Friday, 24 June 2011

Song Of The Day 24/06/1988: Sagittarius - My World Fell Down

It's my birthday! Therefore very little time to actually blog today. I'll just give you some classic 1960s chamber pop. It really is extremely similar to Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, without many ideas of it's own, but manages to pull off the lovely harmonies of Brian Wilson et al with aplomb.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Song Of The Day 23/06/2011: Make Up - You + I vs. the World

I'm becoming increasingly convinced that Ian Svenonius, frontman of various bands including the Nation of Ulysses and previous subjects of a song of the day Chain and the Gang, is right about everything (check out his book "The Psychic Soviet"). He's also a great frontman and a good songwriter.
Today's song is from his post-NoU band Make Up's first album: although it's called "Live! at Cold Rice" it definitely isn't, although the recordnigs do have a lot of live energy.
This is my favourite track from the album, showcasing Make Up's "gospel ye-ye" to full and terrifying effect. A heavy groove with Svenonius' surrealist rock and roll evangelism on top. Great stuff.

Make Up - You + I vs the World

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Song Of The Day 23/06/2011: Codeine - Ides

Codeine were an early 90s slowcore band and, along with other slightly later acts such as Low and Red House Painters, helped to define the 'genre'. They were, however, much heavier than either of the other two bands mentioned. Instead of the same kind of sparse production as the rest of the scene, they had a slightly more experimental sound and a lot more energy. Their second (and better) LP features very basic instrumentation which is just left to echo through the record, as in this song. The album, released well after Slint released Spiderland and set the tone for this kind of thing, goes into almost post-rock territory in places, without ever building up to anywhere near the wall-of-sound levels of some of their contemporaries. The lyrics are incredibly despressing, with the line 'Can't watch the trees, can't go outside, don't go outside' pretty much summing the song (and band, and scene) up.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Song Of The Day 21/06/2011: Life Without Buildings - Pop Life

I've been posting a lot of interesting (to me, anyway) covers recently. This one is one of the weirder ones - it's Life Without Buildings, the early-00s Scottish indie rock band known for artist Sue Tompkins' delicately shouted vocals, covering Prince, all-round poser extraordinaire. It may be only for the die hard fans of either act (something to amuse them until the next Die Hard comes out - joke TM Richard Herring) but I love it.

Song Of The Day 20/06/2011: Pocketbooks - Footsteps

Indietracks today announced it's schedule, which means there really isn't very long to go until we all head off up to Nottinghamshire. I'm mostly relieved that all the bands I'm looking forward to seem to have managed to avoid each other (with the notable exception of Help Stamp Out Loneliness clashing with Math & Physics Club). The festival is fittingly going to be opened by Pocketbooks, a major part of the team that organise the festival. They didn't play last year, but have played every other indietracks and will fit back in seamlessly.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Song Of The Day 19/06/2011: Low - Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me

Regular readers will be well aware of my infatuation with Low's most recent record, C'mon. It has inspired me to go back and listen to a lot more of their back catalogue than I ever have before. This gem of a cover version was tucked away on the third disc of their excellent B-sides & rarities compilation, 'A Lifetime of Temporary Relief'. I'm a big fan of the Smiths original, but I think this beats it both for feeling and, in the second half of the song, for raw power.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Song Of The Day 18/06/2011: The Black Keys - Midnight In Her Eyes

The Black Keys have pretty much exploded in the last year or so, with their latest record getting them a lot more mainstream airplay than they have ever received in the past. It's a good record, but it feels like they have completed the descent into just another uptempo rock band that began with the release of 'Magic Potion' a few years ago Their first 3 albums, from the debut 'The Big Come Up' to the truly excellent 'Rubber Factory', had something different - a bluesy dirtiness that made listening to a record feel like a binge on single malt.

