Monday, 10 December 2007

Stepping Into Christmas #3

Allison Crowe is a singer whom I first stumbled across around late 2004, early 2005. It was a time when I was falling in love more and more with Keane and Coldplay, and other piano-based indie. Allison was, and remains, a perfect accent to their music - bold, piano-based music supported by a frankly beautiful voice. Over the past three years she's proven herself again and again, and fantastically offers a huge amount of free downloads from her website. What's more, Allison would probably fall into that category of artists who have changed the way I think about music. Billy Joel started my love for music, Stereophonics turned it to the modern day, and are responsible for most of the bands I listen to today, and Allison Crowe developed my love for the female voice. Look down the previous posts here and you'll see just how much I write about female singers who have fantastic voices - Natasha Bedingfield, Emmy the Great, Goldfrapp, Joanna Newsom, Mandy Moore, St. Vincent and Sia of Zero 7. More recently I've written about Adele, who is essentially a weaker Allison Crowe with stronger record company execs behind her.

And this is what is fantastic about Allison Crowe. She isn't in the music for the money, she's in it for the music. Her website quotes her at the top of each page with 'Why music? Why breathing?' This here is a woman on a mission. With that in mind, listen to her version of 'O Holy Night' from Christmas album 'Tidings'. It isn't her best track by far (try her definitive version of Cohen's 'Hallelujah'), but still remains stunning vocally.

mp3: 'O Holy Night' by Allison Crowe

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Top Twenty Cover Versions: 2007

It's New Year's Eve, not the 9th, and with my only real offer involving whiling away the night in someone's shed, I am left here watching Jools Holland with my dad and a couple of cats, none of whom really care about the changing of the calendars tonight. Of course, I'm not too fussed either, except for a particular enjoyment in making end of year lists, of which the pick of the crop come tonight. So, to kick things off, my top twenty covers of 2007. I hope they do all originate in their covered forms from this year, but if they don't, well, screw it.

20. Getting Better - Kaiser Chiefs (The Beatles)
19. Valerie - Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse (The Zutons)
18. God Put A Smile Upon Your Face - Mark Ronson (Coldplay)
17. The Power Of Love - The Pigeon Detectives (Huey Lewis and the News)
16. Oh My God - Mark Ronson feat. Lily Allen (Kaiser Chiefs)
15. Love Is The Drug - Kylie Minogue (Roxy Music)
14. Umbrella - Mandy Moore (Rihanna)
13. Waterfall - Stoney (The Stone Roses)
12. Under Pressure - Keane (David Bowie and Queen)
11. How Deep Is Your Love? - The Bird and the Bee (Bee Gees)
10. Band On The Run - Foo Fighters (Wings)
9. You Sexy Thing - Stereophonics (Hot Chocolate)
8. Number 1 - Jont (Goldfrapp)
7. Getting Better - Fionn Regan (The Beatles)
6. The Flesh Failures (Let The Sunshine In) - Lightspeed Champion (The Cast of 'Hair')

5. Super Trouper - Camera Obscura (Abba)
Britain's new found love for cover-themed compilation albums dominate the top five for this year, and this superb Abba cover by Scottish band Camera Obscura is the first of these. The song is so twee you could squeeze it like a sponge and fill a jar with kittens in flatcaps. Rather lovely news for such a lovely band, it was this single track that led to my purchasing their most recent album on eMusic. It's equally lovely. Lovely.

4. Love Will Tear Us Apart - Nerina Pallot (Joy Division)
Take a heartbreaking song, that many would consider blasphemy to cover and throw caution to the wind. Nerina Pallot is an artist I originally brushed away dismissively as a cheap Regina Spektor for people who didn't like Regina Spektor. No more.

3. Breathe (In The Air) - The Shins (Pink Floyd)
Funnily enough, I don't like Pink Floyd (I know, I know, shut up.), and this song doesn't sound all that much like The Shins, but that somehow doesn't matter. It's deep, and dark, and terrifically breathy, like Darth Vader. Wait. No. Regardless, The Shins don't seem to be making many smart moves right now. First they release an album that is almost impossible to top, and then they boost it further with ridiculously good covers such as this. Frankly, their only option right now is to crash and burn briefly, allowing their fourth LP to be more of a relief that they're still together than a follow-up to Wincing the Night Away. Just my opinion, of course.

2. Ray Of Light - Natasha Bedingfield (Madonna)
My favourite covers are often better versions of songs I previously disliked, or ones originally sung by people I dislike. Ray Of Light falls under both categories. The song was just annoying, and Madonna, in my humble opinion, is the most overrated artist ever to get a number one single. And in that count I include Mr. Blobby. Why is the cover so great? One word: vocals. Natasha Bedingfield sings better than any diva I've yet heard. Perhaps not as bold, but better placed notes, better chosen. Simply delicious.

1. Don't Get Me Wrong - Lily Allen (The Pretenders)
Just listen.

mp3: 'Don't Get Me Wrong' - Lily Allen

Happy New Year!
(more lists to come)

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Thursday, 6 December 2007

Top Ten Films: 2007

And so we reach the point of the year at which I sum up 2007's cultural form in numbered lists. Hoorah! As I work slowly through my top 100 tracks of the year, and my top ten album lists, I'll tide you over with a less musically-themed one. This last year has been a sterling one for cinematic bewilderment on my end of things, and though some where let-downs (Saw IV, Spiderman 3) and others were simply appalling (Pirates Of The Caribbean 3), overall my trips have been a testament to my good judgement, and I've enjoyed most all of them. There are, as always, a few films I'm devastated to have missed in the cinema (Shoot Em' Up, and most saddeningly, Once), and some I am yet to see (The Darjeeling Limited, over the weekend, I'd imagine), I caught the ones most important to me, and occasionally by accident the ones I caught then became most important to me. So, I'll offer my annotated countdown, with a couple of soundtrack-based treats trailing at the bottom...

10. The Simpsons Movie
It was a close call for The Simpsons Movie, and I fear that once I've seen The Darjeeling Limited I will have to drop this out completely. But for now let us bask in it's better-than-expectedness. The jokes were, on average, better than those of late, and the 'cinematic animation', though only barely distinguishable, did give it a more 'this is a movie!' feel. The plot was, well, average in places, but well done in others. That the kids at the daycare I volunteered at were singing 'Spider Pig' before they'd even seen the film is a testament to the juvenile gags. But then I like juvenile gags. A firm 7 out of 10.

9. Blades of Glory
All credit to The Simpsons Movie, which was pushed back to ten by this comedic gem. After twenty years The Simpsons have, in all honesty, lost a lot of their freshness. Though they went some way to regaining it in the feature-length version, Blades of Glory was simply minty-fresh by comparison. I was wary with this film - Will Ferrell is a hit and miss man, and other leading man Jon Heder was the titular character in Napolean Dynamite, one of the most annoying films I've ever (half) endured. What saved it then? Both actors were, well, not annoying, true, but the key came in the stellar supporting cast that included Will Arnett (of Arrested Development fame) and The (US) Office's Jenna Fischer. Whilst not perfect, it gained a lovely 7 out of 10 from me.

