Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Crowded House’

In Memoriam – May 2012

June 5th, 2012 4 comments

The Grim Reaper wreaked havoc in May. Robin Gibb, Donna Summer and Adam Yauch were the headliners, but there were also members of The Dillards and Crowded House who left us. Two blues and soul guitarists died: Charles Pitts, who played on so many of Isaac Hayes’ records (his guitar helped make The Theme of Shaft such an iconic track) and Pete Cosey, who played on many Chess records.

In April we lost Andrew Love, who was involved in creating the iconic intro for Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness. In May we lost another co-creator of a famous Otis intro: Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, who died at 70, provided the driving bass of I Can’t Turn You Loose. Fans of the Blues Brothers will know that intro; it’s played during the long introduction of the band as Jake and Elroy are trying to make to the stage. And on that stage was Donald “Duck” Dunn, the bassist with the white Afro and beard, appearing as himself. Check out the man’s discography.

We also lost Doc Watson, who did much to revive and keep alive the flame of traditional country and bluegrass at a time when the genre was tending towards the glossy pop sound.

First on the list this month is Jim McCrary, one of the rare non-musicians who warrant inclusion in this series. His contribution resides in album covers and rock photography. His LP cover portfolio includes Carole King’s Tapestry (and album cover which I will deal with in a couple of week’s time), the Carpenters’ Offering and Now And Then, The Flying Burrito Brothers’ Burrito Deluxe and The Flying Burrito Bros, and Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs And Englishmen. He also took the famous series of photos of Gram Parson in the Nudie suit.

I had never heard of Masud Sadiki before, hut was saddened to hear of another young singer who saw no way out of depression but by committing suicide. The reggae singer from St Kitts leaves a wife and two young children, compounding the tragedy.  Two other mostly unknown musicians are included because they were killed in a shooting in a bar in which they frequently played, alongside three others.

Jim McCrary, 72, photographer of more than 300 LP covers, on April 29
Carole King – So Far Away (1971, live)

Charles Pitts, 65, soul guitarist for Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Isaac Hayes a.o., on May 1
The Isley Brothers – It’s Your Thing (1969)
Isaac Hayes – Theme from Shaft (1973, live at Wattstax)

Lary Donn, 70, rockabilly singer, on May 1
Larry Donn – I’ll Never Forget You (1963)

Lloyd Brevett, 80, double bassist  of The Skatalites, on May 3
The Skatalites – Confucius (1966)

Edith Bliss, 52, Australian pop singer and TV presenter, on May 3

Bobby Thomas, 70, singer with the Vibranaires, Vibes, V-Eights and Orioles, on May 3

Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, 47, rapper with the Beastie Boys, on May 4
Beastie Boys – Pass The Mic (1992)
Beastie Boys – Ch-Check It Out (2004)

Mort Lindsey, 89, orchestra leader, pianist, composer and musical director, on May 4

Jose ‘Tonico’ Perez, 95, member of Brazilian duo Tonico e Tinoco, on May 5
Tonico e Tinoco – Chico Mineiro

‘Sweet Joe’ Russell, 72, singer with a capella group The Persuasions, on May 6
The Persuasions – The Whole World Is A Stage (1970)

Michael Burks, 54, blues and soul guitarist, singer and composer, on May 6
Michael Burks – Make It Rain (2001)

Ernest Warren, 78, doo wop tenor with The Spaniels, on May 7
The Spaniels – Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite (1954)

Everett Lilly, 87, half of bluegrass duo The Lilly Brothers, on May 8
The Lilly Brothers & Don Stover – Sinner, You’d Better Get Ready (1962)

Clive Welham, British drummer and early bandmate of Syd Barrett and Dave Gilmore, on May 9

Celso Chavez, 44, guitarist of alternative rock band Possum Dixon, on May 9

Bernardo Sassetti, 41, Portuguese jazz pianist and film composer, on May 10

Donald  ‘Duck’ Dunn, 70, bass guitarist on Stax, and with The Blues Brothers and Booker T. & the M.G.’s, on May 13
Otis Redding – I Can’t Turn You Loose (1965)
The Blues Brothers – She Caught The Katy (1980)
Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (1981)

Belita Woods, 63, soul singer, on May 14
Belita Woods – That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You (1970)

Doug Dillard, 75, bluegrass & country musician with The Dillards and Dillard & Clark, on May 16
The Dillards – Lemon Chimes (1965)
Dillard & Clark – Train Leaves Here This Mornin’ (1968)

Chuck Brown, 75, funk singer and musician, on May 16
Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers – Bustin’ Loose (1978)

Donna Summer, 63, disco and pop singer, on May 17
Donna Summer – Last Dance (1978)
Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer – No More Tears (Single Version, 1979)

Peter Jones, 45, drummer of Crowded House (1995-97), on May 18
Crowded House – Sister Madly (live, 1997)

Robin Gibb, 62, member of Bee Gees, on May 20
Bee Gees – Marley Purt Drive (1969)
Robin Gibb – Gone Gone Gone (1970)
Robin Gibb – Another Lonely Night In New York (1983)

Robert Nix, 67, drummer of the Atlanta Rhythm Section and Classics IV, on May 20
Atlanta Rhythm Section – So Into You (1976)

Carrie Smith, 70, blues and jazz singer, on May 20
Carrie Smith – Some Rainy Day (1983)

Eddie Blazonczyk Sr, 71, polka musician and founder of The Versatones, on May 21

Masud Sadiki, 37, reggae and calypso singer from St Kitts & Neves, suicide on May 21

Kuly Ral, 35, member of English-Asian group RDB, on May 23

Roy Wilson, 72, member of Jamaican duo Higgs and Wilson, on May 26.

Doc Watson, 89, bluegrass and folk musician, on May 29
Doc Watson – Talk About Suffering (1964)

Pete Cosey, 68, guitarist for Muddy Waters, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock a.o., on May 30
Muddy Waters – Tom Cat (1968)

Joe “Meshuguna Joe “ Albanese and Drew ‘Shmootzi the Clod ‘ Keriakedes, members of Seattle folk group God’s Favourite Breakfast, shot dead on May 3

DOWNLOAD
(Mirror)

 * * *

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

Albums of the Year: 2010

December 16th, 2010 8 comments

A few months ago I complained that few albums released this year had grabbed me; suddenly there came an avalanche of quality albums that compensated for my disappointment in sets by some favourite artists that I had looked forward to.

I have not been able to get on with the Ben Folds and Nick Hornby collaboration, much as I am a Folds fan and as I like Hornby’s books. Joshua Radin’s album is decent enough, but it did not attract the affection I had for his debut album. Jenny Lewis’ collaboration with Jonathan Rice bored me. Even the Weepies’ album, which does make it into my top 20, will not become my favourite of theirs.

I am quite sad to leave out of my Top 20 a few albums that could have been contenders in previous years: Shelby Lynne, Josh Ritter, Patty Griffin, Plants & Animals, Krista Detor, Audrey Assad, Belle & Sebastian, Leif Vollebekk, Merle Haggard, She & Him (which I took a while to like) and Bruno Mars.

