The Smell of the leaves, from the magnolia trees, in the meadow…

At the risk of going all Mojo/Uncut on you, I’m going to make a list of some of my favourite records. This not a pathetic attempt to up my circulation, (despite all appearances), there is a reason for it.

The other day, I was at the pub with my friends Tom and Rob when out of the blue Rob says,

“Top ten albums of all time, then?”

Now, I have spent many hours of my life building up to this moment, shuffling and reshuffling a few choice records until I knew the top three (or four) instantly. The Band, Forever Changes and Exile on Main Street (obviously), with Astral Weeks having drifted out to a distant fourth as I’ve grown older (at one stage it was Number 2).

But after that, I suddenly realised, I was struggling. I really couldn’t put together the rest of the top ten – there were just too many to choose from. I was acutely aware that my main four were sixties (or early seventies) records – anyone looking at that would think my music world fizzled out in 1972, in a crumbling mansion in the south of France.

What about all those modern records that I love? In a few years time, will Gulag Orkestar still seem the shining gem it does now? Which Gorky’s records should I include? Which Byrds record? Then there’s the feeling that all my records are made by white folk (I know… Arthur Lee…), don’t I like any black music? What about Al Green and Bob Marley? OMG! What about ska, reggae and the Upsetter?

In short I blew it. I dithered and dried up and totally missed my window. The moment was gone and I let myself down. And it’s been eating away at me for over a week now… (To the extent, I confess, that I’ve spent no little time hovering around my CD shelves with pen and paper. Sad, me?)

I’ve narrowed it down to about twenty, but it’s still pretty fluid, so the list won’t be appearing here yet (if ever). But one thing of which I am sure and remain unshakeable on is that my favourite ever record is the Band’s eponymous second album. It’s a wonderful (wonderful) piece without a weak track on it (Tom, btw, suggested that Exile on Main Street was patchy… controversial?). It started a whole new genre of modern music and it’s impossible to imagine the output of Wilco, Ryan Adams, Sufjan Stevens or Calexico without The Band.

I love the way they look (weather-beaten, unwashed, bearded), the autumnal colours of the sleeve and the range of the instrumentation of the songs. I’ve always been fascinated too by the way it feels like a record out of its time  and refers to past events as if they were just a couple of years ago, still fresh in the memory.

Here’s a magnificent clip of the Band rehearsing my favourite track from the record, King Harvest Has Surely Come…

And if you don’t like this, well, there’s going to be a parting of the ways, my friend…

There is a dream inside this place, it has been waiting all year long.

Some people move slower than others, don’t you find?

I’ve just downloaded the newest of the Emusic Selects records, an album by The Family Band, called Miller Path. Emusic are touting it as a “pitch-black skeletal goth-folk”, which tells you a lot of what you need to know, but for me the most striking thing about the record, gothic and miserable as it is, is the sheer pace of the thing.

It’s slow, sometimes real slow.

Each song trudges along morosely, funereally, you could say, earning its gothic wings with something to spare. There are protracted instrumental pieces between lines and long gaps between tracks that add to the sense of taking some time.

It’s all rather like finding yourself in an awkward conversation with someone who doesn’t really talk a lot, or rather, talks sparingly – there’s little doubt that there’s going to be more to come. There’s a certain fascination in enduring the pauses and waiting for next comment, and at times it’s all you can do to avoid babbling ridiculously to cover the silences. Stop yourself from filling in the gaps, however, and the whole records becomes a rewarding if gloomy experience.

The core of Family Band is husband and wife Kim Krans and Jonny Ollsin who split their time between Brooklyn and a log cabin in the Catskills, all a bit Handsome Family cum Bon Iver, I know, but really nothing like either. And I dunno, but since I read that I find myself looking for city and country-type elements in their music. I fancy I can hear city-style tensions and stress, slipped in alongside the rural pauses.

You can hear the whole record here, and there are a few free downloads available, one from eMusic, which I’ll host here, and two others from The Fader, which I’ll leave you to find for yourself

Fantasy – The Family Band

Then there are a couple of decent videos to be had, including this one:

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