I laugh when I hear good music. Not everytime, but often. It’s probably a little unnerving if you’re standing nearby me, but I try and keep it to myself. It just escapes me – sometimes I just can’t take in how much music can affect me. The last time we did it was last night, and the time before that was a week and a half back. Some might say that we do the Hg Prize here at We Write Lists just to leech off of the success of the Mercury Prize. I don’t think that’s it. I mean, it is. Obviously it is. We’re shameless hussies for that sort of thing here. But it’s also because I want to celebrate the music that affects me so much that I laugh, or cry, or feel slightly better for the rest of the day for it. The twelve albums nominated for this year’s award have all affected me in one way or another. They’ve changed my mood, or even on a deeper level, maybe. So, come the 6th of September one of these albums will be voted, by our panel of music experts, as the best British album of the last twelve months. Incidentally, those two acts who last made me laugh – both of them are nominated. They deserve it, too. And who knows, maybe one of the will win the grand prize. One pint, courtesy of We Write Lists.
Adele – 21 The UK hasn’t managed much by way of big soul music for some time. In fact, it’s never really been able to compete with the grand sounds and big vocals of the American greats. Until, that is, Ultimate Londoner Adele Adkins came along. This year’s Hg is punctuated regularly with second albums that have made a big step up in quality, and Adele is a perfect example of this trend. Where her debut was undoubtably soulful, it presented itself very much as the lost-in-love, the hurt-and-mourning. 21 blasts forth with anger and spirit and, above all, relish. The British soul scene has never been so commanding.
Matt Berry – Witchazel Generally ignored by the press, no doubt as an unintentional result of the artist’s primary connection with comedy series like The Mighty Boosh and The I.T. Crowd, Matt Berry’s wonderous first record deserves a second, third, fourth and fifth listen. Taking folksy inspiration from the earliest works of David Bowie and the solo music of Syd Barrett, Berry’s curiousity of an album draws the listener in to something that is both remarkably original and instantly evocative of Great Britain, in a way few acts have managed since The Kinks at their prime.
Josienne Clarke – One Light Is Gone Josienne Clarke’s haunting debut is one that has escaped most ears. A fugitive amongst trad folk, Clarke’s original compositions would not feel out of place amongst tracks a few hundred years older, so timeless are her lyrics and so perfect is her voice. A beautifully sung and beautifully played folk record that defies so many of the stuffier ideals that have formed around the traditional end of the genre. A spring of fresh water bringing life to the dry ground about it.
CocknBullKid – Adulthood It’s almost impossible to describe CocknBullKid’s debut record with any sort of accuracy. It’s not quite pop – possessive of much more soul and wit than most anything currently troubling the charts. It’s not hip-hop, though the elements of the genre are all present and correct. To call it R&B would undermine, perhaps, it’s universal and contemporary natures. Whatever it is, Anita Blay’s debut album is the sort of record for which the word ‘romp’ was originally conceived. That and the phrase ‘really bloody brilliant, thank you very much’.
Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys! If Bono is the universal pariah of our time, Guy Garvey is the new national treasure. It’s a rather wonderful collision of collective emotions – where once musical heroes were awarded affection according to how easy it was to chant their lyrics while holding a pint in one hand, Elbow have achieved the status based around their undeniably lovable and hard-working personalities. Their fifth studio album matches the pop hits of their last record with the slow-burning post-prog rock of their first two albums. The result is a credible alternative rock album that is also intensely listenable – perhaps the first time this has happened since Radiohead’s The Bends or Coldplay’s A Rush Of Blood To The Head.
Emmy the Great – Virtue There’s a moment remarkably early on in Emmy the Great’s second record at which the listener can’t help but feel a little nauseuous. It’s not a bad thing, we promise. Rather, the swooning guitars that open the first track (incongruously titled ‘Dinosaur Sex’) have a hauntingly vertiginous tendency to them. This is the effect of Virtue – often you feel overcome with joy at the simple beauty of Emma-Lee Moss’ painfully honest lyrics, and occasionally they catch you delirously, affecting you and stealing control of your emotions, like alcohol, or the end of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A sort of happy/sad that it is impossible not to welcome.
