From the new year (ish) this blog will be found at http://www.simonwaldman.net/50quid/ - it's not quite finished yet..but you're welcome to join me.
At this rate, I might not buy any music for the first 11 months of 2006, and just wait till everyone starts to do their 'best of' lists and just hoover up.
Eric over at Marathonpacks has released four mixes of tracks of the year - still available for download as I write this, but probably not for much longer.
Gawd bless you, as they say.
Makes a very enjoyable playlist - and, if I'm honest, has a lot more interesting stuff on than most of my list of the year. I've turned all I can find into an iMix for your convenience..
As a sidenote: given iTunes etc, tracks of the year is a much more useful list than albums of the year. NME also included a load of their staff top 5s, which didn't really co-incide with the main list (how did that work, anyone?), but added a few extra gems - including the Golden Virgins (see previous post).
The Wenner Tapes interview with John Lennon was just brilliant. Partly for all his bitchiness about just about everyone: yes, obviously McCartney, but also Dylan, Jagger ('all that fag dancing'), Derek Taylor (Beatles press officer) and frankly, just about everyone else. I think its safe to say, errr, he had some issues.
Also brilliant for his version of Beatle-world ('when we hit town, we really hit it...') and the Sixties (sounds like it was quite fun) .
Not quite sure whether I like Lennon more or less as a result of it.
Still available online here (not sure for how long - times like this that you just have to say thank you for iRecordMusic). If anyone sees a full transcript - please tell me.
The latest edition of Uncut has arrived and there are reviews of re-releases of London Conversation, The Tumbler, Bless The Weather, Inside Out and Sunday's Child - all with extra tracks. Following on from the remastered versions of the two John and Beverly Martyn albums last month. And a big interview in Word last month. Was I right? Or was I right? (PS: if you're starting from scratch - I recommend Bless The Weather and London Conversation).
Top album lists are just too easy.
So this is what I've done - the songs that I've most enjoyed listening to this year, regardless of when they came out. So there's a few from last year here, and a few from even earlier.
When I started to make the list, I found it odd that there were plenty of albums that I liked that I couldn't actually list a song from. So no Anthony and the Johnsons, no Coldplay, no White Stripes or Franz Ferdinand, or even Elbow, or PAJO or the Magic Numbers or King Creosote...oh, the list goes on.
If the list went to 40, I'd probably add a load of older stuff - and if I'm honest, Queen's Don't Stop Me Now should be in there for the hours I've spent belting it out in the car (see a post from a couple of years ago about a Glastonbury dancefloor if you have any doubts about this song's credibility). But somehow it didn't quite fit.
Looking over the list, I realise my taste is getting quite bland these days. There's nothing here to scare my mother, or indeed my grandmother were she alive. I think it's because I try to listen to so much, but don't have a huge amount of time to do it, so can't really make the effort to get into anything a bit difficult at the first pass. Oh, that and the fact that I'm now technically middle aged and say things like: 'Have you listened to Radio 2 on Saturday..it's really not bad at all.?.'.
This was also the year I became a father (to Esme, mentioned below). Obviously, this changes everything - but in this context, it meant I put together an 'Esme' playlist of nice and easy melodies to sing along to - in an attempt to indoctrinate her early, and get her into Squeeze etc before she can find out what a boy band is. I'll share the full Esme list another time, but some of it features below.
Oh, and to keep it neutral - they're listed by length - shortest first. Which works strangely well.
The iTunes-friendly bits of this are available as an iMix here.
Draft Dodger Rag
Kind of Like Spitting Learn: The Songs of Phil Ochs (Amazon | iTunes )
OK, so an album by someone I've never heard of covering songs by someone I've never heard of, is rarely a formula for musical happiness. Yes, it's a sin I'd never heard of Phil Ochs, so I'm grateful that I stumbled on KOLS who introduced me to him. This is a wonderfully funny protest song from the sixties that I'm sure someone will say 'is as relevant now...etc etc'.
Ain't No Easy Way
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Howl (Amazon | iTunes )
If I'm honest, the first BRMC album was just a bit too noisy for me. Howl, however, hit the spot, and this foot-stomper always brings a smile to my face. I would have put 'Weight of the World' down, but it just sounds too much like Turin Brakes.
Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed
Silver Jews, Tanglewood Numbers (Amazon | iTunes)
I've managed to avoid David Berman's Silver Jews until now. But something made me buy this album, and some how this song has kept popping up on the Nano. And I love it. A joy of wit compared to the painful earnestness that normally fills Uncut's Americana page.
