Thursday, 1 December 2011

Friday 2nd December

That's it. The big rush at work is over. Now it's time to kick back and enjoy the winter.

It's a season I love, and one that transforms the surrounding countryside into a blissful idyll. There's many a good walk to take on, either round the local marshland or across the fields to the areas where the deer roam. This time last year, the fields were covered in a foot of snow and I took a walk. I was a great moment, although it was absolutely knackering.

There were some great songs that day. The Lark by Kate Rusby and Moby's Wait for Me being just two.

However, there was one song that stood out from all the others. The album had only been released a month, so I was just getting used to it, but with the Bees you're rarely disappointed.

It's really beyond me why they aren't more popular. But anyway, that's nothing to do with me - back to the song.

Free the Bees is a properly outstanding album, with at least seven brilliant songs. Sunshine Hit Me and Octopus are also well worth owning. Last year, the Isle of Wight collective released their fourth album, Every Step's a Yes.

Even from just the first three songs I knew I loved it. I Really Need Love and Winter Rose are brilliant, but it is track three I'm obsessed with this week.

Music to me can be seasonal. For instance, at the first sign of summer I crack out the Nick Drake, winter is good for folk and other relaxing stuff.

However, Silver Line fits into all seasons. Listen to it and you can imagine lying on a sun-drenched field as shards of sunlight drift through the sky. Likewise, you can imagine yourself walking through the snow-covered fields. Either way, it'll make you happy.

Listen to it, love it.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Friday 25th November

This is it - the arse end of November. This is when work gets tough. Well, as tough as my work gets. It's the time of weekend work, overtime every day and the monster night shifts.

And what for? Essentially it's so people can find out what time the Christmas edition of Strictly Come Dancing is on. Yup, that's right...

But it's not actually the work that I mind, I quite enjoy it. It gives me a sense that we're actually doing something important. Judge for yourself whether that's the case, but I expect I could guess the answer.

The thing that bothers me is - dare I say it -
the people. All I want to do is crack on with my work and do it in something that resembles peace. I don't want to have to overhear a 20 minute rambling story about someone pinching someone's hat and then giving it them back. How can such a story be five times longer than the actual event yet with zero percent of the interest?

Yes, the hours are long and, due to the time of year, it's rare to see daylight. But give me that any day over hearing some goliath 15 metres away waffle on about the mountain of food it's consumed since it was last at work. Believe me, it takes quite some time to trot out that list.

Essentially, what I'm saying is I'm a grouch. I make no bones about that. Do away with open-plan offices and box me in a small room. I'll be happy there.

I might even be able to think of a song that isn't this:

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Friday 18th November

Does ecstasy actually work? Probably, but that's by the by. The reason I ask is that some acid house/rave songs seem to make me joyously happy despite being stone-cold sober.

This week's track is one of them. In fact, it's surely one of the best and most uplifting songs ever.

I'd known this song many, many years ago - back in the early 90s when I used to go round to a friend's house and listen to her older brother's vinyls. It was a good collection. Off the top of my head, I remember Insomniak by DJPC, Mr Roy's Saved, and later he had Smashing Pumpkins and Beck. But there was one I'd always come back to...

However, the years passed and I became more familiar with a different version of the song. That was, until last year when I rediscoverd it - somewhat fortunately. As Primal Scream were playing Glastonbury this year just gone, I was looking for some of their old stuff that had perhaps passed me by.

That's when I rediscovered the Terry Farley mix of Come Together. And Jesus, it's good.

When they came onto stage at Glastonbury, I was tucking in to some noodles. So there I was, dancing to Movin' On Up with a box of noddles in my hand. But things were going to get much better, somehow. Later on, with a carton of wine in my hand, the band merged Wetherall and Farley's versions of Come Together. It was fantastic, but it was Farley's part that really got me.

