This is as close to worth it as we’ve been hoping for

field-music_creditandymartinActually, I do feel better for that.

Got a few comments about last night’s post and the, erm, tone of it. So I thought I’d probably better get in and talk about some of the records I actually liked from this year.

Like this one…

Commontime – Field Music

When I started to go through the aforementioned end-of-year lists I was struck by the fact that Field Music’s latest gift only came out this year – it seems like it came out ages ago. I’m tempted to think that Time really is a relative concept when it comes to Field Music records. They pack such a lot into every moment of every tune that the Old Feller does some sort of double-take, holds up for a moment and rewinds the tape. (You’ll notice that in my stuffed, overdone metaphor, for some reason Time still uses a shonky old cassette player…)

Talking about Field Music making one of the best records of the year is a bit like suggesting Barcelona could win the Champions League this season – not exactly sticking your neck out, are you? But there you are, if it’s quality, you might as well call it.

So another Field Music record, another ambitious record choc-full of twitching time signatures, bold but sparingly-used guitars, taut drumming and all manner of muted jiggery-pokery dancing around the edges. Such is the regularity and consistency of the Brewis’ output that at first I was tempted to add this to my “treading water” list of yesterday. Thankfully for my shot-to-pieces credibility, I gave it another listen and all manner of technicolour fantasia figures reintroduced themselves through my headphones. What beautiful, clever chappies they are.

One of the things that struck me at the time and even more so yesterday is the immediacy and warmth of the lyrics. Snatches of conversation fresh from the Brewis kitchen (I like to think) waft in and out of the songs, some of them alarmingly candid, almost ill-advisedly frank. Kind-hearted counsel, which in other less-skilled hands would sound arch or cheesy, is instead dispensed with tenderness and sympathy, and such is the legendary niceness of the brothers that I take it at the fullest of face values.

Some of the songs are damn funky (in spite of what they say), some are tricky listens (not going to lie to you…) and some pass you by completely until you take a moment, but all of them are intelligent and reward you for a careful listen (not always my speciality), new white horses rising to the surface with every listen.

Here’s a belting video of one of those KEXP sessions (God bless those folk) with a great interview with the brothers in the middle (where they talk about the “F” word) and the best version of Disappointed with its clever vocal interplay and heroic bassline.

The comments on any Field Music video are quite illuminating, siting all sorts of bands as influences almost all of whom I’ve either never bothered with or have high-handedly dismissed as beneath me.

Well, thank God for the Brewises!

I look around, nothing’s what it seems

angrykidDecember’s regular trawl through the various end-of-year lists leads me inevitably to a couple of thoughts:

”I should probably do one of these.” (Oh God…)

and, when the penny dropped,

“It’s been a pretty thin year, hasn’t it?”

I’m guessing at this point, there’ll be a few outraged hipsters jumping from their seats, tipping over metaphorical tables and storming out of the room, muttering dark words about the Cavern of Anti-Matter record or Amber Arcades’ Green Man set. But… I think I’m standing by it.

I say “I think” but I’m actually pretty sure – I know this because I wrote a list, although not an end-of-year list, ooh no:

2016 – Six Records I Hated:

 

MY WOMAN – Angel Olsen

OK, that’s a bit strong, it’s not at all bad, just not nearly as good Burn Your Fire For No Witness, which I really only discovered this year and to my ears sounds way better. Nothing on the new one is half as clever or witty as “Hi Five”. And while we’re on it, I disproportionately hate those bloody capitals.

FLOTUS – Lambchop

Again capitals? Really? And who had the bright idea to “correct” Kurt Wagner’s soulful, conversational vocals? This is the only record on the list I couldn’t bring myself to buy – couldn’t get past the wretched samples…

Void Beats/Invocation Trex – Cavern of Anti-Matter

Tried pretty hard to like this record (including another listen this morning), but I just don’t (no matter how many times Neu! are referenced in reviews)

IV – Black Mountain

Really, really liked their first album and remember playing the bejeezus out of it at the time, but this is awful – none of the cool fun, none of the loopy graceful style. Hard to believe this is the same band to be honest.

