Songs for Your Soul

As we hurtle towards the end of the year I’ve been getting returning to listen to things I really loved over the last twelve months. It’s not quite a best of list as I find it hard to narrow things down that far, rather just a rundown of great songs…Merry Christmas Eve!

 Scottish & Sublime

Meursault – Dull Spark/Flittin’

These tracks are both from Neil Pennycook’s alternative folk band Meursault’s stunning 2012 album Something For the Weakened. Amongst a number of accolades it’s received it just topped the Scottish BAMS, an award set up by the great Peenko blog and voted for by Scottish bloggers including me, you can read the full list of winners here.

 

Lament For a Teenage Millionaire

 

Adam StaffordVanishing Tanks/Russian Glass 

Both of the these tracks from Falkirk musician Adam Stafford’s spilt single, released on independent label Gerry Loves Records are so well crafted I’ve listened to them many times.

 

Human Don’t Be Angry –  1985 

I bought Malcolm Middleton’s first Human Don’t Be Angry album on CD in Inverness, because it was playing in the shop and even though I had it on download it sounded too good not to own. Stunning instrumental guitar…

 

Three Blind Wolves – Sound of The Storm 

Having first seen Glasgow four piece Three Blind Wolves live in May, I then listened to their joyous, country rooted album ‘Sound of the Storm’ on repeat for many weeks after.

Dream A Little Dream Pop For Me

Tennis – It All Feels The Same 

Husband and wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley released ‘Young and Old’ in February, blissful sugar pop to make you happy.

Beach House – Myth

The first track which was released from the band’s album Bloom, it’s a beauty.

New American Idols

Sharon Van Etten – Leonard

An album which is amongst the best releases of the year (and has indeed appeared near the top of many tastemaker album lists) US singer-songwriter Van Etten’s Tramp is sublime. This is the video for ‘Leonard’…get to listening!

Loch LomondWhite Dresses

The most poignant and unusual kind of chamber folk from the Oregon ensemble Loch Lomond, this is the title track from a European EP produced exclusively for Chemikal Underground. It’s a tearjerker.

 

Father John MistyHollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

For ex Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tilman his 2012 album ‘Fear Fun’ is likely to define the point where people had begun to listen to his solo work. This is the first track I heard from it…

Damien Jurado – Maraqopa

Watch this video and I’d defy you not fall in love with Damien Jurado’s latest record.

 Magical Music

The Dirty Three – Towards The Low Sun

Australian prog-instrumental rock trio The Dirty Three just seem to get better and more distinctive, their quivering instruments conjuring a rugged, turbulent landscape.

 

The Tallest Man  on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now

If you like properly old fashioned song writing, this release from Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson is just plain good.

 

Francois Atlas & The Mountains – Gold Mountain (Slow Club Cover)

Two excellent bands, one reworked song.

Discovered Discoveries

For non regular readers Play a Song For Me is mostly about asking musicians and people involved in music for their suggestions on something which is great, new or rare. Of all the great submissions I’ve had this year there were a couple which really stuck out for me, I hope if you haven’t heard them already please click on the link!

John Knox Sex Club: Submitted by The Last Battle

Six track ‘album’ Raise Ravens came out from the Glasgow folk-rockers in September, check it out….

Tommy Johnson: Submitted by Adam Stafford 

Blues legend Tommy Johnson, whose songs are timeless.

Miss Irenie Rose: Submitted by Rachel Sermanni 

A young, supremely talented Scottish singer

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If You Listen To Something This Week…Make it Festive

blog 2

If there is one thing it easy to love, it’s the festive season. I’ve been listening to Christmas songs since November, the kind that fill you with a want for snow, to be curled up by a roaring fire eating a mince pie, jingling some bells or wearing a Christmas jumper. Scottish artists seem to move towards the more gloomy and contemptuous at this time of year, it’s oddly more acceptable to be honest about how you hate someone/thing if it has a festive tinkle. Cue a round of up new discoveries, old classics and a playlist for your listening pleasure…

Olive Grove Records – Christmas Sampler

The Scottish label’s charity EP, which features the hymnal ‘As a Child I Awoke’ from Jo Mango, a loveable cover of the Muppets ‘One More Sleep Til Christmas’ courtesy of Randolph’s Leap and the first original festive songs from the The Son(s) – you’ll see what I mean about contemptuous – ‘Christmas Song’ and State Broadcasters‘ ‘Wounded Waxing.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Dawn McCarthy – Christmas Eve Will Kill You

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s (aka Will Oldham’s) first Christmas song with long time collaborator Dawn McCarthy, despite it’s troubling title it’s filled with nostalgia and sentiment. It’s also the first Everly Brothers cover from the duo, who are releasing a whole set entitled What the Brothers Sang next year.

Which also reminds me…this song of theirs ‘Dreams’ might not technically be a Christmas number but it’s a classic.

William Bell – Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday 

A timeless and highly underplayed track from soul legend William Bell, this is one of the best Christmas songs you’ll ever listen to.

The Killers – Feel it in My Bones 

The latest of their annual Christmas singles it sounds similar to what you may have heard before…I like it anyway. Featuring Las Vegas based singer Ryan Pardey as Bad Santa the video is an absolute eighties throwback, cue dry ice and a weird Santa cackle…

MogwaiChristmas Song

This came out a long while ago, but I only just heard it. Like most of Mogwai’s material it’s an extraordinarily beautiful instrumental which you can sink right in to.

Check out NPR Music’s Jingle Jams for much more, below you’ll find a playlist featuring most of the above plus some old and out and out favourites. Embed it, share it, play it at a party – Merry Christmas!