So, on to my top 20, which is rather dominated by the Americana and country thing. It comprises albums I enjoy playing; it’s not intended to be a list of the year’s best albums, nor are they the most groundbreaking or experimental releases. These albums simply just gave me joy (which is why I listen to music). The songs listed with the album appear in the compilation linked to at the end of this post.

*     *     *

Lloyd Cole – Broken Record
The music mags’ reviews were respectfully lukewarm to what is a hugely appealing set. This warm and intelligent album is Lloyd’s county record, with slide guitars, banjos and harmonicas. Funny enough, it’s a song called Rhinestone that sounds least like country and most like Cole’s stuff with the Commotions (one of whom turns up in this album). Lyrically, the album is standard Cole with clever turns of phrase and endearing self-deprecations. The vocals of Joan Wasser (Joan As Policewoman) are much welcome. Homepage
Lloyd Cole – Like A Broken Record
Lloyd Cole – Oh Geneviève

Brian Wilson – Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin
Brian Wilson reports his earliest musical memory as hearing Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue (which bookends this set). It makes sense that the great American songwriter of the ’60s should record an album of music by the great American songwriter of the ’30s. The standards – They Can’t Take That Away from Me, Someone to Watch Over Me, I Got Rhythm, It Ain’t Necessarily So etc – are engagingly recreated, and even the overdone Summertime, so often violated by mannered interpretations, is bearable here. Of particular interest are the previously unrecorded Gershwin songs, completed by Wilson at the invitation of Gershwin’s estate. Wilson’s style is so distinctive that it is difficult to imagine how they might have sounded in interpretations by, say, Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra. They are nonetheless quite lovely. One of these originals, The Like In I Love You, sounds a lot like a song from Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man. Homepage
Brian Wilson – I’ve Got A Crush On You

Caitlin Rose – On The Town
Caitlin Rose is receiving massive buzz, deservedly so. The Nashville native’s debut album recalls Tift Merritt at her country-folkiest: mellow melodies and vulnerable vocals. It’s a mature album that belies Rose’s 23 years – even if some of these songs were written when Caitlin was a teenager. Homepage
Caitlin Rose – Own Side

Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone
Mavis and her family are probably best known for soul hits such as Respect Yourself and I’ll Take You There, but their primary genre was gospel. Now 71 years old, Mavis continues to work the gospel beat, using the genre’s traditional sounds as well as new approaches. Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy — who on tracks such as In Christ There Is No East Or West marries the Wilco sound with the gospel sensibilities which Pop Staples would have approved of with— You Are Not Alone will rightly feature high on many end-of-year lists. Homepage
Mavis Staples – In Christ There Is No East Or West

Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses – Junky Star
I know a music journalist who has stated his objection to musicians going by their civilian names if these sound like those of school teachers. My pal might not review Ryan Bingham’s album because of his name, though his interest might be peaked that it also serves as George Clooney’s character’s name in Up In The Air. Or he might listen up because Bingham has won an Oscar and Golden Globe for his song The Weary Kind, the theme song of the film Crazy Heart. Don’t expect Junky Star to be a pure country album; this is Steve Earle and  Tom Waits territory, before Waits’ voice became excruciating. One almost expects Bingham, blessed with a gruff, expressive voice himself, to likewise lose his voice by the end of this powerful album. Homepage
Ryan Bingham – Depression

Dylan LeBlanc – Paupers Fields
If the critics are right, 20-year-old Dylan LeBlanc is the new saviour of the country music heritage. The happy news is that, despite his age and name, this is no male version of Taylor Swift, whose primary relationship with country resides in marketing, nor is he likely to don a black Stetson, wifebeater and sing masculine tunes about the good ole U S of A. LeBlanc is a serious country musician, of the Gram Parsons or Townes van Zandt school (true enough, Emmylou Harris turns up to lend harmonies on one track, which also invites comparison to another much-hyped prodigy, Conner Oberst). His young age is no issue: he sounds much more mature than a lad just out of his teens. Even if he doesn’t sing from experience – if he does, then he has lived the life of a man twice his age – his delivery is credible. Homepage
Dylan LeBlanc – If Time Was For Wasting

Bill Kirchen – Word To The Wise
A veteran musician and guitar maestro who released his first solo record in 1972 and not much else before 2007’s brilliantly titled Hammer Of The Honky Tonk Gods, Kirchen has issued a fun rock & roll album with the likes of Nick Lowe, Chris O’Connell, Maria Muldaur and Elvis Costello collaborating. It’s unfair, actually, to reduce the album to rock & roll: it draws from the traditions in the melting pot that produced the genre: blues, rockabilly, boogie woogie, honky tonk. It’s an eclectic album: opener Bump Wood sounds like Jerry Lee Lewis, it is followed by a Merle Haggard ballad, which in turn is followed by a blues-rock number with Elvis Costello, and so on. His duet with Asleep At The Wheel’s O’Connell, Roger Miller’s Husbands and Wives, is particularly well executed. Homepage
Bill Kirchen (with Nick Lowe and Paul Carrack) – Shelly’s Winter Love

Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs – God Willin’ And The Creek Don’t Rise
The reviewers’ meme with this album refers to Neil Young, Harvest era. If so, then I’m grateful that Lamontagne has a raspier voice than whiney Neil. Lamontagne’s fourth album is folk-rock, but heavily country influenced. Maybe a reference to the Byrds would be more apt. And when Lamontagne slows things down (even more), one might recall Joni Mitchell. A most captivating album. Homepage
Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs – Devil’s In The Jukebox

Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer
Regular readers will be in no doubt about my abiding love for the rich repository of soul music, but I have little patience for the current crop of high-pitched auto-tuned R&B gubbins, nor for stylised retro singers like Amy Whitehouse or the frog-voiced Duffy. Even John Legend, who does understand his soul heritage, doesn’t excite me. I am, however, hugely excited by the Gnarls Barkley singer’s album, which draws from different eras of soul. On It’s OK he sounds like namesake Al on Motown steroids, Old Fashioned draws from the 1960s, Bodies recalls Bobby Womack, Cry Baby and Satisfied a nods to ’80s soul-pop. Green has a couple guests on his album, but none are likely to blind him with dental bling, brag about their wealth or threaten to bust caps in his ass. Paradiso Girls’ Lauren Bennett turns up; it’s a delicious irony that the author of the ubiquitous Don’t Cha gets a member of a Pussycat Dolls knock-off band to guest. The other guest is Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey, on a song that sounds more contemporary  than most of the material here. It’s also a funny album: when Cee Lo subtitles the title track “Licence To Kill” it seems to be a tongue-in-cheek finger at his cliché-mongering R&B contemporaries, and the Gold Digger reference in the fantastic Fuck You is inspired. Homepage
Cee Lo Green – It’s OK

