I was in the woods at End of the Road. It’s nice there, you’d like it. There’s a library, and a disco, and a large old bell that’s always mysteriously warm. Or at least there was a large bell. Someone stole it, I hear. Don’t know if they ever got it back. Anyway. I was there, in the woods. It was late at night, and dark, and I think it was wet, though I remember no rain. The Wilderness of Manitoba were gathered together in a half living room in the forest, singing amongst a crowd who existed only to hush each other and stand in some sort of quiet awe. That’s when I fell in love with TWoM. I’d just started the We Write Lists gigs – the Folkroom – and our first gig had been near empty, and noisy. This set was everything I hoped for the gigs – and what they have slowly become.
TWoM are magical. They lack the Paul Simon lyrics of Fleet Foxes, but instead are a band that seem impossibly natural – in two senses. They are, first, seemingly effortless in what they do. And what they do is so beautiful and so earthly that you kind of get the feeling you could plant a strand of their hair in the middle of some woodland and in twenty-eight years or so you’d return to find a fully-grown folk musician rooted deep below the top soil. We asked the band for a Six Albums, and they happily obliged, offering us a wonderfully in-depth look at their favourite music.
Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline (chosen by Stefan) From the opening chords of “Girl from the North Country” to the closing crash of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”, this is Dylan’s most focused album. His affected country drawl sounded so charming and effortless, and was matched perfectly by an excellent country band. The tunes are simple and fun, and the off the cuff duet with Johnny Cash (mistakes and all) is fabulous. I used to love putting this record on and just playing along, front to back.
Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (chosen by Stefan) The first time I put this record on I felt underwhelmed: Jeff Mangum’s voice felt strained, the acoustic guitars sounded poorly recorded and distorted, the horns were out of tune and there was a song about Jesus. A couple weeks later I put it on again and fell in love with those same things. The 8 minute masterpiece “Oh Comely” was apparently recorded in one take, at the end of which someone from the control room can be heard yelling out “holy shit”, which is exactly how I feel every time I come back to this very unpolished gem of an album.
Radiohead – OK Computer (chosen by Scott) I first came to this album through the video for the first single ‘paranoid android’. Muchmusic here, premiered the full, uncensored video ad after hearing the song for the first time, I immediately got on my bike and rode to Sam’s (Sam the Record Man) to buy the album. I’ll have to admit that the album was a grower, but it didn’t take long for me to completely get lost in it’s splendour. There were the singles, yes. Let Down, Karma Police, Paranoid Android; but to me it is the album tracks that really stand out. The sounds, the mood they create, delicately dark but still delightful. This record changed the way that I viewed music. It opened my ears to infinite possibilities and showed me that the best music will make you feel.
Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator) (chosen by Melissa) This album never fails me. It’s funny because before listening to it for the first time, I didn’t consider myself a bluegrass fan but it opened my eyes to The Carter Family, The Louvin Brothers and other bands using banjo and close harmonies. Gillian describes, very well, the feelings you can have as a touring musician. I love ‘April the 14th, Part 1′ – “Was a five band bill, $2 show… and a girl passed out in the back seat, trashed, and there were no way they’d make even half a tank of gas” or in ‘Everything is Free’ – “Someone hit the big score, they figured it out that we’re gonna do it anyway even if it doesn’t pay”. Her voice and her honest lyrics are definitely what I hear and feel first but then David Rawlings’ soft guitar and banjo come in and then his harmonies that aren’t quite what I expect so I continue to be surprised every time I listen.
Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (chosen by Will) Although there are many hits and misses this band has sustained throughout time (as any long lasting band has), no album to me, was first to capture the pure rawness and angst coupled & contrasted with the dreamy & ethereal that this album did within its cultural period (‘grunge’ being the ‘zeitgeist’ here). We have the classic signature Corgan/Iha guitar fuzz interplay happening in songs like ‘Rocket’ and the earlier section of ‘Hummer’ that then explode into belted vocals & screaming solos in the later ‘Soma’ and ‘Silverfuck.’ There is the constantly emotive meter and pulse that Jimmy Chamberlin provides with D’arcy Wretzky in ‘Cherub Rock’ and ‘Quiet.’ And of course, there might be no greater pop sensibilities on the record lyrically speaking to the youth (or ‘mainstream’ of that time) than ‘Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known / can’t wait for tomorrow’ (‘Today’). But it isn’t any of these crucial elements that make the album so beautiful. It’s their hypnotic dream jams they lay on thick with the reverb & delays in the last section of ‘Hummer’ and intro/outro of ‘Mayonnaise’ or beginning of ‘Soma’ that are the closer. The combination of fender tele/stratocaster/mustang guitars fed through pedalboards that Iha and Corgan play at their most sombre within D’arcy and Jimmy’s perfect ‘heartbeats’ is what made this band, to me, who they are. Corgan has always had the ability to scream the way one does at their emotional melting point (‘despite all my rage’) and suddenly turn to melt you back with whispered lyrics (‘pick your pocket full of sorrow / run away with me tomorrow’) over the shoegazy walls of sound the 4 of them could always capture so well. It’s these moments that make Siamese Dream an album that is best listened to under a purple sky. I just find that contrary to their rock fuzz grunge persona, it’s easy to love them the most when they ‘disarm you with a smile.’
Joni Mitchell – For The Roses (chosen by Will) As her immediate follow up to the critically acclaimed ‘Blue,’ Joni had some proverbial and musical shoes to fill. But in her typical fashion, she followed her creative impulses first which led her to a remote cabin in the geographical landscape of British Columbia where most of the writing of ‘For The Roses’ took place. Somewhat known as a confessional about her departing romances with James Taylor, beyond that, I think this album is one of, if not the most vulnerable in her catalogue. In ‘Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire,’ she doesn’t hold back descriptions of the ugliest side of ones’ heroin use; “edgy black cracks of the sky / pin-cushion prick / red water in the bathroom sink” personifying the underworld with “the shadow of lady release” saying “come with me, I know the way / she says it’s down down down the dark ladder.” In ‘Lesson In Survival,’ we get to know her better; “I know my needs / my sweet tumbleweed / I need more quiet times / by a river flowing / you and me, deep kisses and the sun going down.” That’s the thing about Joni; you never have to ask her what she ‘really’ means!
On perhaps one of her best songs (though there are many) ‘Blonde In The Bleachers,’ she strips away any sense of romantic idealism when she sings “you can’t hold the hand of a rock & roll man very long / or count on your plans with the rock & roll man very long / compete with the fans for your rock & roll man for very long / the girls and the bands and the rock & roll man.” Love songs to me are always better if they’re about the one who got away and I’ve always admired her musical timing & ability to ramble, having it all come together so naturally in her playing style. I had a number of her albums on permanent rotate in my Toyota corolla a few years ago, but I’m pretty sure it was this one (and perhaps some of ‘Court And Spark’) that partially blew the speakers.
The Wilderness of Manitoba release a new EP, Orono Park, on Monday and bring their superlative folk to London for two gigs next week – one at Thamesis on Tuesday, and one on Wednesday at The Slaughtered Lamb.
September 23, 2011 No Comments
As inescapable as the super-rapture of Ryan Giggs, or whatever it is that happened last weekend, Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday has been a cause for celebration across pretty much major media outlet this last week. And by ‘celebration’ we do, of course, mean ‘filling slow news days’. Well, we aren’t ones to skip out on the opportunity for a cheap list. That’s pretty much what we do, in fact.
All the same, Dylan’s music and impact over the past fifty years or so has been equalled by few – perhaps Elvis, though he didn’t write his own songs, or The Beatles, though their output was limited to nine years or so. There isn’t an adult on the planet who won’t like at least one of his songs – even if they aren’t aware of it. Though nothing pains us more than a young X-Factor contestant telling the judges they plan on doing a cover of “Adele’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’”, there is something to celebrate in a musician whose reach goes so far it exceeds that even of his name. We won’t go all crazy and evangelical on you, nor will we even try and make a list of best Dylan songs (we have normal people brains, not supercomputers), but we will link you up to this list of some of our favourite Dylan covers knocking about on Spotify. Naturally, there were some we weren’t able to use thanks to the medium, so we’ll urge you also to check out Charlotte Gainsbourg’s ‘Just Like A Woman’ cover. But for now, enjoy a We Write Lists megamix.