The Leisure Society – Into The Murky Water We were big fans of The Leisure Society’s debut album The Sleeper – it found itself the runner-up in our inaugeral Hg Prize. Still, as we said in our review of the new album, The Sleeper was all about Nick Hemming’s wonderful lyrics. On the band’s endearing sophemore record the accessible-but-not-cliched lyrics strike a perfect balance with orchestrally-minded, charismatic instrumentation. It feels as if the band are spreading some sort of a cult amongst their listeners. But like all the best cults, the deeper you are drawn into it, the more you want to stay.
James Vincent McMorrow – Early In The Morning Opening with the stark and devastating ‘If I had a Boat’, James Vincent McMorrow’s mainstream debut has drawn many a comparison to Bon Iver. In our opinion he’s actually a little better – unafraid of pop melodies and slow-build ballads, McMorrow’s record is as accessible to Radio 2 listeners as it is to fans of For Emily, Forever Ago. Through a perfectly balanced mix of Coldplay pianos and smoky high vocals, McMorrow builds a record that almost suffers from its own listenable nature. Ignore any instincts that poorer singer-songwriters have instilled in you, and you’ll struggle not to fall in love.
Noah and the Whale – Last Night On Earth Noah and the Whale have been at the receiving end of a fair amount of slack since the release of Last Night On Earth, mostly from fans disappointed in the further departure from the band’s folk roots. But Noah and the Whale have proved one thing over their three albums to date – they have no fear of change. Where their debut album struck at the folk pop sound, and their Hg-nominated follow-up was a bold and varied break-up record, Last Night on Earth is a Roxy Music-inspired record of pop hits. An instantly engaging and wonderfully curated collection of radio-worthy singles, Last Night On Earth is as intelligent as it is inclusive.
Rumer – Seasons Of The Soul Perhaps a little more mainstream than much of the albums on our Hg shortlist this year, Rumer’s debut album is nonetheless a wonderful collection of songs. The comparisons with other acts are unavoidable, and there is no doubt Carpenters/Bacharach sound of the record has helped sales tremendously. Nevertheless, Rumer’s record is much more than a coy tribute to a long-lost sound. Writing all her own music, Rumer creates a record as ripe with originality as it is with homely nostalgia and warm, cosy tones.
Sound of Rum – Balance Consider ‘Random Hip-Hop Entry’ the Hg Prize equivalent of ‘That Jazz Album Even The Band’s Mothers Hadn’t Heard Of’ in the Mercury. Take this, and Speech Debelle’s wonderful album of 2009, and you’ve got the makings of the most exciting new scene in the world. Sound Of Rum’s debut album is impossibly engaging, and likeable; the Jake Gyllenhaal of London-based music. We haven’t quite found the words yet to describe how we feel about Sound Of Rum, but hopefully this nomination is a start.
Aaron Wright - Aaron Wright Perhaps 2011′s most unconventional pop star, when we interviewed Aaron Wright for a forthcoming WWL feature he admitted to being wary of writing grand pop hooks. It’s a shame, because his self-titled debut comes to life most of all during the songs that closest resemble singalong moments. ‘Go On Yerself’ remains a hundred times better than anything fellow countrymen The Proclaimers released, and bringing in members of Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura as his backing band only lends to the subtler pop tendencies of the record.
Twelve albums there. All worth knowing. Give them a listen, and on September 6th we’ll honour the best with the grand sum of one pint. But, you know, at London prices that’s a heck of a thing to be offering.
July 19, 2011 1 Comment
So, we’re back from Glastonbury. Our clothes our muddied, our bodies resting after the best showers of our lives, and the world’s least likely tanline formed half way up our calves (courtesy of the necessity of wearing wellies in 30 degree weather). In the next week or so we’ll get our Glasto photos up on the site (we went retro with an analogue camera). Until then, enjoy a custom-made list of every single thought we had at Glastonbury this year. Don’t worry, there aren’t many. Mostly we were just trying to stay upright in the mud.