8. Ratatouille
Though a low entry by Pixar's standards, that can only be because they have set their standards so ruddy high. It'll be hard for any film to beat the three-in-a-row delights of Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, and though Ratatouille is at least as strong, if not strong than Monsters Inc., after the disappointment of Cars it only represents the first in a new trio of quality films. Next year's Wall-E, fortuantely, looks to be their best yet, though. Still, what made Ratatouille was not just the fantastic voice acting (and it is here again that Will Arnett takes a bow), not simply the story, but the simply fantastic animation - the chase between rat and moped-riding human setting another high for the lot over at Dreamworks. Another sturdy 7 out of 10 for me.

7. August Rush
A late, but great, entry comes in the form of sentimentalist's dream 'August Rush'. Though panned by some (okay, many) critics for it's overly sacchrine feel and heavy resemblance to the story of Oliver Twist, August Rush does everything right for me that Oliver! couldn't. The cliches, as common as a rat in Paris (sorry, Remy), are used so sweetly you just don't care, and the August's mum is hot. The music is fun, kind of like a twelve year-old Roderigo e Gabriela, but with Charlie of the Chocolate Factory. And his mum is hot. That's not vital, but it really helped get August an 8 out of 10.

6. Die Hard 4.0
Is it a shame for me that the third sequel to my favourite film ever, and the fourth in my second favourite series, only reaches 6th place? Not really, because I know it was up against some fantastic competition, and that despite all the stupidity and over-the-topness Die Hard 4.0 remains a truly fantastic film that thoroughly deserves to join the first three films. It helps that the film doesn't take itself too seriously, cos hey, even the first film, that had at it's centre an intelligent action film, even the first film didn't do that. Is it a shame that Bonnie Bedelia, Brucie's wife in one and two, alluded to in three, is now long gone? No, cos they replaced her with a kick ass hot daughter. Which, as August Rush tells us, is a very good thing. Also - though muted, that yippee-ki-ay is the most badass moment of all three films. I almost screamed at the awesomeness. Got an 8 out of 10 from me.

5. Atonement
That Atonement only finds itself here is once again a sign of the pure quality of this year's releases. This film set a new benchmark for not only for British dramas, but for dramatic films fullstop. Beautifully captured visually, perfectly acted by the entire cast (I'm voting for both Knightley and McAvoy if the Academy put me on the awards board this year), Atonement was a rare treat that was superbly soundtracked by Jean-Yves Thibaudet. A classy 9 out of 10.

4. Knocked Up
Talking of classy, here's a film about a grubby stoner getting an unfeasibly attractive blonde pregnant! FANTASTIC! After 40 Year-Old Virgin, a film that on paper sounds unfunny, stupid, and generally offensive, but in practice was one of the great comedies of the last five years, comes Knocked Up, a film that on paper sounds unfunny, stupid and generally offensive, but in practice turns out to be one of the great comedies of the last ten years! It is, indeed, a fantastic film, and a hilarious film, and an honest film, and if Superbad hadn't been released just a month or so later, it would remain to this day my favourite American comedy film. Ever. A firm, and hilarious, 9 out of 10.

3. 28 Weeks Later
The only other sequel to make it into my top ten this year, 28 Weeks Later was a real treat to watch. The first film was one of the great British films, one I often cite as second only to Shaun of the Dead, and whilst once again the sequel is not as good as the year's Pegg and Wright film, it at least lives up to its predecessor. The tension is there, the Britishness is there, and the Amercanisation of the film is twisted fantastically and to the credit of all involved. It also has the most striking single track on it's score of any film, ever. Though admittedly from the first film, John Murphy's 'In A House-In A Heartbeat' is used to it's full potential here, and is a vital part of the film's 9 out of 10 score.

2. Hot Fuzz
The first time I saw Hot Fuzz, back in the cinema, I was underwhelmed. It was still remarkably funny, but it didn't even come near to Shaun of the Dead. Still, when it came out on DVD (and had fallen to a beyond reasonable £6.99) I bought it, and watched it again a couple of times. Let me tell you now, this one is a grower. There is so much to appreciate here that you just don't pick up first time round. Many of my friends now refer to Hot Fuzz as superior to Shaun, abd though I'm still inclined to disagree, I can certainly appreciate where they are coming from. Class jokes, and fantastic over-the-topness make this not only the best homage to action films ever, but also a respectable action film in its own right. It's now my 6th favourite action film, and an explosive 9 out of 10!

1. Superbad
Never, and I mean never, has America given us any film as consistently funny, as consistently quotable and as consistently and genuinely sweet as Superbad. As 'Spider Pig' had me wary of The Simpsons Movie before I even saw it, 'I am McLovin' had me wary of this film. I correctly predicted it as a t-shirt slogan over a month before I saw one. I also love that if I type 'Superbad' into IMDB, the second choice is a porn film called 'Superbad XXX Triple Bill'. Hahaha! Awesome. Once again an Arrested Development alumni helps to make the film, this time in the form of Michael Cera, who is a perfect best friend to Knocked Up's Jonah Hill. The tale of one drink-quest gone bad is a simple one, but one perfectly formed, and flawless in it's humour. A very high 9/10 for me, and the film of the year.

mp3: 'Trapped Like Carrots' by Hans Zimmer (from 'The Simpsons Movie')
mp3: 'Fortunate Son' by Creedence Clearwater Revival (from 'Die Hard 4.0')
mp3: 'Briony' by Jean-Yves Thibaudet (from 'Atonement')
mp3: 'Caught By The Fuzz' by Supergrass (from 'Hot Fuzz')

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Stepping Into Christmas #2

I will not be disclosing my own personal beliefs on the matter above at this moment in time. Needless to say, though, that if Santa is a real and personal present-bringer, he is clearly a lovely bloke and deserves all the milk and mince pies left out for him every Christmas Eve. That said, I've seen some press photos and he looks like he could stand to lose a few pounds, so maybe less with the mince pies and more with the Holland & Barretts discount vouchers, no? Either way, to the music:

Emerson, Lake and Palmer are a band I (and, one must suppose, everyone else) know thanks to my father. They're such a 'dad band', even to my father, who doesn't like Pink Floyd and doesn't even own a Fleetwood Mac album. He was a Blondie man, was my dad. And I respect him for that.