1. Blowin’ In The Wind – Stevie Wonder
2. If Not For You – Olivia Newton-John
3. All I Really Want To Do – The Byrds
4. The Times They Are A-Changin’ – The Beach Boys
5. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues – Nina Simone
6. Lay Lady Lay – Magnet (feat. Gemma Hayes)
7. I’ll Keep It With Mine – Nico
8. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – Antony and the Johnsons
9. Simple Twist Of Fate – Bryan Ferry
10. I Shall Be Released – The Band
11. Just Like A Woman – Manfred Mann
May 24, 2011 No Comments
Three and a half weeks ago we invited Emily and The Woods along to headline our fortnightly gig, The Folkroom. It’s a half hour slot, we said, but if you run a little over we won’t worry about it. An hour after Emily first took to the stage she stepped humbly down, and barely a soul in the venue could believe they had just spent sixty minutes in her company – time flew, and we only wanted more of her beautiful, intelligent and desperately soulful folk. This is how the music of Emily and The Woods plays out – it is engaging and it is honest, a step away from other Female Name and the Noun(s) acts that swamp the scene at the moment. Indeed – it really is Emily and The Woods, the latter being her family name, and her band formed of her father and brother. We urge you here at WWL – implore you, even – to give Emily and The Woods a listen – she’s the best new folk act we’ve heard for quite some time.
Sigur Ros – Takk This album used to make me cry every time I listened to it. In fact I still can’t get over its beauty, which really is so full of emotion. Takk directs your thoughts away from this world; toward something more beautiful, seemingly grander in size and scale. I have felt so inspired listening to Sigur Ros. It’s perfect for plane and train journeys; utterly transporting and all encompassing.The mystery of the arrangements mean that each song stands alone as masterful. Also, I don’t understand the words which I think makes this album seem even more meaningful as you can interpret things just as you feel them!
Simon & Garfunkel – Sounds of Silence What a classic! These two men taught me pretty much all I know about harmonies, and also a great deal about the construction of simple songs, catchy and timeless songs. ‘Kathy’s Song’ is amazing.
Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks If there had been no Blood on the Tracks there would certainly be no Emily and the Woods. I listened to this album and decided to play the guitar so I could set some of my own songs to music. I think that’s pretty much all I can say without filling up a whole page of writing about this record! Blood on the Tracks makes me think of being a teenager and going to school on rainy London mornings… in a good way. Discovering Bob Dylan through this album evoked a passion for the kind of lyrical music that I still love today. ‘You’re a Big Girl’ is one of my favourite songs of all time.
Joni Mitchell – Miles of Aisles I agonised about which Joni Mitchell album to list because a number of them are so significant that I can’t not cite them as favourites! However, this live recording from 1978 has got the most brilliant track list which includes all of my favourite Joni songs. For me her writing and composition are second to none. I used to hate her voice and now I find it to be of unparalleled beauty which works so completely with her song writing; both so poetic and honest at once. This album features fantastic versions of ‘Jericho’, ‘Cactus Tree’ and ‘A Case of You’. The record features her band from the album ‘Court and Spark’, and the ability of these musicians to use jazz influences to support her music whilst revealing the immensity of their own talents is inspiring. I just wish I’d been there when it was recorded!
Erykah Badu - Baduizm I became obsessed with Erykah Badu when I was about 11 or so and carried on listening to her (as well as Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill and Mary J. Blige) into my early teens. Each of those women has enormous vocal range, and in many ways, for me exemplifies female power in music. I am so inspired by Badu’s ability to go almost anywhere with her voice, which is achingly cool, gravely and subject to supreme control and skill. I am sincerely influenced by this woman, even if you wouldn’t guess it by listening to my music, and I think Baduizm was one of my first musical loves.
Bright Eyes – Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground This album, like most of Conor Oberst’s work is imaginative and interestingly produced (‘Don’t Know When But A Day Is Gonna Come’ begins as a sparse and stark song but erupts in a complimentary, but unexpected direction). He uses an array of sounds, effects and instruments which provides either a real contrast, or support, to his distinctive voice and poetic lyrics. I love the mood of this album; it’s downright mixture of themes, ideas and melodies. The songs are dark, and he speaks of bleakness in a modern way with passion and completely pulls it off.
