Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Currently listening, Jan 2013

Posted 27 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Currently Listening, Music

1. Matthew E White – Big Inner LP
The Guardian haven’t stopped praising Matthew E White since his debut record came out, and tempting though it is to be dismissive of such hype, it’s a really brilliant LP – a soulful and immaculate record with incredible arrangements and a near uncategorisable spectrum of influnces, from country, jazz, folk, gospel and soul to glimpses (if I’m right) of acid house. A genuine marvel.

2. Sexy Fi – Nunca Te Vi De Boa
I shan’t try too hard to categorise Sexy Fi either; weird, tropical, funky, jangly, noisy pop music from Brazil. No idea who they are but really like this record! Here it is on Spotify.

3. Traams – Peggy
Easily the best new band I saw last year, their live sets are dominated by long, heavy, teutonic jams – like Big Black channeling Neu. This song proves they can do short songs with brilliant ‘ooh-ooh’ choruses, too.

4. Yo La Tengo – Fade LP
I’ve never listened to any Yo La Tengo records. I’ve no idea why or how I’ve managed this. This is their new one. It suggests I’ve rather missed out – beautifully realised, fuzzy indie rock.

5/6. Kimbra – Vows LP / Dawn Richard – Goldenheart LP
Two records I discovered, again, through positive Guardian album reviews. Kimbra specialises in joyful electronic pop and Dawn Richard in stylish but unshowy r’n'b. Both are great.

7. Masta Killah – All Natural
Like most Wu-afilliated records these days, Masta Killah’s latest is a mixed bag, but it boasts a couple of decent songs – the best by far is this, which finds the rapper deconstructing his vegetarianism. Brilliant.

8. Gerry Read – Jummy LP
I’m always looking for house music which endures across a full LP, and Gerry Read’s subtle, shifting, four-to-the-floor house music is the closest I’ve found to what I like in a long time.

9. Viv Albertine – The Vermilion Border LP
If I’d have listened to this a lot more in 2012 it would have featured quite highly in my records of the year list; it’s fucking brilliant – a smart, sassy, sexy LP from the former Slits guitarist. This should percolate far and wide, if there’s any justice.

10. Keel Her – You Would Be So Grossed Out If I Did That
Still not many official releases from the unbelievably prolific, and now Brighton-based, Keel Her (she releases new tracks online all the time); but her recent single ‘Riot Grrrl’ is her best release yet. A proper recording of this slightly wonky acoustic song is the (terrific) b-side.

11. Stealing Sheep – Into the Diamond Sun LP
I saw Stealing Sheep live loads in 2010 and 2011, and once last year, and while they were terrific every time, their sets seemed pretty similar, meaning that by the time their debut LP came out last year, I thought I had figured them out, and didn’t get round to buy a copy. Consequently, I didn’t spot how bloody great it is – much more joyful, tuneful and poppy than I remember them being live, and a really great summer record. Really glad I finally figured that out.

Max Richter recomposing Vivaldi

Posted 12 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Music

A quick music recommendation for you.

It’s a symptom of getting older that you begin becoming more and more interested in the ‘adult’ musical genres that appalled you in your youth, I think. I got my head around world music first, then classical, and then eventually jazz, and now genuinely love aspects of all three, although they’re far too huge in terms of depth for me to boast any expert knowledge.

Of the three, I know the least about classical music – or rather pre-20th century classical music. I used to work on the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians with some clever and very likeable musos, who convinced me of the merits of Glass, Part, Terry Riley, Messiaen etc, but I have utterly failed to dig deeper into the vast canon of classics represented by the likes of Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart, none of whom were played in the house when I grew up or anything like that. I’m aware that I should know their work more, respect it more, understand it better.

If you feel the same – inspired by the minimal textures of modern and contemporary classical music but intimidated by the old masters, you might want to check out this LP – a re-composing of Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ by the German-born English musician Max Richter. It’s really incredible – a classical piece which takes Vivaldi as its starting point but strips back the orchestration and the familiar tropes to create something a bit more contemporary sounding. In a couple of places I’ve seen it compared rather sniffily to a film-score, or encountered dull curmudgeons who imagine something sacrilegious about Richter adopting this playful approach to Vivaldi’s score. But that’s probably to be expected.