This song, from 'Thickfreakness', is a perfect showcase of that. Basic but brilliant.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Song Of The Day 17/06/2011: Wye Oak - Civilian

I first came across Wye Oak a couple of years ago, when I saw them supporting Okkervil River in London. I don't remember all that much about the performance, beyond that they were pretty good and that I was impressed by the drummer drumming and playing keyboards at the same time.
Anyway, I heard them again when my good friend Rob recommended me their latest album, Civilian (of which today's song is obviously the title track). I listened, and really enjoyed it, so took him up on the offer of a free ticket to see them last night in Hoxton.
They were great, sort of dream-poppy with female vocals, a bit in the vein of two other Baltimore bands, Beach House and Lower Dens. I'm not sure the album's quite as good as the Lower Dens record from last year, maybe lacking quite the songwriting brilliance, but it is lovely and a grower, so give it a listen.

Wye Oak - Civilian

Song Of The Day 16/06/2011: The Band - King Harvest (Has Surely Come)

Revisiting a classic today, from an album I have listened to far too many times in the last 48 hours. This is the clasing track on The Band's eponymous second LP, the first where they reallt began to establish themselves as an act in their own right. Their debut had been drawn largely from the Basement Tapes, with many songs co-written by Dylan. The 'Big Pink' of the title had been the house in upstate New York that was home to the basement where the tapes were recorded.

On this album they tried to do something of their own. Despite being a largely Canadian band, they were pretty infatuated with the history and culture of the US, and this album is a concept album about the whole idea of America. This song is about a farmer who falls on hard times and is rescued by a 'man from the Union'. It's one of the best songs they ever wrote, in my opinion. Richard Manuel's voice is absolutely perfect for this kind of Americana.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Song Of The Day 15/06/2011: Sarabeth Tucek - State I Am In

I'm not quite sure what I was expecting from "Get Well Soon", Sarabeth Tucek's 2011 album. Perhaps some kind of quiet, introspective singer-songwriter-y fare of the kind which (to be honest) I usually find a bit boring. But it's much more interesting than that, especially in terms of the production. For a start, it's a much bigger-sounding record than I was expecting, with some adventurous instrumental touches (some subtle backwards guitar[?], some interesting modal-sounding bits) and extended guitar breaks - she's a really good guitar player. Oddly the record I think the production reminds me most of is Wilco's A Ghost is Born, but that could just be because it starts super quietly and then bursts into a big guitar solo. The production generally works really well, complementing her voice nicely.
And then there's the songs. It's a bleak record, but a very moving one. This is one of my favourites.

Sarabeth Tucek - State I Am In

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Song Of The Day 14/06/2011: Cryptacize - Tail & Mane

Cryptacize are the current project of ex-Deerhoof guitarist Chris Cohen. They join sunny Californian pop with an almost gypsy musical sensibility and the beautiful vocal hooks of Nedelle Torrisi, making a weird fusion unlike any other band at all. According to Sufjan Stevens,

"They make music that is refreshingly coherent, stewed with deliberate melodies, a refinement of instrumentation, no excess, nothing wasted, nothing lost … These songs are not trifles, but rather cryptic haiku poems that expand toward a vast cosmic significance.'

Very little of the massive amounts of quirky pop like this that has been released in the last few years actually has a beat that makes an impression. This does.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Song Of The Day 13/06/2011: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Steel Daughter

There's been a 'new' POBPAH song going around the internet today. 'Tomorrow Dies Today' is a Japan-only bonus track for their last album, 'Belong', and is a classic Pains-style light jangle-fuzz pop gem. I prefer another bonus track from the same Japanese edition, however - Steel Daughter has more of an edge, and a the beginnings of a singalong chorus like many songs from their debut. It feels slightly unfinished, which is probably why it was left off the final album, but it's still great.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Steel Daughter

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Song Of The Day 12/06/2011: Swirlies - Wrong Tube

Swirlies' debut album "Blonder Tongue Audio Baton", from which today's song is taken, came out in 1992, which probably accounts for the fact that it's often dismissed as being just MBV-copyism. Certainly, they play with quite similar sounds to Loveless and Isn't Anything, but I think they also do enough interesting things of their own to make it one of my favourite albums of the period. The songs are just as expansive as those on Loveless, but stripped of a few of the layers of noise, which reveals some top-notch guitar playing as well as sweet vocals. The songs are also full of ideas: they rarely stay the same for very long. As well as MBV there are definitely bits of Sonic Youth, Polvo and that kind of thing here, but the vocals always keep it within the heavy dream-pop/shoegaze realm.