Emily and The Woods are based in London, and are ruddy spectacular. Check out her music and buy her EP over at the Emily and The Woods MySpace page. Then sit back in front of a warm fire with crumpets and tea, and enjoy an evening of cosy music and warm beverages.
November 19, 2010 1 Comment
I still can’t quite put my finger on what Aaron Wright is. Is he a folk singer-songwriter? A pop singer? An indie kid? He might be all of those, he might be none. He’s good though. Great, even. And that’s a start. On the one hand he has the firm understanding of pop/rock that artists like Brendan Benson and, to a lesser extent, Ben Folds have. At the same time he plays with a backing band of impossible credentials – members of Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura and Teenage Fanclub all provide musical support on his recent EP ‘Behold A Pale Horse’. Aaron Wright is destined for something special, and we’re proud to share with you his Six Albums entry whilst he’s still the indefinable creature that he is.
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds I came across this album when I was 15. I bought it for a fiver from Fopp on the advice of a friend and I fell in love with it. As a packge it’s perfect. I love the front cover of the band at the petting zoo, I find it funny for some reason and always hoped it was a wee inside joke for Brian Wilson and co. I dont think I’ve come across such an interesting sound since then. The songs are beautiful and beauty can often be lost on such compliated songs, but somehow Brian Wilson keeps the heart strings plucked through out! It flows just right. The standout track for me is ‘I Guess I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times’. It’s probably the most confessional song of the lot, and thats a big deal as the album is very confessional. It’s probably my favourite album of all time, but thats subject to change.
Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends Whenever I think of this album I hear the line “STAND BACK DONT JUMP!” the opening line of the second track ‘Save The Life Of My Child’. From that moment on the album’s got you. I’ve always thought it was eerie sounding and a bit dark which is strange for Paul Simon. I really like the track where there’s some old people talking about their pasts, really different. There’s also a bass solo type thing at the begining of the second track which sounds like a computer or something, ahead of its time I’d say. I’m a massive Paul Simon fan.
Neil Young – Harvest This was a big album for me when I started mucking around with songwriting. It’s a hugely honest and surprising album in the way that an orchestra seems to jump out from nowhere, transforming it from a simple country folk pop album to something a lot more daring.
The Beatles – Revolver I listened to this non-stop when I was in a small town called Rostrevor in N.Ireland recently, and it’s impossible to overplay. I’m a Beatles nut and this album is perfect to me. The track ‘She Said She Said’ just drips Lennon. I heard he wrote it after his dentist spiked his drink with LSD and he had something of a bad trip. Why was he kicking about with his dentist? Who’s to know. I’m also convinced that The Jam based their whole sound on ‘Taxman’, the opening track.
Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks Bob Dylan has always been up there for me, so when we got the chance to pay Hop Farm, which he was headlining, I was ecstatic. It was hard to pick a favourite album of his as I love them all. I picked this one because it was his divorce album and a bit more to the point, lyrically, than the others. My favourite tune on this one is ‘Shelter From the Storm’.
Oasis – Definitely Maybe I first heard this album when I was about 8 years old. My older sister got it for christmas in around ’95 and still it holds up as one of the best, if not the best, debut efforts to date. It irritates me that some people have a weird snobbery about Oasis and it’s sad they’ve almost become a guilty pleasure to some folk, because this album is truly brilliant. I always stick it on when it’s sunny outside. I also remember kids at school changing their hair cuts and clothes to look like Oasis, and to me that’s a sign of a great band and a great album. Not sure that happens anymore…
Aaron Wright’s terrific EP Beyond A Pale Horse is out now, and could only be better if it was a full album and each copy came with a free Natalie Portman or something.
November 12, 2010 No Comments
Anyone who casts a regular eye over the pages of We Write Lists will know that we pay a great deal of attention to the wonderful Bella Union. There are two reasons for this: first, Bella Union is the most consistent record label in the world, behind some of the best artists of the last few years – Fleet Foxes, The Low Anthem, Midlake, Vetiver, The Acorn, Andrew Bird, Beach House and Alessi’s Ark all count themselves amongst the labels roster. Second, Bella Union have for some while now been We Write Lists biggest supporters – we readily recognise that the label have provided us with some of our proudest moments by helping us with previous Six Albums posts from some our favourite artists.