Anyway, after uploading approximately 50% of my parent's cd collection onto my computer this year I was surprised to find ELP's superb Christmas song 'I Believe In Father Christmas' pop up in my first Christmas-based music search of the year. I knew from the title which song it was immediately, but I'd never realised ELP were behind it. You live and you learn. It is, needless to say, a fantastic Christmas track, and one that, for me at least, brings back barrels of youthful Christmas memories.

mp3: 'I Believe In Father Christmas' by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Stepping Into Christmas #1

How have I held off so long? How have I a) not written about Sufjan, the most blogged about artist of anyone, ever, already? and b) not posted a Christmas song in the four days since it became Chistmasember? Mostly university-based essays, I'm afraid to say, but that's all behind us - it's Christmas and Santa Sufjan is the best man for the music-based jobs that are sure to pop up everywhere now. After all, it was Stevens who just under a year ago released his 5 EP boxset of Christmas songs, providing independent-folksters up and down the hemisphere to jump for joy at no less than two hours and forty-two songs-worth of unadultered Sufjany Christmas joy!

Indeed, since my self-imposed Christmas Song Ban receeded on the first of December, no other Christmas song has been played as much as his fantastically titled 'Get Behind Me, Santa!' As a theologian I can't help but wonder how many people completely miss or ignore the obvious Jesus reference and think 'Ooh! White Stripes! How culturally relevant!' Try Matt. 16:23 or Mark 8:33. Biblegateway it, bitches!

Still, with or without Passion-style references, the song is fantastic, fun and ever so slightly schizophrenic (the lyrics reveal at least three characters, of which at least two are voiced by Stevens). It's a fun song, and though it's ultimately a bit down on the whole Christmas experience for the protaganist, it works for me, and keeps me shining inside.

Much the same goes for the second track of choice, Sufjan's cover of Christian standard 'Amazing Grace'. When I attempted last year on Christmas morn to soundtrack the opening of presents with all five EPs (thank goodness for 5-cd stereo systems) my mother bluntly described it as akin to listening to a 'hillbilly Christmas'. That hurt, mum, that hurt. It seems a little unfair to put tracks like this down to hillbilly status just because they use the banjo. Indeed, the banjo makes this version of the song, and it's certainly my favourite recorded version. It'd be my favourite of all time, but there's a guy at church who plays it to the tune of 'House of the Rising Sun'. Whatever the case, I'll be making another sneaky attempt to soundtrack Christmas with these songs again this year.

mp3: 'Get Behind Me, Santa!' by Sufjan Stevens
mp3: 'Amazing Grace' by Sufjan Stevens

Monday, 3 December 2007

Excuse me forgetting, but these things I do...

Once in a while I'll have a good day for music. I had one about a month ago, where every new track I downloaded was fantastic, and each flowed so perfectly from one to another that with only minor tweaking I had a lovely new playlist on my hands, that which became my soundtrack to the winter of '07. One of the tracks that became a slow-burner for me, one that started with a 'Huh' in a quietly pleased manner, but now has become more of a 'Mm-hmmmm...', if you get my drift. If you don't, then don't worry. It isn't too important.

But anyhoo, this song that makes me go 'Mm-hmmmm...' is one by a singer-songwriter known as Jaymay. Her name is clearly confusing for some - I found her cd in HMV the other day under the 'dance' section. She ain't dance, HMV. She just ain't. No, rather, in 'Grey and Blue', the song in question, Jaymay just sings simply and sadly about an unreturned love. It turns out that some of my favourite songs are the most simple of them. Lyrically, I don't know, I guess the song kind of reminds me of Bright Eyes. I could see him covering it, albeit in a completely different style, and lyrically it would sound just like him. Judge for yourself, it'd be unlikely you'll regret it.

mp3: 'Grey or Blue' by Jaymay

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Goldfrapp to the left of me, jokers to the right...

Allison Goldfrapp, that enigmatic sextress of musical bewilderment has done it again, folks! But don't get too excited if you were a hardcore addict to the thrusting electro sounds of the Supernature and Black Cherry albums - she's gone all mellow! If, come February 25th, you're hoping for the same old Goldfrapp I hate to say this but: you're only going to be disappointed.

Is this bad news? Heck, no! Because whilst indie dance nights are out, gentle folktronica goodness is in! The new album is, as it happens, fantastic. It's the first great album of 2008, I promise you. From opening track 'Clowns' to stunning closer 'Monster Love' there isn't a moment you won't be wetting yourself with joy and whatnot.

mp3: 'Clowns' - Goldfrapp

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

How's that for sea power, biatch?

Just for future reference, a few things I would not like to take on single-handedly in a battle to the death: a honey badger, the T1000, Michael Jackson's groping hand, a racially-incensed woman of any ethnic minority, the British navy. And there, my friends, is the smoothest link ever made. I should be on tv.

British Sea Power are a band who have grown on me possibly slower than any other artist in my musical life. They are the Huon Pine within my forest of musical love, as opposed to yesterday's featured band, Alphabeat, who are far more like bamboo, I suppose. Why, I hear you ask, is this the case? Well, the band released their debut album in 2003, and having caught the end of their song Carrion on some music channel I rushed out and bought it. I was completely let down. With hindsight I can appreciate 'The Decline Of British Sea Power' better, though it still lies just outside of my heart musically. It had a pure and raw sound that I just wasn't ready for back then. I was only just discovering Coldplay. Uh-huh.

And then they released album number two, and the sound had changed. A little more gentle, a hell of a lot more melodious, but with enough raw passion remaining to keep them interesting. As a whole 'Open Season' has nothing particularly new to offer, but that didn't matter. Because on 'Open Season' was the song Please Stand Up. And my, how that hit me. It was like a revelation. It's a tad bolder than the rest of the album, and always finds itself on my playlists lodged between seventies rockers Lindisfarne and Tim Delaughter's pre-Polyphonic Spree band, Tripping Daisy. In fact, the best mixtape track combo of recent times for me was Please Stand Up followed by the Polyphonic Spree cover of Sonic Bloom. It's exciting, falling from note to note like a waterfall of pure pleasure-pop.

And now we find ourselves on the brink of the new year, and with that, the new album 'Do You Like Rock Music?'. In order to prepare us for the new release, and apparent new sound, BSP released an EP, 'Krankenhaus?' late this summer. Other than a fondness for question marks, what did it tell us? Oh, only that British Sea Power are about to burst into a whole new level of awesomeness. Imagine an English Arcade Fire, or a musically daring Athlete, and you aren't even halfway there. This band is about to break the barriers between them and success, and I'm not sure I'd dare to stand in their way.

mp3: 'Please Stand Up' by British Sea Power
mp3: 'Atom' by British Sea Power

Monday, 26 November 2007

Fascination is the best word for them.

Alphabeat are gonna be huge. Just you wait, and just you see. This is a band who sound like an orgy between Disney, The Go! Team, The New Pornographers and Abba. This is a band who know what fun means, but only because they defined it in the first place. Hailing from Denmark, Alphabeat just go to prove that if you want great pop music then Scandinavia remains your best bet. I think there's really only so far that words will take you with a song as fantastic as this - it's explosive with personality and excitement, and thus far 2007 has not provided a better song. Strong words, I know, especially in late November. Grab it now, and you'll be driving the bandwagon that all your friends will be jumping on soon. Trust me.

mp3: 'Fascination' by Alphabeat

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Giant Drag: little bit awesome.

