Angel Olsen

Listen Up! Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen

American singer-songwriter Angel Olsen is an artist I heard of last year through her 2012 release Half Way Home. New album Burn Your Fire For No Witness is one of the best records I’ve stumbled on in a long time: it begs to be listened to all the way through and is wholly addictive. I’ve  listened to it over and over again – it makes you want to even though you know you shouldn’t because  eventually you might ruin it for yourself.

Olsen’s voice goes from honeyed to wild, fierce and rasping, her lyrics project straightforward truths, her musicianship is crafted and poignant. Like all great music emotions –  heartache, loneliness, desperation, anger and serenity – ring right through it.

Burn Your Fire For No Witness a subtly dazzling collection of songs with a rare and beautiful kind of timelessness. Befriend them.

Listen to the album now via NPR, it will be released through Jagjaguwar.

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Listen Up! Bill Callahan

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I heard this version of Kath Bloom’s song ‘The Breeze’ for the first time this morning, as I was getting ready for the day. The lyrics are strikingly honest, I wrote the line (above) I like best the-book-where-I-write-things. Bill Callahan’s version, which featured on a tribute album to Bloom, is compassionate, thoughtful and shimmers with emotional fragility.  Hope you like it as much as I do.

Bye Bye Love

Bye Bye Love

Bye Bye Love
Bye Bye Love

It seems like so many great musicians have passed away recently, a sadness eased in part by a then abounding celebration of their music. When I heard about the Phil Everly’s passing I thought immediately of this song, ‘Bye Bye Love’. My first memory of it is finding myself singing it on a subway in Hong Kong, en route to take me back to China (where I was living at the time). Coming from the grit and grime of Chinese streets Hong Kong seemed like paradise, a place where it was easy to be (if a lot less fascinating). When I was homesick it reminded me of home, when I left its glimmering harbour this song summed up how I felt.

I have no idea when I actually first heard it, most likely a decade before. I think – for my generation at least – so many of The Everly Brothers songs are the same; they seem to have travelled osmosis into your head and your heart. What a great legacy.

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Songs of the Year: 2013

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Right now it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m up, thinking about all the music that meant a lot to me this year. Personally it’s been a year of flux and over the last few months I haven’t been able to keep up writing as I would have liked, let alone include so many of the great year end releases. So to round things off in a semi-reasonable fashion – and  before we plunge into January – here are a few of the songs I’ve loved along the way…some old, some new, all worth a listen.

Videos included at the bottom and there’s a Spotify playlist here with some more tracks

  • Dark Dark Dark ‘Patsy Cline’ 2013 was the year I discovered the stirring, intense folk of US band Dark Dark Dark. Lyrically their songs are stunning. This one resonated on a personal level, it’s poignant without being self-pitying and I’ll always remember it. 
  • Damien Jurado ‘Yuma Arizona’ I posted this song for my friends on their wedding day, it’s an older track but so incredibly pretty. I think I heard it covered live, one of my favourite ways to discover sometimes overlooked or forgotten tracks. 
  • Low ‘So Blue’ The first time I heard this song, from ‘The Invisible Way’, I was sucked in to how insanely powerful it was…for that reason it stayed with me
  • Frightened Rabbit ‘The Oil Slick’ When it comes to Frabbits I’m a massive fan girl. This is my favourite track on their 2013 release ‘Pedestrian Verse’ 
  • Melt Yourself Down ‘Fix My Life’ This is song is completely crazy, an erratic blend between gypsy jazz and dance – synths, brass and whoops all the way. It never fails to cheer me.
  • James Brown ‘I’ll Go Crazy’ I love James Brown but I’d never heard this song. It is INCREDIBLE. 
  • Fleetwood Mac ‘Go Your Own Way’ – Fleetwood Mac are a band I go back to time and time again, I beliver this song to be one of the greats.
  • Bob Dylan ‘Hurricane’/Daft Punk ‘Get Lucky’ - An unlikely combination I’ve included both of these because my friend plays them on guitar and we all sing. Those moments are the best, I wish I could bottle them. 
  • Mogwai/Explosions in the Sky/Yo La Tengo – I’m not going to choose anything in particular from these three, except to say they make for the best studying/working music I’ve ever found.
  • Lau ‘Throwing Pennies’ - Oh how I love Lau. The Scottish folk trio fuse traditional folk influences with an Orcadian beautiful vocal, original melodies and experimentation. 
  • Hiss Golden Messenger ‘Drum’ – I got this on my ipod about a month ago, such a sweet and uplifting song.
  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra ‘Swim and Sleep Like a Shark’ – Eeeek I like this band a lot.  It reminds me of sitting with my very good friend, saying very little.