And so it is with the greatest pleasure of all that we present this weeks edition of Six Albums, from none other than Bella Union’s Simon Raymonde – founder of the label, the man behind a dozen Six Albums coups and former member of none other than Cocteau Twins. As the man behind Bella Union, Raymonde has brought a great deal of wonderful artists to the public’s conciousness – acts we very often might never have otherwise heard. In this sense, his choices below represent not only those of a fantastic musician, but also those of a great taste-maker. So for all you’ve done for We Write Lists, Simon, thank you – now it’s your time to shine.
The Associates – Sulk There’s never been a record like it before or since. Billy Mackenzie’s vocals on the earlier 12″EP’s(oh how I miss these) like Q Quarters, Tell Me Easter’s on Friday certainly hinted at the greatness to come, but we could not have imagined an album so wildly adventurous, so romantic yet so utterly modern. The fact remains that while both Rankine and Mackenzie had their moments post-Associates, the magic they created together for Sulk resulted in one of the greatest British albums of all time. Listen to it and tell me I’m wrong.
Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food While I played the debut LP 77 to death on my really shit all-in-one brown turntable/radio tuner/double cassette player with a smoked glass door, the arrival of a new album by one of your favourite bands is always accompanied by a certain amount of trepidation that you’re not going to like it as much as its predecessor. Not to mention the ‘difficult second album’ tag that often comes with it, this album confounded all those fears and is full to bursting with imagination. With subtle African flavours, (that we can hear coming out more fully realised on later records), mixed with their New York art school approach, and with brilliant lyrics and vocals from David Byrne who also did the sleeve, put together out of about 500 polaroids of the band, this is the record that convinced me that Tina Weymouth was the best bass player on the planet. Brian Eno produced and that is no bad thing either!
Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks As a young punk of 14 in 1976, it took me till I was about 35 to understand what all the Dylan fuss was about and to appreciate just what an incredible songwriter and figure he was in the 20th century. Asking a Bob Dylan fan what is their fave record is like asking someone to name the best footballer that lived. There isn’t a right answer. But for me Blood On The Tracks is so far out in front. It’s like watching a John Ford film. Dylan was a poet and an engrossing story-teller. It transpired after the LP came out, that Dylan had a last minute change of heart just prior to Columbia’s release and went and re-recorded 5 of the tunes in Minneapolis cos he was a little worried about the monotone feel and a realisation that a lot of the songs were in the same key. Well, my own band Cocteau Twins made a career out of that!
Wire – 154 ’79 really was a great year for music. The hysteria of punk and the way it went all ‘high street’, how depressingly wrong it all went, was rewarded with records so brilliant and so different from each other: Metal Box, Dragnet by The Fall, Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, Cut by the Slits, Entertainment by Gang of Four, Fear of Music by Talking Heads, Y by Pop Group, 20 Jazz Funk Greats by Throbbing Gristle, and the Magazine album Secondhand Daylight. And then came Wire’s 154, so musically rich and adventurous, it was probably my most played album that year. When ‘Outdoor Miner’, one of those ridiculously catchy pop songs that Wire could spit out with seeming ease, was banned from the Top 40 for ‘sales irregularities’ (EMI had the habit of sending staff round to the chart-eligible shops to buy a decent number of the 7″ single on the company credit card), it signalled the beginning of the end for the band. Personally I feel a nation was robbed of seeing Colin Newman on Top Of the Pops singing the first and last ever pop song about a serpentine miner spider which lives in a leaf and eats its chlorophyl. Who knows where that may have lead?
