tempo, but i think the american references and more mainstream approach put off a lot of the band's fans and so the lp didn't really sell as much as the company hoped. A couple more non lp singles followed (both also excellent) before the band broke up.

I'm not sure I'll convert anyone who doesn't already like the lp but it is one i keep coming back to again and again

Monday, 1 October 2012

Desert Island Discs - 119 Act of Free Choice by David Bridie

119 - Act of Free Choice by David Bridie 2000

David Bridie is the lead singer and main songwriter of a great Australian band My Friend the Chocolate Cake. However my favourite lp of theirs is a compilation so it falls to one of his solo releases. I've been a bit disappointed with some of hi solo lps but Act of Free Will is just about perfect.

There is experimentation with sounds,samples , tones , rhythm but at its heart there is still song craft at its core and it is one of those lps that feels like it has been crafted rather than recorded.

He rarely gets above mid tempo but that doesn't matter this is definitely a mood and atmosphere piece.

It starts with the a distorted drum and synth tone , before the warmth of a piano comes to prelude a mumbled vocal that suddenly gives way to a chorus that hooks itself into your brain . I've no idea what The Koran , the Ghan and the Yarn is about but will listen and you will find yourself unexpectedly ooo oooing during the rest of the day.

What follows at times recalls David Sylvian at his graceful best

I've posted a track that shows how good his is marrying melody to narrative. A Paul Auster novel in a musical form

The Last Great Magician - David Bridie

You can buy the lp here for less than £1 which is quite frankly ridiculous

On a completely separate note I've had a great track sent to me in box. It is from Biggles Flies Again. There is an lp on the way. The sound is quirky pop with a homemade feel that recalls bands like the magnetic fields at their melodic best

you can get a download of the track Summers Coming at their bandcamp site here. Having now heard a couple of tracks I'll be buying the debut lp as soon as it is out.