That’s what’s in my mind right now…happy new year when it comes!

Elephant Micah

Elephant Micah Plays…KLF

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Elephant Micah aka Joe O’Connell is an artist I was hugely excited to discover.  The multi-instrumentalist from Indiana writes and sings proper songs, the type that make you catch your breath, cry or smile wryly to yourself. Considerately and poetically penned and – although experimental in parts – they possess an old fashioned gravity.

As a musical entity Elephant Micah spans over a decade, from the debut LP Low Energy Dance Music in 2002 to the latest endeavour Globe Rush Progressions. Here Joe talks about an intriguing influence, notorious acid house pioneers The KLF and their classic album Chill Out, recorded live in 1989.

Elephant Micah

Elephant Micah Plays…KLF ‘Chill Out’

I was doing some free-form internet searching on “ambient music.”  I wanted to know what albums people consider to be part of the “ambient” canon.  A citation of the KLF caught my attention.  Is this the same 1990s pop group that set fire to a million pounds sterling?  My focus shifted entirely to the KLF—their ideas, their antics, and their music.  The group’s story continues to hold my attention.

Chill Out belongs to a tradition of club music for relaxation and repose, styled in contrast with dance music itself.  The KLF designates the sheep as Chill Out totem animal.  Sheep occupy the album cover, resting at pasture, and the early moments of the album audio, bleating in a call-and-response with their human shepherd.  In addition to appreciating this album as a work of sound collage (mixed live from mostly pre-recorded sources), I take interest in it as a kind of “techno pastoral”—an idealization of the countryside by electronic musicians.

Check it out the album here:

You can listen to Joe’s most recent Elephant Micah release ‘Globe Rush Progressions’ below, ‘Marie’s Hair’, ‘Ever Greener’ and the jingle bell tinkling ‘Jesus Christ’ are my personal highlights.

I’m also a huge fan of this collaboration with Hiss Golden Messenger

…and this track from 2012 release Louder Than Thou. If that’s not enough to make you buy the entire backcatalogue more fool you.

Early Birds

Pick Of The Past

This is little Play a Song For Me’s 100th wordpress post! A tiny figure for some, for me an occasion akin to getting an ice cream on a sunny day.

For those of you who are new to the blog musicians I discover share suggestions of new, rare and important artists/songs/albums. Along the way other things have also evolved – I invent sporadic new features (for the last month I’ve been posting a happy song every day), review new material and spraff on about new discoveries. Other folks stories are at the heart of why I’ve kept up the writing, I always love reading submissions and love to see that people still reading them.

End ramble: to celebrate and in case you missed them here are some great picks. Click the links to take you to the full articles and music!

The Son(s) recommend Richard Swift and Tim Weary
The Son(s) recommend Richard Swift and Tim Weary

The Son(s) Play…Tim Weary & Richard Swift 

The first ever post I received was from Karl of The Son(s), whose music is beautiful.

Mike!

Mike Nisbet Plays…Townes Van Zandt

I’m slightly ashamed to say I’d never heard of Townes Van Zandt before this post from Mike, who himself is supremely talented. Check out the full read here.

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Adam Stafford Plays…Tommy Johnson

A personal story you’ll remember, a blues record you’ll love. Adam has a new album coming out really soon and it’s a beauty. Keep your eye on Song By Toad for more.

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Olympic Swimmers Play…Richard Youngs 

Without a doubt my favourite picture submitted, Glasgow’s Olympic Swimmers wrote a beautiful piece on Richard Youngs.

Early Birds

Human Pyramids Play…Mum

A close contender in the picture stakes, Human Pyramids shared a love of the glacial Mum.

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State Broadcasters Play…The Bhundu Boys

The tragic story of The Bhundu Boys, retold by Glasgow’s State Broadcasters.

Have a root around for many more great things in the friends and contributors section. Listen, discover, enjoy.

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Crushing On: Sparrow and the Workshop

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I was lucky enough to get the new Sparrow and the Workshop album Murderopolis on preview a couple of months ago and since then it’s been on a pretty heavy rotation. What I know about the band is pretty limited, they’re from Glasgow and have been together for sometime and this is their third LP.

The eleven tracker swerves through the fragile – ‘Odessa’- catchy – ‘The Faster You Spin’ – and tempestuous – ‘Shock Shock’, making it  the kind of music you’d happily belt out in the car (that weird girl you see singing at traffic lights? Yeah – moi). Closer ‘Autumn in Winter’ is a sweet addition, crescendos showcasing Jill O Sullivan’s distinctive vocal.