Augustus Pablo and King Tubby – King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown Hearing Johnny Rotten (née Lydon) on Capital Radio (yes, that does sound weird now I grant you) in July ’77 made a massive impression on me. John (let’s try and get the Country Life image out of our heads for a second here) was 19 and I was 15 and he was a hero to me. I loved The Pistols cos of him, and loved the early incarnation of PiL cos of him. His attitude and style was to this teenager the epitome of cool. On the Capital Radio show he played Culture, Doctor Alimantado, Nico, Neil Young and some other stuff I don’t remember. Dub being played on Capitol Radio seemed SO radical that I began to find as much of it as I could. When I was 18 my first job was working at Beggars Banquet Record Shop where I first met Billy Mackenzie, and then Liz Fraser from Cocteau Twins (I later joined her band) but after a few months the shop was closed down, and I quickly got myself a job in an Our Price record shop in Goldhawk Rd, that ONLY sold reggae and dub plates. Can you imagine such a thing? A reggae-only Our Price? That would be like finding a Tesco’s in Cornwall that only sold pasties. (For those of you too young to remember, Our Price was a chain of high street record stores. Initially they were okay but then in the early 80s they went really shit and then, hey! they went bust!)
Anyhow, King Tubby had this knack of making bass and drums sound so otherworldly and mystical. Augutus Pablo brought in those signature melodica lines and the minor keys and King Tubby did the mix magic. This album, and of course Lee Perry, then lead me into a British dub scene that Adrian Sherwood’s On-U sound records was at the forefront of, with Bim Sherman, Noah House of Dread, Dub Syndicate, Mark Stewart and Maffia, Singers and Players all bands I loved from that period. Definitely some records you should try and re-discover.
Orange Juice – You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever /Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep At the time, a breath of fresh air. ’79 was a great year as mentioned above and many of those releases were artful and introspective, 1980 arrived and the brilliant Postcard Records, a Glasgow label, easily the match of 4AD for design and style at the time, brought us so much joy with the early Orange Juice singles, Josef K, the Go-Betweens, and then Aztec Camera. The label didn’t last as long as it should have, but the band moved to Polydor and released this brilliant debut album. Orange Juice were fronted by the ever-eloquent Edwyn Collins, and the band had a massive influence that is still felt today, musically and culturally.
Edwyn always appeared articulate, stylish, intelligent and really funny. But behind his charming exterior was a serious songwriter who cared enormously about his craft. This is an album to sing-along to that makes you happy, but that also has fantastic ambition, maybe not always fully realised.
Few artists who start as brightly, continue to make exceptional albums into their 40s and 50s, Bowie, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Dylan, Eno, Neil Young, to name a few, do still manage it and Edwyn Collins is another. His new record Losing Sleep is exceptional and one of my favourite albums of 2010 already.
I should add that tomorrow I would probably pick 6 entirely different albums, I have SO many that mean so much!
Simon Raymonde runs Bella Union, was bassist for Cocteau Twins from 1984 until the band’s demise in 1997, and has released a solo album of his own, Blame Someone Else. Last year Simon formed the band Snowbird with the wonderful Stephanie Dosen. If you want to support him, go onto Bella Union’s website and buy everything they’re selling. Twice. And then give some to me for Christmas, because it’s better to give than to receive, and I’m willing to take that bullet if it makes you a better person.
August 27, 2010 2 Comments
At eleven o’clock this morning I let out the least masculine yelp of joy that I have ever joyfully yelped in my life. The BBC’s greatest asset, radio station 6 Music, had earned a reprieve from the proposed closure that had been threatened back in March. My joyful yelp was not yelped alone. Thousands upon thousands of complaints had been registered, and now we heard the news we had all hoped to hear. The radio station’s listenership has almost doubled since the whole debacle began, and with good reason. Now is the time to relish the world’s greatest radio station, and so, in order to celebrate the reprieve, I offer the Six Best Shows On 6 Music.
6. Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour
The only reason Dylan’s show is so low on the list is that it isn’t currently on 6 Music. But when the season starts, there is nothing like spending your Sunday nights, from midnight til 1am in the company of one of the most important men in the history of music. Dylan’s show is recorded in America, but 6 Music offers UK listeners a chance to hear his dulcet tones as they guide us through a different theme each week – New York, cats, the moon, the weather. Dylan offers a reasonable mix of music, though there is often a heavy sway towards older blues tracks. Thanks to his Theme Time Radio Hour, my reading of Dylan’s autobiography Chronicles took three times longer than it should have – I read the entire book aloud, to myself, in a poor emulation of Dylan’s signature growl.
