Passing slowly through the town…

IMG_1570The picture on the left is a souvenir from last week’s Kevin Morby gig. I often hang around the merch stall at gigs but by now have learned to curb my natural urge to buy an ill-advised t-shirt or the support band’s murky CD. But I did buy the t-shirt this time, partly because it looks quite cool, but mostly because, now, I have seen this man and by the looks of things last night, I am one of only 25 West Country folk who actually has…

Kevin Morby, The Louisiana

So anyway, I flew solo down to the Louisiana last Monday evening to see ex-Woods member and (ex?) Babies frontman, Kevin Morby, whose two terrific solo records I think I’ve droned on about before. Both of them are great, I reckon, and have been well-received by press and Twitterati alike, so I was pretty surprised at how few people had come out to see him, the Louie being pretty much empty when I arrived (admittedly early). The contrast between this and the previous night’s Sufjan concert couldn’t have been much stronger. He looked a little pissed off himself, although he graciously thanked those who had showed up, mentioning other good shows in Bristol that evening that might have tempted folk away, but I could see that fresh as he (also) was from End of the Road, it must have been a bit disheartening.

No matter. It was actually a very good show indeed. Dipping in and out of Harlem River and Still Life, he led a drums-guitar-lead trio, with Justin Sulivan and Meg Duffy, that switched to drums-bass-lead once he strapped on the electric guitar. The set went up a notch, at this point, to be honest, and he injected a bit of life into his itchy, awkward songs. “Motors Runnin” and “Harlem River” were particularly blunt, both with extended freakouts to close.

And, all a bit soon, it was over. No encore, and by the end it all felt a little perfunctory. I would like to have heard “Arlo Jones” and perhaps something from the Babies’ records, but there you go. I can understand it, a fine set nonetheless, and the recordings are well worth hearing.

Motors Runnin’

Harlem River

Parade

Sucker in the Void

If you come to find out who you are…

kevin-morbyThought I’d drop a few lines about a couple of artists whose records I’m really enjoying these days and whom you may, if you’re lucky, hear drifting from the window of a tiny Nissan Micra scampering around the Gloucestershire countryside this summer. If you’ve got your ear to the ground you’ll no doubt be well acquainted with these fellers, but if not, well, you’re welcome.

Kevin Morby / The Babies

Up until last year or so, Kevin Morby’s dayjob was to play bass in Jeremy Earls’ wonderful, technicolour Woods, another of my very favourite bands. I didn’t realise this at first when I originally picked up on Morby’s sparkling solo records, so when the penny eventually dropped, it made me look at the Woods records he was involved with (four, I think, up until Bend Beyond in 2012) in something of a new way. An embarrassment of riches for sure – think Jimmy Page playing bass with the Yardbirds, or maybe Petr Cech on the bench at Chelsea.

I’ve seen Woods a couple of times, and on both occasions they were superb. Morby had already left by the time Woods took the show at Psychfest last year, but the first time I saw them at End of the Road in 2012, I remember thinking that this was a band bursting with ideas and individuals. I’m rarely that prescient but within a year Morby had made the move across the city to Arsenal (if I’m going to try to maintain the dodgy bassist-as-reserve-goalkeeper metaphor) and was working on his own songs. By the time of End of the Road, he’d already formed the Babies with Cassie Ramone from the Vivian Girls and released a self-titled album, with another, Our House on the Hill, to come out later that year.

There are now two Kevin Morby solo records, Harlem River and Still Life, both of which are really excellent, jam-packed with emotive, unhurried strokes of some genius, and if you include the second Babies record, which sounds a lot more like a Morby record than the first, you’ve got quite a rich seam of music to pick at. All of this came out within two years’ pretty frantic creative activity – (Still Life was apparently completely written whilst touring with the Babies), the very purplest of patches

Here’s a rather fine KEXP session from the Babies:

 

It took me a couple of listens to get used to Morby’s Dylan-ish drawl but actually now I really like it. He has a knack of writing really insistent melodies that impress his ideas upon you. I’m a great one for imposing my own thoughts and issues on other people’s songs, mostly inappropriately and in the most superficial of ways, but I remember, at a time when my daughter was leaving for six months for America, becoming quite fixated with “Wild Side (Oh the places you’ll go)”. I think if you can do that sort of thing to your audience, you’re clearly hitting the mark.