Raul Malo – Sinners and Saints
The former Mavericks frontman’s sixth solo album is eclectic, to say the least. Opener Living For Today sounds like Little Feat jamming with Lynyrd Skynyrd; that’s followed by the mariachi horns and telecaster guitar dominated title track, followed by a Tex-Mex rocker, then a country song performed as if by Springsteen (Rodney Crowell’s Til I Gain Control Again),  later a Spanish ballad, and so on. Raul Malo, a multi-instrumentalist whose powerful voice is full of character, clearly enjoyed making this album. And the result is hugely agreeable. Homepage
Raul Malo – Living For Today

The Watson Twins – Talking To You Talking To Me
Chandra and Leigh Watson (who actually are twins) harmonise the hell out of catchy tracks with shots of experimentation that takes them over the alt.county boundaries of their reputation, at times sounding like Sade if she was an Indie musicians (Savin’ Me, Harpeth River). And, yes, there are songs where they sound like Rilo Kiley, whose frontwoman Jenny Lewis they backed on their fine 2006 collaboration (Savin’ You). Homepage
The Watson Twins – Devil In You

Johnny Cash – American VI:  Ain’t No Grave
Seven years after Johnny Cash died, we get another collection of his Rick Rubin-produced American series, apparently the final release. It is a fine way of going out. There’s nothing new here, but the special poignancy of knowing that Cash recorded these ten songs in the four months between the death of his beloved June in May 2003 and his own in September, with Cash acutely aware of his mortality without descending into morbidity, and to the end insisting on communicating his deep religious faith. Some songs I can live without (Aloha Oe!), and some cannot compete with the previous versions (Kristofferson’s For The Good Times). But the minimalist arrangements and intimacy of Cash’s fragile yet forceful and soulful voice wrap the songs in a warmth and appealing sense of yearning. Buy
Johnny Cash – Redemption Day

Lissie – Catch A Tiger
Lissie Mauros reminds me a lot of Neko Case, with a heavy dose of ’80s pop influence. Or maybe Stevie Nicks, in attitude and voice – In Sleep sounds like Fleetwood Mac ripping off Blondie (Atomic-era). And, seeing as I’m grappling to find comparison to female singers, there’s a hint of Nicole Atkins, if the wonderful Atkins was a folk-rock singer. Almost every song here is utterly catchy, some even exhilaratingly poppy  (Loosen The Knot, Stranger). Homepage
Lissie – Stranger

Carl Broemel – All The Birds Say
As guitarist and some-time saxophonist of My Morning Jacket, Carl Broemel was not an obvious candidate for the release of a solo album, much less such a sweet one. This, his second solo effort after 2004’s Lose What’s Left, is a perfect Sunday morning record; played while one sips the morning coffee, bites into the croissant and opens the newspaper. Think of it as a lighter version of Ron Sexsmith, an artist influenced (and highly rated) by Paul McCartney, as clearly is Broemel. Homepage
Carl Broemel – Enough

Willie Nelson – Country Music
This is a T-Bone Burnett-produced tribute to the country songs that reside in the juke box of Willie Nelson’s memory. Cover albums are a precarious beast. Some artists feel they need to re-interpret, re-invent and update the songs they profess to love. Others will give us the very best in karaoke. Nelson just damn well sings the songs, straight and without bullshit. He knows these songs and their context, and preserves them there. The sound is timeless. And some of the song choices are inspired. Homepage
Willie Nelson – Satisfied Mind

Crowded House – Intriguer
The trouble with Crowded House is that their songs are really made to be heard live. The second post-reunion album is something of a grower. The hooks that at first seem to be absent reveal themselves over time. The album was produced by Jim Scott, who also produced Wilco’s last album. It shows, even as the album is very recognisably a Crowded House effort. Homepage
Crowded House – Twice If You’re Lucky

Walt Cronin – California I Gotta Run
Already in his 50s Walt Cronin’s gravelly baritone and sound reflect the experience of life, wistfully and defiantly. “I would never count the days of my life, but I’ll always let the dawn greet my eyes,” the former medic in the Vietnam war sings in Shinin’ Through, one of several sweet love songs on this most appealing set. Homepage
Walt Cronin – Road I’m Takin’

Tift Merritt – See You On The Moon
I am bound to love an album that kicks off with a song about making a mix-tape (“with home-made covers”). Of Merritt’s three preceding studio albums, two were filled with slow-burning ballads, one was a rootsy affair. See You On The Moon has a bit of both; she is both plugging into the templates of both Harris and Ronstadt (even if she has evidently departed the world of county). I expected that her cover of Loggins & Messina’s Danny’s Song would make me wince; happily it is tender and amiable. Homepage
Tift Merritt – The Things That Everybody Does

The Weepies – Be My Thrill
In this post’s introduction I declared myself vaguely disappointed by Be My Thrill, but this is only in relation to the album’s three predecessors. Like them, Be My Thrill is very likeable. Deb Talan and Steve Tannen are happily married, have a happy family and are (no surprise twist coming up) very obviously happy (“I was made for sunny days,” Talan sings, “and I was mad for you”). The streaks of darkness from the debut have been usurped by all the colours of the rainbow. The album is relentlessly happy (with the jarring exception of Tannen’s “How Do You Get High?”) and unless one’s demeanour is governed by inexorable melancholy, the occasional burst of happiness can be richly welcome. So Be My Thrill is a bit like a double strawberry milkshake.  Homepage
The Weepies – Please Speak Well Of Me

Sahara Smith – Myth Of The Heart
T-Bone Burnett is on a golden streak. Among his protégés is Texan Sahara Smith, a former child prodigy who has been writing songs since she was 14. Blessed with a beautiful and expressive voice, Smith writes smart lyrics set to appealing melodies, some of them very memorable. Train Man sounds much like Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. Smith might have a name that conjures images of pop muppetry, but she is a very talented artist who has created an impressive debut. MySpace
Sahara Smith – Are You Lonely

*     *     *

DOWNLOAD

.

Previous Albums of the Year

Albums of the Year: 2006

December 9th, 2009 4 comments

And here are my top 10 albums of 2006. I’m sad to omit albums by Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins, Mindy Smith, Josh Ritter, Donavon Frankenreiter, Ben Kweller, Roddy Frame, Dévics, Belle & Sebastian, Josh Rouse, Phoenix, Harris Tweed, Counting Crows, Regina Spektor, I’m From Barcelona, Snow Patrol… As always, I emphasise that these are my personal favourites, albums I still dig out; it certainly is not a list of the year’s “best” albums, never mind the critics’ favourites.

* * *

Crowded House – Farewell To The World

This is a strange choice for the top album of 2006, because it was recorded ten years earlier, at Crowded House’s final concert in Sydney in 1996. I may be drawing the wrath of all serious Crowded House fans when I declare that the version of almost every song here is superior to the studio recording. One highlight, of course, is Don’t Dream It’s Over, the sheer brilliance of which is not diminished by its ubiquity. It is the final song of the set, and Neil Finn graciously allows the crowd to sing the final line. On the DVD, there is a touching shot of a tearful drummer Paul Hester, all the more poignant now, since his suicide in 2005. The live versions of When You Come, Distant Sun, World Where You Live, Something So Strong, Private Universe and even Better be Home Soon in particular eclipse their original recordings.
Crowded House – Better Be Home Soon.mp3
Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over.mp3

.