Modern Country – William Tyler

Read the reviews of this and was charmed by the “modern country” idea, but really, there’s just nothing there. One of those records that is good because people say it is. If you heard this playing in a lift, or at an airport, you’d probably wonder how on earth Pitchfork gave it an 8…

Fading Lines – Amber Arcades

Another record I tried and tried with, but tossed it away when I realised what I was doing. If only the rest of the album was as good as the title track…

2016 – Seven Quite Good Records by Bands I Cherish, that’ll *do*…

… but

 

Stiff – White Denim (highlights “Holda You (I’m Coming)” and “Big, Big Fun” but it’s no D)

Schmilco – Wilco (highlights: the line “Cry, like a window pane”, actually the whole song, but a few tracks that are pretty forgettable)

Here – Teenage Fanclub (hardly fair, I know. They’re Teenage Fanclub – if I wanted progression, I’m in the wrong relationship)

Singing Saw – Kevin Morby (Can’t understand this one’s appearance in all the lists – did no one hear the previous two records? Or his stuff with the Babies? Pretty thin stuff compared to these…)

City Sun Eater In The River Of Light – Woods (love this bunch, but, meh…)

Calico Review – the Allah-Lahs (memories of seeing them at Psychfest one year, possibly the coolest band I’ve ever seen. Where are they now?)

Hold/Still – Suuns (actually, Suuns may well be the coolest band I’ve ever seen, but I’ve gotta say, they’re losing me…)

 

2016 – Four Records I’ll Not Be Buying

(This is my Blog, and these are my prejudices)

 

22, A Million – Bon Iver (Sorry, but no.)

Blackstar – David Bowie (nope)

Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave (nope)

The bloody Radiohead record (I’m an old man, not going to change now)

 

D’you know? I feel a little better for that…

Lucky Seven – Some Gigs of 2015

empty-stageI think I mentioned last time that with the end of Euros Childs at Thekla last week, 2015 is now complete as far as live music is concerned. 2014 was a pretty thin year for me, due to a combination of factors, but this year has definitely upped the ante for coming seasons. I’m slightly self-conscious about talking numbers because I know so many serious liggers who might smile indulgently into their Eindhoven Psychlab lanyards, but I think twenty (plus a music festival) is a decent haul for a middle-aged part-timer.

So having scratched about a bit last year, coming up with seven notable live sets of 2015 is a different sort of challenge to wrestle with. Here, then, in roughly chronological order, with an extra recording or two from each set:

The PP Lucky Seven – Live

 

“Worlds that crash each other…”

  1.   White Fence @ The Fleece, January

An electrifying start to the year, which I’d been looking forward to all over Christmas. Augmented by a slightly self-conscious Cate le Bon (not at that time fully bedded in, I felt) I remember being thrilled by Presley’s light, slashing guitar work (a rapier, if you will) and by his habit of wearing his guitar high, like the Beatles or the Hollies. Class. Also saw them in the summer and to be honest they were pretty average, which is ok, leaving as it does a glittering January evening to loiter a while in the mind’s eye.

All of this, and Ultimate Painting doing support.

Anger! Who keeps you under?

 

“Put me on a pedestal I’ll only disappoint you”

2.   Courtney Barnett @ The Fleece, March

This evening seems a very long time ago indeed, but once I listen back to the recordings, it all comes skittering back. Looking back at the lines I wrote at the time, I overuse words like languid and effortless, but the point was definitely worth making, (and repeating even) – Courtney Barnett has wit and intelligence in spades. And this was ably demonstrated over the course of a relaxed, easy-going March evening at the Fleece. Skilfully supported by a sympathetic band of work colleagues, her clever songs stood proudly in front of an enthusiastic clutch of Brizzle punters (with the addition of cool a couple of hipsterish Gloucester gents…)

Pedestrian at Best

 

“Spent some times in stormy weather…”

3.   Super Furry Animals @ The Guildhall, April

Unfortunately, this clip’s not from our show – I used the best one on YouTube in the original post – but it’s how many of this year’s comeback shows started, including SFA’s first gig for six years, in my very own Gloucester. Playing for just over two hours, and showing few signs of rust or arthritis, Super Furry Animals were excellent – powerful, imaginative and above all self-assured. Having seen Gruff play many times, but never with SFA, personally there was something of a sense of relief that I’d been able to do this. That, of course, and the fact that they were so damn good…

The Man Don’t Give a Fuck

“Can’t say I never warn you, can’t say I never tell you…”

4.   Misty in Roots @ The Tunnels, May

Perhaps predictably, I’m afraid there’s no video footage of this intimate little evening at the Tunnels club, underneath Bristol Temple Meads station. And not anything similar, so you’ll have to take my word for it, when I tell you that this too was a magical evening, although in an entirely different way.