Once upon a time, somewhere before I was really sure what I was doing on music blogs, I stumbled upon a small duo going by the name of Giant Drag. They were loved by NME (which was still respectable to me back then) and the female lead singer was renowned for having the dirtiest mouth this side of the Osbourne's estate. They did a fantastic song called 'This Isn't It', and possibly the greatest cover of The Beach Boys' 'God Only Knows' to grace my ears. As soon as I find that on my old homemade cds that are piled around my desk like I'm a character in a film noir movie, as soon as I find it, it's yours.

Until then, well, until then you can enjoy this below cover of 'Wicked Game', also by Giant Drag. There's something special they have, and I haven't yet put my finger on it. They're certainly fluid, willing to slip from genre to genre, style to style. This song, for instance, has a terrific guitar, but compare that to their 'God Only Knows', and you'll not have a clue how they suddenly became so twee. Ultimately, it's refreshing to find a nice indie band with the willingness to move accordingly with the song. Giant Drag are a rare treat.

mp3: 'Wicked Game' by Giant Drag

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Great British Films #1

It's hard to describe the joy I experienced whilst watching Atonement in the cinema this summer. There was no logical reason for it to be good. It shared a director and star with Pride & Prejudice, arguably the most boring film ever (since Gosford Park, at least, and I don't suppose I should blame them, so much as that Austen chick). Anyway, it turned out that Atonement is a ruddy great film, and both director and cast do justice to the minor deity of genius that is Ian McEwan. Which was nice, cos Enduring Love really sucked tittyboobs. Yup. I went there.

Anyway, one of the most striking scenes in a five minute tracking shot along Dunkirk's beach, unbroken and unedited. It's stunning, and frankly breathtaking. And, as with all good films, it would lose so much of its emotional toll were the score to be taken away. Listening to this piece of music is an experience in itself. Around a minute in a choir of 'soldiers' seeps into the mix, which marks the greatest piece of cinematic use of music this year for me - a feat not easy to attain when one considers the release of films such as The Painted Veil in the last 11 months.

mp3: 'Elegy For Dunkirk' by Jean-Yves Thibaudet

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Humpday Treats

I thought I'd drop a few humpday treats for you this week - three covers and an original! Ah. Joy. So first up, a fantastic cover by one Natasha Bedingfield. Bedingfield is very high up in my books as one of the three artists (alongside Stereophonics and Lily Allen) who mark themselves out as fantastic cover artists. Sure, all three artists are responsible for fantastic original music, but they also consistently create perfect covers that often surpass the originals. Stereophonics have, amongst many others have performed the definitive version of Handbags & Gladrags. Lily Allen has outdone Keane and The Pretenders, amongst others, and Natasha Bedingfield has perhaps created the greatest miracle outside of theology in making a Madonna track - that I like! Oh my.

So yes, here we have the well-loved hit 'Ray of Light' made, well, good. Bedingfield's voice has more strength than Arnie on steroids, and it works so well you'll forget the torturous pop massacre it originates from. There's a risk that I may fall in love with her. I tell you what though: I have a challenge for her. Can she make Avril Lavigne's first album listenable? What about Busted? Hm.

mp3: 'Ray of Light' by Natasha Bedingfield

How about more 'classic' pop reimagined? The Bird and the Bee are a band I have had very little exposure to. They're LA-based and are fun, but that's as far as I can go with my knowledge of them. Oh, wait. They also make music. Wow. I know everything, no? Here they cover 'How Deep Is Your Love', originally a Beegees hit, and then in the 90s a hit once more, this time for Take That. The Bird and the Bee's version is a sweet, innocent affair, and it ever so slightly outshines the original.

mp3: 'How Deep Is Your Love' by The Bird and the Bee

And finally we reach The Holloways, a band whom I've been a follower of for almost two years now. On the soon-to-be British institution that is BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge, The Holloways recently covered Gwen Stefani in their typical summer styling. Personally, I can't get into Gwen Stefani, who seems to be lost between being Japanese and being a moron, but whilst this cover will never go down as an all-time classic alongside Buckley's 'Hallelujah' and Cash's 'Hurt', there is an undeniable injection of life to the Stefani staple. I'm also chucking in a Holloways b-side for you, in the form of 'One Mad Kiss', a jangly ode to love at first sight, which leaves me smiling every time. Wonderful.

mp3: 'The Sweet Escape' by The Holloways
mp3: 'One Mad Kiss' by The Holloways

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Through sparks and shining dragons...

I've just spent the last half hour watching the Channel 4 broadcast of Keane's Warchild gig on Sky+. The benefit of my belated watching is I've been able to fastforward through the crap and boring (The Magic Numbers, some other bloke I can't remember) and still watch the jolly awesome (Brendan Benson, Lily Allen, Keane covering Queen & David Bowie). One of the most upsetting moments, though, beyond the suffering of children born into war, was seeing Fyfe Dangerfield of Guillemots.

It's not that I don't love Fyfe, or indeed the Guillemots, in fact I love them and their crazy, crazy music. At Glastonbury their set was in my top three. Or five. There were lots of good bands. So it isn't a dislike for them at all. No, what saddened me was that Fyfe had had a haircut.

See, Fyfe's hair was the band of Guillemots personified. Except it wasn't a person. So I guess I'll have to change that. See, Fyfe's hair was a metaphor for Guillemots as a band - crazy, seemingly out of control to the outside world, but ultimately a finely-formed mess that knows exactly what it is doing. It flowed, was thick and full, was beautiful, was an inspiration to young men like me who are learning day-by-day that it's only so long until male pattern baldness kicks in. And he's gone and cut it all off! It's short! FYFE'S HAIR IS SHORT AND PERFECTLY ORGANISED! It's a disgrace!

Still, the band are still fantastic, both on record and live, and this is great news. I've seen Guillemots live twice, and they simply don't let down. You leave a Guillemots gig feeling happy, your thirst for life insiringly unquenched, and the blood in your veins temporarily replaced with pure, liquid joy. Exhibit A in the case for liquid joy vs. Guillemots (whatever that means): 'Made-Up Love Song #42'. Any song featuring the lyric 'I love you through sparks and shining dragons, I do' can do no wrong in my book.

mp3: 'Made-Up Love Song #42' by Guillemots

Monday, 5 November 2007

Mrs. Oh My God That Britney's Shameless

I'm on the fence about Britney Spears. There's no denying that at one point she was very hot. But there's also no denying that shaving her head bald did very little favours, either for her appearance, or for the rumours of a declining mental health. Personally, I reckon the press doesn't help at all. I also reckon it's not my place to judge her for all this that's happening in what should be her private life.