1. Travelling light is key. We had one bag, one tent, and eighteen sherpas.
2. They’re right when they say ‘It’s not the same without the rain’. It’s significantly better.
3. If we were to make a venn diagram where a red circle represented ‘Men who take their shirts off when temperatures hit twenty degrees’ and a blue circle represented ‘Men who could reasonably be described as ‘a bit of a dick”, all we would have is one purple circle.
4. Next time we are for-going tents in favour of bringing sheds.
5. This year’s festival trend is going to be woolly hats made to look like Sesame Street characters. We don’t know who came up with this, or spread it across so many vendors with such success, but they are clearly marketing geniuses.
6. Lemonberry is a better festival drink than any other. Lemonade with strawberry blended into it, and bits floating about.
7. Mumford and Sons are successful because they appeal to two major demographics: fans of well-made, beautiful folk music and people who like to sing loudly while holding a can of Strongbow in the air.
8. This works out very well for Mumford and Sons, but not so well for us. Our enjoyment of Fleet Foxes was dampened by three ‘blokes’ behind us who, whenever they got bored of sumptuous vocal harmonies, started shouting ‘IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT BUT MINE’ at the top of their bleedin’ voices.
9. West Holts is the BBC4 of Glastonbury. You won’t always have heard of the artist playing, but they’ll always be interesting.
10. The BBC clearly know who the secret guests are before the festival: this year iPlayer was showing two ‘classic’ sets from previous festivals prior to the weekend kicking off. One by Radiohead and one by Pulp.
11. Shangri-La remains as scary as it is fascinating.
12. The walk people adopt in order to not fall over in Glastonbury’s sludge is not dissimilar from that of Captain Jack Sparrow.
13. As cynical as we wanted to be about it all, we ruddy loved that Coldplay set.
14. When Stornoway thanked the previous night’s headliners U2 for supporting their Pyramid stage opening slot, we laughed. When Dan Mangan made the same joke about The Chemical Brothers on the Other Stage, we still laughed. But only because he’s so bloody nice.
15. Our favourite sets were (in chronological order) by: The Worry Dolls, Billy Bragg, Stornoway, Emily and the Woods, Fool’s Gold, Elbow, Coldplay, The Low Anthem, Don McLean and his Amazing Twenty Minute Singalong to American Pie, Laura Marling, John Grant and what we saw of Bellowhead before returning to our tent and collapsing into a sunstroke slumber.
June 27, 2011 No Comments
We’re watching the skies nervously, hunting in the loft for our air beds and foot pumps, looking to the skies once again, and twitching excitedly every time someone mentions The Wombles and Michael Eavis. It’s Glastonbury once again, and come the end of this week there will be two types of people at train stations across the country: wellie-clad folk with cumbersome tents getting in everybody’s way, and business people who think they are frustrated now, but will be looking back with sweet nostalgia when the same punters return four days later to cause all the same havoc once again – only this time covered in mud and sweat and dust and mud (again).
Needless to say, we’re all rather excited over here at WWL Manor. We were lucky enough to be involved in this year’s Emerging Talent Competition at the festival, and so we’ll be checking out a few of the acts from that and a few folk acts and a few big acts and… you know, there are too many to mention. We’ll whittle it down to a list of our must-see acts at Glastonbury this year, with a few recommendations from some of our very favourites…
1. Emmy the Great (14:00, Oxlyers In West, Friday) - Winner of our inaugeral Hg Music Prize, Emmy the Great’s debut album was an album that flickered between beautiful sounds and stark, sad lyrics. Her second album, Virtue, was released just this month and is in many ways the more thoughtful of the two records – Emma-Lee Moss’ imagery is grand and verging at times on a sort of apocalyptica (though we aren’t sure if she’d necessary agree with that diagnosis). Catch her set in hope of hearing the two dramatic stand-outs from the record – ‘Trellick Tower’ and much-less-like-The-Darkness-than-the-title-suggests ‘Dinosaur Sex’.