Oh go on.

Here’s some more from one of those rather distinctive Blogothèque Take Away shows…

 

I have a ticket to see Kevin Morby at the Lousiana in Bristol in September, and I’m rather looking forward to it…

Ah now, I’ve gone on too much I feel, I’ll come back to the second of my car-stereo recommendations tomorrow. You know I’m good for it…

Seven Great Records of 2012

Bobby_MooreI have loafed about this Christmas – reading, drinking, watching films and generally living the life, which has been great, but now I find myself with just a few hours in which to throw this together…

To be honest, it feels like I’ve already done this once already having been asked to nominate five 2012 records for the January Lpgrp session. I managed it with some difficulty (particularly as my Lpgrp line manager made me nominate one to be the best of them all – wild stab…), so seven should be a piece of (Christmas) pudding, eh?

Well, no. Partly because it means I’m only allowed to add two more, and partly because I change my mind as frequently as night follows day. (In fact, I can’t actually remember which one of my five was the top-rater… Just as well…)

Should give a few honourable mentions to records I really liked but didn’t quite make the cut – today’s cut at least… Really liked the best bits of the TOY record, the poppier efforts from Django Django and Alt J, the garage/psych labours of Goat, Pond and the Allah-Las and that hefty ska record from Prince Fatty and Mutant Hi-Fi. Coming up on the rails, Clear Moon by MountEerie has also grown on me an awful lot…

Anyway, here, in no particular order, my Lucky Seven for 2012

 

Bend Beyond – Woods

A real sixties-fest, this, bubblegum-ish vocals, garagey guitars and woozy, effect-laden keyboards. The album’s full of great pop songs and on stage, Woods showed a heartening willingness to “wig out” when given the chance. Great record and great live.

 

 

The Marble Downs – Trembling Bells with Bonny “Prince” Billy

Was loving this album, heaps and heaps, even before their brilliant stop off in Cheltenham… Lots of humour, a fair amount of pathos and a fascinating clash of British and American folk traditions – brass bands wrestling Americana stylings to the ground, even down to the derby/darby pronunciation clash in Ferrari in a Demolition Derby

 

 

Plumb – Field Music

Thrilled to bits to see the fabulous Brewis Boys getting a Mercury nomination, and had even begun to think they might sneak off with the prize themselves (a tad over-optimistic, I know). Still a sparkling record, chaotic, complex, fidgety and damn clever. Somebody on Twitter described Plumb as being like seeing Funkadelic covering the King Crimson back catalogue… [This is a great clip…]

 

 

Young Man in America – Anaïs Mitchell

Another fine record, massively augmented by a couple of very memorable live performances. I can’t remember if this got my Top Vote for lpgrp, but it may well have, and I’ve certainly bought this for a friend this Christmas claiming it‘s the one record of the year he should listen to. Haunting, intelligent and at times crushingly bitter. A magnificent piece of work…

 

 

Lions’ Roar – First Aid Kit

Another glimmering country gem, only this time cooked up on the wild plains of Sweden. Saw First Aid Kit at Green Man a couple of years ago and they were pretty good. One for the future, I remember thinking. I didn’t anticipate a record as strong and as fully formed as this coming out as soon as it has, though. Probably the standout track is “Emmylou” but, again, this is another collection remarkable for a whole range of very strong songs throughout.

 

 

CYRK – Cate Le Bon

Seem to have written quite a lot about Cate Le Bon over the last month or so, most of it incidental, and a slightly luke warm performance at Green Man took the sheen of this for a while. But a couple of days reacquainting myself with this gawky fizzer of a record reminded me what a cracking piece it is. Anyone know who the drummer is on this clip? (I don’t want to know…)

 

 

The Echo Show – Yeti Lane

Haven’t seen this show up on any one else’s lists, but I absolutely love it. Another band who impressed themselves upon me at End of the Road, with a graceful and stylish set on the last night, none of which was lost in this their second record, their first as a duo. Smooth, experimental and somehow very French, it reminded me of Air or Stereolab, but with a bit more oomph and a dash more geekiness.

