Category Archives: folk

Music to work to

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I like working when there’s music. Spending loads of time writing, studying and making things for work is great but if there’s one thing that makes me restless it’s silence.  The right soundtrack is a delicate thing: lyrics are distracting, for real concentration I have to veto any kind of radio and tracks that are too upbeat set the rhythm all wrong (sorry Motown, I’ll see you later). Here’s where I got to: the finest instrumental alt-rock and acoustic albums to help lift productivity – along with mood and general life happiness.

Yo La Tengo 

American’s Yo La Tengo are an insanely good band. Last year they released some shimmering pop in Fade, my top album for sitting studiously is 2008’s They Shoot, We Score.

Mogwai 

When it comes to Mogwai the only thing to say is their an incredible, continually evolving band. My favourite album to work to is A Wrenched Virile Love, all too often I have ‘Rano Pano’ on repeat. 

Explosions in the Sky 

Stylistic bedfellows of another act I revere, Godspeed You Black Emperor! Explosions in the Sky’s music a swirling pool of instrumental joy. Back-catalogue wise Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is a solid shout.

Remember Remember 

When Remember Remember released their 2011 album The Quickening I slid right into it. Think Mogwai with a xylophone and jingle bells after they’ve eaten too much sugar.

William Tyler 

Tyler’s music is a hypnotic haven: what one man can achieve with an acoustic guitar the stuff that spurs dreams.

-What’s that I hear you cry?

-A Spotify playlist would be insanely handy?

-Good job I made one

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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.

Cool Things I Found

A few cool things I wanted to share with you this week

The Joy Of A House Concert

I went to an amazing house concert in Edinburgh last week and it occurred to me how valuable it is to have that type of small, informal space for musicians to play in. It felt just like a really friendly community of people who love music and get to witness nicely intimate performances.  I wish the council system here was more supportive, my understanding is they’re trying to shut down shows on the grounds that’s it’s ‘a venue’. The organisers don’t make any money, sell any drinks (you take your own) or receive complaints from the neighbours and they clearly invest a huge amount of their own time in creating events and giving musicians exposure. We’re supposed to be the ‘cultural capital’ of the world, it’s so sad seeing grassroots arts events disappear all the time. From a music fan’s perspective I think house concerts often happen organically for musicians and without knowing where to go it becomes an experience we can be locked out off.

Read more on the Soundhouse website, here’s a clip from one of their upcoming acts.

Almost at the same time I was mailed with the news Damien Jurado is doing a series of house concerts in America. I suppose these are different shows in the sense of being outwardly publicised and ticketed but I’m pleased it’s becoming a trend artists of his calibre are supporting.

Fleetwood Mac’s New Song

Aaaaw ain’t it catchy? Skip the chat and Sad Angel is the first track to be shared from Fleetwood Mac’s upcoming EP. They’re also playing Glasgow in October – points for not skipping Scotland off the map.

A band called Mice Parade

I discovered Mice Parade on my weekly reading of the excellent Said the Gramophone blog. So far I know only that their album Candela came out on Fatcat in March and I like their music, in particular the live tracks below. Take the journey with me…

From My Shelf: Iron & Wine

I’m a fan of American Singer-Songwriter Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine and have kept an ear into his albums over the last decade. Around the Well is a collection of ‘B Sides and Rarities’ released on Sub Pop, marketed the right way for me as I’m fundamentally against ‘Best Of’ collections (if you like a band you should listen to all their material).  I listened to this again in the supermarket yesterday, a disorientated activity which left me with a random shop!

Iron and Wine Cover

Favourite songs

The first CD offers softer, more pensive tracks including previous single ‘Call Your Boys’, the beautiful, echoing ‘Morning’ and ‘Friends Are Jewels’. On the second I love the guitar on ‘No Moon’ and piano keys on ‘Carried Home’.

Purchased

2010, a time when I used to spend all my lunch hours in Fopp. The 2CD collection comes in a pretty fold out box.

Iron and Wine - Track

More like this

A show for La Blogotheque

A KEXP interview from 2009. The guy has an insanely good beard.