Emma-Lee Moss’ Recommendations: “I am looking forward to Wild Beasts, Lykke Li, Summer Camp, Guillemots, Wu Tang Clan and above all my major grown up heroes Suzanne Vega and Billy Bragg.” – Wild Beasts close The Park stage at 23:00 on Saturday, Lykke Li plays The Park at 20:00 on Sunday. Summer Camp and Guillemots sandwich themselves around Emmy the Great on Oxlyers In West on the Friday, and Wu-Tang Clan play the Pyramid Stage at 15:00 on the same day. Moss’ heroes headline their respective stages – Bragg closing Leftfield at 21:00 on Friday and Vega finishing up the Acoustic stage’s festival at 22:30 on the Sunday.
2. Bright Eyes/Fleet Foxes/Mumford & Sons (from 17:35 on The Other Stage, Friday) - Last year our festival hit its folk peak with the double whammy of Laura Marling and Midlake on Saturday night at The Park stage. This year it’s the turn of the Other Stage to folk us all up. With Connor Oberst playing his last festivals as Bright Eyes this summer, it might seem cruel to put him on so early in the evening – but he is followed by two of the poster boys for modern folk. Robin Pecknold’s Fleet Foxes will showcase the best America has to offer, with majestic harmonies and their new albums really-quite-like-Paul-Simon lyrics. Immediately after them Marcus Mumford and his (not actual) Sons take to the stage, in what will best be described as a ‘romp’. Three very different examples of folk, each as good as any other, over the course of four and a half hours. Not to be missed.
3. Stornoway (11:00, Pyramid, Saturday) – Potentially the most exciting thing about Glastonbury this year for us will be seeing two former Six Albums guests playing the festival’s main stage on the Saturday. Rumer makes her appearance at half three, but not before Stornoway. Their debut album, Beachcomber’s Windowsill, was one of our favourite records of last year (our ninth, if we’re keeping count), and if anyone should be given the duty of coaxing the sun out on a Saturday morning, we reckon Stornoway are the boys for the job.
4. Emily and the Woods (16:00, Acoustic, Saturday) – We love Emily Wood. Over the past year she’s been gracious enough to headline our Folkroom gigs on more than one occasion, always using her last performance as a benchmark she has to top. Incredibly versatile, we’ve seen her perform live with a half-band, a full electric set up and – best of all – completely and utterly unplugged, her audience enraptured around her. Though she didn’t win the Emerging Talent Contest this year, we’re ecstatic to see she’s playing the Acoustic stage and will be dragging most everyone we know to see her. And probably a few we don’t know. We will literally be dragging people up from the Theatre Fields to see her. So if you go, and there’s a surprising amount of trolls and stilt-walkers present, you’ll know we’re there too.
Emily Wood’s recommendation: “Beyonce is totally amazing… She has it all. The voice! The tunes! The moves! Wow- I seriously can’t wait.” - Beyonce headlines the festival on the Pyramid Stage, Sunday night at 21:45
5. Elbow (20:15, Pyramid, Saturday) – We’re actually just doing you a favour here. No, really. There isn’t a single band in the world today who know how to use a festival audience better than Elbow. Take their appearance at the Reading festival in 2005, in which they asked the crowd to partake in a ‘Mexican crouch’, and to point at the sky as if they had ‘just seen a massive alien’. Footage of these actions were used in their music video for ‘Leaders Of The Free World’. Almost ten years ago the band recorded thousands of Glastonbury revellers singing ‘We still believe in love, so fuck you’, and used the cast of thousands first as a choir on their song ‘Grace Under Pressure’ and then as the inspiration for their second album title… Cast Of Thousands. The sleevenotes for that album feature credits for anyone and everyone they could get the names of at that performance. Their last appearance at Glasto culminated in a mass string section, formed of ‘anyone we could find’ gathering on stage for the most audacious performance of One Day Like This yet seen. With recent performances with the Halle Orchestra and in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Elbow are a band that – in the live arena, at least – are impossible to second guess right now.