My personal favourite ‘The Glue that Binds Us’, angst with resonance and the perfect break up song.

You can read more and stream it in full at This is Fake DIY, boom.

Out today via Song by Toad records and highly recommended!

Ac Acoustics

Quickbeam play…AC Acoustics

Glasgow quartet Quickbeam are a band I’ve followed for over a year now, after first seeing them play some stunning music – the dreamy ‘Seven Hundred Birds’ springs to mind – at a gig near Inverness. Describing themselves atmospheric/cinematic, their music is immersive, delicate and beautiful. They are on the cusp of releasing a beauty of a debut album, more on that below.

Guitarist and singer Andrew Thomson shares a musical treasure of his own, Scottish indie rock band AC Acoustics, for the Play a Song For Me archives.

Ac Acoustics

Quickbeam Play AC Acoustics – She Kills For Kicks 

There are many things that appeal to me about this track. I’m a sucker for its relentless simplicity and its unforgiving repetition of the vocal, string and drum phrases. There is also an overriding dark, almost ghostly atmospheric that is so apparent in a lot of their work. Its a track that I always feel should have been massive. AC Acoustics always had a reputation of being this incredibly unlucky band when it came to the music industry. Maybe so, but ‘She Kills For Kicks’ is a triumph as far as I’m concerned. It’s an anthem, albeit a dark one, but one that I often put on and never tire of. This is a band that I don’t want to be forgotten.

 I always admired Paul Campions lyrical style. It’s incredibly poetic, very often obscure and always flows beautifully. Equally it has a steam roller like unrelenting, unstoppable force that holds your ear and doesn’t let you turn away. ‘She Kills For Kicks’ is a great example of this. It just doesn’t stop, it wont allow it. Each verse joins with the previous through repetition of the last line which works perfectly.

 

For me, ‘She Kills For Kicks’ is the highlight of a wonderfully diverse and undoubtedly accomplished album. I always come back to this album and in particular this track. Although it is now around thirteen years old, and the band are long since split up, it still sounds so current. As does the whole album. Please come back AC Acoustics, for one last encore.

Quickbeam’s self titled album comes out on June 3rd, through Scottish label Comets and Cartwheels. Check out a sampler, new single ‘Immersed’ and  track I mentioned up there, ‘Seven Hundred Birds’.

For more visit the band here

Gareth Dickson

Gareth Dickson Plays…Ned Collette

Let’s regale you with a tale music fans! I caught singer-songwriter Gareth Dickson at a recent Edinburgh house concert and was bowled over by the intricate, wistful worlds he conjured with his deft fingertips. An artist who demonstrates incredible skill, his songs have strikingly original compositions and are filled with intricate, mesmerising guitar work.

Here Gareth fills us in on an influence and friend, Australian singer-songwriter Ned Collette.

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Gareth Dickson Plays…Ned Collette

I have chosen an Australian singer/songwriter called Ned Collette; you can start anywhere with him but if I had to pick a couple of tracks they would be Boulder and The Country With A Smile.

I met Ned in Australia when I was playing there in Vashti Bunyan‘s band. He and his girlfriend came up to me after the gig and we got talking. He told me he was a musician and was planning to come to Europe soon and we swapped email addresses.

For me it’s just great pop music, sometimes he reminds me a little of David Bowie, other times Leonard Cohen, but essentially he has his own voice. It’s usually catchy and melodic but there is always a depth to it as well.

True to his word he came to Europe and actually spent some time living in Glasgow. We met up a few times for a drink and he and his Ozzie pals are among the only people I’ve met who like beer more than Weegies do. I remember one of them in the kitchen at a party completely wasted with his mobile phone in an empty pint glass to act as a kind of bass boost for some awful techno he was dancing too. Hi-tech stuff. They have great phrases too, as anyone else who wasted a good part of their youth watching Neighbours and Home And Away already knows.

Find out more about Ned Collette here and check out a selection of Gareth’s music below! His live set is memorable, catch it if you can.

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The Weekend Edition

Your weekly chunk of cool things to check out!

Record Dinner Plate

Eating the Beats

I discovered this amaaaaaazing blog which posts recipes inspired by great music. As someone who likes baking and records it’s a total winner, check out this amazing Savoury Apple Bread, inspired by Fiona Apple, and a recipe for home made pop tarts.

Matthew E White 

I scooted over Matthew E White’s album when it was released, it never really stuck with me. This song has won me over, it’s literally on repeat as I draft this. Also very good summer music, for whenever the sun may come our way!