5. Collins and Herring
Unlike any other station, it’s not all that common to find typical radio banter on 6 Music. It’s Richard Herring and Andrew Collins who do their best to make up for any lacking though. Intelligent and yet brilliantly inane conversations, punctuated by significantly better music than you might expect from, say, Heart FM. Also, Richard Herring recently launched an attempt to win back the toothbrush (or ‘Hitler’) moustache for the general public. The man is a hero, people.
4. The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show
In my final year at university our student house had, thanks to one of my housemates, a digital radio in the kitchen. For the nine months I occupied the house for, that radio, and 6 Music, provided the soundtrack to every meal I made. I never enjoyed cooking dinner more than Sunday evenings, when Craig Charles – star of Red Dwarf, host of Takeshi’s Castle and occasional trouble maker – was throwing down some of his favourite funk and soul tracks. I took longer than most to cook my Sunday dinner, mostly because I was having a proper middle-class white man funky dance breakdown throughout the whole process.
3. Lauren Laverne
When everyone else is subjected to football talk and crass toilet humour, mornings on 6 Music are filled by a chirpy northern lass, playing some damned good music. Lauren Laverne puts other female radio presenters to shame – unlike Fearne Cotton and Jo Whilet, Laverne’s musical choices are informed by an intricate knowledge of good music, not which artists are cutest, or who sounds most like a young U2. Regular features include mpFree, with the track available to download at no charge from Laverne’s website, and the Headphone Moment, which would be a lot more useful if I ever knew where my ruddy headphones were.
2. Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour
Whether he likes it or not, Elbow’s Guy Garvey is fast becoming an Alternative National Treasure – loved by all (who have heard of him) for being a genuinely nice man who makes brilliant music. Funnily enough, he also listens to great music. A shining example of the station’s on-the-pulse nature, it was Garvey’s show that introduced me to recent Six Albums guests The Leisure Society, as well as other great artists such as Bill Callahan and The Acorn. Every Sunday night from 10 til midnight, Garvey’s show is the most perfect way to round up the weekend, with every show closing on the beautiful (and hard to come across) Ray Charles track ‘Midnight’.
1. Cerys Matthews
Time was that Guy Garvey would have been my undisputed champion of 6 Music. But then I started working Sundays. Working, until recently, in a busy rural pub, I came to learn that the only way to start the day was the strangely alluring Welsh voice that belongs to Catatonia’s Cerys Matthews. Always relaxed, but always cheerful, Matthews spends her Sunday mornings playing silly little games with her listeners, playing them great music that is interpersed with her passionate talk of music and the occasional poem, usually played over another artist’s song to great effect. Like everything on 6 Music, it is the versatility and warm nature of Matthew’s show that has the audience asking “Why would anyone be listening to anyone else?” and “Why isn’t everything this good?”
July 5, 2010 No Comments
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I kind of like making lists. I’ve made lists regarding my favourite socks, my favourite Subway sandwiches and my top three Chaplin films (The Great Dictator, The Kid, Modern Times). Last year however, when it came to making a list of my favourite songs of the last decade, I copped out. I couldn’t decide. Which is better: Mr Brightside or One Day Like This? Falling Slowly or Bad Romance? Only one thing was certain to me: in the last ten years no song has affected me more, hit me harder, been better, in any sense, than The Leisure Society’s ‘The Last Of The Melting Snow’. Simply, it is a gentle, reflective and uncomplicated song. A sad song. But also an intensely beautiful song. I was relieved, when I came to hear the full album, to find that the rest of the record was magnificent also. The Sleeper fast became one of my favourite albums of the last year, and The Leisure Society one of my favourites of the century so far. And so, it is with twitching excitement that I can proudly present a new entry in our Six Albums series from none other than the band’s own Christian Hardy…
“These are six albums that mean something to me. Not just six albums I like. Of course there are other albums that mean something to me. But these six albums won the battle this morning.
Swordfishtrombones by Tom Waits
I love things that are ambitious, melodic and rhythmic but also heartfelt and ramshackle. For me, Tom Waits is the master of that balance. His lyrics and soundscapes make me feel attuned to a part of America that my favourite writers like Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Bellows and Bukowski inhabit.