Play Me…Pete RG

Pete+RG+IMG_8845++Version+2

‘Still Here’ is a new track from American singer-songwriter Pete RG, previously the frontman of 90s indie band Last December. A mellow and thoughtful track fronted by his distinctive voice Pete pegs his inspiration for the track as ‘my recognition that storms must be weathered and resentment relinquished for any relationship to last and grow.  And, to do so is both strengthening and liberating.’ Listen below…

Arran Arctic Plays…Buffy Sainte-Marie

With the catchy, winter appropriate alias of Arran Arctic ‘D.I.Y. pop, folk and electronica’ musician Arran Southall is a man who hails from Northern Ireland and now lives in Edinburgh. He contacted me with his new album, titled Like Lovers, a lovely collection of delicate, experimental tracks often with an orchestral depth, which will capture your attention.

You can stream it in full the bottom of this post, first he’ll tell you about a classic influence and a little piece of musical history…

The Artist: Buffy Sainte-Marie

The Album: Illuminations 

Not On Vinyl

I first came across Buffy Sainte-Marie and her album Illuminations on Stuart Maconie’s great BBC 6 Music Show The Freak Show (the best weird and wonderful music you’ll find on a weekly basis) and I was blown away by her cover of Leonard Cohen’s God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot. I got my spade out and dug a little deeper into her history and back catalogue. And she’s just amazing! Her career spans 5 decades, she’s won an Oscar and she even appeared on Sesame Street for a while!

Illuminations is a departure from her usual folk, soul and rock output and actually alienated a number of her fans when it came out in 1969. The record sees Sainte-Marie electronically manipulating both her guitar and vocals to create a sparsely populated eerie landscape. 

But there are also a number of rocky foot stampers such as ‘He’s a Keeper of the Fire‘, which have caused some to retrospectively christen the album the first “goth” record!

I just love this album and have championed it before on the excellent blog Scots Whay Hae!. It’s appeal is not only because of the fantastic tunes but also because of the balls it must have taken to make and put out there. Everyone needs a bit of Buffy Sainte-Marie in their lives.

About-Image

Arran’s album Like Lovers can be streamed and purchased on his bandcamp, his personable and playful website – from which I pinched the above illustration – is also well worth checking out. Choral title track ‘Like Lovers’ is a highlight, fusing a boy/girl vocal with an almost cinematic soundscape, there’s lots of tinkling goodness in the fleeting ‘Wound’ and climatic  lullaby ‘Slumber’.

A low key, monochromatic video for bewitching earworm ‘Covers’….

 

 

Records to Remind You…

willis-earl-beal-flyer

It’s December! And I hands down love this month, it’s even now virtually snowing as I’m typing on wordpress. A post on Christmas songs is coming soon,  if you’re keen to get in the mood my top songs on 2011 on tumblr,  including Withered Hand, Olympic Swimmers and Slow Club.

In the meantime screeds of  top album lists have been flying around so I’ve been taking stock of some exceptional releases which I almost missed this year. Found through the labels and blogs I follow, or by happy coincidence, here are some things to treasure.

Records to Remind you…

About the Importance of Discovery

Willis Earl BealAcousmatic Sorcery

Hailing from Chicago Willis Earl Beal materialised in the music world after he flyered the city with illustrations of himself, listing his likeable character traits and song singing ability, in the hope of finding friends and/or a girlfriend. FOUND magazine uncovered his enigmatic story and a 17 track album lying completed. Now titled Acousmatic Sorcery it was released on Hot Charity earlier this year. A powerful display of talent, Beal’s unusually pitched voice combines with minimal and delicate backing to create a straightforwardly beautiful collection: simple, heartfelt, significant songs.

A screen test for ‘Wavering Lines’

‘Monotony’

‘Evening’s Kiss’

Of Simple Things

Bonnie Prince Billy – Now Here’s My Plan EP 

Will Oldham’s Bonnie Prince Billy material has long since fused the best of musical things: an Americana premise, themes of love and lovers, heartache and betrayal and a deep, gruff vocal.

Released back in August ‘Now Here’s My Plan’ is a collection of six artfully rearranged tracks, which see Oldham and his cohorts demonstrate a rare ability to cocoon the listener in honest, fervent music.  Shifting from the freewheeling country of ‘I Don’t Belong to Anyone’ to the heartfelt notes of ‘Beast For Thee’ and yearning ‘After I Make Love to You’ it’s charged, weighty music which does something rare: transports you somewhere completely different. For me that place is a dimly lit Texan bar, where there’s the type of band you want to slow dance to, the odd brawl and plenty of whisky drinking.

Going through his old songbook I found his first single, released under Palace Music, a crackly folkish tune Ohio River Boat Song…

About Happiness

School of Seven BellsPut Your Sad Down EP

This newly released five track EP from the New York dream pop band School of Seven Bells almost slipped right past me. It does however do exactly what you’d expect from the title, all swooshing, hazy melodies, ethereal vocal, synths and plucked beats.

Listen and be happy!

If You Listen to One Thing This Week…Make it Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

The new song from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds was realised yesterday, titled ‘We Know Who U R’ it comes with a video in the format of a wavering, scrawled out page of lyrics.  It’s a stunning first glimpse of the new album, Push The Sky Away, which will be released in February the band are also undertaking a US/Canada and Australia tour next year.

Album Trailer

Some of the back catalogue for good measure…

‘The Weeping Song’

An extremely good live version of the track, from 1990 album The Good Son

‘There She Goes My Beautiful World’

One of my personal favourites, from 2004 release Abattoir Blues

Burnin Hell’ – Lawless Soundtrack 

If ever an artist was made for a movie…

Papa Won’t Leave You Henry

The recently remastered version of a track from 1994 album Henry’s Dream