Eels, Blinking Lights And Other Revelations ( Amazon | iTunes )
Yes, Going Foetal was a great single off the album, but this was my favourite. The album was brilliant - but had more great melodies than songs, if you get my drift. This one ticked all the boxes: maudlin, but near perfect.
Little Ole Wine Drinker Me
Dean Martin, Very Best of Dean Martin (Amazon | iTunes|)
This was one of the songs that our school rugby team sang after matches. And I put it on a playlist of stuff that we'd play Esme while trying to get her to sleep. So I've probably sung along to this about a thousand times this year. Give me the karaoke mike, now!
Dead Men's Cigarettes
I Am Kloot, Gods And Monsters (Amazon | iTunes )
Yes, they're wonderful. And yes, Gods and Monsters was probably their best album yet. This track has all the lolloping catchiness of Titanic and Dark Star. Instantly loveable. Please buy all their albums so they can keep on making music until they drop.
Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts
Arctic Monkeys, I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor - EP (Amazon | iTunes)
I promise I'm not being deliberately contrary here by picking a b side. Yes, I loved the single, but this track is perhaps the most perfect reminder of what it's like to be 17 that I've ever heard. I've even started reciting the lyrics to complete strangers to try and convince everyone they should listen to this - with mixed success, I have to admit.
Micah P Hinson, And The Gospel Of Progress (Amazon)
Half way through this, you think he's going to die from misery. What more could you want from a song?
Bloody Mother Fucking Arsehole
Martha Wainwright, Martha Wainwright (Amazon | iTunes )
Well, I think Martha's was the best of the three Wainwright albums this year. And this complete barnstorming rant at her dad made the album for me. It's such a strong, stroppy song, that you've got to love it. And it's got swear words in.
Atomic Hooligan, You Are Here (Amazon )
In an ideal world, I would listen to Eddie Temple Morris's Remix on Xfm every Sunday night (is it still on?) - or even better, record it and put it on my iPod and walk around with it. But I don't. I tuned in one weekend while painting the bathroom, and heard a track by Atomic Hooligan. The album was great - and this is just one excellent track out of many.
Cold Hands (Warm Heart)
Brendan Benson, The Alternative To Love (Amazon | iTunes)
I warmed to this album through the year. It's chirpy power pop of the highest order. Apparently he's working with Jack White and going to be huge next year.
Kick In the Teeth
Supergrass, Road to Rouen (Amazon | iTunes)
This was my surprise of the year. Never thought I'd find myself listening to Supergrass. But Road to Rouen, as well as winning 'punning title of the year' was a very lovely listen indeed, and this track rocks all the right places.
After the Goldrush
Neil Young, After the Goldrush (Amazon | iTunes )
I don't have a big Neil thing going on, but I spent a fair chunk of this year listening to this song at every opportunity. Not quite sure why. Many, many years ago, I had a picture disc acapella version of this by a band called - I think - Prelude. But nothing beats the original.
My Computer, No CV (Amazon| iTunes)
I was so excited when they released their second album - and. for once, not at all disappointed. Even though it's probably one of the most pained accounts of post relationship meltdown I've heard in years. It's not easy to pick a single track out, but this is about the easiest to listen to - and almost Athlete-like in it's ordinariness, so it's the one I keep putting on playlists.
Everybody's gone to war
Nerina Pallot Fires (Amazon)
I really didn't want to like this quite obvious anti war rant...but it sort of got me hooked. Listening to it in this context, it's spookily close to the Rilo Kiley track. Oh and it turns out a friend of mine manages her.
Nathan Milstein J.S. Bach: Sonaten & Partiten (Amazon)
Token Classical. I've listened to quite a bit more classical music this year, all of it good, thanks to excellent recommendations, But this was the great revelation to me. It's one of those pieces of music that makes everyone shut up and listen. It took on an extra poignancy half way through the year when it was played at a colleague's funeral.
I'm New Here
Smog, A River Ain't Too Much to Love (Amazon | iTunes)
The bare ingredients of each Smog song are so well, bare and so similar that it's a miracle that you can tell one song from another. But this lyric has stuck with me from the first time I heard it: 'Met a woman in a bar/ told I was hard to get to know/ but impossible to forget/ She said I had an ego on me/ the size of Texas/ Well I'm new here, and I forget./.does that mean big or small?'
All The Arms Around You
"Halloween, Alaska" "Halloween, Alaska" (Amazon )
Is there a more gorgeous song than this? Still haven't got round to their new album, but this is more than enough for the moment.