Warm, earnest and loose, MiR made light of skanking their way through an hour and a half’s set, to an enthusiastic middle-aged, group of similarly warm, loose, if not quite so earnest souls. I remember being struck at the time that sore fingers and aching limbs permitting, these fellers could have gone on all night, doing what comes naturally. I might have had to sit down, but apart from that, you’d not have heard a murmur of discontent from me or anyone else there. Bewitching stuff…

True Rasta

“It’s not a game of monopoly”

5.   Jah Wobble, The Fleece, July

Again, not much in the way of video evidence, only some very ropey footage (in which I regret to say my bald patch features heavily), but this clip from Manchester shows Wobble in his pomp – wild fingers, toneless, reedy vocals and marvellously iffy dress sense. Another great evening at the Fleece (and the third in this list) which included more than a few PiL numbers, some jazzy tendencies, loads of booming, spaghetti-western-style reggae and dub, and a 15-minute version of the Liquidator. Engaging and captivating throughout, an enormously entertaining evening.

New Mexico Dub

 

“Light as a feather, bright as the Oregon breeze…”

6.   Sufjan Stevens, Colston Hall, September

Carrie and Lowell is a beautiful, sad, profound record and if I’m honest, having got hold of a precious ticket for this gig, I was a little concerned that any live performance would be unable to match the intensity of the record, maybe even spoil it a little (I can think of quite a few records that I’ve never listened to again after seeing the artist live). I needn’t have worried, of course.

A spellbound Colston Hall audience sat back, slack-jawed, as Sufjan put on an incredible show, each song performed with a depth and thoughtfulness that enhanced them further. Don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience as mesmerised by a concert…

Should Have Known Better

(And in the very starkest of contrasts…)

 

“Lauren Lavern keeps playing Tumbling Dice”

7.   Sleaford Mods, Bierkeller, October

Actually, I’ve said the Bierkeller but the May gig was just as good, and although the footage here is actually from that date at the Exchange, I could’ve done either. Both were just brilliant, loud, bleak, profane and above all witty. Still not got much clue what he’s singing about most of the time, but, really, it’s your gut Williamson speaks to mostly…

White hot…

Bronx in a Six (Exchange)

Bronx in a Six (Bierkeller)

Fall off the avalanche…

Never got round to writing about my favourite records of 2014 – partly because of the reasons I mentioned in the last post (not really being “out there” at the moment, not feeling the year was a particularly good one for new music) and partly for the age old PP reasons of getting distracted by other things, not being arsed. You know how it is…

But for what it’s worth, my favourite record of the year was this one…

 

I’ll confess I’ve drifted away from Beck over the years, losing track of his myriad releases and Bowie-esque shapeshifting, to the extent that although I own copies of most of his records, I’m not really sure I could put them in order or track some sort of progress or evolution to them. I bought Morning Phase pretty much when it came out, though, and since then I’ve been through a number of distinct phases of listening which I feel may not yet be complete.

First listens were dominated by the lush double-tracked vocals and the “new” CSN sound that featured very little in the way of beats. Really enjoyed the humid, stifling feel of songs like “Morning” and the beautiful “Turn Away”, loved the rich strings and the soft focus arrangements, sang along gently and foolishly. All very listenable.

But then, songs like “Blackbird Chain” and “Unforgiven” seemed to rise to the fore, and a narrative (there’s a 2014 word for you) emerged – aided by a few choice interviews and reviews – the man’s been through an emotional trauma of some sort. These are songs whose lyrics have managed to penetrate my feckless consciousness, wretched words of regret and a dogged unwillingness to let go, songs that suggest a vulnerability I hadn’t noticed before. I really liked the words that come in and out of the gorgeous mists of “Wave”, chillingly depersonalised as they are. (I also really like the long fade out…)
Beck PortraitsAnd later still, after a while I found myself becoming not a little disturbed by those lush arrangements and in particular the same double-tracked vocals that first grasped my attention as I got to know the record. I’m actually quite bothered by the tension between what we are led to believe is a new emotional candidness and the painstakingly crafted productions. On the one hand, we’re encouraged to believe we’re being allowed a rare peek behind the mask, a once impenetrable soul laid bare for those who care to see. But then, there are those (beautiful) country-tinged arrangements that are anything but naked or unguarded – they’re carefully, elegantly fashioned. Again, my thoughts return to Bowie – I’m not really a fan – and the “artifice” of it all. (I know, by the way, how quaint and old fashioned I sound, and the self-conscious speech marks are an attempt to make it seem less so).