Alexi Murdoch – Time Without Consequence

In the review of 2003, I included Murdoch’s debut EP, Four Songs. It took the London-born singer a while to finish his full debut. It was worth the wait. Murdoch is often compared to Nick Drake — the default measure to which all acoustic musicians with a soft voice are liable to be held. The comparison does stick on at least one point: the music of both Drake and Murdoch sounds much simpler than it really is. Love You More, for example, mesmerises on strength of minimalist lyrics and the absence of a chorus that might relieve the ardency of Murdoch’s declaration. Murdoch’s gentle intensity is quite compelling throughout. Musical scouts for TV series certainly seem to think so: Murdoch’s music has featured in several hit shows, including Grey’s Anatomy, House, Ugly Betty, The O.C. and Dirty Sexy Money (and that’s just the shows that featured the majestic Orange Sky). The song Home was used to great effect in the second season of Prison Break, when Mahone persuades Haywire to commit suicide.
Alexi Murdoch – Home.mp3

.

The Weepies – Say I Am You

Do not be misled by the frankly unappealing name which Deb Talan and Steve Tannen adopted, for The Weepies’ folk-pop is not mawkish. And don’t be deceived by the cute cover, for The Weepies are not unrelentingly cute. Of course, Gotta Have You is cute, in the best possible way, as is Take It From Me. But there are poignant moments, such as World Spins Madly On, Riga Girls, Love Doesn’t Last Too Long, and Suicide Blonde (all Tannen songs). Talan is the counterweight to Tannen’s melancholy, especially with the lovely Not Your Year, which argues the case for optimism in adversity.
The Weepies – Take It From Me.mp3

.

James Hunter – People Are Gonna Talk

James Hunter, a white soulboy from Colchester, England, sounds a lot like Sam Cooke. On People Are Gonna Talk, that provides us with the benefit of imaging what Cooke might have sounded like had he dabbled in ska occasionally. That’s the sound here: ’60s soul with a generous hint of ’60s reggae. Hunter made his influences apparent from the start: in the 1980s he fronted a group called Howlin’ Wilf and the Vee-Jays, at which point fellow soul afficionado Van Morrison discovered Hunter (apparently at the prompting of his local newsagent), and even appeared on his debut album, 1996’s Believe What I Say. A decade and another album later, People Are Gonna Talk was a breakthrough for Hunter, who earned a Grammy nomination — in the Blues category, just where an album entirely lacking in Blues belongs. The sound of People Are Gonna Talk may be solidly ’60s, but it is not in any way a derivative pastiche, never mind a tribute. Hunter lives in the genre, and doesn’t need to try hard to persuade us of his authenticity. It’s not even “blue eyed soul”; Hunter is a true soul singer. Cooke, Wilson and Redding would have approved.
James Hunter – I’ll Walk Away.mp3

.

Bob Evans – Suburban Songbook

Kevin Mitchell left Aussie indie rockers Jebediah, changed his name to Bob Evans and became a country rocker. Recorded in Nashville and produced by Brad Jones (who has also produced Josh Rouse, Jill Sobule and Yo La Tengo), Suburban Songbook’s cheerful sound deflects the melancholy of many of Evans’ lyrics. Which is just as well, because Evans is an uneven lyricist, writing a brilliant line one minute, and a trite song the next. Suburban Songbook won the Australian equivalent of the Grammys (the ARIA Music Award), but, alas, that hasn’t helped break him big internationally.
Bob Evans – Sadness & Whiskey.mp3

.

Joshua Radin – We Were Here

Alexi Murdoch gets the Drake comparisons, and Joshua Radin even more so, even though a nod to Elliot Smith seems more pertinent. On his full debut, Radin whispers more than he sings. Apparently the hushed voice, which works so well with his affecting lyrics and gentle melodies, was imposed by the circumstance of Radin recording his songs in a New York apartment. A considerate man, he obviously didn’t want to annoy the neighours. And like Murdoch, Radin has had several of his songs featured on the TV series circuit. Indeed, that’s how he made his breakthrough. The story goes that Radin gave a copy of his song Winter (which appeared on the enjoyable First Between 3rd And 4th EP, released in 2004) to Zach Braff of the show Scrubs, who included it on the show. Radin re-recorded Winter for the full debut.
Joshua Radin – Someone Else’s Life.mp3

.

Eels – With Strings (Live At Town Hall)

As my list of omissions in the instalment for 2005 shows, one of my favourite albums of that year was Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, a double album that almost justified its length. With Strings incorporates much of Blinking Lights. As the title promises, on this live set E’s vocals are backed with strings. Setting rock to clsassical arrangement is an overused gimmick, and can create utter disasters (Meat Loaf’s philharmonic re-recording of Bat Out Of Hell!), though this is a rather unexpected combination. Happily, strings aren’t intrusive; the idea here clearly was not to go symphonic but to introduce something different into the live versions while maintaining the integrity of the studio versions. It works well, though not necessarily so well that these new versions eclipse the originals. The strings do add to the creepiness of Novocaine For The Soul, however, and emphasise the lonely sadness in It’s A Motherfucker.
Eels – It’s A Motherfucker.mp3

.

Farryl Purkiss – Farryl Purkiss

I’ve bigged up the South African singer-songwriter before, most recently HERE. Purkiss’ mellow, melodic sound, filled with memorable hooks, invites misleading comparisons with Jack Johnson, with whom he has collaborated. This is an introspective album, telling of relationships (with a woman, himself, the world) breaking down and then healing, of despair, and of having hope. South African artists rarely break big internationally. Purkiss deserves to reach a wide audience far beyond South Africa. Maybe he’ll get some attention after one of the songs from this set, Sticks And Stones, featured in an episode of Private Practice (a rather horrible TV show, populated by constantly smirking, deeply disagreeable characters).

I’ve mentioned the inclusion of artist’s music on TV shows a few times, so obviously I welcome it when artists I like are featured on soundtracks, or even commercials. Music blogs are one means by which the music researchers for TV shows and trendy soundtracks dig up artists who aren’t very well known. The licensing fees the artists receive for being featured on TV serials and commercials helps keep their heads above water, and having their music score a scene in a TV show or movie gives them the publicity they need to attract audiences to their concerts (who then, hopefully, buy CDs and merchandise at the gigs). It’s a new business model which allows performers maintain greater artistic control than they’d enjoy in the service of Corporate Music. So, researcher for Grey’s Anatomy, check out this song:
Farryl Purkiss – Escalator.mp3

.