Anyway, I absolutely love it. There are bits of ‘The Four Seasons’ that even I can recognise, and other bits which I couldn’t tell you who wrote them, Vivaldi or Richter. The latter has claimed that around 75% of the work is his – but the debt is huge. Either way, it’s a synthesis that works beautifully and a really lovely record.

Give it a listen?

‘Where are we now?’; The return of David Bowie

Posted 08 Jan 2013 — by Jonathan
Category Currently Listening, Music, Reviews

I’m a massive Bowie fan, so, transparently, today has been a ridiculously good day for me.

If you missed it – ten years after his last record and seven years after he last performed in public – this morning, entirely without fanfare or forewarning, David Bowie released a brand new song and announced a forthcoming LP. This is, in the world of pop, massive news, and judging by the fact that I heard about it on the Today programme on Radio 4, it’s presumably big news elsewhere too. The Guardian practically devoted their entire Arts team to covering it today (yielding good pieces from Michael Hann and Alexis Petridis), and my twitter feed was a pretty relentless stream of enthusiasm.

I’ve been in a good mood all day.

And amidst all the excitement, there’s a song, and you should listen to it.

It’s far too early for me to pass any real critical judgement, to declare it better than his 90s work or worse than the stuff on ‘Heathen’, and I’m too biased to be truly objective regardless – but the song matters to me because I find it thrilling to think that Bowie still digs making music (I thought he’d retired) and the song itself, regardless of its place in his canon, makes me happy – by chance it recalls much of Bowie’s music that I like best; the sombre, elegiac Bowie of the late ’70s, whose years in Berlin still seem to speak to him more powerfully than any others. To hear him singing in his own distinct, somewhat tremulous voice is, for all that it is aged, a great privilege.

He’s written so many wonderful wonderful songs, but there’s a category that I hold particularly close to my heart, and that’s the smallish number of songs where it sounds like Bowie is singing from deep within his true self – not channeling Anthony Newley, or Lou, or Iggy, or Dylan, or even James Brown (I love it when he channels James Brown). The best example is, I think, ‘Wild Is The Wind‘, which Bowie himself has described as his finest vocal performance. There are shades of that song here – or shades of the truthfulness it evinces. And something very vulnerable too.

What a joy it is to hear, and to have him back.

If you like it too – or, failing that, like David generally – then we can be friends.

Sam Said, by The Middle Ones

Posted 24 Sep 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music

I went and saw a couple of really great bands at the Riots Not Diets night in Brighton on Saturday. The first were the excellent Edible Arrangements, who played a short set of really excellent stuff, a kind of slightly gothic take on Electrelane’s two note minimalism. It’s obviously v early days for them as they’ve released nothing so far – but they’re worth keeping an eye out for.

Likewise The Middle Ones, who were up next and played some absolutely terrific songs. A two-piece who combine wonderful lyrics and beautiful voices with rudimentary playing and occasional bursts of joyous noise, they were really great.

We picked up one of their CD afterwards and I’ve been absolutely floored ever since by one song in particular – the very short and very beautiful ‘Sam Said’ which is so simple and profound that I feel the need to share it, lyrics included. Shades of those early, devastating Emmy The Great songs like ‘City Song’ and ‘MIA’.

Do listen; learn the lyrics, sing along. It’ll make your life better.

“Driving away
I feel stupidly happy again
I feel more like myself every day
Since you said I should stop worrying, stop worrying.

Sleeping on trains
always used to make me feel safe
made me think that I could be more brave
made me think I could stop worrying, stop worrying now.

and today I ought to feel bad
for the loss of the hero I used to have
but maybe that just means I can
finally stop worshipping, stop worshipping
people I see
who seem better at living than me
who seem louder and faster and free
Maybe I should stop worshipping, stop worshipping

Sam said it’s better this way
Sam said it’s better this way
Sam said it’s better this way
and at last I believe him, at last I believe him today.”

There’s more about this excellent band here.

Kickstarting Jazz

Posted 09 Sep 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Technology

This is very interesting; using crowdfunding to finance artistic projects is hardly news – it’s been happening for years and has clearly picked up a great deal of pace recently, in the world of films, games, journalism and publishing. In the music world, a number of indie rock bands which I follow have used it to get records off the ground, and in each case have done so in keeping with a level of independent spirit which makes the decision unsurprisingly. (Interesting, Darren Hayman is a vocal opponent of this method of funding creativity).