 

 

There it is, then. Probably should’ve found space for the Gravenhurst record, and probably should’ve listened harder to the new Grizzly Bear and Tame Impala ones, but, hey! Whaddya gonna do, eh?

Lucky Seven – The Joy of Sets

dexys2OK, regular Christmas readers of this organ will remember that it often takes me a while to get into this end of year malarkey, but once I’ve warmed up…

So, anyway, I’m venturing forth and starting with some great gigs I’ve been to this year. I’m always a bit sheepish about recounting my gig tally for the year – usually I can do this on the fingers of both hands, although this year I’ve had to take off my shoes and socks too. (I have buddies who talk about getting close to three figures, think about it…)

That being as it may… here we go, chronologically:.

 

February: King Creosote & Jon Hopkins @ The Fleece, Bristol

My first visit to the Fleece, if I remember rightly, and really enjoyable evening it was too. Hot, pubby, beset with sound problems yet still gentle and intimate. Spent a lot of time following Creosote and his warm, delicate songs, but Hopkins impressed too, sympathetically colouring in around the King’s bold lines. Really nice support spot from Withered Hand too.

Only Living Boy in New York

 

April: Trembling Bells with Bonnie Prince Billy @ Frog & Fiddle, Cheltenham

Possibly my highlight of the year. Oldham was as unconventional as you’d expect, by turns daunting, witty and self-effacing, employing a new and impressive set of quirky gestures and never less than whole-hearted in the delivery of a terrific bag of songs. Trembling Bells were also powerful and more than a little scary, and a storming set was delivered with what can only be described as Gusto.

Every Time I Close my Eyes (We’re back there)

 

June: Anaïs Mitchell & the Young Man Band @ St Bonaventura’s, Bristol

Another massive treat in the warm, DIY surroundings of one of my favourite venues. Performed most of the wonderful Young Man in America record, and a good selection from her earlier stuff, all with affection and intelligence, and was supported expertly by one of the most talented bunch of musicians I’ve seen for ages. And she signed a copy of Hadestown for me.

Saw her later in the year solo in Oxford, which was also brilliant but didn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of this gig.

Tailor

 

June: Andrew Bird @ Trinity Centre, Bristol

Another debut venue, and another beautiful evening in Bristol; and if we’re talking expert musicians you’ve got to tip your hat towards Andrew Bird. I’ve never seen a man play the fiddle like this guy, bowing beautifully, then strumming it like a yuke, then back to the bow all within a verse sometimes. Played a good long, occasionally theatrical set and finished it up with an Ol’ Timey clutch of toons. Didn’t know whether to stroke my beard or grin like a loon…

Desperation Breeds

 

July: Wooden Shjips @ The Fleece, Bristol

This was the steamy, roller coaster of an evening you kinda hope for when Ripley Johnson and his awkward crew lumber on stage. You know what you’re going to get with the Shjips, meandering, uncomplicated and repetitive yet somehow fascinating and complex at the same time. The Elevators of the 21st Century… Another evening where the support band, three young lads from Weston called Towns, added to the fun.

Flight

 

August: Dexy’s @ Green Man

So to the festival season.

Despite the rain, there were some fine moments at Green Man as usual –some of them young (TOY, Savages, Field Music), some of them old (Van) and lots of them Welsh (Cate le Bon, H Hawkline, Sen Segur, Pen Pastwn). But the most enjoyable set of the weekend came from the wild-eyed bugger himself. Only managing to get through 5 or 6 numbers in his hour (so gloriously teased-out was each one), Rowlands, and a band that included long-suffering confidante Pete Williams; Mick Talbot and spurned chantoose Madeleine Hyland mugged their way through a hugely pleasing set. Highlights included This Is What She is Like, Lost and a gigantic version of Come On Eileen. Wow!

