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
It was the summer of 2008 that Fleet Foxes stole their first hearts. Releasing their debut at the peak of the British summer, when the sky was cloudless and the festival punters were heading home with sunglasses and pink skin. It was a well-timed release, and the eponymous album caught the mood of a year with its wistful harmonies and woozy music. They benefitted from the warm sun and wide skies, and built a momentum that few could have expected for a band so unashamedly folk. They built so much momentum, in fact, that lead singer Robin Pecknold wanted to get straight back into the studio and record a follow-up to be released the following year. But 2009 came and went, and the world saw nothing more of Fleet Foxes. Behind the scenes, the band worked furiously – they lost tens of thousands of their own hard-earned dollars in wasted recording sessions, Pecknold lost his girlfriend as his obsession with the next album swelled and absorbed him. Eventually the band settled down in the second half of 2010 and the record that would become Helplessness Blues started to form.
On the last day of January this year the band reintroduced themselves to the world. The song that gives Helplessness Blues its title was released as a free download on their official website. We downloaded it, and played it. And then played it again. And again, and again, and again.
As a song ‘Helplessness Blues’ blew apart the image of Fleet Foxes that had been borne out of their first record – it opens softly on harmonies reminiscent of their debut, but quickly bursts into a juggernaut of folk. The sound and lyrics both seem to draw heavily on Simon & Garfunkel, on Crosby, Stills and Nash, but the production is so full, so bursting with pent-up energy that the song manages, within only two or three of its five-minute running time to draw the listener in and to completely reinvent Fleet Foxes. Every time Pecknold sings the one-two punch ‘If I know only one thing, it’s that everything that I see/Of the world outside is so inconcievable often I barely can speak’ someone, somewhere loses briefly the ability to speak themselves. Usually it’s us. If this is what they’ve become, we thought, imagine how the album will sound.
As it happens, ‘Helplessness Blues’ doesn’t appear on the album until halfway through, by which point almost all of the power and energy of the track is forgotten. To quote without irony the old line about football, Helplessness Blues is very much an album of two halves. The first five tracks are gorgeous, sumptuous and undeniably Fleet Foxes. ‘Montezuma’, for instance, is as strong as anything on the band’s debut, opening the record with reflective thoughts on age and passing time, Pecknold comparing himself to his parents and how far he has come in relation to them. If the mark of good folk is timelessness, Fleet Foxes will always remain ‘good folk’ – they sing of no things modern – when Pecknold compares himself with his parents his focus is on their family at his age, not the fact that he has taken the hearts of millions with his music. On ‘Bedouin Dress’ the band sings of escape from ‘the sirens… driving me over the stern’. They sing of the fictional utopia of Innisfree, an idea that revives itself later on the record. They sing of things that have always been, and things that will not change.
It’s all very good. It’s wonderful, in fact, and in many ways exactly what people would have expected of a Fleet Foxes follow-up, all pretty music and impressive vocals. If not for ‘Helplessness Blues’. Because ‘Helplessness Blues’ stepped up the game a notch. It made Fleet Foxes a different entity than they had been on their debut – something altogether more powerful, bolder and braver and more exciting. While the first half of the record bares almost no flaws – six minute odyssey ‘The Plains/Bitter Dancer’ being a particular highlight – when ‘Helplessness Blues’ kicks in at track six, it feels as though it is the first track of another, entirely different album.
Suddenly the record is filled with tracks like ‘Lorelai’, which sounds for a moment when it starts as though the band might burst into a verse of ‘Here Comes My Baby’, but quickly turns into an aural assault in which elements of pop are allowed to seep in between the bricks of the band’s folk foundations. ‘Someone You’d Admire’ takes a step back into those foundations, stripping the band’s sound down to something much simpler, but equally emotive.
The album reaches its second peak with ‘The Shrine/An Argument’ – a song that sounds, at its very core, like the culmination of Pecknold’s obsessions. The ones that took over his life, and stole his girlfriend, and formed this album of contrasts. Indeed, the song itself evolves and reforms twice – from mournful, to angry, to the wistfulness that opened ‘Montezuma’. If Fleet Foxes was about a sound defined by harmonies, and Helplessness Blues is defined by one with more pop tendencies, perhaps ‘The Shrine/An Argument’ is where the band is headed next – flowing opuses and experimentation, from the daring reinventions within one single song to the flirtations with free-jazz that close the track.