Marching Bands of Manhattan
Death Cab For Cutie Plans (Amazon | iTunes )
Another O.C favourite. This was their 'commercial album' - ie the first one on a major label; helped no doubt by constant plugging on the OC. It's so lush and lovely
Labelled With Love
Squeeze Greatest Hits (Amazon | iTunes )
Another one on the Esme playlist. Another one I've sung about a million times at bedtime (and now, a song about an alcoholic pensioner and her miserable life to bring you sweet dreams). I really don't think anyone in British pop has been as good at telling someone's life story in three verses as Chris Difford.
We're All In This Together
Ben Lee Awake Is The New Sleep (Amazon | iTunes )
I think I listened to this non-stop for about three months in the middle of this year. 'I'm made of atoms/ you're made of atoms' it's all slightly hippy nonsense, but you have to be a complete Scrooge not to love it.
Richard Hawley, Coles Corner (Amazon | iTunes )
Soupy strings, booming, crooning voice - the man is a star. Again, buy everything he does so he can continue to plough his own, wonderfully distinctive, musical furrow for years to come.
Somebody Rock Me
Clash Killers by Party Ben (Downloads)
OK - this is a sort of compilation entry. I think that Somebody Told me remains one of the best songs so far this century. A perfect piece of pop that deserves to be included in its own right. At the same time, Party Ben's mash-ups have made me green with envy. I could have included his 'Boulevard of Broken Tunes'. So this is Party Ben doing the Killers vs Rock The Casbah. My other mash-ups of the year: Craig David vs Frankie Goes to Hollywood; oh and a version of Jet's 'Do You Wanna Be My Girl' with bits of Mud's Tiger Feet in (they were asking for that).
Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby
Joe Jackson Jumpin' Jive (Amazon | iTunes )
Popped into my head one morning while trying to get Esme to smile, so I downloaded it - along with 'Is She Really Going Out With Him' and 'Different For Girls'). The other two are better songs, and bring back memories of being 17 and very fucking serious. But this is just great - and (dare I say it) more fun than the original, I find. And yes, it made her smile....(I think she appreciated the irony of being sung it by her father).
Daft Punk Is Playing In My House
LCD Soundsystem, LCD Soundsystem (Amazon | iTunes )
It really was LCD Soundsystem's year, one minute they're nowhere. The next seem to be playing everywhere and on everyone's top 10 lists. This year's Har Mar Superstar (that's a compliment, by the way).
One of those days
John and Beverly Martyn Stormbringer (Amazon | iTunes )
Word magazine very kindly asked me to review the re-release of the two John and Beverly Martyn albums. This track was an extra track, part of the original demo they sent in - and it's just beautiful.
Shouldnt Have Took More Than You Gave
Dave Mason Meridian 1970 Compiled by Jon Savage (Amazon )
There was a lot of stuff like this floating around this year. Andy Votel, alone, seems to have released about half a dozen compilations of stuff from the late 60s/ early 70s (Folk is a four letter word, et al). But, Jon Savage's album was the most interesting and listenable - and had this excellent Dave Mason track on, which captures that whole gentle, lolloping Brit Rock thing perfectly. A quick mention for Little Barrie who are doing the whole thing quite nicely now.
Ana Na Ming
Salif Keita Moffou (Amazon | iTunes )
Token World. Well, I had a bit of a world music flurry at the end. I find it's perfect in two situations. First on a cold, miserable day hearing a piece of perfect Afro pop (try Calculer on this year's Keita album M'Bemba) can be as warming as a bucket full of Ready Brek. The other is the sort of haunting, sparse melody that makes you stop everything you're doing.Ana Na Ming is a perfect example of the latter.
I've had a checkered history with world music. Yes, of course I want to like it; I want it out on show, and filed under 'MIEMT' [My Incredibly Eclectic Music Taste]. But that doesn't always translate into music that I
At one stage, I used to buy quite a bit of the stuff. This was partly helped by living round the corner to Stern's which specialised in it. I'd walk into their then teeny shop and feel so completely intimidated that I'd just grab half a dozen albums and buy them in the vague hope that teh bloke behind the counter might like me.Hence my collection of mint condition LPs of South African miner's vocal choirs etc. Any sensible offer accepted.
[Incidentally - does the combination of Amazon, downloading and megastores mean that the current generation of teenagers and below will never experience The Intimidating Record Shop? A tragedy]
I also used to absolutely love Salif Keita's Soro (Amazon). Especially the first track, with an opening vocal that can, for once, be quite accurately described as 'haunting'. I remember moving into my first flat - immediately installing the stereo (because that's always the first thing you do, isn't it?) and putting that on, while looking out the window. Aaaahhh. I guess you had to be there.
Then there was a phase of going to the Loughborough Hotel in Brixton (which I read has now been sold for development) for their world music night. No offense if anyone who went there with me is reading this, the company was excellent - but let's face it, this music is not for white men to dance to.