6. CocknBullKid (13:00, Oxlyers In West, Sunday) - Anita Blay, aka CocknBullKid, might just have released the most underrated album of 2011 so far. Intelligent and soulful pop music that almost nobody seems to be listening to. She’s only recently been announced for the festival, but anyone catching her at the odd little live-music venue in the heart of the Dance Area will be in for a treat. ‘Hold On To Your Misery’ is potentially the year’s best pop song. If ‘Asthma Attack’ isn’t. Or ‘Yellow’.
Anita Blay’s Recommendation: “Beyonce of course! I’ve been a fan, ever since Destiny’s Child released ‘No, No, No’. I have all her albums and think she’s an incredible live performer. I’m literally dying with anticipation!”
7. Laura Marling (15:00, Pyramid, Sunday) – It’s possible that the festival’s iconic Pyramid Stage has never been as eclectic as it will be on the Sunday of this year’s festival. It’s also quite probable that Laura Marling will never find herself acting as one of Beyonce’s support acts ever again. It’ll be interesting to see how she’ll fare on what could fairly be described as the biggest stage in the world – it will be the biggest crowd Marling has ever played to, and that isn’t including any television audience sitting warm at home. There was a time when Laura Marling was renowned for shuffling quietly offstage mid-performance, such was her shyness. Her set at The Park last year was both commanding and arresting, though, and we’ll be there for what might just be her crowning achievement.
8. PAUL BLOODY SIMON (16:30, Pyramid, Sunday) – The half of Simon and Garfunkel that actually mattered, Paul Simon is the undisputed Once In A Lifetime act of Glastonbury 2011. The same title held by Stevie Wonder last year, or Leonard Cohen back in 2008, Simon has made a name for himself unlike almost any other in the 47 years that have passed since he and Art Garfunkel released Wednesday Morning, 3am – an album widely regarded as being We Write Lists’ fifth favourite Simon and Garfunkel studio album. We are, of course, dreaming of a reunion with Art – but we’ll settle for a mix of S&G hits, tracks from Graceland, and eighteen consecutive performances of ‘Me and Julio Down at the Schoolyard’. Yes, that’ll serve us nicely please.
9. John Grant (18:30, The Park, Sunday) – Every time we see John Grant’s name, we see a flash of warm pride remembering his appearance on Six Albums last year (it’s still one of the most interesting reads the series has seen). You see, back then we heard his debut solo album, Queen of Denmark, and we really liked it. Now though – now we love it. We hold it close to us, both sonically, sentimentally and physically. We can’t sleep unless we’re hugging the vinyl tight to our chest. Intense and witty, Queen of Denmark is an incredibly emotive album that is also surprisingly funny throughout. Better still, his slot on The Park stage come Sunday night is just long enough that, if he wanted, he could perform the whole damn thing in order. (Please do this, John, and we will forever be your bessies).
10. Bellowhead (15:30, West Holts, Sunday and 21:00, Leftfield, Sunday) – Though Bellowhead are playing two sets at the festival this year, it will be their second set that you’ll find WWL at. We’ll be eschewing Beyonce’s headline set for their two-hour headline slot at Leftfield – likely to be the biggest, most unashamedly fun party that the festival has to offer this year. There are hundreds of trad. folk acts across the UK right now, but Bellowhead’s popularity is born out of the sheer zeal of their performances. Nobody has ever left a Bellowhead show with anything less than a massive bloomin’ smile on their mug. And our mugs will never turn down a massive bloomin’ smile.
