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!

Bang and bang and shoot.

SpeedyOrtiz_MA013 (1)I’m not getting to many gigs these days, a sad state of affairs that has been brought home to me by the recent White Denim and Flamin’ Groovies disappointments but even more so by the one date I have managed to make recently, a cracking evening at the Exchange in Bristol, in the company of Speedy Ortiz.

Speedy Ortiz

I’d forgotten quite how small the Exchange is. It’s tiny, the stage area not a whole lot bigger than a largish front room. But really, that’s great, if you’re one of the lucky ones with a ticket in your pocket and a lurid green band fastened tightly about your wrist. The whole standing expectantly in front of a stage, pint in hand, waiting for the band thing was as feverishly strong as ever, and I found myself making unrealistic promises to myself almost instantly. Two really strong support bands later (Personal Best and Empty Pools – both local, both terrific and both to be posted about at a later date, I promise. No, really…) and I was enjoying myself so much I was even beginning to think Speedy Ortiz were going to have trouble living up to expectations…

No worries, there, Speedy Ort-eez (we were to learn) were tremendous – rowdy, difficult and the ideal mixture of taut sloppiness to complement their awkward, harsh, delicate songs. Singer Sadie Dupois is (I’m sure I read) a poet and some sort of semi-academic talent, although I may be making this last part up, but is of course something of a pale beauty, as well. I don’t have a good visual memory, generally, but the image of Ms Dupois in her immodestly short skirt, bashing the shit out of her guitar is one that I think will linger… (I’m a little embarrassed to say I can remember precious little of the rest of the band – although on the recordings I can be heard saying “the drummer’s a bit of an animal, isn’t he?”, so I can’t have been slobbering all evening…)

It was a great set, running through a lot of material not on Major Arcana, the Real Hair and Sports EPs featuring heavily. Didn’t know these two records at the time, but I’ve quickly sorted this. There were superb versions of “Gary”, “Indoor Soccer”, “Plough” and “No Below”, a song she said she wasn’t keen on any more, but which I always find moving.

Actually, listening to the recordings, the band were excellent, no mean achievement seeing as regular guitarist Matt Robidoux has just gone on “indefinite hiatus”. Stand-in guitarist Devin McKnight did an admirable job (good enough for me to remain oblivious to the changes until yesterday…)

A lightning 45 minutes of feedback-drenched, fearsomely-loud overexcitement was over in a heartbeat, and in no time we were out on the street, ears ringing to the strains of encore “Taylor Swift”. A fair old racket, indeed.

All things considered, the recordings haven’t come out badly at all. I commend to you the following:

Gary

Plough

Doomsday

Casper (1995)