Raising 1.5 Million in a Day 

Yeah, that’s what Zach Braff did via Kickstarter for his new film, a follow up to Garden State. Read more via Rolling Stone. Now what could I ask for…

For those who haven’t heard or loved the Garden State Soundtrack as much as me (remember the Shins moment? sigh) here’s a few solid tunes.

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Haiku Salut Play…Detektivbyrån

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Haiku Salut are a musical trio from Derbyshire making dreamy instrumental/baroque pop music counting Múm and Yann Tiersen amongst it’s influences. See the bottom of this post for more and their tunes! Gemma Barkerwood from the band – and her pooch – share some love of another inspiration, Swedish electronic band Detektivbyrån.

Haiku Salut

Haiku Salut Play…Detektivbyrån

Since first hearing Detektivbyrån five years ago my music taste has changed. A lot. Before this I was listening to a lot of straightforward indie music. Detektivbyrån soon put a stop to that by providing the perfect answer to a question I didn’t realise I’d asked. This Swedish three piece used accordion, piano, organ, glockenspiel, percussion plus numerous other instruments to make beautiful (if sometimes a little cheesy) classical epics. The sound they create is calm and simplistic, the way in which they perform it chaotic and full of energy. I first heard them on a friend’s myspace page, the track was called Nattoppet from the EP Hemvägen and is glorious from start to finish. It uses a clock as the rhythm and plays glockenspiel with drumsticks. It blew my little mind.

They’ve release two albums since: E18 (consisting of Hemvägen plus a few extras) and Wermland. You should listen to them both, it’s perfect summer music! Unfortunately they’ve split up and I never got to see them live but I think in a strange way that makes me like it even more.

Detektivbyrån opened the floodgates to weird instrumental music. Along with Jon Brion and Yann Tiersen, it changed the way I listen to and also the way in which I write music. I’ve always preferred playing classical music though I love the atmosphere of proper gigs. It’s given me the perfect pocket to climb into so thanks pals!

 Music box stuff indeed, I imagine twirling around dreamily at a fairground. a black and white photo montage, a band who – if they didn’t – should have featured on the Amelie soundtrack. You can check out Detektivbyrån’s star scattered website for more!

Check out Haiku Salut‘s pretty and surreal new video for ‘Los Elefantes’ and the effervescent ‘Glockenbar’ below. Both tracks are from debut LP Tricolore, a swirling, twinkling journey I’m just halfway through it comes with an adorable illustrated booklet.

Crushing On: Dark Dark Dark

Dark Dark Dark

Like most music fans I listen to a lot of new things. Some of it’s understated, some of it’s try hard, some of it sounds like that band you loved ten years ago, some of it’s great, memorable or beautiful and of course ends up here.

Rarely does it happen that I love something new instantly. Yesterday I heard a song by Dark Dark Dark on the radio and it torpedoed right into me, demanding to be listened to. I’ve discovered they are from Minneapolis, have a massive following (oops, late to the party) and are also described as a ‘folk band’. For me the music goes much deeper, it quivers with an orchestral intensity that you don’t tend to encounter in the genre and proves the accordion is an excellent instrument. In terms of lyrics they clicked with me, I get the songs and the songs get me.

I’ve now listened to their entire back catalogue, which feels like journeying through a black and white gypsy circus. Check out album Who Needs Who below, hope you enjoy.

I like a lot of music but I love this.

Decades Play…Blonde Redhead

We’re on the cusp of the weekend! Today I have the pleasure of bringing to you my first artist submission in a while, having fleetingly stopped asking bands for their suggestions due to a lack of time and whimsy. I realised last week that it’s the best thing about being a blogger, gathering other people’s stories, et voilà we’re back on track.

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I discovered Toronto’s Decades this week via an email from their label, the teeny White Girl Records. Music which is easy to listen to it’s difficult to plug the four piece in to a genre, strands of punk and garage rock emerge in their older tracks while a preview from their debut beams with well crafted chillwave.

After I heard and liked their music bassist Greg Peters sent through a story about a long time loved band, Blonde Redhead.

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Decades Play…Blonde Redhead

My favorite band of all time would have to be Blonde Redhead. They kind of float in and out of my life at random but when I start listening to them they always take me back to that place I was when I discovered them and I end up playing one song over and over which is Misery Is a Butterfly.

The band formed in the early 90′s, I think they have always been way ahead of their time. They are one of those bands who are hard to pin down, “Nu gaze”, “electronica”, “indie rock”, “experimental”, “psychedelic”, but really I think they are just writing whatever music comes naturally to them. The music they create between the three of them is incredible, everything they do is perfect and absolutely beautiful. 