I've listened to it many a time since, but it was the other day that really brought it on home. Listening to music in the shower, I felt tired and bored of work. Then it came on and really brightened up my day. It's that good that it'd even make a brilliant wedding song.

There's one curious thing about it though - why the hell is it not on YouTube?

Anyway, here it is. Enjoy.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Friday 4th November

A very melancholy song for a very melancholy week. The nights are drawing in; the weather is definitely autumnal (about time); and I'm drawn back to a song from an old favourite.

It's also a song that reminds me of someone I knew at university. I don't think I'll reveal her name, she'll remain the song isn't very complimentary - it's Jens Lekman's Psychogirl. A beautiful song still maintaining the wry humour the Swede is renowned for.

It's not an easy subject matter to make light of and Lekman doesn't. However, there are definitely brief moments that bring a smile to the old face. Perhaps it's the delivery.

I really can't explain how similar this song is to my experience. The first verse, apart from the post office bit, is virtually spot-on. It's quite unfortunate that this is the only song that I can truly relate to!

Oh, and don't worry, it's not eight minutes long, it's only five. Listen and feel as content as I am....

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Friday 28th October

Not sure where this one came from, apart from being a much-loved song from my teenage years. However, one of the final lines in the song realy seemed quite appropriate.

Again, I'm not entirely sure why. There's no reports in the news of mass racial unrest, even if it does appear to be simmering under at the moment.

The lines in question read "So go ahead and label me/An asshole cause I can/Accept responsibility, for what I've done/But not for who I am". I think it sums up how to solve a lot of potential problems in this day and age. Too many times we hear the phrases 'bloody Americans' or 'bloody Poles, stealing our jobs' and things such as those. But these generalisations are often as wrong as they are idiotic.

For instance, was it every American's decision to go to war in Iraq? No. Sure, some may have wanted to, but it was only the nation's leaders who had the ultimate decision. As the many protests in London revealed, it wasn't the UK's desire to enter the conflict either, yet we still did.

Likewise, why are Polish workers wrong for upping sticks and searching for work to earn a living and support their family? First of all, the generalisation of Eastern Europeans such as Latvians, Lithuanians, Romanians etc as "Poles" really grinds my gears.

Essentially what those lines are saying is, let's judge everyone by their own, personal actions, rather than the actions of people of the same race who have no other relation to each other.

Wise words from the 'clown princes of political punk'. I often wonder if the band's clowning around detracts from their otherwise spot-on messages. Then again, I'm thankful that musicians can be both serious and fun-loving.

The song, as you shall see below, is NOFX's Don't Call Me White.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Friday 21 October

A "bumper" two-week edition of That Was the Song of the Week That Was this week.

I had something all set for last week, but news came to me that changed that, exciting news. News that I'd often heard before but never believed. Somehow, last week's news seemed more believable.

All I could do was wait.

It was definitely worth the wait. Tuesday's announcement was greeted with sheer delight on my behalf. However, this morning was fraught to say the least. I was right to be worried. Two gigs and 150,000 tickets sold in 14 minutes and I wasn't one of them. Fortunately, a friend was on the ball while I was at work and quickly snapped up some tickets for a third date - this one also selling out frighteningly quickly.

So who am I talking about? If you haven't already guessed, I'll give you a subtle clue...

What was that? The Stone Roses? Well done, you guessed it. Manchester here I come.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Friday 7th October

James were always a bit of an enigma to me. They were part of the "Madchester" scene, but never struck me as one for some unknown reason.

In 1990, at the age of about 10, I remember first hearing my dad's eponymous Stone Roses album and Kinky Afro plus Step On by the Happy Mondays. I instantly loved them and was a firm fan of Madchester music

But James didn't seem to fit in with these. Shaun Ryder and Ian Brown had a swagger about them (that may be quite an understatement), but Tim Booth seemed to engage more with the listener. Born of Frustration and Sit Down were frequently listened to by me, yet they seemed at odds with the likes of Kinky Afro and I Wanna Be Adored.