Lost

 

August: Woods @ End of the Road

There were some even better sets at my End of the Road debut this year too. Honourable mentions should go to Yeti Lane, Gravenhurst, First Aid Kit, TOY (again) and a bedraggled Midlake, but my favourite section of the weekend was Saturday afternoon’s belter from Woods. Their records often major on the slightly fey, slightly geeky tones of Jeremy Earl’s vocals and Woods’ bubblegum sound. On stage. however, the shackles were off and some great garage-y, psychedelic meandering went on. We also heard a lot of stuff which was new then, but which appeared on Autumn’s Bend Beyond.  Happy daze.

Cali in a Cup

End of the Road – a couple of videos

Best two sets of the weekend, I reckon…

 

 

End of the Road ’12 – Best Sets of the Weekend

So that was End of the Road. Lordy!

I had a ball, really, a much brighter experience than Green Man this year. To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s because of the weather (GM = foul; EotR = mostly fine), but for me End of the Road far outshone Green Man in pretty much every respect. I was very impressed with EotR – they just seemed to do everything right.

Hmmm… next year…

Lucky Seven – Best of End of the Road ‘12

I’ve not been entirely idle since then. As usual I have a mountain of recordings, some of which I’ll post about soon, some of which I may never use. But while I’m sorting myself out, I thought I’d put together a Best of… compilation of some of the recordings I have. It’s hardly exhaustive – I saw some great sets and by all accounts missed some great sets too. Also some of the great sets were not unfortunately great recordings (combination of wind on the mic / being surrounded by gibbering ninnies / being a gibbering ninny myself…)

Anyway here goes:

Midlake – “Roscoe”

A combination of a long day and the first rain of the weekend meant I was hanging on a bit when Midlake made their way onto the Garden Stage. Pretty much straight away however, I was woken up by a really accomplished performance, mixing material from The Courage of Others and The Trials of Van Occupanther with a few new songs. Lovely set which the band themselves seemed to really enjoy. All very good mannered too…

 Alt-J – “Tessellate”

Nearly missed this set altogether, drinking and chatting with friends, and when we rolled up at the Big Top, we were met with the biggest crowd I saw in there all weekend. Once we’d elbowed our way in (and I’d lost all the people in was with), Alt-J put on a really tight performance, going through most of their record, in what felt like an absolute sauna. Indeed at times it felt like listening to the recording itself so polished was their performance (I don’t mean that in a bad way…)

Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard – “Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song”

Didn’t really know anything about Jeffrey Lewis and actually missed his scheduled Garden Stage spot earlier on the Friday. Fortunately, he did a few songs later on that evening in the Tipi Tent. What a character he is! His songs were alternately garage-y, throw-away, poignant and always funny. Another highlight was his PowerPoint presentation on the history of Punk Rock on the Lower East Side 1950-75, all written in limerick form, which really needs YouTubing…

First Aid Kit – “Emmylou”

Another set that was packed out, and which I also nearly missed part of was this one by First Aid Kit. I really didn’t realise they were so popular, but with hindsight there was a bit of a buzz about them for most of the previous day. Just the three of them but they made an enormous noise and went down very well.

I Was Gone – Woods

The reason I was late for First Aid Kit was that I simply couldn’t tear myself away from Woods on the Main Stage, who were a bit geeky at first but really started to cut loose about half way through and by the end were really “wigging out” (I think the term is…). Once I’d got used to Jeremy Earl’s high pitched vocals, it was all good from there…

Analogue Wheel – Yeti Lane

About half way through the weekend I started to feel that I was spending too much time seeing bands I knew, (and in some cases had seen before), and not enough time investigating new bands. So for that reason, I ditched Patti Smith and went to see French psychedelic duo Yeti Lane. Best decision of the weekend, didn’t regret it for a second. The duo consisted of a drummer with electronic noodling duties and another “wigging out” guitarist. Particularly liked their retro, Doctor Who-style electronics desk…

Ghost of St Paul – Gravenhurst

Last set of the weekend was Gravenhurst, who again I didn’t know at all, but was realty impressed by. A really quiet, precise set that finished rather too quickly and prompted me to buy the last two releases.

A lovely weekend altogether…

Best of End of the Road ‘12