This article points to a more traditional area of music which has been benefiting from this new world; jazz.

Not long ago, Wayne Escoffery—trusted saxophonist with the Mingus Big Band, the Tom Harrell Quintet and Ben Riley’s Monk Legacy Septet—had an idea for a new album. He’d already released five under his name, and a couple with his wife, the singer Carolyn Leonhart. But this one would be different: a concept album inspired by his early years in London, and the hardships of his single mother, and the circumstances around their emigration to the States. In essence, a portrait of the artist as a young man.

It would also be his first album of entirely original music, which he’d conceived for a blend of acoustic and electric instruments. But when he presented the idea to the record label he was affiliated with at the time, he found no traction there. “They felt that the music wasn’t accessible or radio friendly,” he recalled recently. So Escoffery turned to Kickstarter, the popular crowd-funding website, and took his pitch public. The decision literally paid off. He exceeded his $10,000 goal, and went on to make his album, The Only Son of One, which was released on Sunnyside this spring. (To the likely chagrin of his previous label, it has met with some success on jazz radio.)

He’s not the only one; click here to read the rest of the article.

And here’s the LP he made.

Traams live in Brighton

Posted 30 Aug 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Reviews

Dormant blog in temporary revival warning! I’m spurred to post because I saw a really amazing band last night at the Green Door Store in Brighton. They were Traams, a Chichester (of all places) three-piece of whom I had previously heard nothing, ’til they arrived on stage. Wow. With the exception of Blur they were easily the best group I’ve seen this year, combining the taut rhythmic energy of Big Black or Neu! with the kinetic spontaneity of early Fall or Pavement. They played five or six songs of ever-accelerating brilliance, barely registering the audience, and departed with smiles which suggest they know exactly how good they are. Luckily I happened to have my camera on me, so I was able to document a couple of songs – here are ‘Teeth’ and ‘Klaus’. You can follow the band on twitter here, and check out some of their recordings at their bandcamp page.

No Direction Home, festival review

Posted 11 Jun 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Observations, Reviews

Just back from No Direction Home, a lovely three day festival in Sherwood Forest – and feeling oddly invigorated rather than knackered, which is unusual after a festival – and seems particularly counterintuitive when you consider that this festival took place in a weekend during which Britain was so thoroughly soaked that it was almost lost to the sea.

Oddly, however, the Welbeck Estate stayed pretty much dry, and by a miraculous quirk of fortune I managed to pitch our tent on a bit of even ground. Consequently we stayed dry, slept well, drank with something approaching moderation, and ate regularly and expensively at the many excellent food stalls. So I’m not dead, but rather buzzing with excitement after a few utterly idyllic days and a bunch of awesome bands.

A potted set of highlights and observations, then:

- First, what an amazing site. Compared to End of the Road at the Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset, the festival is significantly more compact and even rather prettier; it’s a less fenced-in site, making it easier and more rewarding to wander off, and the lakeside setting and accompanying wildlife (skylarks, swifts, martins and owls) were so beautiful and rewarding that it was frequently more tempting to grab a pint of Welbeck Abbey Red Feather and sit by the water, than it was to watch another band.

- Second, once again, the on-site amenities were perfect. Three small stages, with the performance times perfectly scheduled, making it almost possible to catch every single band on the bill; a beautiful comedy and literature yurt; and an absolutely charming pop-up cinema (where we watched ‘Some Like It Hot’ in preference to catching Dirty Three, and where Woodpigeon provided a lovely score to Charlie Chaplin’s surprisingly angry ‘Modern Times’ – which made up for a slightly underwhelming solo set from their Mark Hamilton earlier in the day). Besides all that there were bookshops, vintage clothes stores, a branch of Rough Trade and tons of great places to eat. Perfectly judged.