Pete Flood of Bellowhead’s Recommendation: “Robyn Hitchcock is performing the whole of Captain Beefheart’s brilliant Clear Spot, an album that rocked my teenage years, at the Spirit of 71 tent – I think he’ll be just the man for the job.” Robyn Hitchcock plays the Spirit of 71 stage at 18:45 on Sunday.
There are, of course, dozens of excellent bands playing the festival across the weekend, and these are only some of the acts we’ll be catching. If you’re lucky enough to be going, keep an eye out for The Worry Dolls, The Portraits, B.B. King, Caitlin Rose, Johnny and Jenny, I Am Kloot, Twin Brother, Beth Rowley, Tame Impala, Dry The River, DeVotchKa, Aloe Blacc, Janelle Monae, Thea Gilmore, The Low Anthem, Sea of Bees, Dan Mangan, Cocos Lovers and Eels. Happy festivalling, y’all!
June 20, 2011 No Comments
Before I start, let me state one thing: I love emusic. I think emusic is brilliant, and easily the best of the bigger download sites. It doesn’t stock most of the artists that single-track buyers are interested in, but fans of albums will always find something to love. One of emusic’s real strengths is its recommendations – usually well-made by experts who evidently do understand exactly what they’re talking about. Except in one recent post.
I found myself on emusic last night, reading the brief description that advertises the new album by Hampshire-natives Delays. The single-line review read as such: ‘Undersung favorites finally make the leap to arena-filler.’
Call me a miserable old sod, but this really upset me. The whole sentence lends itself to the idea that the only logical progression any band’s career can take is to eventually fill arenas and play grandiose rock songs that the masses can enjoy. Really? Is that the rock band’s only choice? Does it not strike the writer of this comment as likely that some bands may not produce music that stylistically could fill a stadium or arena?
The presumption that a band’s ultimate aim is to fill, say, Wembley Stadium, is one that is damaging to music in more ways than one. Firstly, it undermines musicians that year after year create excellent albums that are perhaps not universal enough, not easy enough to swallow, that they can be expected to appeal to the audience necessary to fill Wembley. I caught Midlake last month at the Glastonbury festival. As a band, Midlake have been playing together for some ten years now. They have three albums out, each better than the last. But let’s not kid ourselves – their music is distinct, and different, and as such will never be taken on by the general public. The bands that fill arenas have to write big pop songs that everyone can relate to. There’s little room, as a whole, for literate lyrics and experimental sounds. Does this then mean that a band such as Midlake are not as credible, or simply as good as one like Coldplay? The heart says “Of course it doesn’t mean that!”, but the idea that a band should ultimately fill an arena says otherwise – it suggests that unless everyone can enjoy you (and is willing to pay upwards of £40 to see you play) you simply aren’t worth listening to.
This leads to the second issue – with critics always pushing the idea that a band hasn’t succeeded until it has sold out an arena tour, bands very often misguidedly change their artistic direction simply in order to sell more gig tickets. This almost always takes a band away from their original sound – the sound that their fans have come to know them for, and the sound that defines them as a band, that separates them from the generic stadium bands of the moment. Take Athlete, for example. Their first album, Vehicles & Animals shared with those who heard it a distinctive new voice in Britain’s music scene. The album was excellent – quirky, angular pop songs that provided easy summer singalongs with a bit more character than we were perhaps used to. The album was a minor success, loved by everyone who came across it. The critics loved it, too. But when it came to their second album, the pressure was on for Athlete to ‘move forward’, to join bands like Keane, Snow Patrol and Coldplay, whose easy pop rock songs were already filling bigger venues. Athlete responded with Tourist – an altogether different album that suddenly sounded very much like the other big British bands of the year, and nothing at all like their startlingly fresh debut.
