A post (almost) unrelated to the hurricane…

On Saturday I spoke to my good friend if mine who lives in the East Village about which record stores in New York might be a good shout for a new feature. He recommended Other Music as one of the only ones remaining which sells CDs and not just vinyl- apparently it has “a great range of indie and eclectic stuff–even a good world section which includes great music from Nigeria and weird oddities like recordings of insects in tropical rain forests or Thai pop music of the seventies.” 

Sounds the business right?

I hadn’t had the time to look it up properly before the hurricane hit, but as I, along with most of the world, continue to fret about everyone over there it’s been in the back of my mind. The store’s located on East 4th Street Manhattan which is out of the evacuation zone, but the website’s down right now so for the sake of research I scooped some sessions from the store instead…

The marvellous Cate Le Bon

 

 

The mighty Iron & Wine

 

The melody making Camera Obscura

 

Keep your chin up NYC!

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If you listen to one thing this week…make it a Tiny Desk Concert

I discovered NPR (National Public Radio) Tiny Desk Concerts around the time I shifted from just reviewing gigs and records to writing this here blog, and – driven by a whimsical ambition to listen to as much as possible – was trying to sift through mags and media. Held at the incredibly cool desk of some chap called Bob Boilen I expect the slot’s probably incredibly well known, I’ve just come to know it as a good place to look now and again for artists I haven’t heard of. The most recent find was a session from singer songwriter Chris Bathgate (a last minute addition to Matchstick Maker’s list, see last post for more), leading to this round up of some great sessions…

Chris Bathgate

Charming tunes which are catching, orchestral violin and a foot-stomping delivery – he may hail from Michigan but Scotland’s threaded through.

 

Dirty Three 

Crashing drums, balkan violin and a yelping vocal from the band’s thrusting lead singer – what’s not to love?

 

The Tallest Man on Earth 

Songs to sink right into.

Yann Tiersen 

I discovered this quite by accident. Win.

A few other good places to find new artists are Seattle station KEXP, The Guardian’s column New Band of the Day and Indie Darkroom.…so go now and find music that you love.  Go now.

Playing with Matches

Music fans: you are in for a treat. Recently I was sent an EP from mysterious musician Matchsticker Maker, containing three low-fi songs which are entirely bewitching.  Here he talks about four treasured musicians, just make sure you get to the bottom…

Matchstick Maker Plays…

Stanley

A band from Aberdeen that I know almost nothing about and have never seen live, but whose album “Animals With Amazing Disguises” is incredible. It’s some of the most invigorating and exciting sounds I’ve heard in ages, plus the guy’s voice is heart-stoppingly rich. Check out the album opener “Join Hands” and try to get your vocal chords around the top notes near the end. 
Late one night in May I was driving in the middle of nowhere way up North, with a late sunset burning on the horizon, I switched on the radio right in the middle of that song “Join Hands”. I’d never heard it before, didn’t know who the band was but I genuinely had to stop the car when I heard that melody, and then it turned out to be a live session! Fearless vocals, mind blown. Then they did a brilliant Goldfrapp cover.
(I love this live version)

 

Jonnie Common

I somehow stumbled across the album “Master Of None” just as it came out which is quite rare for me, but I immediately loved it and have pretty much played the vinyl to scratch-laden death since. It’s just great catchy, witty and interesting songs, the track “Hand-Hand” contains the lyric “I can’t skateboard to save my life, but I like to imagine what kind of bizarre scenario might involve me having to do so”… you can’t beat that…  

I was playing at the Jura Festival a few weeks ago and on the Sunday morning someone mentioned that night’s gig involved “Jonnie-something-or-other”. I managed to sneak in to see his set and it was even better than I’d imagined, in a village hall next to the distillery, tiny crowd, cabaret seating, candles, one man and an omni-chord – as far as pleasant surprises go it was way up there. If you’ve got any sense at all, go and see him live.

 

Dead Man’s Waltz

A folk-noir band from Skye. I’ve seen a few great live shows from these guys but the most memorable was when I supported their album launch during a stormy October night in an old stone barn on Skye, a perfect setting for their bleak and majestic soundtrack… (some poetic license and/or altered perception might have influenced that memory a bit but it’s definitely fairly accurate.) 

 

Check out the video for “Swings and Roundabouts”
and Emmeline…

and find their album here

Ben Sollee

I’m amazed he isn’t far more well-known than he is. He’s an American cello-playing singer-songwriter from Kentucky, which is different, and his songwriting is charmingly eclectic & just fantastic. He’s just released his fourth album but I first heard him when a friend played me the song “Panning For Gold” a year or so ago from his 2008 album “Learning to Bend”. The whole idea of the song is beautiful (imagining god as an old man with dementia) and musically it’s heart breakingly intimate.