What I do know, however, is that Britney's new music is pretty damn jazzy. Not, of course, in the sense of an actual jazz sound. But we wouldn't expect that, would we? I mean, it's not like she's Christina Aguilera! Ahem. But 'Piece of Me' is amazing, and addictive, and everything that was necessary for a Britney-sceptic such as myself to fall for her once again. Not in the whole 'ain't she hot' thing, but I've fallen for her music, at least. You should too.

mp3: 'Piece Of Me' by Britney Spears

Sunday, 4 November 2007

A nice pat on the bum and a sit down.

Dean Friedman is a man who once had a small following, and now has an even smaller following, perhaps equal to the size of a poodle. Or another small dog. Of course, this doesn't mean he's crap, it just means he never had the marketing, or the support, or perhaps the need for success that tends to define multi-million selling artists today. You can't tell me Monsieur Timberlake doesn't need success. He does. You know it. It's an ego thing.

Anyway, Friedman, for this reason entirely, remains one of the more underrated artists of the 20th Century. He's still active today, but my parents learnt last time they went to a gig of his that the average Dean Friedman performance is viewed by so few people that he gets a chance to say 'hello' to the entire audience. Individually. It's a shame, really, the man is like a light-hearted Billy Joel, or something similar. And I like Billy Joel. In the featured song, below, Friedman sings in a typically silly fashion about the joys of a little spanking. I know. Maybe the theme explains the lack of success. But it doesn't make it any less fun.

mp3: 'S&M' by Dean Friedman

Thursday, 1 November 2007

An open letter to Arcade Fire

Dear Win and friends (for you have many, and I remain unsure of their names even to this day...),
Yesterday I spent my hallowe'en in a lovely but cramped house just off of Lenton Boulevard, in Nottingham. You spent your hallowe'en in a far roomier space, just half a mile or so away, in the city's Arena. I hear it wasn't so lovely though. According to the ever-reliable National Music Enquirer (as NME should probably be known), you were bottled in your own gig. I'm very sorry. I mean, it's bad enough when we British attack crap American bands at our festivals (see Panic! At The Flamin' Ass Disco, My Chemical Romance and 50 Cent), but at a gig where the people have paid to see you specifically? You aren't even American! Everyone knows the British prefers Canadians! With the exception of Avril Lavigne, Sum 41, Celine Dion and Canadian Bacon (it just isn't as good), you've brought us nothing but awesomeness as a nation.

So why you were bottled, I don't know. But I do apologise, and I can tell you, if I had been able to get some of those juicy-juicy sold-out tickets I would have been there. And if I were there, with my juicy-juicy sold-out tickets, I wouldn't have let the little blighter who did it get away so easily. I probably would have found the bottle he/she threw and done something so illicit with it that I shall not write it here, should my mother ever find it (which she may, for she is a highly resourceful woman). Let's just put it this way, the act of sitting down would be somewhere near a meeting with a honey badger on their priority list.

What upsets me most by the whole affair, though, is your initial reaction, to state you won't play Nottingham in the future. Please don't let the actions of one backwards idiot, who enjoys paying £30 or so for the possibility of bottling a band, ruin the fun for the rest of us! Nottingham is a lovely city, really, despite every rumour the rest of the UK can throw at us, and having seen you earlier this year at Glastonbury, I know it would be one of the greater wastes in life to not have you play here again. So, in conclusion: Play here again, and get me some of those juicy-juicy sold-out tickets, and I'll protect you like I would an egg in a gun-fight. Promise.

Yours sincerely,

Woodland Bear

mp3: 'Rebellion (Lies)' by Arcade Fire

Sunday, 21 October 2007

The people I've met are the wonders of my world.

I have spent the last week or so addicted to Adele. She's unavoidably talented, and you haven't got much hope of keeping her off your radar for long as it is, so you may as well submit to my shameless promotions now, no?

Hometown Glory is incredible, perfect and so many other adjectives. Whilst her accent when she talks slides in naturally with Kate Nash and Lily Allen, Adele's voice is closer in kin to Winehouse, or any given old soul singer. The song itself deals with Adele's love for the city of London and therefore already falls close to my heart thematically.

You haven't a hope of avoiding her, so download, sit back, smile and feel warm. Also, head over to her website and join the mailing list to get an equally awesome live version of the song.
Love your city.

mp3: 'Hometown Glory' by Adele

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Schemeing Fretwell

I've been a busy but very lucky boy this last couple of days. On Monday the small student-run music magazine for whom I write gave me an interview with one Ed Harcourt, who in case you weren't already aware is a talented Sussex-born singer-songwriter with six albums and a greatest hits to his name, all since 2000. I'd post you a track or two of his, but we spoke at one point of Radiohead's new venture in downloading and he twisted it to guilt me out terrifically. He was a very nice boy though.

Then, yesterday, I get given another interview. This time it was with Stephen Fretwell, another singer-songwriter, but one with whom I am far more aquainted (musically, at least). I met up with him on his tourbus, and whilst chatting casually about his friends, and my favourite band, Elbow, Fretwell casually revealed that the band's bassist was actually asleep in the bunk next to him at that moment. He lifted the curtain to prove it, too. So that was exciting. But to the point...

Fretwell is arguably the best singer-songwriter England has on offer right now. His 2004 debut Magpie is full of delicate and sparse tracks comparable to both Dylan and Oberst, and now his sophmore offering, Man On The Roof, has just been released. It tops Magpie, which itself was fantastic, in ways unforeseeable. There are still the Dylan sounds, the Bright Eyes nature. But influences more diverse, and equally more close to home, are easily picked up on. A particular influence is, indeed, the band Elbow, and this comes through no where better than on The Scheme. It was a small disappointment Fretwell chose not to play it in his gig last night, seeing as he'd snatched not just the bassist of Elbow, but the drummer too, for his tour. But I'm okay with it, he's a fantastic live artist, and equally awesome in the comfort of your own headphones.

mp3: 'The Scheme' by Stephen Fretwell

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Saturday Sessions: Long you live, and high you fly...

What better way to spend a Saturday blog than with a Saturday Session from The Shins? The Saturday Sessions is a fantastic compilation from BBC Radio 2 that outshines its more famous counterpart, Live Lounge, by a mile. It's a similar idea - bands pop in to the studio and perform a session featuring a cover. The key is in the bands that are invited to take part. Live Lounge had rubbish Brit soul-singers and such, where The Saturday Sessions invite bands such as this week's choice, The Shins.

They cover Pink Floyd's 'Breathe' a song I had never previously heard by a band I tend to rank as the dullest of all bands, ever. I stick with that, by the way. But The Shins inject an uncharacteristically dark feel to their version, and James Mercer's distinctive voice shines here.

Also, a secondary Shins treat for you - a version of their song 'Gone For Good' recorded on the streets of Montmartre in Paris. The sound quality isn't fantastic, in fact it's far from it, but what it lacks in clarity it more than makes up for in loveliness.

mp3: 'Breathe (Breathe In The Air)' by The Shins
mp3: 'Gone For Good (Montmartre Acoustic Street Version)' by The Shins

Thursday, 11 October 2007

You can keep on singing...