Over the next few years I got into the Inspiral Carpets and the Charlatans. These immediately became lumped in with the other great Madchester bands. Tim Burgess had the swagger, while the Carpets had the lollopy music

The other big difference between James and the others was the tender songs. On 1993's Laid album, James took this to a new level. Sometimes is quite upbeat but still loving. Say Something is even more tender.

But the one that eclipses all others is the opening track, Out to Get You. It's a truly beautiful track: heartbreaking and blissful at the same time. It also contains a melodica - something not very common in traditional Madchester songs.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Friday 30th September

This week has been quite odd musically. There have been many songs popping into my head, but only two that stayed in for any length of time. One of those - Too Much Pressure - has been pipped by a beautiful folk song.

The first version of Raggle Taggle Gypsies I heard was by Jim Moray when he played at my town's venue. It's a song that I instantly liked, but Moray's version isn't the one I've chosen this week.

I've gone for Mad Dog Mcrea's Raggle Taggle Gypsy after hearing it at Glastonbury this year. Despite playing to about ten people (including seven dancing stewards), the performance was such that it became my festival highlight.

It was made more special by the fact I'd stumbled on them by error. I left the Chemical Brothers' set with the intention to watch the Lancashire Hotpots. As is often the case at Glastonbury, time had become a foreign issue to me, so much so that days had also become foreign. It turns out I was a day late for the Hotpots, but did witness Mad Dog Mcrea's set - just me and a young couple waiting for the Beat.

The reason Raggle Taggle Gypsy has taken on an extra significance is because of last night's events. For the past few years, I've joined a group of mates who go away to a different European city on a *ahem* "cultural trip". Since last year, the decision on which city has been made by way of a vote. The 2012 trip's vote was last night. It appears we're going to Bucharest, Romania.

Now, I'm not suggesting all Romanians are gypsies etc, but I do enjoy Roma music and am excited about searching some out which in Bucharest.

While Raggle Taggle Gypsy is definitely not of the Roma genre, it does contain the word gypsy and had been in my head most of the week!

So, please enjoy Mad Dog Mcrea doing Raggle Taggle Gypsy.

Friday, 23 September 2011

23rd September 2011

Picture the scene, if you will: It's Sunday, 6.45am, and I've just arrived in a European city by train. I've been travelling by train for 19 hours and have had little sleep. I'm by myself in a foreign country and exit the station as dawn is just waking up.

As I leave the beautiful station, I set out for a walk with a rucksack on my back. The first thing that hits me is how warm it is - a pharmacy sign reveals it is already 24degrees. The next thing I notice is that the youth of the city are just leaving the bars. People stagger around with glazed expressions.

I venture into the mammoth square in the centre of the city. There's just me stood in the middle of it as I gaze around. Then, a street sweeping van does balletic movements around where I am.

This happened to me in Toulouse the other Sunday morning. It gave me a beautiful feeling of serenity and set my holiday off to a great start.

What also helped was, as I had left the train, Alone in Kyoto by Air had come on my mp3 player. Not only was I in their country, but I was immediately reminded of a scene from a movie which featured the song.

Unfortunately, I can't embed the video, but please click the link to see Scarlett Johansson milling round Kyoto in Lost in Translation. It's a beautiful scene and very expressive of how I felt that early morning in Toulouse.

Alone in Kyoto

Friday, 9 September 2011

9th September 2011

I knew this would happen this week. For the past nine months, I've been arranging to go on holiday to a small village near Toulouse, France. The name of the village, Escoussens, lends itself perfectly to a certain song. Add to that the fact I'll be spending 19hours on trains to get there, and it couldn't get any more appropriate.

Thankfully it's a song I like. It could have been much worse: I could have been going somewhere that only me and you know...somewhere "bedshaped". Ugh, perish the thought.

So, from the abomination known as Keane to the Shamen. Seamless.