Now, this isn't to say that white men can't dance: thanks to more than a decade of taking ecstasy, the standard of dancing among white males is - I believe - currently at an all time high. But it's just what you''re used to. And we're used to nice simple four to the floor dance beats, while all this syncopated stuff is too too tricky . It's like asking a French man to play cricket.
So we would shuffle our feet in a really rather clumsy way, while all the cool African guys would show us how to do it properly. Excellent, just the sort of humiliation you need on a Saturday night.
Anyway - all this brings me back to my current little world music thing.
A couple of months ago, Word basically ordered me to buy Amadou et Mariam's Dimanche a Bamako (Amazon| iTunes ), which is from Mali and therefore definitely of the jaunty, jingly, Afro-pop school of world music. You can read their story here, they're a blind couple who errr - make beautiful music together. Apparently the album - which is a collaboration with Manu Chao has been huge in France, but that's not always a bad thing. Best track, IMHO, is Coulibaly (iTunes), which just brings the broadest grin on your face and makes your fellow commuters avoid eye contact at all cost. It is exactly the sort of song that white men want to dance to...but just can't.
Back now to Salif Keita's M'Bemba (iTunes | Amazon ), which was again a Word recommendation. And quite rightly so. I missed him on Jules Holland, but this isn't a problem, as I find his music is perfect life-soundtrack music. Put it on your headphones, or play it in a room, and you suddenly feel you're the hero in a particularly cool film, going through one of those: 'what am I going to do now?' moments.
I liked it so much that I immediately clicked on his 2002 album Moffou, (iTunes | Amazon) which is a little more pared down - and frankly utterly gorgeous. There's one track, Ana Na Ming (iTunes ) which is just so spine tinglingly lovely that you would be heartless not to buy it now.
So, somehow in the middle of all of this, I ended up finding my way to Susheela Raman's Music for Crocodiles (Amazon | iTunes). OK, so now we're crossing continents and genres in a huge way. She's British-born of South Indian parents who partly lives in Australia. As this review says: if she didn't exist, a world music focus group would invent her. and has one foot in the jazz camp, and another in the world music camp. It is all lovely, smokey jazzy stuff..and utterly listenable. The tracks where she's singing in Indian are by far the best. Obviously she could be singing any old load of rubbish and I'd be none the wiser...but it just sounds better.All 'World Music For Whitey' tips gratefully received.
So someone I've never met or heard of from Hush records in Portland decided to drop me a mail, asking me to listen to some of their new stuff. Normally, I get these mails and think - gosh, that's interesting..but never get round to downloading anything. Tonight, however was different...
Hush are home to the Decemberists - which is all the recommendation you need, really. They're busy plugging a new cd from Toothfairy (which is pleasantly quirky - but not really for me) and In The Red by Kind of Like Spitting. I am now officially in the Kind of Like Spitting fan club.
Now, I've never heard of Kind of Like Spitting. But it's basically this guy Ben Barnett plus an ever changing cast of friends, and he's been at it for ever wit. I'd put him at the muscular end of indy folk (Iron and Wine are at the weedy end)
Just before he did In The Red, he did an album of covers of songs by Phil Ochs (OK - really embarrassing moment - am I allowed to admit that I'd never heard of Phil Ochs either? That said, after half an hour on Google, I am now a world expert). According to the press release as Ochs was to Dylan, so Barnett is to Bright Eyes. Actually, I've warmed to him a bit more than Bright Eyes...
Some downloads for your delight courtesy of Hush
Incidentally - how does everyone in Portland learn to sing with such good english accents?And while we're talking about Spitting - I was caned at school for spitting on the floor during an English lesson. When you were caned at our school you were given a note that you had to take to the headmaster at the end of the day. So I went to the headmaster, he looked at me sternly and held his right hand out for the note. I just thought he was being civilised, so I shook hands with him. We never really hit it off.
You may or may not remember that when I started this blog, some 18 months ago, one of my rallying calls was: The John Martyn revival starts here.
I don't want to get all self-congratulatory, but I do think my plan has really started to pay off - with a little help, i think from the BBC4 doc (which I still haven't seen..dvd/torrent anyone?). Word had a great big piece on him last month (along with a review/gush from myself about the two recently rereleased albums that he did with Beverly).
And, i missed that in last week's Guardian, Bless The Weather also re=released, got a very lovely write up saying: ' has a fuzzy autumnal glow, redolent of bonfires and hash smoke', which is nice, except for the fact that hash smoke always makes me feel slightly queasy.
Come on - let's have a single...John Martyn for Xmas number 1, I say...