I'm back, I am. I'm sorry I went AWOL. Summer beckoned, and I went everywhere - Glastonbury, Ireland, a little escape to France. Then I spent eight weeks living back up here in Nottingham without the slightest hint of internet. Actually, I had the slightest hint, but the £3-an-hour internet in the Tourist Information Centre just wasn't enough to keep this going. But back to business.

I posted a while back now on Emmy The Great, back when I had only one song of hers, and back before the three occasions I was lucky enough to see her live over the summer. She's magical live, if that isn't too Disney for you. She really just grabs the audience's attention and refuses to let go til she's done. Today I present you with another wonderful track by her, a track that pretty much kicks 'Canopies and Grapes' back into the last millenium. 'Easter Parade' is about Emmy's atheism, ultimately, but also her acceptance with other's not sharing her beliefs (or lack thereof). It doesn't matter if you believe in something or not, though, because that isn't the point of this song. In fact, that sentence is what I get out of this song - I understand it to literally mean that it doesn't matter if you believe in something or not, it shouldn't get in the way of things. I doubt I'm right though, I have a tendency to be way off on these things. Judge for yourself.

Friday, 1 June 2007

A happy fortieth to the Sgt, and his musical men...

Still regarded by almost everyone remotely sensible as the most influential band ever to exist, The Beatles, in their remaining form at least, will be celebrating a special anniversary today. Well, actually, it's far more likely that Paul and Ringo have let the landmark completely escape them, and are instead just lazing about in their respective gardens on what has turned out to be a rather lovely sunny day.

Whilst they let their minds wander to reconstructive nose surgery and Starbucks, though, the rest of the world remembers forty years ago today - or, at least in the case of younger folk such as I, recognizes the historic release of that day. It was indeed the first day of June in the summer of '67 that The Beatles, then still the fuel behind an ever-growing British music scene, released their Sgt Pepper LP, widely recognised as one of, if not their best albums. Why though? Well, simple enough really. Maybe I'll break it down for you...

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Right, so yeah. It's really only an introduction that allows the rest of the album to claim its status as a concept album. It's so not, but who cares, right? So many questions, so little time - Who is Sgt. Pepper? What are the crowd laughing at? Does it really matter? No. No it does not.

A Little Help From My Friends - And then straight into this sweet little ditty, complete with call-and-response, a catchy chorus and bridge, and an earnest yearning for love! My goodness, it doesn't get much better than this.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds - Of course, I've been wrong before. How a sweet song like A Little Help... can so perfectly fit with the eclectic stumble of Lucy I will never understand. It isn't until you look at the tracklisting of Sgt Pepper that you realise just how many covers it has spawned. The last track - Wet Wet Wet, this has had the honour of Elton John's cover, and the complete must-watch-can't-not-watch cover of William Shatner. It is, needless to say really, why these covers are so numerous. Lucy is strange, but sweet, like the dream you always wanted.

Getting Better - My favourite chorus of the album, Getting Better is again upbeat, but throbs with synths, handclaps and McCartney. My goodness, if you can't find a hint of every indie band, every singer-songwriter, and dammit if I say so, but even McFly in this song. Scratch away the gleaming surface and darker lyrics (at least for The Beatles) arise - used to beat my wife? Oh dear me.

Fixing A Hole - A slow starter, perhaps, but such a classic Beatles track - a chorus where the rhythm never goes quite where is the norm, so much so that eventually its style becomes a norm itself. It really doesn't matter if he's wrong or right.

She's Leaving Home - Right. I was fortunate enough to see Paul McCartney live in London a few years ago. We were miles away - seriously, I had to travel away from London from my home to get to our seats. I think we were in France by the time we sat down. Still, when Paul sang this, barebones and heart-rendering, it stuck with me. It could be seen as a cheap trick to stir emotions by choosing every parent's worst nightmare, but oh no. It's sensitive without being overly-sentimental, and that is the magic of it.

For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite - It is so easy to argue this track is thrown in purely to entertain the idea of the 'concept', but the quiet march and circus spectacular of the music just throws a fantastic sense of oddity into an already eccentric album.

Within You Without You - If Bono ever says that this was not the inspiration for the title of With Or Without You he's a lying bastard and I'll track him down and get him. That said, the sound couldn't be any different from U2's uber-ballad. Actually, if I'm honest, this song bores the crap out of me. The rest of the album is good though.

When I'm Sixty-Four - Like this, par example. What's lovely about this is that not only is it a ridiculous little love song, it's the sort of music a sixty-four year old would rather like. Says the nineteen year old. But you know what I mean - there's nothing overly demanding here, just simple music (is that an oboe or clarinet? I was always rubbish like that), with innocent lyrics. Aw.

Lovely Rita - I like the little cry from Paul at the beginning of this track. I don't know why, maybe because it seems like so much of the wails in all that music they release today. Only, you know, good.

Good Morning Good Morning - And, quite simply, it is. Well, not now. It's night now.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) - See track one.

A Day In The Life - Right. Finally. Utimately, this track is fantastic and generally the one picked out as favourite by any given Sgt Pepper fan. Why? It's sprawling, dark, and so, so exciting to listen to. I want to post this whilst Greenwich Meridian Time still says it's June 1st, so I'll end here and let you judge(ish) this song via a great cover by aband I happen to be seeing live tomorrow, Captain.

mp3: 'A Day In The Life' - Captain

Monday, 28 May 2007

Guilty Pleasures #2

Yes, yes, it is indeed true that Guilty Pleasures #1 took the form of 'Girlfriend' by Miss Avril Lavigne. But oh, do I have a treat for you. There isn't much to add to my last post here, apart from that this remix by Lil Mama is even better than the original. Pant-wettingly good, I swear. Take it, and run!

mp3: 'Girlfriend (Lil Mama Remix)' - Avril Lavigne

Friday, 25 May 2007

Old Trilogies Die Hard...

It has been far, far too long since Die Hard With A Vengeance. So long in fact that I can't even wait til the early July release of Live Free Or Die Hard before posting on just how excited I am. Whilst my sister twitches over every bit of McFly news on release, and my friends drool over gossip surrounding a Spice Girls reunion (despite the fact they never listen to their old stuff anymore), I sit here so filled to bursting with anticipation of John McClane's return that my leg hasn't stopped bouncing in a week.

The first Die Hard came out in 1988, about half a year after my birth. The second installment, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, came out in 1990. It took until 1995 for the third film, part re-invention of the series, Die Hard With A Vengeance, to arrive. I reckon my dad must have shown me the first film in the same year. I remember I was eight, and there were two bits of dodgy home-editing on my behalf - a brief flash of breasts near the beginning, and a bullet through the head twenty minutes or so later. I'm pretty sure that was it. Every swear word, including the whole 'Yippee-kay-ay...' bit left in for my eight year old eyes and ears. Sure, there were those two brief edits, and I got a stern-faced conversation from my father about appropiate words before we started, but ultimately I was watching an eighteen-rated film ten years early. And I got hooked quick.

mp3: Old Habits Die Hard - Mick Jagger & Dave Stewart

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Inspiration, No?