Yeah, I know, if I demand some sort of faux realism from everything I listen to, I’ll become a very dull boy indeed. But at this stage in my Morning Phase listening, it’s something I’ve not quite been able to straighten out.

Yet.

But… fact remains that having been left a little unsettled by the thing a couple of weeks ago, I get it out again for the purposes of this post, and begin to find myself drawn back in by those saccharine strings and queasy arrangements. What can I say? I think I may be going down again…

It’s my favourite record of the year.

Many strangers have arrived, wearing immense black boots, selling buttons at my door, I don’t feel well

f23ee6be4059db716502c71ea3433326Once again the earnest souls of @lpgrp have organised a Secret Santa exchange of Best of ’14 tracks to share with each other. I enjoy this and it’s always interesting to hear new endorsements but I have to admit that this year I threw mine together in a bit of a hurry, having not got myself organised earlier and for a number of reasons I’m not entirely happy with it.

Probably the biggest gripe I have with myself is that although the brief was to compile it from “new to you” tracks rather than bona fide released-in-the-last-12-months stuff, there really isn’t much new stuff here. I can’t decide whether this is because 2014’s not been a great year for new releases or whether this year I’ve been more easily distracted than usual. I suspect it’s a large slice of both.

This is one of the reasons I’ve not clambered into the whole seasonal gongs business this year – I haven’t really bought a lot of new stuff (neither have I seen a lot of live music, for that matter…) – and so I feel a little out of touch. All in all, I reckon the tracks by Mogran Delt, Doug Tuttle, the Delines, Siesta! and Tigres Leones are about the only brand new stuff on the collection. The tracks by White Fence, Courtney Barnett and Speedy Ortiz are new-ish but the rest is, I’m afraid, all old. Some of it really old (the Trio Matamoros song is from the forties, I think).

But anyway, here, in all its glory:

Secret Santa ’14 – @Sweeny99

  1. Pink Gorilla – White Fence
  2. Make My Grey Brain Green – Morgan Delt
  3. Save My Soul – Wimple Winch
  4. 1906 – The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
  5. Millionspiel – Can
  6. Bat Macumba – Os Mutantes
  7. Muevéla – Abelardo Carbonó
  8. Jam 5 Kai Thiet – Ros Serey Sothea
  9. Lam Tung Wai – Chaweewan Dumnem
  10. Buenos Hermanos – Trio Matamoros
  11. Avant Gardener – Courtney Barnett
  12. Colfax Avenue – the Delines
  13. Erusu Nganga – The Sweet Talks
  14. Ya Mom Samaray – Guelewar
  15. Bocata de Sangre – Siesta!
  16. Pájaros – Tigres Leones
  17. With Us Soon – Doug Tuttle
  18. No below – Speedy Ortiz

Having said all this, you’ll love it – some psych, some afrobeat, some garage punk, some Spanish new wave – but particularly worth noting are tracks 8 and 9 which I’ve taken from a couple of fabulous Cambodian and Siamese compilations by Parallel World and by the consistently brilliant Soundway Records.

If you don’t fancy any of it, I understand, it’s OK – we can still be friends. Although, I would urge you to listen at least to the Trio Matamoros track which features Cuba’s greatest singer Beny Moré and is just magnificent. It also includes a really wild piano break which sounds like it finishes in some sort of plane crash (around the 2:30 mark).

 

I was going to leave it there, but I think it’s worth mentioning that while I may not have spent much time on new releases, 2014 has not been a waste of time entirely. It is after all the year when I finally discovered the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, surely the weirdest of a weird crop.