This morning's On-The-Go play list is Robbie William's new album, and Apologies to The Queen Mary from Wolf Parade.
Both of them have had pretty good reviews in the paper And, they're both pretty good albums, but very different. And I don't just mean different in terms of genre, I mean because the minute you hear Robbie Williams album, you feel that you know every song, and you'll be hearing chunks of it at a karaoke bar near you very soon (I should add, that's a compliment).
Wolf Parade is that little bit more interesting, but obviously nowhere near as polished nor as immediately easy to listen to.
At the moment, we have two elements to a review: first you get the written review, next you get the number of stars. Some (like Word) don't do stars - however, I imagine many ADD sufferers such as myself realise that by reading the last sentence of any review, you should pretty much be able to decide whether or not to buy it.
Yes, we like a quick at a glance guide - but five stars is too simple by half. The idea that there's a linear progression for all music to an agreed point of five stars, is obviously daft.
So - I have a simple recommendation, which is to split the star system into two: with marks from -5 to +5 on the x axis for originality and excitement and marks -5 to +5 on the y axis for listenability. You are then left with a neat matrix, that all albums can be plotted against.
The top right quadrant is obviously where it's at (I have to put Arctic Monkeys in there at the moment) . But at the same time, the top left (listenable, but not very original/exciting) can also been lauded for what it is (yes, Robbie, you have a home), while we can finally acknowledge down in the bottom right, that some music is highly original/exciting, but frankly unlistenable (from two very different corners of the spectrum: insert Dizzee Rascal and Animal Collective).
As for the unlistenable and unoriginal/exciting - well, I think that's a pretty clear message.
A magazine can now introduce it's reviews section with a handy chart showing where all this month/week's releases fit on the chart. You can chose your purchasing based on how you feel...
Am sure the system can be refined...I might get round to introducing it on here, and start to plot everything...
I can't quite believe that after being slightly obsessed with the Who for about 25 years, I've only just got round to watching The Kids Are Alright. (Amazon). God knows how many time's I've watched Tommy and Quadrophenia - but somehow, this one escaped me. A few things strike you - first, that Pete Townshend's on-stage dancing is possibly the worst that you've ever seen (he jumps around like a posh dad at a wedding during a version of Baba O'Reilly...admittedly not an easy tune to dance to...) . Also you realise just how heavily styled they were until that point in their career (just how many tassled capes did Roger Daltry have?). But the biggest thing you notice is just how big a deal Keith Moon was: the way he looked, they way he played, and yes, the way he drove Rolls Royce's into swimming pools.
I know that's stating the obvious - but I suppose that given that he died when I was 12 (he was 31, which now seems impossibly young), I think I'd always tried to kid myself that they'd just 'lost their drummer', so that when I finally got to see them live (Birmingham NEC, 1984) it was as near as damn it to the real thing. I now realise it was nothing like it.
Yes, I'd seen clips and read all about him - but you only really notice it when you see this much footage all at once. You simply can't take your eyes off him whenever he's in the picture. And dead at 31?. There's scenes he's there with his beard, playing around with Ringo Starr - and you look at them and think: christ they're nearly 10 years younger than I am now.
Anyway - there was one clip of him, picture above, (playing Pictures of Lilly) that I saw and thought - oh my god: that's where Austin Powers got the look from. I then did a quick google check to find out exactly when he died - only to find out co-incidentally (I think I knew this already) that Mike Myers is going to be playing Moon in a 'forthcoming bio-pic'. Which we now await with some eagerness.
Is it embarrassing to admit that I'd never heard of Aberfeldy and The Boy Least Likely To, which have to go down as my favourites? I think everyone should own (in no particular order)
With thanks to Chris and Steve (and everyone else - keep them coming, all tips gratefully received)
Have you dabbled with the Animal Collective? I've now listened to Sung Tongs (Amazon | ITunes) (their last one for research, and because buying stuff on iTunes is so easy) and Feels (Amazon | iTunes) (their latest).
They're both albums that you know people give good reviews to, because they're not obvious and they're sort of interesting, but after listening to it you go: was a single bit of that loveable or memorable? And the answer, I'm afraid is a resounding 'err not really'. I wanted to like it - I really did, but just a little too much work for my ageing ears. If you see them, could you tell them to stop trying so hard?.
On the other hand - for a bit of gentle loveliness, can I recommend Calexico and Iron&Wine's In The Reins EP (iTunes| Amazon), as with most I&W output it sails dangerously close to soporific, but just about hangs in there. OK, maybe it does make you doze off just a little bit in places, but it's very nice. Like a hot bath at the end of a long day.