Catherine Feeny – Hurricane Glass

This was a folk-pop album I discovered quite by chance, on strength of its appealing cover, I think. Born in Philadelphia, Feeny lived in rural England when she recorded Hurricane Glass, an intimate album with intelligent lyrics telling of struggles with regret, disillusionment, insecurity, and melancholy. Frequently these struggles are mitigated by a sense of hope. Mr Blue, with its cute flugelhorn interlude, is probably the album’s best known song. It has featured on a few soundtracks, notably in Running With Scissors (the song featured in the Songbirds mix I posted last year).

On the song Unsteady Grounds, Feeny takes issue with the people who swallowed the barefaced lies propagated by Bush and Blair before the invasion of Iraq. Feeny does well to cast the net of blame for the unprovoked invasion of Iraq wider than the warmongers. Bush and Blair are representatives of a profession whose practitioners we are conditioned not to trust. The large and articulate opposition to the proposed war set out a compelling case that Bush and Blair were predicating their invasion on an audacious lie. Yet people believed them. More astonishingly, so many people swallowed their even more audacious lie: that they were “misinformed” by “faulty” “intelligence” (and then some). So many people believed patent bullshit that Bush and Cheney —and indeed Tony Blair — were re-elected.
Catherine Feeny – Touch Back Down.mp3

.

Foo Fighters – Skin And Bones

Watching the DVD of this live set, I am always struck by the irony that former Nirvana drummer Grohl is the Foo Fighters’ frontman and the Foo’s drummer, Taylor Hawkins, is a spitting image of Kurt Cobain. Did Grohl plan it that way? Here Grohl and pals strip the old alt.rock songs down to something approaching acoustic (hence the album’s title, which is also a fairly rare Foo Fighters song). For the most part, it works well. Most of these songs have substance even when they are not amplified by loud guitars. On the closing track, a superb version of Everlong, the band shows that they can make a hell of a noise even acoustic style.
Foo Fighters – Everlong.mp3

.

More Albums of the Year

Foo Fighters – Everlong.mp3

Heads and senses

November 2nd, 2009 1 comment

iris

Very occasionally a group of people get together on the Touchedmix blog and post mixes on a particular theme. Last week, the theme was HEADS, with their features and their functions. I thought readers of this little corner of the music blogosphere might be interested in the two mixes I banged together.

*     *     *

OVER MY HEAD MIX
1. Aztec Camera – Head Is Happy (Heart’s Insane) (1985)
2. Crowded House – Pineapple Head (live) (1996/2006)
3. Johnny Cash – Mean Eyed Cat (1996)
4. The Dillards – I’ve Just Seen A Face (1968)
5. The Holmes Brothers – Smiling Face Hiding A Weeping Heart (2006)
6. Paul Anka – Eyes Without A Face (2006)
7. The Undisputed Truth – Smiling Faces Sometimes (1971)
8. Justine Washington – I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face (1964)
9. The Flamingos – I Only Have Eyes For You (1959)
10. Mississippi Sheikhs – I’ve Got Blood in My Eyes For You (1938)
11. Robert Mitchum – Mama Looka Boo Boo (Shut Your Mouth-Go Away) (1958)
12. Emile Ford & the Checkmates – Them There Eyes (1960)
13. Lewis Taylor – Blue Eyes (2000)
14. Andrew Bird – A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left (2005)
15. Nada Surf – The Way You Wear Your Head (2002)
16. The Sweet – The Lies In Your Eyes (1975)
17. Ben Folds – Doctor My Eyes (2002)
18. Josh Ritter – One More Mouth (2006)
19. Kaki King – Saving Days In A Frozen Head (2008)
20. The Lilac Time – The Darkness Of Her Eyes (1991)
21. Thomas Dybdahl – Pale Green Eyes (2009)
22. Ryan Adams – Halloweenhead (2007)
23. The Cardigans – Give Me Your Eyes (2005)

DOWNLOAD

.

Justine Washington is better known as Baby Washington; this is the original version of the song covered to good effect by Dusty Springfield.

.

SENSES WORKING OVERTIME MIX
1. David Bowie – Can You Hear Me (1975)
2. Tim Buckley – I Can’t See You (1966)
3. Herman Düne – I Wish That I Could See You Soon (2006)
4. Devics – If We Cannot See (2006)
5. Richard Hawley – Can You Hear The Rain, Love (2001)
6. Scott Walker – You’re Gonna Hear From Me (1967)
7. The Righteous Brothers – See That Girl (1965)
8. Chris Montez – The More I See You (1966)
9. Cass Elliot – I’ll Be Seeing You (1973)
10. Blind Boy Fuller – What’s That Smells Like Fish (1938)
11. Smiley Lewis – I Hear You Knocking (1955)
12. The Supremes – I Hear A Symphony (1965)
13. Jim Messina – Seeing You (For The First Time) (1979)
14. Baby Huey – Listen To Me (1971)
15. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Taste Of Cindy (1985)
16. K’s Choice – A Sound That Only You Can Hear (1995)
17. Mull Historical Society – Watching Xanadu (2001)
18. Ron Sexsmith & Don Kerr – Listen (2005)
19. Rosanne Cash – I Was Watching You (2006)
20. The Magic Numbers – I See You, You See Me (2005)
21. Paul Anka – Smells Like Teen Spirit (2005)

DOWNLOAD

Love Songs For Every Situation: Love ends

February 13th, 2008 3 comments

And after love comes the break-up. We’ll deal with the long-term effects of that later. For now, let’s get caught in the moment of the break-up.

Kris Kristofferson – For The Good Times.mp3
Few songs are as much in the moment as this: Kris is proposing break-up sex to celebrate what must have been a great relationship, and to signify that the split is amicable (“There’s no need to watch the bridges that we’re burning”). There is still some love there (it is unclear who actually wants to leave). There is much tenderness in the chorus: “Lay your head upon my pillow.Hold your warm and tender body close to mine. Hear the whisper of the raindrops, blowin’ soft against the window,and make believe you love me one more time…for the good times.”

Crowded House – Better Be Home Soon (live).mp3
Interpreting Crowded House lyrics can be a precarious past-time. I read those for “Better Be Home Soon” (here a live version from the Farewell To The World album) as a desperate plea to save a relationship. Perhaps the couple has already separated, or one partner is playing away, or (as I read it) the couple is experiencing a great personal distance, but the protagonist is asking to fix a relationship that is dying. The effort must come from both sides: “So don’t say no, don’t say nothing’s wrong, cause when you get back home, maybe I’ll be gone.” This is a great song to play on guitar. For the tabs check out the Guitariotabs blog whence I borrowed this file from.

Missy Higgins – Ten Days.mp3
A relationship is certainly dying in this song, by another Australian artist, but not so much because the love has been extinguished, but as the effect of long-distance (“so tell me, did you really think…I had gone when you couldn’t see me anymore?”). Missy is “cutting the ropes”, even though “you’re still the only one that feels like home”.