“1906” is certainly as odd a song as anything I heard this year and I can’t help thinking 2015 will have to be a very strange one indeed to throw up anything like this…

 

Here’s to more strangeness!

2013 – Seven (alright, Ten) Great Records

131030-bill-callahan-small-plane-dream-river-videoI’m not going to do a lot on this, mainly because I’ve kind of covered it in the Secret Santa post of last week.

But…  when asked for my top ten of the year by the kind-hearted folk of @lpgrp, I gave them this list:

  • Dream River – Bill Callahan
  • Mug Museum – Cate le Bon
  • Light Up Gold – Parquet Courts
  • Re-Mit – The Fall
  • Wed 21 – Juana Molina
  • Images du Futur – Suuns
  • Stitches – Califone
  • Corsicana Lemonade – White Denim
  • What the Brothers Sang – Dawn McCarthy & Bonny Prince Billy
  • Who is William Onyeabor? – William Onyeabor

They’re kind of in order, although if you pressed me, I’d probably change it all round again, and put a couple of extra ones in there (the Califone record deserves to go up a couple of places, I reckon…).

I am pretty sure, though, that my favourite record was Bill Callahan’s, and I wrote a few lines about it for the @lpgrp blog, which will no doubt appear there in time for Sunday’s Dream River session.

Dream River – Bill Callahan

One of the bottomless joys of Christmas time is the privilege of having time to just piss away, heedless of all other normal considerations. And, really, what better way to do this than with some warmed-up Christmas pudding and another leisurely listen to Bill Callahan’s Dream River.

To my surprise, Dream River has won the prestigious @lpgrp album of the year award to be ruminated and cogitated over on Jan 5th. And perhaps even more surprising, given my previously poor record in these matters, is that I actually voted it my favourite of the year.

I’m not going to try to do a serious review of what is at times a pretty formless and hard-to-pin-down record – it’s beyond my ken, to be honest, and would largely spoil the point of the actual evening, even if I could. There are a couple of pretty good reviews at the Pitchfork and Quietus sites, though, which will get you started. Instead I thought I’d mention a couple of pointers and suggest some ways in for folk who are just getting to know this lovely record.

When I am out walking my eyes are still forming the door I walk through

  • The word “unhurried” doesn’t really do justice to Callahan’s deep, laconic delivery or quite prepare you for his gentle, sometimes puzzling images or slowly unfolding songs. Many of the pictures and metaphors he uses develop in your mind, taking substance as they recede and the song moves on. His songs are for stopping and listening to with a slow drink and perhaps a free afternoon, rather than playing on the car stereo or while you’re doing some job or other. Callahan’s style doesn’t force itself upon you, he just doesn’t compete well with the other “stuff” of your life

First thing that I will do, I will wake you too

  • I really like Bill Callahan’s careful, deliberate delivery. He’s hardly a brash, over confident character – he’s bound to be a quiet chap, surely – but he sings with measured confidence. There’s no self-conscious masking of his voice behind multiple layers of sound – for all the sense that life baffles and confuses at time, he’s clear about having something to say and wanting to be heard.

I really am a lucky man

  • I think I read that Callahan is 47 years old now, and there’s something very refreshing about hearing a man of “advancing years” reaching something approaching contentment. This is particularly true when you apply it to such a famously sombre individual as Callahan has been. To be fair, there’s still time spent “looking out of a window that isn’t there”, but there’s a little more light mixed in with the shade these days…

The only words I’ve said today are “beer” and “thank you”

  • Actually, as with many of his best records, there’s also a fair amount of gentle humour in this record: a couple of lines of “beer… … … thank you” here, a Donald Sutherland reference there – enough to make you smile to yourself as you saunter through each song. As with many things, though, the pleasure is all in Callahan’s trademark wry delivery, one which regular fans will recognise. Other familiar features of the old Smog persona also appear: the occasional nod towards an unimagined sensuality; the haunted characters whose life stories take odd twists; the restlessness and bewildering variety of travel metaphors that go hand in hand with it. All of them are reasons in themselves to know and love Bill Callahan, but bundled together in one mature, gorgeous record they make a worthy, worthy winner of this month’s vote.

Dream River is Bill Callahan’s fourth solo record in his own name, but there are a mouth-watering 13 other albums released under the name of Smog, for you to work through, which are effectively Bill Callahan records too. My own favourites are Supper and Knock, Knock, but you can’t really go wrong wherever you start. Dig in (slowly)!