In Ear Park by Department Of Eagles
Daniel Rossen sings like a Muppet version of Roy Orbison. The guitars sound like they’re being played in your room and it’s 1930 and we’re floating in a zeppelin and everything is possible and nothing can go wrong. One of my producer heroes is Jeff Lynne, whose ambition was always backed by his skill. I think Chris Taylor has the same ability. When I met him at Green Man I wanted to say that, but it came out as a choked sycophantic gurgle.
Third by Portishead
If you were to steal my iPod, you’d find the song ‘The Rip’ at the top end of my 25 Most Played list. I love that song from the first warbly moments to the cheap synth arpeggio fading out at the end. It’s not often that music engages me so totally with great songs, playing, singing AND fascinating angular production and esoteric mixing. Third makes me want to make records every time I listen to it. Please don’t steal my iPod.
Teen Dream by Beach House
This record crept up on me, the stealthy kind of album that doesn’t show its hand at the first opportunity. ‘Zebra’ is a very perfect recording, the sound of a shipwreck survivor waking on a beach, disorientated, elated to be alive but full of grief. That’s what I want from the music I listen to.
Deserters Songs by Mercury Rev
‘Opus 40′ makes me feels very alive and joyous and romantic and nostalgic and musical. The whole album is magical. I got to make friends and perform/record with pianist Justin Russo through his Silent League project and he and producer Shannon Fields have been sort of wise musical mentors to me.
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan by Bob Dylan
Early Bob Dylan is my comfort food. I take comfort in the raw performances, how you can hear the hiss of the smokey air in the studio and every breath and chuckle and sigh. This record just squeezed out Another Side Of Bob Dylan today because the guitars sound better.”
Christian Hardy is a member of The Leisure Society, who are currently recording their second album and will be playing a few festivals over the summer. Check their MySpace for more details, and buy their debut record The Sleeper, because it’s ruddy brilliant, and you’d be a fool not to.
June 30, 2010 No Comments
When we caught up with Franz Nicolay recently, we asked him if he would be willing to write for our humble little site a guest post. I’m not particularly sure we ever expected he’d be willing to, let alone write one as insightful as the list that found its way into my inbox a short day ago. So here, for our lovely readers, is a We Write Lists Exclusive! Franz Nicolay’s top six favourite records:
1. Mercury – American Music Club
“Simply my biggest influence as a songwriter and on my sense of what a record should sound like. I learned to play guitar and sing with three things: Mercury, Mark Eitzel’s Songs Of Love Live and the Bob Dylan lyrics book; and got my sense of what interesting piano in a rock band was from Bruce Kaphan of AMC, and Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson of The Band (see below). Unpredicatable, noisy guitars, swelling strings, Danny Pearson’s melodic basslines and high-lonesome backing vocals; and Mitchell Froom’s dusty production: The conventional wisdom is that is was the wrong time to make their ‘arty’ record, but more likely, they were never going to be stars no matter what kind of album they made, and in the event they made their greatest.
2. Rock Of Ages – The Band
“The model of musicianship, taste, and skill in a rock band. Their authenticity and credibility remain unchallenged. The studio albums are great, but a live show with three-piece horn section and Marvin Gaye cover is The Band at their best.”
3 & 4. Symphony #4 – Charles Ives & Mingus Ah Um – Charles Mingus
“A lot of what interests me musically is the mixture of the familiar and the avant; people who work with or within established forms and make them seem strange and unfamiliar. Both Ives and Mingus took as their raw materials the canon of Western romantic classical music, American gospel and church hymns, the gestures of their spiritual fathers (Beethoven and Ellington, respectively) and the popular songs of their day and surrounded them in a fog of dissonance and improvisation. In the same vein, my favourite Cecil Taylor is his earlier records where he’s still close enough to bebop to sound even stranger; and my favourite Sun Ra and Monk is when they’re playing Tin Pan Alley.”
5. As Time Goes By – Jimmy Durante
“Speaking of Tin Pan Alley: I’ve said it before, but there was a great generation of entertainers trained on the vaudeville circuit who could turn on a buffalo nickel from slapstick schtick to heartbreaking sincerity. I have and love Durante’s patter songs, but it’s the ballads that are the cloest to my heart: simply delivered and deceptively agile.”
6. Rain Dogs – Tom Waits
“…Though is a stand-in for “the entire catalogue”.
January 23, 2010 No Comments