Powderfinger – Wishing On The Same Moon.mp3
More Aussie heartbreak in this slow-rock song from last year’s Dream Days at the Hotel Existence album. The dude is still totally in love, but has been left. He’s not bitter yet (that’ll be dealt with in later posts); in fact “whenever you set free your devil smile on me, I melt”. The poor guy knows it’s over, and is now reduced to begging: “I’m calling out for you, pleading for your love. You’re falling from my view and there’s nothing I can do.” So, what does one do when one cannot be with one’s love? Why, look up at the stars and the moon, of course. That’s what they are there for, it’s what he and she can share: “I’m waiting in the afternoon for the sun to sink and let the night back in. It’s when I feel close to you, when the stars they swoon and bring their night time bloom.”

Prefab Sprout – When Love Breaks Down.mp3
An obvious break-up song from the great 1985 Steve McQueen album. There isn’t much drama in this split; the relationship is fizzling out, the inevitable being delayed to avoid the pain. They don’t see each other much, so “absence makes the heart lose weight, till love breaks down, love breaks down.” So, what will it be like when he’s single again? Paddy’ take: “When love breaks down, you join the wrecks who leave their hearts for easy sex.”

Carole King – It’s Too Late.mp3
Another song about love fading undramatically. “It used to be so easy living here with you. You were light and breezy and I knew just what to do. Now you look so unhappy and I feel like a fool” — that is such a brutal realisation. It’s over, but it is reciprocal: “There’ll be good times again for me and you, but we just can’t stay together, can’t you feel it too? Still I’m glad for what we had and how I once loved you.” They’ll have their memories, and they’ll be good.

Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way.mp3
A classic in the genre, this track, from the 1977 Rumous album, was Lindsay Buckingham’s “fuck off” letter to Stevie Nicks. He wants to give her his world, but “how can I when you won’t take it from me”. Much has been made of the line: “Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do”. Either Stevie was cheating (which she denies), or it refers to the rejected wedding proposal. Mick Fleetwood’s furious drumming and Buckingham’s angry guitar solo help to underscore the acidity of the lyrics.

Abba – The Winner Takes It All.mp3
Another song about band members splitting. Everything that has been said in praise of this song is true. Agnetha’s vocals are drenched in the pain of her own separation from Bjorn, who said he wrote it with a bottle of whisky as a companion. “I was in your arms, thinking I belonged there. I figured it made sense, building me a fence. Building me a home, thinking I’d be strong there, but I was a fool, playing by the rules.” The disillusionment of love, and trust, broken. The dude goes on to somebody else, (“but tell me, does she kiss like I used to kiss you?”). In this split someone is going on with life, the other feels foolish, desperate, frustrated and lonely.

Earth, Wind & Fire – After The Love Has Gone.mp3*
A marriage is blowing up after several good years, and our man can’t understand why. “We knew love would last. Every night, something right would invite us to begin the day.” Then things went awry. “Something happened along the way, what used to be happy was sad…” Words and melody combine to express an inner drama in the singer’s bid to make sense of it all (seeing as it’s Maurice White singing here, maybe a clue is in his sexual selfishness as revealed in yesterday’s post).

Odyssey – If You’re Looking For A Way Out.mp3
This is the saddest song among all these sad songs. A ballad from the funkster’s 1980 Hang Together album, the singer knows her man’s love has died, and puts the ball into his court. “Tell me I’m wrong”, but if she isn’t, “if you’re looking for a way out, I won’t stand here in your way”. Dude needs telling. She knows he cares: “Ain’t that just like you to worry about me. But we promised to be honest with each other for all eternity.” But she also knows that his love is gone: “Your kisses taste the same, but it’s just a sweet disguise.” Are you feeling tears coming on yet? Try this for size then: “Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying, they’ll only make you wanna stay. Don’t kiss me again, ’cause I’m dying to keep you from running away.” So what does the guy do when he is told: “Better tell me what’s in you heart. Oh baby now stop pretending, stop pretending, stop pretending”? He might be ready to tell her what’s in his heart, but then she adds: “Don’t you know I’ll always love you.” Checkmate.

The iPod Random 5-track Experiment Vol.4

December 13th, 2007 2 comments

For the sheer joy of it, five more of the random best:

Nicole Atkins – Maybe Tonight.mp3
Oh, I kissed the iPod when it threw up this gem first. I had just finished putting together my Any Major Awards nominations, in which I already awarded Nicole Atkins, for being a viable alternative to the horribly overrated Amy Winehouse. This song sounds like… Petula Clark meets Blondie meets Abba. It’s glorious pop. On other tracks, Atkins gets all soulful (“The Way It Is”), or goes into ’80s throwback mode, sounding like the B-52s as sung by Sandie Shaw on Broadway (“Love Surreal” or “Brooklyn On Fire”). Absolutely marvellous, and so much better than schtick merchant Winehouse.

Crowded House – Fall At Your Feet (live).mp3
This is from the Farewell To The World live CD, which was recorded in 1996 and released ten years later. That album was one of those rarities among live sets, where the stage versions almost invariably eclipse the studio originals. And so it is with “Fall At Your Feet”, one of Crowded House’s finest moments. The lyrics get me every time: “The finger of blame has turned upon itself, and I’m more than willing to offer myself. Do you want my presence or need my help…Who knows where that might lead.” Try hitting the high note of the ad libbed “I fall” rigtht after that verse (at 2:25).

Kevin Devine – Longer I’m Out Here.mp3
Why is Kevin Devine not more popular? This is a great Indie-pop-rock workout, from 2003’s Make the Clocks Move, with some seriously strange and beautifully poetic lyrics (“And you say that there’s someone that you need to reconnect with; some scarecrow from high school that you loved and never slept with; a baby with a pipedream playing hopscotch on your bandages”) .

Ennio Morricone – Deborah’s Theme/Amapola.mp3
I’m not big on movie soundtracks, unless it is a musical. But Ennio Morricone’s score for Once Upon A Time In America, itself one of my all-time top 3 favourite movies, is astonishingly beautiful. It can create emotions like few other albums I have. This track closes the soundtrack, reprising two running themes throughout the movie: “Deborah’s Theme” and the 1930s hit “Amapola”. The strings in the former can make a grown man cry; the latter, coming in at 3:30, might cheer the listener up, but here the tune induces a certain quiet wistfulness.

Radiohead – High And Dry.mp3
I revisited “Creep” over the weekend. Any Minor Dude’s friend brought his new PS2 Sing Star game along, and, lo, there was Thom Yorke feeling “so very special”. I totally nailed this song. As did Any Minor Dude. So we battled until I set an unassailable score. But I know that the very Minor Dude, with his musical talent and competitive streak, won’t let it rest there… Anyway, to the sing at hand. iPod has done well again with a topical pick: “High And Dry” apparently is about Evel Knievel, who has just died. Listening to it now for the first time in a long while, I’m reminded that this is a very good song.

