This weekend I took a road trip to the Isle of Arran for my friend’s birthday. We listened to this Cocteau Twins song in the car, driving over glorious, undulating Scottish country roads (see Instagram feed!). I love it. Sure I’m late to the party (my friend Paula got in to them reading Iain Banks’ the Crow Road) but sometimes music finds you at the right time.
The Weather Station are a band I became aware of, well about five minutes ago. I really like them. It might be fuelled by the fact that I am obssessed with Nashville. Like really. It’s that kind of country ballad, guitars on the veranda, type of loveliness.
Today the sun has disappeared and mist is shrouding the sky. I’m continuing to unpack my latest record purchases including this one, a record made in 1963 in aid of the world’s refugees. It feels like it came out even earlier – more outwardly cheerful than you might expect and full of classics. I love records that tell stories. Sink into one of the song; this Ella Fitzgerald number.
There’s a feeling I get when something I’ve never heard is sent to me and it’s really good, it never fails to make me smile. When I ask that musician to write something for me and they send something equally amazing – then it’s almost like magic.
In this case it’s Montreal husband and wife duo Thus Owls (Erika and Simon Angell) whose bewitching song ‘How in My Bones’ recently landed in my inbox. Their sound is eccentric but familiar – a lovely melody, idiosyncratic, on key, lightweight and at times ethereal vocal, hypnotic guitar work and the notes of a Wurlitzer organ. Quite simply – sweet. Their new album Turning Rocks comes out via Secret City Records this April.
Read on and discover Simon s top pick…
Thus Owls Play Takeshi
Cycling 1100 miles in 12 days? Aye right. Why would anyone of non- Olympian pedigree take that on?
I’m talking about this May’s Great Big Cycle, where ten amateur cyclists, including Grant Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit fame, covering of the UK and Ireland. They’ll visit five capitals over 12 days and cycle about 100 miles a day. The reason? A really important cause.
Grant’s brother and lead cyclist Neil’s three year old daughter, Morven, suffers from a rare genetic condition called cystinosis that can cause growth impairment and kidney problems. At the moment there is no cure. The cycle will aim to raise a mighty £100,000 for Cystinosis Foundation UK, a charity who research the disease and how it might be treated in future. Ahead of the cycle Grant shared the power tracks on his playlist. Read about the reasons below while listening to the Spotify playlist…
And really it’s an incredible feat for a really important reason. Please spread the word by sharing this link where you can learn more and donate: http://www.greatbigcycle.com or http://www.justgiving.com/greatbigcycle
You can also suggest a song to add to the playlist and spur them on by leaving a comment here or on Facebook!
Grant’s Great Big PlaylistLorde – Team When you’re on the bike for a few hours it’s important to have a collection of melodies that don’t really get tired and this something that Lorde does pretty well on Pure Heroine. It’s also great if they’re fairly simple otherwise you’ll have one line going round the whole time because you can’t remember anything else! This track is probably my favourite because of the harmonies and the beat but I’m a fan of them all so they’ll all be going round my head a fair amount. Katy Perry – Roar and Firework Pure unadulterated pop that gives me great motivation. The classic breakdown and finale is something that will never get old and the lift created by it is incomparable. Roar is Eye Of The Tiger for the tween generation but has just as much of an affect on me!! Placebo – Pure Morning Everything about this track is just so menacing and whenever I want to feel like a hardman(which is not often I should add) I’ll stick this on and get my swagger going!! I was a huge fan of Placebo growing up and again the simplicity and repetitive nature of this track makes it perfect for the ride. It’s so rhythmic too which is obviously important for turning the pedals hour after hour, day after day. Frightened Rabbit – Late March Death March Only because it is Morven’s favourite song and will act as a reminder for the whole reason for doing this when times get dark on the bike Roger and The Gypsies – Pass The Hatchet This is all about the drum beat in this song. Once again the rhythmic nature of it is great and I just love how happy the vocals sound. It creates a great image of that time of dance halls and making music for people to get up and move to which is something you see less and less these days especially with live bands. London Bridge Is Falling Down No idea why but it regularly pops into my head when I’m on my bike. The Felice Brothers – Run Chicken Run I love the ramshackle sound The Felice Brothers are so good at creating. This song is just so frantic and it moves in such a great way that just makes it impossible to stay still when it’s on. It has a great feeling of community too. Like the whole band are just in the one room playing along and shouting out harmonies that come in to their head and that’s something that will be important on the ride too. There are 10 of us taking part for the duration and we’ll have to work together a whole lot and really help each other through it and I expect we’ll become a very tight knit group. Wintersleep – Archeologists I just bloody love these guys. When we toured with them it was like we’d known them forever and I remember those tours with such fondness that to not have them in here would just be a travesty. They are all absolute dicks though!
It’s Friday, waaaaaaay too early and I really needed a cheerful tune. Thank you The Hot 8 Brass Band.
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.
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!
I’ll warn you straight up this is a majorly self indulgent blog post. I really want a record player. GASP. I don’t have one already? No, I’ve been strongly aligned to the humble CD for the past decade, I like that they are more stackable (there I said it) and I don’t have to stand up to flip sides. I know the sounds better on vinyl yada yada, the real reason I’m changing now is there are some many less collectable releases on CD, and no download codes when you purchase. Itunes is no longer my friend, following a change in it’s privacy terms it won’t recognise new items. Typing it in song by song would make my soul cry. So music lovers that’s it, now I really want a record player and ideally your help in choosing one. Old or new? What to look for? Does it matter? In return here are the first three things I’d like to buy on vinyl…
Rodriguez ‘Cold Fact’
I cried watching documentary Searching for Sugarman on the plane to Thailand. I love that someone could be so humble in the face of so much new found fame. This song in particular makes me really happy.
Devendra Banhart ‘Mala’
I like this latest release from Devendra Banhart a lot. That’s all.
Willis Earl Beal ‘Wavering Lines’
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