This song's one of my favourites on the album, but, really, it's all worth checking out (as is the second album: I haven't heard any of the others). Listen to "Wait Forever", the last track on the album, for an amazing field recording secret track too!

"Every night, scream a little."

Swirlies - Wrong Tube

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Song Of The Day 11/06/2011: Best Coast - Gone Again

'Crazy For You', Best Coast's debut full length, is an incredibly annoying record in a lot of ways - the terrifyingly cloying and stalkerish lyrics , the massive overuse of the rhyme between 'crazy' and 'lazy', the whole of the first track - but I listened to it a lot last year on account of the pop hooks present all the way through. Although they've released a lot of collaborations since the album, this is the first proper release of a song that will probably be on the band's second record. It's all quite similar, to be honest. If you liked the first album, you'll like this, if you didn't, you won't. But the video is spectacular, and deserves a watch whatever your views on the band.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Song Of The Day 10/06/2011: Brave Irene - Bank Holiday

Rose Melberg is probably Amelia Fletcher's main rival to the title of 'most prolific person in indiepop'. Her newest project, Brave Irene, released a debut EP a couple of months ago (although, at 8 songs, I think it's probably more of a mini-album). It's exactly what you'd expect - sweet summery twee, with prominent keyboard parts and fuzzed-up guitars. The whole EP is really good, but this is probably my favourite song, with a lovely lilt that perfectly fits the feeling of a summer bank holiday spent lazing in the park.

One thing - I thought Bank Holidays were a purely British thing? I'm sure that isn't what Americans call them - Melberg was probably just looking for a bit of olde-worlde charm.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Song Of The Day 09/06/2011: Spare Snare - I'll Get By

Today's song comes from Scotland's 46th best band, Spare Snare. Well, I'd put them much higher but that's what they put on their promo materials anyway.
It's the first Spare Snare song I ever heard and it's an absolute corker, coming across like a Dundee version of Sebadoh at their catchiest best. Great stuff.

The Snare are very prolific, and (brilliantly) they've recently put all their stuff on Spotify, so there's lots to discover if you like lo-fi type stuff. The first few albums are more this sort of stuff, the more recent ones are usually a bit more sedate but still good. The album this is from, Animals and Me, is my favourite.

Spare Snare - I'll Get By

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Song Of The Day 08/06/2011: Mazzy Star - Blue Flower

In the last couple of days I've discovered It sells itself as the first member of the next generation of social music services, and I have to say it's pretty good. Basically in each 'room', which are normally guided towards a particular genre, there are 5 people who take it in turns to play songs for the others in the room. A very basic idea, but it manages to be remarkably addictive. You get 'DJ points' for playing popular things, and you can be skipped if you play stuff people don't like. The surprising thing about it is the high level of music taste in certain rooms - obviously there is a lot of crap, but when America wakes up there are normally a good few rooms playing the kind of thing I want to hear - the last 3 songs before I started to write this post were by the Vaselines, the Softies and Mazzy Star. At the moment it's only in the alpha stage, which means that it hasn't had a public release, but if you're Facebook friends with anyone who  has access (such as me) you are allowed to use it.

I remember the Mazzy Star track, Blue Flower, from a Jools Holland DVD I got a few years ago of mid-90s American alt.rock. I need to dig it out and have a re-watch I think. Although they were short-lived, they made at one brilliant album (1993's 'So Tonight That I Might See') and a couple of classic singles. It's all very fuzzy and 90s, and it's the kind of thing that is ripe for a rediscovery by the indie rock community in the way shoegaze and slowcore have been in the last couple of years.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Song Of The Day 07/06/2011: Fairport Convention - Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

Left it a bit late to blog today, so I'm not going to be able to do much more than a couple of sentences. I've decided that today, instead of posting something in any way new to me, I'll go back to one of my earliest musical memories. My parents were big fans of Fairport Convention, and I remember a lot of evenings back when I was young on which this song would be played at top, top volume directly below my room. This song, especially the bassline and Sandy Denny's spectacular vocals, will be forever imprinted on my psyche, along with a lot of the rest of the Fairport and Richard Thompson oeuvres. It could be a lot worse.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Song Of The Day 06/06/2011: Talulah Gosh - I Can't Get No Satisfaction (Thank God)