Music for bloggers Vol.1

August 1st, 2007 6 comments

To be honest, I don’t look at many blogs that don’t do music. So my idea of giving some love for my favourite blogs is rather compromised by the reality that most of them are music blogs — and to leave out one or the other is going to make me feel very guilty indeed. So please regard this as the first in a series of a few, and if you think your blog should be among the ten to receive some love here, but isn’t, it will perhaps get some next time. Oh, and please remember to right-click to open links in a new window or tab.

And here, my funky ones, is the song that inspired the name for this blog (which almost was called Squonk’s Tears):
Steely Dan – Any Major Dude.mp3

Totally Fuzzy
Chances are good that you are here because of that wonderful aggregator blog. Props to Mephisto (whose own mp3 blog rocks), Herr K and gang.
Sesame Street – Fuzzy And Blue.mp3
…and while we’re at it
Sesame Street – Manna Manna.mp3 (might be the Muppets version)
Sesame Street – Rubber Ducky.mp3
Sesame Street – It’s Not Easy Being Green.mp3
Sesame Street – C Is For Cookie.mp3

Not-Rock-On
A blog filled with utter delights (such as bootlegs of Smiths, Jonathan Richman, John Cale gigs). Jörg has not only commented a few times on this blog, but also written a post dedicated to my humble blog. For which I’m not only grateful because it strokes my ego, but also because it gave me the idea for this fiesta of payback. Jörg threatens to do a ’80s soul round-up soon (as do I). Here’s a 1982 classic he might like to use; one of three absolutely superb duets (this one a Marvin Gaye cover) performed by Randy Crawford and Al Jarreau at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, from the Casino Lights album.
Randy Crawford & Al Jarrreau – Your Precious Love.mp3

Serenity Now!
Dick Darlington’s album blog always has something for me. And Dick is a great guy: when I moaned that Rapidshare hates me (just can’t download from it, dunno why), he re-uploaded the album I wanted on Mediashare or some such site. Here’s a song (which channels ’70s pop in an alt.country sort of way) from Josh Ritter’s very good new album, The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter, which I’ve been test-driving thanks to Dick’s Seinfeld-referencing blog.
Josh Ritter – Right Moves.mp3

Stay-at-home Indie Pop
I like the blog’s name, and I like Ian’s writing. The a recent entry describes a mundane minutiae of life in a quite captivating manner — a sign of a fine writer (and not all journalists and writers of football books are fine writers). And I can see where Ian is going with the iPod dilemma — how many does one need, and how old is ancient in an iPod’s life? Ian likes his “songbirds”, as do I. So here is one of my favourite female singer-songwriters at the moment:
Kate Walsh – Is This It.mp3

The Late Greats
This is a blog where I have discovered a shedload of artists I might never have encountered otherwise. And this, RCIAA, is the benefit of MP3 blogging. One of the groups The Duke turned me on to is The Beauty Shop, whose “Desperate Cry For Help” should be a total classic: great tune, great lyrics, great delivery.
The Beauty Shop – Desperate Cry For Help

Tsururadio
A refuge in times of stress. Tsuru’s blog is so laid back, the music so great and the photos of arty nudes so lovely, one wishes one could move into the blog. Tsuru is a New Pornographers fan, so here’s a track from A.C. Newman’s 2004 solo album, The Slow Wonder.
A.C. Newman – On The Table.mp3

Twohundredpercent
Excellent football (“soccer”) musings. The blog also includes sections of football-related music. If your life is incomplete without the “Anfield Rap”, or you want to pretend you’re running out at Upton Park to Michael Jackson’s classic “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”, or you absolutely need to hear the British TV theme to the 1968 Olympic coverage, then you’ll find the Brighton fan’s blog a music treasure chest. One song missing from twohundredpercent’s site is this collaboration between kwaito band TKZee and Blackburn’s Benni McCarthy (then, in 1998, playing for Ajax Amsterdam), which samples “The Final Countdown” (but of course).
TKZee & Benni McCarthy – Shibobo.mp3

Jefito Blog
Jefito’s thorough anthological reviews (called “Complete Idiot’s Guide”) of an eclectic bunch of artists is legendary in MP3 blogland, and his mix-tapes are always worth checking out. His Crowded House review a few months back was spot-on, so here is my favourite Crowded House song, from the Farewell To The World live set.
Crowded House – When You Come (live).mp3

Television Without Pity
Well, it’s not a blog, but in a way it is a blogging community. This is the place I go to when I have missed an episode of Lost or need to know what exactly happens in the next installment of Prison Break. The round-ups don’t just recap an episode, but describes every scene in detail and with a generous dose of wit. Each programme has its own dedicated writer, lending the recaps a particular character, and presents an opportunity to work with in-jokes. I particularly enjoyed the one when Rome‘s deliciously devious Atia was renamed Julii Cooper. In honour of the O.C. reference, here’s Alexi Murdoch’s re-recorded version of “Orange Sky”, from his pretty good full debut album, Time Without Consequence, which was released last year (to be truthful, I prefer the version from the brilliant Four Songs EP.)
Alexi Murdoch – Orange Sky.mp3

Michael’s World
Call it paternal pride, but I love this blog. He has a mirror blog on a South African blogging community, but let’s get his Blogger site some hits, shall we? When Michael started with guitar lessons at the age of 10 two years ago, his tutor (a seasoned session musician) asked him what music he’d like to learn first. The little guy’s answer: “Johnny Cash”. Which I thought was very cool! Here is some proof that Sting is not entirely a twit: Cash’s infinitely superior cover of Gordon’s “I Hung My Head”, from the American IV: The Man Comes Around album (which got Michael into Ca

sh).
Johnny Cash – I Hung My Head.mp3

2007: getting better

June 30th, 2007 3 comments

This year is beginning to look good. A few fine new albums that have been released or are still awaiting release will make the wait for the ageless classic bearable (apologies for the links mix-up earlier; the Cary Brothers link is now correct).

Spoon – The Underdog
From Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, which despite its awful title is a glorious album, with all the experimentations coming together just right. “The Underdog” is fantastic; it has horns, acoustic guitars, handclaps, a furious finale, and Britt Daniel sounds as much as Phil Lynott as he ever will. An album to be excited about.

Brandi Carlile – The Story
When I first came across Carlile, I thought her name marked her out as a cheerleader-type pop princess. Goodness, how wrong I was. This woman can sing her folk-rock/alt.country stuff. Hear her roar on “The Story”, the title track from her quite wonderful sophomore album.

Josh Rouse – God, Please Let Me Go Back
From Country Mouse, City House. I like this song’s George Harrison-style guitar and hummable chorus. The new album is a tough one. It’s not as instantly lovable as 1972, not as brilliant as Nashville, not as intimate as last year’s Subtitulo. One knows after one spin that there is much quality here, but it will need repeated listens before this set will click. With Josh Rouse, the patience always pays off.

Kate Walsh – Talk Of The Town
There are so many wonderful women with guitars making wonderful, moving music. Rosie Thomas, Mindy Smith et al. File Kate Walsh in that category. Her debut, Tim’s House, is warm, hushed, consistently beautiful, and incredibly intimate.