- When buying my ticket a few months back I half-wondered if I hadn’t had my fill of folk-bands; I’ve seen a lot over the last few years and the bands that jumped out at me on the bill were at the rockier end; Mikal Cronin, The Wave Pictures and Veronica Falls. But actually the line-up worked perfectly; folk, a smattering of electronica, a few big guitars, some amazing new bands and a few unique performances (in particular, The Unthanks‘ extraordinary link up with the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band, which saw them further mining their interest in northern cultural history and the poetry of the pits).

- Who was good then? New stuff is always most exciting, I think, so I had a brilliant time watching a few bands new to me. Laura J Martin stood out as being incredible playful and adventurous, taking as her starting point some post-Kate Bush warbling but adding clattering drums, mandolin, and layer upon layer of sampled flutes. It was an extraordinary, slightly surreal experience watching her construct explosive little symphonies from the most unlikely of components. She stood cheerfully signing CDs afterwards, clearly delighted at having delighted so many.

Rachael Dadd was similarly great; dangerously close to conforming to twee-folk stereotypes at first glance, but standing out because her interests and approach (which incorporate steel drums played by her husband Ichi) naturally draw even the most sceptical of audience members in. Her abiding interest seems to be Japanese culture, gleefully drawing on a distant society, and, by the end, she was populating an entire song with the recipe for Oni Guri, and beguiling everyone in the process.

Also really liked Seamus Fogarty, who summoned up aspects of traditional folk music, US troubadours like Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt and his label-mates at Fence to provide good-hearted, quiet and sometimes funny ruminations on life. I was very taken with some of his lines, not least “I woke up in Chicago early on Christmas morn / with a woman who worked as a spy”, which is as lovely a set up to a song as you’ll hear.

And best of all the new artists I saw was Nat Johnson & The Figureheads, who played a pitch-perfect set of harmonious indie rock, recalling ‘Stories of the City’ era PJ Harvey and The Long Blondes, while every now and again invoking gloriously fuzzy Pavement-esque guitar riffs. They were poised, energetic, blessed with song after song, and deserve to sell lots of records.

- Saw some great stuff in the literature and comedy yurt too; Jon Ronson gave a characteristically charming reading of his Psychopath Test stuff, as well as casting further comedic light on the (surely unarguable) case for AA Gill’s criminal insanity. Mick Jackson, whose novel ‘The Underground Man’ had a seismic impact on me when I first read it in 1997, talked about the book, which was set at the Welbeck Estate, and he cast light on the network of underground tunnels which snaked through the ground beneath us. The only real disappointment was a very uncomfortable, boorish appearance by a drunk Josie Long (who I normally love) and a humourless friend, who performed an extended karaoke set prior to Robin Ince’s book club, which managed to do the impossible (make a Herman Dune song sound unwelcome) and eventually drive us out into the night, perplexed by the laddishness, excessive volume, affection for Weezer and, most pressingly, her co-host’s inept rape joke, which tipped the balance for us. Very depressing – but out of character, I think.

- More happily, we saw some superb performances from the regular suspects; from The Wave Pictures, Beth Jeans Houghton, Django Django, Spectrals, Martin Carthy and Euros Childs (who lucked out with the first real sun of the weekend setting over his glorious psych-pop). Two performances really stood out; Josh Tillman, playing as Father John Misty, played a ludicrously confident, charismatic set of acoustic country-pop. Slightly camp, very hilarious and deeply handsome, he could have left with anyone in the audience, I suspect. David Thomas Broughton was similarly engaging, if not quite so bloody sexy, but he once again captivated the crowd with a performance as funny as it was gifted, as troubling as it was proficient. Very impressed, as always. He’s one of pop’s more interesting, evocative lyricists.

- Hard not to mention beer. The End of The Road organisers are always scrupulous in sourcing decent ale for their festivals and, despite a tendency to under-order in terms of quantity, they did a great job here. My favourites were the afore-mentioned Red Feather, a very nutty session beer brewed on the premises, and the Bradfield Farmers Blonde, a very pale and floral beer. Of the various bars on site, the Boathouse gets the thumbs-up from me by virtue of their insanely friendly staff and habit of shouting ‘Tip Tip Hooray’ every time they get a tip. Ever eager to please, I think I tipped them about eight quid over the course of the weekend. Lots of hoorays.