There's an excellent Radio 4 interview on the iPlayer at the moment (although you'll have to be quick) in which Alan Johnson interviews Amelia Fletcher about her double life as the lead singer of many of the best indiepop/twee bands of the last 25 years, which include Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research and Tender Trap, coupled with her work as the chief economist of the Office of Fair Trading and, of course, raising a family. The whole series is worth a listen, with other subjects so far including Chris Spedding, one of the few people I can think of that played with a member of the Velvet Underground and the Wombles (not at the same time, unfortunately).

This is one of my favourite TG songs. It was later covered by Rose Melberg's outfit the Softies, but I prefer this version for its much punkier instrumentation.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Song Of The Day 05/06/2011: Electrelane - The Valleys

Today's song is from the album "The Power Out" by Electrelane, a band it took me a painfully long time to actually get around to listening to. I'm not sure why, since their mix of female vocals, krautrock grooves and experimentation is right up my street. They also have Ros Murray (who also plays in the ever-excellent bands Trash Kit and Ray Rumours) on bass. I finally listenined to them after they announced a reunion (or whatever it's called when a band stops being on hiatus) and I'm really glad I did.
This song's particularly good, and pretty much unique. I've never heard anything like the use of the choir here. I suppose one of the closest comparisons I can think of is some of Dirty Projectors' stuff, but really it's not like anything else. Great record, great band: hopefully I'll get a chance to see them soon.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Song Of The Day 04/06/2011: Red House Painters - Void

Old Ramon is probably my favourite Red House Painters record. It's not a widely held opinion - Mark Kozelek released many albums that have been both more critically and more commercially successful - but it was the first one I heard, and nothing else he's done has the sheer emotional power of the first 4 tracks. This is my favourite of the 4, a stunningly atmospheric song. I'm never quite sure what the mood of it is - on the surface, it feels extremely miserable, but none of the things he sings about seem to really matter to him.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Song Of The Day 03/06/2011: Low - Transmission

Tonight, after Belle and Sebastian on Monday, I'm seeing another of the small group of bands in my all time top 10 that I've never seen live. Low are playing the Barbican, a venue I haven't been to before (for a gig, anyway). I've been looking forward to it a lot, ever since I first heard their new album, C'mon, which is in my opinion the record of the year so far.

Today I've been chain-listening to their entire back catalogue, and have heard a couple of interesting tracks I haven't heard much before. One is this, their cover of Joy Division's classic 'Transmission', with its instantly recognisable bass intro slowed down to a fraction of the original. I really like this kind of cover, which is both unmistakeably the original song, yet could never have actually been produced by the original band. They even change the key of the vocals - the melodic interplay between the two vocal lines means the song isn't as immediate as the original, but rather gives a vague sense of queasiness rather than a full hit of unease.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Song Of The Day 02/06/2011: The Wendy Darlings - Suffer Girl

This post marks the beginning of my gradual lead-up to Indietracks. I've only just started investigating some of the bands on the bill I haven't heard of, and the sunny weather has really got me in the mood for some of the proper twee on offer. Indietracks is one of the best places there is for this kind of thing - if you haven't got a ticket yet, or indeed don't know what I'm talking about, make sure you make the effort to go (although I'm not sure why you'd be reading this blog if you had no idea what it was).

I love the vocals on this song, especially the backing whoops. I haven't investigated much of their stuff, but they have a couple of EPs up on Bandcamp to listen to. They're the perfect level of twee for me - sweet, but not sickly, with a slight edge in the rhythm section.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Song Of The Day 01/06/2011: Seapony - I Never Would

Yes, I know, I post a lot of this kind of thing. Blah blah blah, dreamy female fronted twee, summer, lovely, sunny, girls in pretty dresses, comparisons to many bands of the last year, etc. Don't just skip over this though - Seapony are so much better than the likes of Tennis and many other darlings of the blog community it is incredible. Their debut full-length has just been released on Hardly Art and, despite a distinct lack of a fourth chord, it is one of the most fun summer records so far this year.