Due to the magic of, my new online file converting buddy, I can finally put this blog's namesake up. Zero 7 are, without a doubt, the best ambient dance act ever to come out of anywhere. Massive Attack would give every single one of their limbs to be as consistantly beautiful and mesmerising as Zero 7. The band's first two albums featured vocalists such as Tina Dico, Sophie Barker and Sia - all fantastic performers with unique voices. Both albums had a couple of standout tracks that remain today in my top twenty-five of all time (it's an elaborate list). By the time it came to their third album, 'The Garden', Zero 7 grew within themselves to create something unlike their previous works, but maintaining the chillout vibe. They dropped Dico and Barker, keeping only the perfectly child-like voice of Sia, and adding not only their own voices but the Swedish tones of Jose Gonazalez on four of the tracks. The result was fantastic - though no single track alone compares to earlier works 'Destiny', 'Distractions' or 'Somersault', the album as a whole is complete, an example of perfection. Some tracks grow on you over time, and The Garden is filled with those. In particular, 'The Pageant Of The Bizarre' is a late night circus oddity (and almost claimed the title of this blog itself' and 'You're My Flame' is the greatest cliched love song ever to exist. Amongst these is hidden 'This Fine Social Scene' - a swooning despair over the death of going out. As a song, it captures my best friend's everyday complaint and draws it into the juiciest lament ever. As an album, The Garden is perfect, and according to a list I made on Amazon, the seventh greatest album ever made.

mp3: 'This Fine Social Scene' - Zero 7

Feeling Warm And Bright

Yesterday it suddenly decided to become hot. I don't know what 'it' is particularly, but I know it decided to become hot. I'm not a fan of heat, being heavy-set and heavily affected by it - but I'm glad to see it back. It seems about right now I'm finishing my first year at university to be outside in the evenings, dancing, so to speak, in the moonlight. That said, at the moment the moonlight won't set in til 11 at night. Which I'm certainly not complaining about.

Not many people realise these days that 'Dancing In The Moonlight' was not originally by Toploader, but by Seventies one-hit-wonders King Harvest. I only know because of an old Seventies album my friend lent me a few years back. Personally, I prefer the original, it seems more chilled out, and more likely to involve some sort of placing of flowers in gun barrels. That pleases me.

mp3: 'Dancing In The Moonlight' - King Harvest
mp3: 'Dancing In The Moonlight' - Toploader

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Arthur Lee's Good-Time Sixties Pop

I love me a bit of Sixties summer pop, and Love, the long-forgotten band of Arthur Lee, will fill that slot nicely, regardless of whether or not they'd like being called pop. They are. I've got to admit though, like a lot of my musical discoveries of the last few years, my love for, um, Love stemmed from their featuring on a soundtrack. This time round it was the soundtrack to 2001 comedy, and All-Time Top 5 Film (No. 4) of mine, High Fidelity. I really must recommend the soundtrack to you, almost as highly as the film - so far it has introduced me to The Beta Band, The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, John Wesley Harding and, although I already thought of his music as regularly flawless, Stevie Wonder's track 'I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)'. So yeah, a great soundtrack. My favourite, even, beating the ever-popular Garden State for once.

So today's tracks are by Love. Two tracks that I love. By Love. They really couldn't have chosen a more awkward band name, could they? The first track is opener to their grandest album, 'Forever Changes', and is a lovely swooping summer track that keeps throbbing forward. The second track is the one from the 'High Fidelity' soundtrack, and my favourite love track - not unlike a Velvet Underground song, if the Velvet Underground were better vocally. Or Bob Dylan, if, you know, Bob Dylan was better vocally. Funnily enough, the soundtrack sandwiches Love between The Velvet Underground and Dylan, and though the Dylan song is one of his best vocally (Most Of The Time), Love still shines through. Which, you know, sounds like a song lyric in itself.

mp3: 'Alone Again Or' by Love
mp3: 'Always See Your Face' by Love

Sunday, 20 May 2007

One Of These Is Not Like The Other...

I always loved it on Sesame Street when they sang the song about One Of These not being like the others. I'd have liked it even more if it were with this odd-one-out. Though to be fair, the lovely girl is obviously not the oddest of the bunch by a long shot. Still, it's The Shins, and it'd be wrong to complain about a band so consistantly perfect in the output. Their latest album, for instance, has only been around since February, and has already confirmed itself as in my All-Time Desert-Island Top-Ten list. 'Sealegs', in particular, catches my ear every time - it's terrific, typical of The Shins lyrically, but musically so offbeat for them. I am already preparing myself for the first rapper to notice how awesome the riff is, so when it's sampled I'm not too traumatised. I'm considering become a rapper myself, just so I can get to the riff before anyone else. It makes me happy and funky at once. And not funky in the 'smelly' sense, either - though I had a rough night last night, so that too may well be relevant.

mp3: 'Sealegs' by The Shins

Saturday, 19 May 2007

If it's really between me and him, I don't fancy my chances much.

I've just discovered an awesome website going under the moniker of Zamzar, and it converts files to mp3 online for free! This is fantastic and shiny, as many many tracks on my PC have been metaphorically segregated by their WMA status. Now I can convert them, without downloading numerous programs that will ultimately just cause great grief to my intolerable little mind, and put them up for your listening pleasure! Today I'm gonna treat you to the band who I've most wanted to post up here thus far.

And so it is with great joy and much hoo-hah that I present to you... The Audreys! Never heard of them? Well, that doesn't surprise me in the least, because other than via their own website I myself have not heard a single whisper about them since I saw them supporting the awesome Pipettes at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton almost a year ago.

The Audreys are a four-piece Aussie band who make some of the most summery alt-country pop this side of Alabama. Maybe if Sufjan met Albert Hammond and had a bit of a jam session the end result might just reach the sound of The Audreys. Two songs on offer here: The first, 'You & Steve McQueen', is the opening track on debut album 'Between Last Night And Us' and flirts with the broken country pop that the rest of the album lays down so flawlessly. The second, 'Long Ride' is a slow-burning beauty, and my favourite song of last year by some way. It sounds as if the band sung it in their sleep, or at least when in a druken stupor somewhere between tipsy and tripping over the furniture. Certainly far before that stage where you start vomiting in your cupboard. Eurgh. But this isn't selling the track to you, is it? Long Ride is beautiful, building from a gentle sweetness to heartbreaking harmonies. This is the sort of track you'd play at the end of a long road trip, just about to pull into some dodgy motel where three of the neon letters on the sign are not working, and another one has fallen down, smashed beside the ice cube dispenser. Enjoy, you don't find a song like this everyday.

mp3: 'You & Steve McQueen' - The Audreys
mp3: 'Long Ride' - The Audreys

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

You Make Me Want To Drink...