- Two more artists who seemed to effortlessly personify the No Direction Home vibe were also on grand form. Liz Green’s talent is palpably natural – she has an effortlessly perfect voice, a wry and arch writing style and can even, it turns out, play a mean trumpet solo without a trumpet (seriously; close your eyes and you’ll hear brass – open them and you’ll see her trying not to laugh while she parps merrily out of the side of her mouth… if you’ll forgive the image). She also works with a band capable of adding texture to her songs with the most glorious instrumentation. The combination of Green’s jazz vocal, a be-turbaned sax player and a double bassist in a tweed jacket and adidias short might put some off; but it would be a hasty judgement. Great stuff. Trembling Bells, meanwhile, are a rather old-fashioned folk group, taking their lead from 60s and 70s British folk-rock, but live they’re forceful, immediate and somehow very modern – this is folk music a very long way from pastiche. Instead they deal in heavy, detailed, free-form visionary music. Unexpectedly they were perhaps the loudest band I saw all weekend.

- …with the exception of Mikal Cronin, who closed the festival. Wow, these guys are good. After lots of ruminative, esoteric folk and pop, the decision to employ Cronin’s band to blow away the cobwebs was masterful. Their music is super-powerful; skewed, loose indie rock twinned with blasts of urgent psych-garage. Watching their delightful, cleansing set was a bit like being placed in front of a massive, nuclear-powered fan. Great great fun. And the joyfulness of their vibrant indie rock seemed to energise a flagging crowd, who yelled jokes and sparred with the band between songs. At one point, while they were tuning up, a moth flew on stage and was briefly illuminated in Cronin’s spotlight. “A moth! A moth!” the crowd gleefully yelled. The band, who had previously boasted of their acid intake, looked bemused.

- Lastly it would be remiss not to share another couple of key ingredients of a super weekend; first off, as always, a festival is a million times better when you’re there with people you love (and I was) and always a winner when every single person you come across, whether staff, performers or audience, seems to share that same expression of delight, good cheer and peacefulness.

So a hearty congratulations to the organisers for putting together a seriously brilliant festival. Will be there next year.

If I’ve missed anything above, do leave a comment below.



Records in Libson #1: Louie Louie

Posted 30 Apr 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Travel

A classic independent record shop in the heart of Chiado, Louie Louie is an old school, vinyl-heavy record shop. It reminds me of indie shops in London during the 1990s, before the craze for recommendations, listening posts and detailed categories kicked in. Louie Louie stocks plenty of decent contemporary vinyl from the UK and USA, but it’s notable for a decent stock of portuguese indie and traditional fado, as well as bins of soul, world and latin releases.

We stumbled in late on Thursday afternoon and I immediately began planning purchases, fingering my much-diminished envelope of euros. I’ve yet to to tire of discovering record shops; their importance to me throughout my life has been such a reassuring constant that I quickly feel at home whenever there are records to leaf through – writing this I can hear the dull thud of cardboard sleeves thudding against each other as I browse, or the light click-clack of plastic hitting plastic as I flick through shelves of CDs. Posters on the wall, free magazines on the sides, and the high counter, usually pock-marked with stickers. Louie Louie fits exactly into my mental vision of what a record shop represents, and as such I recommend it highly, should you get the chance to go.

(For more esoteric and expermintal music, try MateriaPrima, on Rua Da Rosa, or for a picturesque and old-fashioned traditional fado store in the Baixa, try Discoteca Amália on Rua Áurea – both of which I’ll blog about presently).

Louie Louie, Chiado, Lisbon

Louie Louie
Rua Nova da Trindade – 8-A (ao Chiado)
Lisbon, Lisbon Portugal

Albarn and self-discovery

Posted 07 Apr 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music

Ever the contrarian; there’s a nice little interview with Damon Albarn in the Guardian today. The paper’s John Harris is, along with Stuart Maconie and Steve Lamacq, perhaps the music journalist with the most long term insight into Blur, so he normally manages to extract the most sense out of an interviewee who is notoriously difficult to pin down, and as changeable as Easter weather.

Oddly, he chooses to focus, again, on Damon’s flirtation with hard drugs in the late 1990s, which is neither newsworthy nor terribly interesting, but perhaps instructive when viewed not as a historical detail but rather as the starting point from which Damon embarked on a long period of un-selfconscious musical discovery. Rightly, Harris notes that Albarn, who was raised in a hippy household – always a bead-wearer despite the Essex branding – follows in a tradition of sorts which is “common to a lot of musicians from bohemian backgrounds”. Harris writes.