Secret Santa

RedlightssmallPart of the @lpgrp Christmas festivities for this year was to organise a Secret Santa mixcd for each other, using new or new-to-you tracks for 2013 only.

It was fun and I got all sorts of new music from the mixcd that I got. I enjoyed the whole thing so much that I started burning copies of my own offering for other non-twitter buddies and members of my own family. And you know, I’ve come to look upon you, dear old Partly Porpoise reader, as part of the family too.

So here’s your copy, complete with brief liner notes (originally written for the less clued up members of my circle – you’ll have heard me rabbiting on about most of these records already…)

Merry Christmas!

Secret Santa CD

 

Secret Santa ’13 – Liner Notes

New Records of 2013

The Sing – Bill Callahan

The only words I’ve said today are “Beer” and “Thank you”

Bill Callahan’s been recording for years as Smog (loads of great albums to discover, I like Supper and Dongs of Sevotion best, but they’re all great). This track comes from Dream River, which is a lovely, thoughtful, quiet record, released this year.

Frosted Tips – Califone

In the old, watching the new world die

Califone have also been around for a good while, but “Stitches”, which came out this year, is their first record for ages. I really like their slightly glitch, junkyard countrified sound. Lyrics are pretty much in comprehensible, I’m afraid.

Master of My Craft – Parquet Courts

Forget about it!

I love this! No idea who Parquet Courts are (Google it yourself…) but they certainly don’t hang around. At 3:10 it’s pretty much the longest track on the album! Top tune, no fuss, in and out quickly…

Loadstones – The Fall

Shoes for the dead! Shoes for Loadstones!

Saw the Fall this year – they were poor, to be honest. Smith was even more whiny and incoherent than ever (and “sung” his encore from the dressing room), but it’s good to know he’s still out there. And on top of that, “Re-Mit” is a really good album.

Sunspot – Suuns

Kill whatever is to be

Saw this bunch this year too, but they were excellent – noisy, sulky and didn’t speak to the audience once. This track is from their second album – the first was one of my favourite records of last year. Sneery, horrid stuff (lyrics again pretty much unintelligible)

Iron Acton – Beak>

(Sorry about the “>”, it’s probably vital…) Not actually new, a couple of years old, I think. Him from Portishead, doing a bit of electronica / Krautrock type stuff, tracks rather disarmingly named after particular beauty spots of the Bristolian landscape…

 

Black Cat – Soft Walls

Come in from outside, and close the door behind

Soft Walls are some sort of side-project of a bloke called Dan Reeves whose day job is to play with a band called Cold Pumas (who aren’t nearly as good as this…). Moody, hypnotic stuff, with all sorts of “found” sounds cavorting around out back.

Eras – Juan Molina

Come, come quickly!

Juana Molina is from Argentina, and sings in English, Spanish and maybe Portuguese (there’s some stuff on the record I can’t place) – I read somewhere that she’s doing all sorts of clever stuff with language. This is a lovely record that is mostly enjoyable for its haunting rhythms and her charming voice. An Argentinian Bjork, if you like (without all the silliness, obviously…)

Sisters – Cate le Bon

I know well this space I fill, I’ve seen both sides, I know the drill

I make this Cate le Bon’s third album, and although I liked the first two, there’s a definite upgrade each time. She’s part of what you’d call a “burgeoning Welsh scene”, and often appears with Gruff Rhys, but I’m guessing less so as she gets more and more good press of her own. Choppy, garage-y rhythms, swirling organs and a guitar solo that sounds like it’s been played on an elastic band. If Juana Molina is an Argentinian Bjork, Cate le Bon is a Celtic Nico (I won’t do any more of these…)

New Blue Feeling – White Denim

Try to hide our fears until we go away into a place we never know until we know it.

If I’m honest, the album this came from, Corsicana Lemonade, isn’t as good as last year’s effort, but this is a beautiful song. Saw them last year, and they’re real muso types, occasionally showy masters of their craft and all that, but it’s the words that make this song…

Shelter Song – Temples

Now I know the lonely days are gone

I don’t think Temples have released an album yet, and I only heard this because it turned up on one of those Mojo giveaway CDs. The opening notes sound a lot like a new (old) Pretty Things song, (and that can only be a Good Thing…) and from there it goes on to drift further and further into past times. Lovely, new psychedelia…

 

New-To-Me Records of 2013

At this point, the CD veers crazily away from modern records and focuses on records that are old but I’d never heard until this year.