 

 

Of them all of those above I find Mr Sollee a standout, beautiful song.

And don’t forget to check out the Matchsticker Maker EP right here” The songs were bubbling around in my subconscious for a wee while so, while a storm whipped up outside, I sat by the stove in my wee cottage and recorded them with one mic and a battered old guitar I was given about 10 years ago.” In particular I find Evergreen to be a timeless, beautiful piece of music.

 

 

Music for Getting Better at Being Rubbish

 

Yesterday I had a pretty harrowing experience: my second round of flying trapeze. For a good few months I took trapeze classes and I kind of loved them, although I wasn’t exactly the most gifted – there is something cathartic about trying really, really hard at something you are rubbish at, little victories are more exciting. I did flying for the first time in April and was actually pretty adequate, feels totally amazing when you’re swooping through the air. Yesterday however was a different story. As soon as I stepped off the platform I just kept falling. Literally, like seven or eight times versus two good swings. And to top it off my hands are shot to shit (I have seven plasters scattered across my palms) I ache all over and I’m covered in bruises.

Looks like fun…

HOWEVER I like to think that I’m getting better at being rubbish, queue strategic cheer up through this musical playlist…

Errors, Relics

A mighty fine track from their new mini album, New Relics (as an aside I also think Have Some Faith In Magic is the best title for an album EVER)

Alabama Shakes, Hold On 

The title is amusingly apt

Biffy Clyro, Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies

Listen to it loud, then sweep their back catalogue.

Zola Jesus, Skin

A track filled with drama, her voice is incredible. This track is from her 2011 release Conatus.

Mark Lanegan Ode to Sad Disco

Groove to it!

Loch Lomond, Kicking With Your Feet

A song about fighting and fighting back, it’s from the White Dresses EP, released on Chemikal Underground

We Were Promised Jetpacks, It’s Thunder and It’s Lighting

Again loud is best!

Procrastination officially done for the day, add suggestions if you please…

State Broadcasters Play…The Bhundu Boys

State Broadcasters are a six-piece band from Glasgow who I’ve only come to know in the last year or so…

https://i1.wp.com/a7.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/319435_341047375976874_1351713165_n.jpg

…although they actually first formed first back in 2004. Released on the fairly wonderful Scottish label Olive Grove Records the band’s newly released album Ghosts We Must Carry is the type of music you’ll want to sink right in to, dusky voices, melodic strings and quite simply endearing songs.

Following a Play a Song For Me plea Pete from the band was kind enough to share a musical memory with us…

The Artist: The Bhundu Boys

The Album: Shabini

When I was young our dad used to play us The Bhundu Boys in the car. They’re a band from Zimbabwe who play this beautiful jangly pop music that is about as catchy as anything you’ll ever hear. Their guitar lines manage to be both intricate and simple at the same time, and their vocal harmonies are gorgeous. John Peel was a huge fan – there’s a lovely story Andy Kershaw has about them going to see a Bhundu Boys gig and Peel crying through the whole show because he thought it was so wonderful. I think hearing their music has had a massive influence on the way I make and enjoy music: I love a major key, and sunny jangly pop songs. I’m pretty sure my love of The Smiths and The Beach Boys can be traced back to hearing the Bhundus in the car when I was 4. 

The story of the band is extremely sad. Their early records are full of exuberance and celebrate a bright and optimistic future for Zimbabwe, – when Mugabe took control of the country after the civil war he was seen as a good leader, someone who would take the country forward. But as time passed parallels can be drawn between Zimbabwe and the band themselves. Most of the original Bhundu Boys lineup are now dead – the lead singer committed suicide, and 3 others died of AIDS related illness.  The only founder member still performing is the guitarist Rise Kagona, who now lives near Edinburgh. He hasn’t been able to return to Zimbabwe for years and doesn’t get nearly as much recognition as he deserves for his music – he’s one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen and if there were any justice would be playing huge sold out rooms.  I’d urge you to go and see him play – it’s a totally joyous way to spend an evening.

The thing I personally love most about Pete’s suggestion is that I doubt I’d have thought of picking up this record and it’s quite far away from what I’ve fallen in the pattern of listening to, but I love how vibrant and sunshiney the songs feel and hear echoes of their influence in work by many other artists. As a random aside also read that they labelled their style ‘jit’, love the word and being a massive fan of watching performances on vintage telly, thought you might enjoy this treasure

Here’s a wee bit of Rise Kagona for good measure, playing with Scottish musician Doug Veitch.  I also found a great Guardian interview

As for State Broadcasters you can stream their second full length album below, purchase from their bandcamp and check them out all over the wonder woven internet. Ghosts We Must Carry highlights include comfort laden single ‘Trespassers’, the delicately melodic ‘The Only One’ and opener ‘The Only Way Home’.