I discovered them in the early 2000′s through a friend of mine who basically built my musical foundation, before this I only listened to Nirvana. Basically my friend and I would skip school everyday and go to his house and smoke weed and listen to these really cool “obscure bands” he found via internet or some older group of kids he knew. I remember my grandparents really disliked him, he literally lived across the tracks from me, but he was my best friend.
I’m pretty sure it was just on a playlist or something but when I heard “Misery is a Butterfly” for the first time it changed my life. The beginning is so beautiful, those ominous sounding strings, then the piano line, it’s so sad but comforting, then the guitars and vocals come in and it grabs you and you’re floating away in all that beautiful misery. It actually takes me back to that place every time I listen to it. We were in high school, stuck in that small town and nothing was certain but we could listen to this song and drift away. I’m pretty sure the band is still active. They definitely deserve more attention then they get but I don’t really think they care for it. I just hope they continue to create records. 

Decades 

Decades debut LP is released on April 30th, check out some of their tracks below.

The intensely eighties video for writhing new single ‘In Sequins’, shot through a purple tint and featuring some truly excellent sequinned leggings.

For more on the band visit their website www.decadesdecades.com

Bert Jansch

From My Shelf: Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch

I’ve been on a ban from buying CDs. I know it shouldn’t really matter. You can get pretty much anything through Spotify (though increasingly considered the devil’s work by many) and the plastic little cases AREN’T VINYL but I’ve never had a record player. I really miss picking my way through random albums in a shop.  Therefore I’ve decided to revisit the music I have,  thinking maybe you’ll still discover something you’ve never heard of, or might want to revisit.

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First up is an album from one of the most incredible Scottish guitarists of all time, the late Bert Jansch. His album Black Swan was released in 2006 and features Beth Orton on three tracks. Personally I’d forgotten about this really lovely CD, a contemplative and accomplished collection which easily  rubs shoulders with more famous contemporaries like Neil Young. Listen to the hazy and pretty ‘A Woman Like You’ instrumental ‘Magdalina’s Dance’ and duet ‘Watch the Stars’.

Purchased

In 2008 from FOPP on Rose Street Edinburgh. The album cost £3 which is why I bought it, an absolute bargain. It comes inside a paper sleeve, a satisfying addition. I wholeheartedly miss FOPP, f there was something I wanted I’d never leave that shop with fewer than four CDs at a time – plus a two buck novel for good measure.

More Like This

An article from The New Yorker published atfter Jansch’s death in 2011

A performance of four live numbers for the telly, 1975

A beautiful song. Full Stop.

Unlike his solo material Pentangle, Jansch’s band, verges on too traditionally Scottish for my personal taste but if you’re not from here you might feel differently. In any case this is worth listening to for the guitar alone.

A couple of tracks from The River Sessions, a most excellent album recorded in the seventies at City Hall, Glasgow.

Rave Tapes

LISTEN UP! MOGWAI’s RAVE TAPES

Rave Tapes A recent conversation:

My friend: I always thought Mogwai were a rubbish indie band.

Me: No they’re not.

My friend: I know. I’ve been listening to them. They’re really good.

Me: Yes. Yes they are. They’re new album Rave Tapes is awesome.

Both: Nod heads with quiet satisfaction.

Stream it here, as a pointer ‘Replelish’s’ spoken word sampling and eerie melody are spine-tingling.

 

 

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Sweet Blue Eues

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Aram Bajakian is an incredible guitarist from New York who’s toured with the late Lou Reed, Diana Krall and many other infamous musicians. ‘There Were Flowers Also in Hell’ is a solo album I first heard today and instantly fell for. ‘Sweet Blue Eues’ (track 5) is a slower, thoughtful track, set to a glorious foundational rhythm.

Bandcamp

Things I found on bandcamp

Bandcamp

This week I’m living a bandcamp renaissance. Forgot how much you can discover in a very short time, and how easy it to flick through their catalogue. If you haven’t been on for a while check it out here, the handful of discoveries below might get you started.

In a Lonely Place – ‘Mess’ 

I wonder if they are named after the Humphrey Bogart film. A six track release.

Cloud – ‘Cherry Dip’ 

They remind me of ever-loved Neutral Milk Hotel, that’s just a general win.

Wolf Cottage – ‘Glow’ 

Describing themselves as a cross between National and Youth Lagoon is certainly an attention grabber. I know I listened to this song and liked it, but I can’t for the life of me find the link. On the plus side while searching I also came across a three year old Chelsea Wolf album, ‘The  Grime and The Glow’

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