I’m Rowed Out – The Eyes

You got a grey suede coat and a soul like fire

If the first notes of Shelter Song made me think of the Pretty Things, your first thoughts on hearing the choppy opening chords of “I’m Rowed Out” will be of the Who. I’ve no idea who the Eyes were and why they didn’t become really huge, but they surely should’ve been. Great clunking Moon-ish drums; harsh, jerky guitar chords and what sounds to me like classic mod lingo – they had it all…

Gotta Get Enough Time – The Fleurs de Lys and Sharon Tandy

I look in the mirror and I get a surprise, I got 14 people looking out of my eyes

I’ve spent a lot of time this year listening to mid-Sixties mod / psychedelic records, and again, as with the Eyes, I’m stumped to know why the Fleur de Lys didn’t get bigger. The records they did with Sharon Tandy are just incredible – the combination of their furious freakbeat backdrop and her furious smoky delivery are as good as anything else of the time.

I Wonder If I Care As Much As I Did Before – The Everly Brothers

It’s your mistakes I’m thinking of..

Also spent a good amount of time around Easter listening to a great box set of Sixties albums by the Everlys. I’m told the Sixties saw a few of the old Fifties legends trying to go Serious (with varying results), but this is a lovely song of weariness and regret; I can really recommend the Roots album that it came off.

Colours – Kaleidoscope

Oh, please, acid colours burn my brain, I’m just insane

Not the American Kaleidoscope, Silly! Nor the British Kaleidoscope either – these are the Mexican Kaleidoscope… (oh yes!) Turns out there’s a whole world of Latin Nuggets-style garage punk / psychedelia out there, just like this. And actually, loads of it’s pretty damn good. The lyrics above pretty much tell you what you need to know about this record, it’s all rather 1967…

 Ya Se – Los Ovnis

¡Así lo se que me has probado!

Another belter from South America 1967, taken from the Los Nuggetz collection (as was the Kaleidoscope track) which has been one of the finds of the year for me. Rasping punky guitars, farfisa organs and distraught vocals – a winning combination!

Vacilando con Ayahuasca – Juaneca y su Combo

¡Así, así, más Juaneco, qué rico!

I love this! Juaneco and his Combo recorded in the Sixities in Peru, playing traditional Peruvian songs with wah-wah guitars and more “happening” arrangements. Apparently, the young folk went wild for it and a Chicha legend was born (which was unfortunately further amplified by a classic Rock’n’Roll air crash which accounted for three-quarters of the band in the mid-seventies…).

Sonido Amazonico – Los Mirlos

Here’s another Peruvian Chicha classic of the times by another Peruvian band, Los Mirlos, which came off another great Peruvian compilation called The Roots of Chicha. If you’re interested, there’s actually an American band around now, Chicha Libre, doing their own Chicha songs and covering the odd classic, including (the very odd) Sonido Amazonico

Judith – Lucho Perez

¡Bailate cumbia, muchacha hermosa! ¡Bailate cumbia, que guapallosa!

Dance the Cumbia, my beauty! Josie and I spent a thoroughly entertaining weekend driving around Abergavenny in the summer, sound-tracked irresistibly by the goofy rhythms of Colombian Cumbia like this. Recorded sometime in the Fifties by the ever-exuberant Lucho Perez, this is probably my favourite track off a brilliant Soundways compilation, called The Original Sound of Cumbia, It’s great!

Maria Lando – Susanna Baca

Pero para Maria, no hay mediodía…

And to close, a more thought-provoking song from one of the David Byrne compilations, Afro-Peruvian Classics: The Soul of Black Peru, from the beautiful voice (and pen) of Susanna Baca. I’m pretty sure this is a bit of a tear-jerker about poverty and slavery in Peru, but even if I’ve totally missed the point, it’s still a gorgeous, soulful melody, which sticks in my head every time I hear it. (Interesting-ish fact: in a later life Susanna Baca went on to become a Cabinet Minister in the Peruvian government.)

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