For all its grave dangers, that drug – perhaps in moderation, if such a thing is possible – sometimes opens up a side of them that they didn’t know existed.

Albarn certainly has little interest in talking up the mind-altering effects of drugs (he prefers the rigours of the 9-5, albeit with the help of an “early morning joint”), so the interview doesn’t dwell. I’m even less interested (in fact, utterly uninterested) in drugs – but I’d gladly hear more about either John Harris or Damon Albarn’s thoughts of un-selfconscious music-making, because it strikes me that that’s exactly what Damon has spent the last 13 years doing – making free, largely unedited rock music with a meandering but always curious emotional and spiritual urgency.

Full interview is here.

Sparrow; beautiful

Posted 05 Apr 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music

Brighton’s excellent Sparrow will be releasing their new LP in a few weeks (on May 20) – it’s called ‘However did the wolf get in’ and this is the first single from it – ‘Beautiful’. How good is the opening shot of Marina? Excellent.

Allo Darlin’, live at the Haunt

Posted 06 Mar 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Reviews

Went to see the excellent Allo Darlin’ play at the Haunt this weekend; they’re on the face of it a very simple pleasure – melodic, good-hearted indie pop which draws on the micro-dramas of The Wave Pictures or their mentor, Darren Hayman, and manages to deftly improve dramatically on whatever it is you think a pop group might be able to do do working within the limitations of a ukulele-led sound.

But there’s something a little bit special about them too, which is a combination of the lovely lead guitar playing, their ardent enthusiasm, and the fact that Elizabeth, being an Aussie, seems to have an innate sympathy with the widescreen song-writing genius of The Go Betweens. It’s that last point which provides the route into why I loved the gig so much – they seem to imbue a lot of the greatest qualities of that most wonderful of bands – melodicism, good-heartedness, observation for detail, and a certain Australian thingyness which I’m at a loss to identify but which is evident in the work of Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, in the pop of the Triffids, in Evan Dando’s Oz-penned Lemonheads work.

I’d like to go and write an album in Australia.

Here’s the band playing a gig in San Francisco last year. Check ‘em out if they play near you soon.

Review, Beth Jeans Houghton LP

Posted 09 Feb 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Reviews

I’ve been a huge fan of Beth Jeans Houghton since seeing her at The Great Escape in 2009, and at times had all but given up on seeing a debut album come out – so I’m hugely pleased that the idiosyncratically named ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’ came out this week – and more than pleased at discovering it’s not only as good as I hoped, it’s significantly better. Still, I didn’t know that when I played it for the first time on Monday night, and shared my inane thoughts with the twitterverse.

Here, then, is my life-tweet extravaganza of my first listen to the debut LP by Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny.

Blur in the studio with William Orbit

Posted 22 Jan 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music

My suspicion is that the band are just testing things out rather than definitively recording with a view to releasing new material, but nonetheless, this is incredibly good news. Following plenty of teasers and rumours surrouding the possiblity of Blur recording new stuff, William Orbit – who produced 1999′s 13 – has posted the following on his Facebook page.

Hope it’s not a wind-up.

Genius guitar from Botswana

Posted 17 Jan 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music

Ian Birrill, co-founder of Africa Express and all round fount of knowledge about international affairs, flagged this up on Twitter and it’s absolutely bewitching. I’m a big fan of African music generally, but it would take a very hard-hearted music fan, no matter what he or she thought of world music, to find fault with this bit of casual, masterly, euphoric guitar playing.

The star is (according to Boing Boing) “Ronnie Moipolai from Kopong village in the Kweneng district 50 km west of the capitol Gaborone”.

He is 29 years old and goes around the shebeens selling and playing his songs for 5Pula each (80dollarcents). He learned guitar from his now late father, has 3 brothers that also play guitar (KB is one of them), has also a big sister and plenty of kids in the yard. Nobody has a formal job and his mother sells Chibuku beer and firewood they get from the bush trying to make ends meet.