Yes, LSI, Move Any Mountain and Ebeneezer Goode were...erm...good, but neither of those is my favourite. Destination Eschaton is. You see where I'm coming from now, don't you? Eschaton/Escoussens, they sound similar, no?

Thankfully though, I'll be heading to Escoussens - rather than the end of the known world - and, like it has been for the past week, this song will be my travelling companion.

As they say in la France, amusez-vous.

Friday, 2 September 2011

2nd September 2011

Many earworms have come and gone this week. Some thankfully, others I have enjoyed. I didn't particularly like This Ole House by Shakin' Stevens, especially when my mind was bastardising the lyrics.

Where there should have been "Ain't got time to fix the shingles, Ain't a-got time to fix the floor, Ain't got time to oil the hinges, Nor to mend no windowpane," I had various other household chores. Ain't got time to sweep the chimney, ain't got time to brush my hair, ain't got time to brush the hedges, nor to reupholster the chair. That kind of stuff. And it went on for a couple of days.

Thankfully it stopped, but one song remained constant.

It all started last week when I was writing a little piece about Toots and the Maytals. During that I was dragged back to last summer. After the now infamous 27-hour road trip to Budapest, me and a friend set up camp for Sziget festival - exhausted and a bit dazed. After a night getting accidentally drunk, it was time for the first day of the festival - a reggae/ska day. Perfect. Acts included the Wailers, Toots and the Maytals and, unfortunately, UB40.

The Wailers came, went and were replaced by Toots. On a gloriously sunny Budapest evening with sand underfoot, it was perfect music. During Bam Bam, I remember looking round me. The sun was just high enough above the trees to add to the serenity afforded by the music.

Awaking from my reverie, I saw Toots were playing Leeds on Fri 2 Sep, and that's where I'm going right now.

Close your eyes while watching the video below and you could be there in the hazy sunshine. Enjoy Bam Bam, I know I will - despite the view in Leeds Academy not being quite as beautiful as that evening in Budapest.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

26th August 2011

There are some weeks when a certain event influences the songs in your head. Other times, a news story could trigger a reaction. Or it could even be something someone has said to you.

This week has not been any of those.

I first heard of the Avett Brothers a few months back when it was rumoured they may have been appearing at Glastonbury. That turned out to be a false dawn. However, it did turn me on to a band I'd previously not heard of.

Brothers Seth and Scott Avett have been making music together since childhood. Has there ever been a more pointless sentence? They are brothers, for god's sake. Anyway, that's what greeted me when I wiki'd them. Praise the lord for Wikipedia. But, it did also tell me that were from North Carolina.

When you look at other music acts from North Carolina - Charlie Daniels, Sparklehorse, Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams - you can understand why my eyes lit up. I don't know why I pay such attention to the geographical factors, but suspect it may have something to do with being born in Greater Manchester.

Anyway, back on to the Avett Brothers. The first song that struck me was Murder in the City, on their Gleam II EP. It's a beautiful acoustic track, and an ode to the family unit. From what little I know so far about the Avett Brothers, the theme of family hangs over them. But they do it nicely, and there is certainly a playfullness about it.

But this week's song is Kick Drum Heart. The thing that struck me most about this, is how percussion and piano works in perfect harmony. It's also a much more up-tempo track than Murder in the City, proving that the Avett Brothers are not a one-trick band. To draw comparisons, I'd liken them to a country-rock version of Mumford and Sons, but they somehow seem more real. Oh, and Seth Avett (I think it is...) has a much more likeable voice than Marcus Mumford.

Here's the song, from the album I and Love and You - the cover of which appears to capture Neil Young's audition for Hamlet.

Friday, 19 August 2011

19th August 2011

There we were, in a really dark place at silly o'clock and slightly worse for wear. Relying on my hoofhands to try to find this song on Youtube. Predictive text didn't help. I was trying to convince my friend that this was one of the best pop songs ever written.