Now another band has caved to peer pressure, and Delays have released an album that has ‘finally made the lead to arena-fillers’. Fortunately, Delays are one of a few bands who have managed to keep their character during the ‘upgrade’ (see also: Elbow), partly as a result of lead singer Greg Gilbert’s unique voice. But this is the point at which Delays need to be careful – I saw them live once in a tiny Brighton venue, sometime around 2006, and they were wonderful. They played their music, the songs they had written for themselves, and not for the mass contentment. These are the songs that make a band, Delays – remember this. When you record the follow-up to Star Tiger Star Ariel don’t worry about ticket sales; just make the music you want to make, and the people who keep listening are the ones who you’ll really want to be playing to.
July 10, 2010 1 Comment
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 think everyone who wants to write has their own reasons. More often than not the reasons amount to little more than a collection of names. Songwriters who list Dylan, Waits, Lennon & McCartney. Morrissey, perhaps. At a push, Merritt or Darnielle. Authors, novelists – they’ll have a different list. Tyler, McCarthy, Dickens and Hemingway. Capote. Graham Greene falls high up my list. Above them all, though, is the Elbow singer and songwriter Guy Garvey. Soundtracking my quieter moments for six or seven years now, there are times I will listen to one of Elbow’s songs with emotions bordering on lividity. ‘Why,’ I will ask, ‘Did Guy Garvey have to steal those words?’ Songwriting is patented forever as soon as the words are put to record, and forever more certain combinations of certain words are the property of that artist and that artist alone. Below are the greatest lines of Guy Garvey’s that I will now never be able to write.
“You are the only thing in any room you’re ever in/I’m stubborn, selfish and too old.” – Starlings
“And we took the town to town last night/We kissed like we invented it” – Mirrorball
“I’m tired,” I said/”You always look tired,” she said/”I’m admired,” I said/”You always look tired she said” – Red
“We still believe in love, so f*** you” – Grace Under Pressure
“And when the sunshine/Throwin’ me a lifeline/Finds its way into my room/All I need is you” – Ribcage
“And I’d lose the use of my legs/Just to see you smile” – The Good Day
February 27, 2010 2 Comments
I’ve never really been a big follower of Peter Gabriel, nor his work with Genesis – I’m a mere 22, and as such wasn’t really around for the peaks of his career. So it wasn’t Gabriel’s name that attracted me to his latest record, Scratch My Back. Nor was it the admittedly intriguing concept (the album is essentially a covers album that will see singles released on which Gabriel covers one act and said act covers Gabriel). Covers albums have been done a million times before, and rarely are they worth a listen. What interested me here was simply the choices of songs Gabriel was to cover – amongst them a track by Elbow, quite possibly my favourite band.
It’s these little fates of music that often introduce you to the most interesting of albums, and Scratch My Back is certainly one of these. Not remotely as I expected, Gabriel’s record features wonderful orchestration that more often than not echoes the styles of Owen Pallett (who has arranged strings for Arcade Fire and Last Of The Shadow Puppets), particularly on the Talking Heads cover ‘Listening Wind’. It’s refreshing also to see such a varied selection of songs, skipping from older tracks that now verge on being labelled ‘standards’ (Bowie’s “Heroes”) right up to modern songs by in-vogue acts such as Bon Iver and Regina Spektor. Everything’s dealt with terribly earnestly, and this is of no detriment to Gabriel, whose instantly recognisable tones certainly find inspiration in the vocal stylings of artists such as Eels and Elbow’s Guy Garvey (who not only bares an uncanny similarity of voice, but also considers Gabriel one of his biggest influences). Amongst the many fantastic tracks, the cover of Arcade Fire’s ‘My Body Is A Cage’ is masterful, building tension magnificently over the course of the first three and half minutes, before briefly letting loose and then eventually settling back down. The album doesn’t find its way to release until mid-February, but for now you can enjoy a mix of the original versions of some of the songs featured here.
WWL Says ‘If You Like This, Try…’
1. Blinking Lights and Other Revelations – Eels
2. He Poos Clouds – Final Fantasy
3. 69 Love Songs – The Magnetic Fields
4. Transcendental Highway – Colin Hay
5. Sail Away – Randy Newman
6. Funeral – Arcade Fire
January 25, 2010 No Comments