Big Salad stuff

Posted 15 Jan 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music

One of my favourite bands release their debut LP tomorrow; Foxes! are a ramshackle, fun indie pop group who started up in Oxford and have since ventured South, as Alan Partridge might say, to lovely Brighton. They’re a great mix of off-kilter, stalling melodies and vibrant pop. Their last single was the super ‘Panda Bear Song’, below. Self titled LP out on Big Salad Records tomorrow. (Incidentally, I note that the same label quietly released the debut record by Milk & Biscuits recently – another band I’ve raved about on this blog). So that’s two records worth checking out.

For Brighton folk, Foxes! will be playing a launch show at the Pavilion Theatre on 16th Feb. Cool.

A song a week #52 (I Will Be Your Referee)

Posted 31 Dec 2011 — by Jonathan
Category 52songs, Assistant, Music, Weekly Song

Well, this is it. My last song of 2011 is as simple as can be. I recorded it on the 30th December, curled up in bed at about eleven o’clock, playing my ukulele and recording it with my iPad and cheapo headphone-mic. Somehow it seemed better to finish the year with something simple and clean, rather than complex. So that’s it. I’m done. 52 songs, over 52 weeks. And none of it would have been possible without the support and encouragement of my friends. So that’s nice. Here it is.

A song a week #51 (Let It Snow)

Posted 25 Dec 2011 — by Jonathan
Category 52songs, Assistant, Music, Observations, Weekly Song

Inevitable, given my song a week project, that I’d attempt a Christmas song; this one was written and recorded in an single sitting on, you guessed it – Christmas Day, after having sat on my doorstep with a cup of coffee watching people packing up cars. Recorded straight to camera with a bit of overdubbing afterwards. I might buy myself a clarinet next year.

Happy Christmas.

“It’s the first Christmas in a while,
When it’s been so unseasonably mild.
I drink my coffee on the step
and watch my neighbours heading home again.

I watch them go,
oh let it snow.

It’s my first Christmas in this street,
moving from place to place really takes it out of me.
Drinking coffee, watching cars.
Counting presents, counting cards.

I watch them go,
oh let it snow.
I don’t know,
why won’t it snow?”

A song a week #49 (Peach)

Posted 09 Dec 2011 — by Jonathan
Category 52songs, Assistant, Music, Weekly Song

As I approach the end of my song-writing year, I find myself flicking back through the work I’ve done looking for things to tidy up and complete; there have been plenty more songs started this year than there have been finished. As I go, I rarely find much I want to keep; perhaps a drum loop here or an arrangement there. This week’s effort grew out of the latter; a simple passage of synthesized string instruments which lingered after I gave it up, and saw a bit of life injected at the weekend. The song is very simple; for some reason I had in mind a cottage in the footholds of some Welsh valley; and I like one line very much – “you skim off the rind but you know you’re the skin of the peach”.

I shot the video in Cambridgeshire visiting my parents; the explosions of seeds from the bloated bullrushes counts as one of the most memorable things I saw, never mind filmed, in 2011.

A song a week #48 (Focus On Things)

Posted 02 Dec 2011 — by Jonathan
Category 52songs, Assistant, Music, Weekly Song

Oh look, here’s Sam on lead vocals, with Dan and AS on back up. Sort of.

I put together this music slowly, over the course of the year, looking for an opportunity (or the courage) to do a rap over it, and eventually chickened out. But over the course of the year I’ve swapped lots of voice messages with Sam, who’s over in Paris, so I thought I’d put some of those rambling messages to use.

Most of our musings and conversations over the year have related to various projects we’re undertaking, and our shared need to focus on things. So there’s our chorus.

A song a week #46 (Done Driving remix)

Posted 18 Nov 2011 — by Jonathan
Category 52songs, Assistant, Music, Weekly Song

I love this one; I was very proud of ‘Done Driving’ when I recorded it a few weeks ago, but Dan gave me the idea of trying a remix rather than a new song. That felt, on the face of it, like a bit of a cheat, so I decided to do it only on the condition that it was a radical re-vamp rather than just a slightly adapted take. Specifically, I wanted to change the mood without altering the basic bones of the song; so this version features almost all of the components of the original but filtered through a totally different mood; so we have upbeat horn breaks where before we had moody introspection. Thanks to Dan for a really good video, as well.