It could well be true, too. Certainly those at Eurovision 1965 agreed with me - it finished 1st and gave Luxembourg the win.

However, for those not fond of Eurovision or the little duchy, don't despair (although I can't imagine why you wouldn't be fond of either of those - both are excellent).

The partnership of composer Serge Gainsbourg and quintessential ye-ye singer France Gall was never going to be a happy one. Her, a fresh-faced innocent; him, a hard-smoking older man. Many of the works written by Gainsbourg for Gall featured strong sexual innuendo (Les Sucettes for one). The songs were so innuendo-laden, in fact, that Gall refuses to talk about that time in her career.

This song is one of those tracks. Gainsbourg described it thusly: "
The songs young people turn to for help in their first attempts at discovering what life and love are about, are sung by people too young and inexperienced to be of much help and condemned by their celebrity to find out".

Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son itself translates as Doll of Wax, Doll of Bran. However, that is just one interpretation as Son also means sound. It is this wordplay that characterises Gainsbourg's writing and causes the innocent Gall to come across as a Lolita-esque seductress. Her blonde bob, contrasting eyebrows and youthful voice lend to that image too, but it is the rollicking music in the background that really elevates this to greatness, in my eyes.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

12th August 2011

Well, this wasn't supposed to be like this, was it?

What a horrible week us Brits have had to suffer. When the news of rioting in north London first came about, my initial thoughts was 'oh god, this is another Rodney King'. It seems I overestimated my fellow countrymen. As has been the case recently in the UK, what started off as a peaceful protest has swiftly been overtaken my mindless yobs, or "feral youth" as they have been called of late.

Up until this evening, I was proud of my home town of Salford. Despite 'riots' happening in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and (bizarrely) Nottingham, they hadn't spread to Greater Manchester. The comments on the Manchester Evening News website seemed to share my view: Manchester don't join in, we're better than this. Unfortunately, as the embarrassing events of Tuesday 9th August showed, that didn't last.

Manchester has had its share of troubles in the past: the race-riots in Moss Side in 1981, the drug wars of the late 80s, the Arndale bomb on 1996. Somehow, the city had grown and improved despite these horrible incidents. It had improved so much that, just months before, the Lonely Planet guide had called Manchester 'truly special'.

A side-annoyance to this petty looting was the patheticness of it all. Manchester is renowned for its gang culture and - without condoning rioting or looting - none of this was on show. Instead, it seemed to be 13-year-old kids on bikes breaking in to Bargain Booze. I suppose I should be glad really, it could've have been much worse.

Anyway, back to the music. There are only a few words to describe the looters. They are lowlives, purely out for their own gain. There's nothing political about their actions, no cause to back them up. They want material goods regardless of the damage to the innocent.

Snuff are a north London punk band, apt seeing as that's where the trouble started. Are the looters arseholes, fuckwits, gobshites, farts in a jar? Yes, they are all of these, whereever they are looting.

Thankfully, Snuff have just the song to soundtrack my inner thoughts whenever I watch the news of late.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

5th August 2011

I'm back, it's been a while.

I've decided to regress to my original idea and put up the song I've had in my head all week. It certainly should be easier on me to do it this way - I'll reserve judgement on the impact on you...

So, where to start my new(ish) adventure? Well, as is often the case with the start of topics, this week has been an easy choice.

The album version of Robyn's Be Mine isn't really my thing - it's uptempo pop, and the short stabs of violin remind me of music that was endemic in turn-of-the-century clubs and bars.

However, the stripped down version is beautiful. It takes on a whole new personality. Instead of the forthright angst of the album track, we hear a mournful Robyn. It's this change of attitude that helps Be Mine transcend from Friday night background music to emotionally charged enchanter. The Swede's voice and solo piano really captivate so much more than a drum machine and allow Robyn's words to strike a chord with the listener.

It might not radically change your life, but it'll make you pleased you heard it.