NPR Tiny Desk Concert – because I love these

Cool Things I Found

oldman45

I still love this song as much as I did ten years ago.

Prog-rock from Singapore: Anechois

When I’m in study mode I listen to only instrumental music, I exhausted Mogwai and Godspeed pretty quickly so I tweeted asking for suggestions. A kind sir passed on Anechois whose EP, A Shadow of a Sound, has been nice to listen to, there’s a little bit of funk in it to. Check it out for yourself…

The MOMA blog

I have an insane love for both New York and art galleries, although I don’t go to either often enough. Once I took a week off work to go to Edinburgh Art College and study pastels on a large scale. My teacher tended to sigh at me and ask me why I always made things so difficult for myself, sitting at a really weird angle, trying to paint through glass or holding my pastels funny. I liked massive abstract things, so he told me to look up Richard Dieberkorn, an American artist influenced by German Expressionism. I still have the piece of sugar paper he wrote the suggestion down on in 2B pencil.

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Richard Diebenkorn Sketch

This week I ended up on the MOMA blog, which has a whole exhibition on German Expressionism. Random but I’ve very much enjoyed flicking through the works and thought you might like it too.

One for The Week…Low

This week I rediscovered some slightly cumbersome Sennheiser headphones I bought about ten years ago and was too self conscious to wear on the street plugged in to my ‘portable CD player’. The quality, perhaps therefore due to restricted use, is still great and the first thing I listened to on them was the new Low album, The Invisible Way.

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You need to know

It’s the tenth album in twenty years from the Sub Pop signed Low, who hail from a place called Duluth Minnesota. An emotional, often poignant journey based on writing and recording strong, beautiful songs I’d possibly say it trumps all of the others. We’ll see how it stands the test of time.

Top Tracks

‘So Blue’ is absolutely beautiful – listen!

The previously released ‘Just Make it Stop’ and closer ‘On Our Knees’ are more of my favourites.

Listen when

You have time, as soon as you have time in fact.

Arbitrary Add

For a sporadic history read an interview from 1996 here, a site which has lots more random press on the band.

It was also the year that Low’s SXSW performance was overpowered by a neighbouring hardcore band, Ramones fans rioted in Argentina after queueing overnight for free tickets falsely promised by Coke a Cola and  David Bowie’s ‘Telling Lies’ was the first song to be released as a digital single.

Rating

As I only feature music I generally like I’ve decided rating releases is pointless. It has a mighty Play a Song For Me seal of approval!

One for the Week…Rick Redbeard

No Selfish Heart
No Selfish Heart

I waaaaay late in posting this, but as the album itself took eight years to complete I figure you can forgive my current blogging pace (akin to that of a tortoise’s steps). I first heard Rick Redbeard‘s album No Selfish Heart in December, it already reminds me of Scottish winters and the kind of lamentable snowfall that covered Edinburgh in waves.

Released with the monochrome artwork above last month I believe it’s had much acclaim already and it’s also on one of my favourite Scottish labels, Chemikal Underground.

You Need To Know

It’s the first solo LP from Phantom Band frontman Rick Anthony, a rich collection of mostly love songs, full of emotion, wise words and discovery. Sounding like a refresh of old celtic ballads it’s often thankfully simple his deep, distinctive vocal and moving lyrics are commendable.

Top Tracks

  • Kelvingrove –  originally a folk song which Rick learnt along the way, his version is a love song like nothing I’ve ever heard, plush violin meets distinctive Scottish songcraft
  • Now We’re Dancing – originally released on a spilt single with Adam Stafford it’s a clickety, wry beauty
  • Wildlove – Like a lullaby, it will raise a smile
  • No Selfish Heart – This could be my most favoured track on the album, it feels fresh and poignant plus I love the tune.

Listen when…

You’re in need of something pretty, at the coast on a chilly day or sitting my the fire in a log cabin (as we all do of an evening).

Rating

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If You Listen To Something This Week…Make it Festive

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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!

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’….