"Bleach" by Easyworld
From 'This Is Where I Stand' (2002)

A forgotten peak in British music of the earliest 21st century, Easyworld will have already sunk beyond the reach of most ears. Though my favourite tracks are most certainly found on their final album, the frankly flawless 'Kill The Last Romantic', 'Bleach' is a perfect example of their earlier, rawer sound. An opening reminiscent of Travis' angrier beginnings, and an unlikely upbeat tempo not unlike The Lightning Seeds (only far, far more bitter), 'Bleach' doesn't want to make a big deal out of anything apart from itself. It isn't often that such an angry song gets a chance to be so fun, so Easyworld run with it. R.I.P. Easyworld, R.I.P.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Guilty Pleasures #1

"Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne
from 'The Best Damn Thing' (2007)

I wonder what Avril Lavigne would think were she to see the UK Amazon site offering a discount on her new album if you buy it with Hilary Duff's latest offering? Somehow I think she'd be less upset than she would have been in the past. For her first two albums, Avril was the typical punkass rebel teen girl, being so unconventional that she couldn't have been any more conventional if she tried. My sister loved her. But then, my sister loved Kelly Clarkson too.

See, traditionally I don't have 'guilty pleasures', per se. I have no shame about the music I like. Guilty pleasures suggests that you are wrong to like the track or artist in question
, and I'm just about stubborn enough to believe I could never be wrong about musical tastes. So when I refer to guilty pleasures, take it purely under the understanding that the tracks involved are ones others would consider as a guilty pleasure. I don't. I have no shame. I hated the first two albums from Ms. Lavigne. I'll probably hate this one too. But God help me, I can't resist a good chorus.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Late Night Radio #1

"Teardrop" by Massive Attack
from "Mezzanine" (1998)

I think it's about midnight when I have my little Jekyll and Hyde moment each day. During the day I'm bouncy, optimistic and, in all honesty, a right annoying little so-and-so. After twelve though, assuming I'm awake and alone, I become all peaceful, reflective and, dare I say it, poetic. No poetry tonight, mind you. Still, I tend to listen to my very much relaxed music at night - most of my favourite albums are those to which I can fall alseep (Billy Joel, Sufjan Stevens, The Cardigans). At the moment I'm in the process of putting together a late-night playlist, for times like these - sleepy, but not able to sleep, in front of the computer with my face lit only by a small desk lamp and the glow from my screen. I'll post them in order of track listing, so maybe if you actually read this thing you can collect them together. Maybe.

Friday, 4 May 2007

The Chance To Start Again...

From 'Tourist' (2005)

A few years back I was on holiday with my family in Cornwall. It was towards the end of the holiday and we'd had a hugely busy day, despite the fact Cornwall genuinely contains nothing but rocks, thatched roofs and the occasional livestock. We were driving over to St. Ives for dinner, and en route was the Minack theatre, a relatively small ampitheatre carved into the rock of the Cornish coastline. My parents asked my sister and I, then both whingy and tired young teens, whether or not we wanted to visit. We both said, with no hesitation whatsoever, that we didn't want to go. We continued driving, until we were approaching the turning for the theatre. I saw a sign for it - nothing glamourous, just the usual brown sign for a tourist attraction in Britain (apparently that's the colour best representing our tourist industry). Suddenly something inside me clicked into place and I said, just in time to turn the corner without a three-point turn (impossible with the Cornish shrubbery, I swear), that actually, I would rather like to go. I think my parents loved me more than ever then, they'd clearly wanted to go, but didn't want to risk a huge argument with a tired teen later that day. My sister, on the other hand, scowled at me so hard her eyes burnt all the way through my head and left a permanent mark on the car window. Anyway, the point of this story is this: We got there, and to this day it remains the most beautiful I have ever seen England. It wasn't a big chance, but it was a chance nonetheless, and I am so glad I took it.

Buy Athlete

Thursday, 3 May 2007

What I'd Be Without You

"God Only Knows" by Mandy Moore and Michael Stipe
from 'Saved! Original Soundtrack' (2004)

I rather like Mandy Moore. To the extent where if I were placed in a room alone with her I would hide away in the furthest away corner and giggle shyly to myself whilst watching her stare at me, disturbed. It started ever so innocently, when she appeared as a love interest for Zach Braff (hero, mentor, fantastic hair) on Scrubs, and was possibly the most likeable special guest ever to grace the show. Then I heard the above song, from the (sub-par) film Saved! Whilst not a collaboration one might ever concoct even in the deepest depths of their subconcious, Michael Stipe and Ms. Moore work well together. Stipe's unmistakable voice is, as always, perfect in its imperfections. Moore's voice is perfect to a flaw, pushing herself almost into the unnecessary wails of Pop Idol and X-Factor contestants. Somehow, it works. Somehow. Not that that somehow matters - it's Mandy Moore, and she's lovely.

Buy Mandy Moore, in all her perfections

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

The Humpday 5 V1.0

I've never been one for rap of any variety. I'm far to middle class. I think in my entire musically-aware lifetime I've only ever liked a few songs by The Streets and one Kanye West. And even they were iffy. So when my regular hangout GvB put up this track, featuring one of my favourite bands, Final Fantasy, I was weary, to say the least. Rap doesn't work for me when it's just rap. Rap with strings seems even more questionable. Turns out that the song is awesome though (and I wouldn't use the word awesome lightly, were it not for the fact I've been writing a theology essay about God's power all afternoon). So, this Humpday, enjoy some rap. I did.

"Running Up That Hill" by Placebo
Buy Placebo

Again a song to break the mould of me here. Not only does Brian Molko's voice almost always drive me to insanity, but Kate Bush is, at least for me, the worst musician ever to play music that a vast amount of the population inexplicably enjoy. I know it's controversial, but Bush's voice ruins everything good about music. And this is from a Joanna Newsom fan! Still, by some miracle Placebo hit it right on here, and without Bush's wail the lyrics are, needless to say really, fantastic.

"(I Wanna Have Your) Babies" by Natasha Bedingfield
Buy Natasha

I secretly would rather like Natasha Bedingfield to marry me. She's rather pretty, is a lovely Christian and despite being a bit older than me, isn't at all near needing a colostomy bag. That - that's good to know. So, if you're reading Natasha, you can have my babies. They're thirty quid a pop.

"Our Velocity" by Maximo Park
Buy Maximo

A slowly-building mini epic, is 'Our Velocity', and a competitor for track of the year, I tell thee. By the time the lyrics come: 'Love is lie which means I've been lied to/Love is a lie which means I've been lying too/Love is a lie which means I've been lied to/Love is a lie' you will be so close to jumping up and down on your bed you'll wonder if you're actually turning into a fourteen year old girl in a chick flick.

"Indian Summer" by Manic Street Preachers
Buy Manics

I'm off to Glastonbury this year, something to which I am getting increasingly excited about. Knowing these guys and this song woll be there, well, it warms my heart it does. I've been listening a lot to this due to its prominence in a new CD I've made. It's a grower...