If you listen to one thing this week…Make it Mogwai

I’m usually about more under the radar bands in this wee slot, but having heard that Glaswegian electro rock legends Mogwai are releasing a remix album of tracks from sublime album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will  I figured a feature could be fully justified.

Check out the first track from the A Wrenched Virile love collection below…

Released on 19th November on Rock Action records, the full tracklist…

George Square Thatcher Death Party – (Justin K Broadrick Reshape)
Rano Pano – Klad Hest (Mogwai is My Dick RMX)
White Noise (EVP Mix by Cylob)
How To Be A Werewolf – (Xander Harris remix)
Letters To The Metro – (Zombi remix)
Mexican Grand Prix – (reworked by RM Hubbert)
Rano Pano (Tim Hecker remix)
San Pedro – (The Soft Moon remix)
Too Raging To Cheers – (Umberto remix)
La Mort Blanche – (Robert Hampson remix)

…the one I’m really excited about is Tim Hecker’s take on the mind blowing Rano Pano…

here’s San Pedro too in its current form…

and an older track I Know You are But What Am I, which has little to do with the new release but if you are new to Mogwai I’m sure you’ll love it…

Eugene Twist Plays…Mose Allison

A tragedy befell me last week. I woke up, got up and my laptop would not turn on. If you’ve ever been there you might follow my exact train of thought: that is EVERYTHING I own!! And no I don’t have it backed up, idiotic as that might be. So while I have been dreaming of finally buying a Macbook and trying to retrieve all my data it’s been a bit hard to post this up – a sublime discovery from Glasgow solo talent Eugene Twist.

With his stunning eight track album The Boy Who Had Everything notching up a fair amount of acclaim Mr Twist is an artist I was excited to feature, here’s his eloquent take on a little listened to Mose Allison track, minimalist, carefully crafted jazz…

EUGENE TWIST PLAYS…MOSE ALLISON

Thumbs up for Mose pals

Someone once said Mose Allison was cool before Dylan was cool. I first heard him on the documentary ‘Ever Since I Stole The Blues’, which features everyone from Frank Black of the Pixies to Van Morrison confirming his significant and varied influence. He is revered in certain circles, yet it amazes me how many musicians and musos I speak to haven’t heard of him. He’s always operated within jazz and blues – I’m no aficionado but to my ear he’s one of the greatest pianists to straddle these idioms in terms of ideas and technicality. However, this is just a platform for what comes next: a voice, narrative and songwriting approach that feel exclusively his own…

 
The Style: A lazy, prolonged, Mississippi drawl, steeped in the kind of profound blues that makes you want to kick a tin can around a deserted street with your hands in your pockets, somehow feeling OK about the weight of the world being on your shoulders.
 
The Attitude: Mose is very much an existentialist who brings a deadpan (almost Scottish) sense of humour to mortality, poverty and loneliness. His lyrics more than anything take the sentiment of the blues to another level, where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Song titles such as ‘What Do You Do After You Ruin Your Life’ – a case in point.
 

The Legacy: Mose’s journey bridges legendary and cult figure. He’s an extremely humble dude. I saw him play the Fruitmarket in Glasgow a while ago, he came on in jeans and bright white trainers, sat his fleece on top of the piano lid and started playing. I wasn’t surprised to hear that a friend saw him play in Pizza Express a few years ago and there’s videos on youtube of him playing to just a handful of people, amazing considering his influence on everyone from Jools Holland to Bono. Someone’s uploaded to youtube the song of his I’d like to share – it’s had less plays than my own youtube tracks…

 

So I’d like to share ‘Hello There Universe’. Like all great music in its intangible power, this puts me in a place transcendent of time and lets me float through the cosmos whenever I hear it. Without appearing retroist, something about the vocal and delivery still feels aesthetically fresh too. Enjoy.

I did a little rooting around myself and discovered that Mose Allison wrote loads of material which has been covered by other bands, just one being The Clash who featured this jazz led track – Look Here – on their album Sandinista!

Once you are done going through Mose Allison’s back catalogue get Eugene’s album on rotation! With a gravely voice his songs bleed into retro styles, echoing of the likes of The Beatles, Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan. A record which is diverse in delivery it swerves from the jive friendly ‘If There’s Love Where I’m Going’, heart fuelled ‘It’s Down to You’ and melodrama ‘The Boy Who Had Everything’: picture painting lyrics, psychedelic guitar riffs and ska fuelled melodies all to follow.

Watch the brilliantly vintage vibed video for ‘Bohemian Hotline’ here…