Iron And Wine – Flightless Bird, American Mouth
Sub Pop, Iron And Wine’s label, has asked for the link to be removed. Happy to oblige. There are free I&W downloads on Sub Pop’s homepage, including the very wonderful “Naked As We Came”.

Cary Brothers – Jealousy
Like Iron & Wine, Cary Brothers is a Garden State soundtrack alumnus. Their first full album is, er, very nice. Soundtrack-friendly stuff for Zach Braff movies and Grey’s Anatomy, which in my world is a recommendation. This track is more Snow Patrol than the Shins.

Powderfinger – Wishing On The Same Moon
I’ve always liked Powderfinger (a name I seem to never be able to type correctly), but never was a huge fan. Dream Days At The Hotel Existence might change that. Every song is strong, drawing heavily from ’70s rock, as does my album of the year so far, Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky (yeah, right, like fucking punk never happened).

Crowded House – Don’t Stop Now
I’ve mentioned the new album (due our on July 10) before. It’s more a Finn solo effort than a typical CH album. This track is one of those that exhibit the old Crowded House sound.

Albums of 2007, so far

June 8th, 2007 1 comment

It is a scientific fact that 78,4% of all MP3 bloggers are busy compiling their top 10 albums of the 2007 so far as we speak. So, before it becomes a bore, I’ll get in early. I might be on safe ground doing so before the first half of the year is up, because I’ve seen no releases for June that would be obvious contenders, other than the new Joseph Arthur album (and I can live without the White Stripes, I’m afraid). So…

1. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
Some Wilco fans have expressed their disappointment with the unpretentious Sky Blue Sky, measuring it against the experimentations of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born. These fans are mistaken to measure Sky Blue Sky not on its own merits. Here, Jeff Tweedy eschews the cacophonic innovations for a straight-forward, mellow rock album that channels the ’60s (Dylan, Grateful Dead, Abbey Road-era Beatles) and ’70s (Van Morrison, Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Thin Lizzy) without losing its identity as a Wilco album.

Sky Blue Sky is immediate and intimate. Nels Cline’s guitar work is an utter joy. The cadenced dual guitar solo on “Impossible Germany”, the album’s stand-out track, is perhaps the best of this decade.
Wilco – Either Way.mp3
Wilco – Hate It Here.mp3

2. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
In 2005, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning was by far my album of the year, and it remains one of my all-time favourites. It was an immediately accessible album in ways its predecessors, or the simultaneously released (and quite awful) Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, were not. Cassadaga is not as easy to fall in love with as I’m Wide Awake, but once it hits you, it hits you hard. This is a beautiful, richly textured, and cohesive album. I cannot say whether Cassadaga will equal my affection for I’m Wide Awake (which provided the soundtrack for a particularly intense period in my life), but I do know that I will return to it for a very long time.
Bright Eyes – If The Brakeman Turns My Way.mp3
Bright Eyes – Make a Plan To Love Me.mp3

3. Loney, Dear – Loney Noir
The bizzarely named Loney, Dear (real name Emil Svanängen) is a genius working in his Stockholm bedroom studio, in which he conducts an orchestra consisting of himself. Operating mostly under earphones so as not to wake the rest of the household, his songs often start softly before building up to an orgasmic crescendo. For once the critics got it right when they proclaimed Loney Noir a work of genius.

Too often artists who don’t conform to the corporate expectations of the mainstream music industry fall between the cracks, especially when they come “foreign” countries. All the more my pleasant surprise when I caught the video the the utterly stunning “I Am John” on VH-1 a few weeks ago (see the video here).
Loney, Dear – I Am John.mp3
Loney, Dear – No One Can Win.mp3

4. Rosie Thomas – These Friends of Mine
Music at the moment is blessed with a crop of women with guitars, singer-songwriters who take their inspiration from Joni Mitchell and Carol King, not the corporate skanks that populate the Top40. Rosie Thomas is one of the finest artists in that crop. “Heartachingly beautiful” has become a cliché. With These Friends Of Mine it provides an accurate description. On her fourth album Rosie fulfills all the promise she hinted at in her previous efforts: There is now a consistency of quality in her exquisite melody to complement the sheer poetry of her lyrics. The album’s stand-out song, “Much Farther To Go”, features the brilliant Sufjan Stevens on vocals and, yeah, the banjo.
Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go.mp3

5. Missy Higgins – On A Clear Night
On her new album, Missy (real name Melissa Higgins, which sounds rather better) cheers up a bit, at least musically, from the quite wonderful The Sound Of White. Where The Sound… was beautiful in its melancholy, On A Clear Night is a little more relaxed in sound, if not lyrically. The excellent lead single “Steer” is a pop-hit-with-intelligence along the lines of The Sound’s hit “Scars”. Higgins’ does not sound as pained as she used to and she has thankfully tuned down her distinctive Aussie wicketkeeper’s accent.
Missy Higgins – The Wrong Girl.mp3

6. Maria Taylor – Lynn Teeter Flower
Not quite as wonderful or eclectic as 2005’s 11:11, but there is still a lot to like here.
Maria Taylor – No Stars

7. Brooke Fraser – Albertine
Released in Fraser’s native New Zealand in December, but elsewhere in 2007. I’ll confess, Sarah McLachlan is one of my guilty pleasures (give a woman a guitar, let her record her own songs, and I’m a fan, really). Fraser has some of the McLachlan thing going on. Bonus points for including the names, activities and contact details of several human rights and relief organisations in the liner notes.
Brooke Fraser – Deciphering Me

9. Fountains Of Wayne – Traffic And Weather
Not a Fountains Of Wayne classic, but there’s much to like here. If it disappoints some, then only by the group’s own high standards. FOW are furiously channelling the ’80s. But where those idiots Maroon 5 fail doing the same, our friends from NY pull it off most of the time. And then there is this wonderful alt.country song below…
Fountains Of Wayne – Fire In The Canyon

9. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
This will rate highly on the top 10s of most of the 78,4%, and possibly higher on those not compiled by the remaining 21,6%. I rate this album highly, and the ubiquitous “Heretic” is one of this year’s stand-out tracks. But, truth be told, I prefer the predecessor, The Mysterious Production of Eggs.
Andrew Bird – Cataracts

10. Crowded House – Time on Earth
Not yet released, and the track sequence of the album we CH fans have been downloading reportedly might yet change, which would be welcome. It’s really a Neil Finn solo album with chums, and it is not entirely convincing, a clutch of very good tracks apart (such as the one below). Still, it is Crowded House and therefore will always be in contention.
Crowded House – Nobody Wants To

Last year at the halfway mark, my interim Top 10 consisted of albums by Joshua Radin (number 1 then and at year-end), The Weepies, Eels, Belle & Sebastian, Josh Rouse, Collective Soul, Counting Crows, Devics, Ron Sexsmith, James Hunter. By the end of the year, only three other albums (Crowded House, Ben Kweller and Snow Patrol) managed to get into my final Top 10. Let’s hope for a better second half of the year.