It’s hard to know what to make of Helplessness Blues – there isn’t a single bad track on the album, but it never quite feels like the music here entirely belongs together. Sometimes this works – the leap of faith between ‘The Shrine/An Argument’ and the breathtaking and breathy take of ‘Blue Spotted Tail’ (another song heavily reliant on the influences of Paul Simon) is masterful, taking the energy from the former track, and transplanting it artificially so that it is carried over into the latter. At other points it simply feels as though the album is the culmination of two EPs. Perhaps that’s the best way to view it – one EP of five tracks, and another of seven. The first EP is very good, don’t get us wrong. But the second EP. The second EP is something entirely different. The second EP is something great.
The Six Best Tracks On Helplessness Blues
1. Helplessness Blues / 2. The Shrine/An Argument / 3. Blue Spotted Tail / 4. Lorelai / 5. The Cascades / 6. Montezuma
May 2, 2011 1 Comment
This weekend saw an exciting announcement, as Fleet Foxes sent into the world not only details of their second album, Helplessness Blues, but also a free download of the album’s title track. It is, thankfully, everything fans might have hoped for from the follow-up to the band’s terrific self-titled debut which came out way back in 2008. ‘Helplessness Blues’ is bigger, grander, more… invigorating than anything the band has yet released. Less of the ethereal wooziness, more direction, more verve and a punch packed in powerful guitars. Now, we like to start features here at We Write Lists, but they very often fall by the wayside – nevertheless, we’ve been listening non-stop to ‘Helplessness Blues’, and it seems a perfect starting place for a new feature in which we’ll take some new music we love and pull it apart to reveal six similar tracks that are worth a listen or eight. Welcome to If You Like, You’ll Love, let’s hope we can keep it up! All the tracks below are featured on a Spotify playlist here!
Simon & Garfunkel – ‘I Am A Rock’ More than ever before, Fleet Foxes have drawn on the harmonies and sounds of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. ‘Helplessness Blues’ opens with the sort of folksy wisdom that Simon’s lyrics were renowned for, and though ‘I Am A Rock’ differs greatly from the song, both tracks take the roots of their lyrics and build up a wall of music around them.
Emmy the Great – ‘Bad Things Coming, We Are Safe’ Taken from Emmy the Great’s debut album, First Love, ‘Bad Things Coming…’ feature the sort of chugging guitars that pull the rest of the song along with them. They keep a pace that adds another level of excitement to the music, and makes for a mighty fine folksy work-out mix. I would imagine.
The Low Anthem – ‘Charlie Darwin’ So similar to Fleet Foxes on first listen you could be forgiven for thinking it was in fact them who had recorded this, the opening track to The Low Anthem’s third album revels in the time it has to spare. If punk music was the genre that felt what it had to say was so important that it should be shouted into the world as fast as possible, folk is the genre that says ‘You know what? This is too important to be rushed. This needs to be said slowly, carefully, so it can be considered fully and deemed either worthy, or beautiful, or both.’
Mumford & Sons – ‘Timshel’ Too many people accuse Mumford & Sons of being sell-out folk, or pop, or whatever. No thank you, we at WWL say. Take ‘Timshel’ for instance – gentle and heartfelt, it’s precisely the reason that before all the radioplay, the television spots and Grammy nominations the critics had Mumford & Sons down as ‘Britain’s Fleet Foxes’.
Neil Young – ‘Harvest Moon’ One of the earliest imfluences for Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold, Neil Young still rings true throughout the band’s output. The title track on 1992′s Harvest Moon album is a perfect example of the gentle communion of vocals and guitars that Fleet Foxes have taken as a structure and run with. Also, it’s perhaps one of the most underrated Young songs.
Fleet Foxes – ‘English House’ Taken from their debut EP Sun Giant, ‘English House’ is a great and often overlooked Fleet Foxes song – there are perhaps glimmers of ‘Helplessness Blues’ present here – heavier beats, more emphasis on the rhythm than the harmonies, and those chugging guitars again.
Fleet Foxes’ second album, Helplessness Blues, is released on May 2nd – but you can download the title track here now, and for free too! All the songs featured in this week’s If You Like, You’ll Love are available to listen to on Spotify here. Amazing, no?
February 1, 2011 No Comments
Every now and then we like to scatter our Six Albums feature with some of the new, unsigned acts that play our fortnightly Folkroom gigs. Josh Timmins is just such a person – an eighteen year-old multi-instrumentalist from the well-known cultural centre that is Milton Keynes. There’s a real variety to the folk that’s taking England over at the moment – when I was sixteen or so, the guitar band revolution took over the charts, and all the little indie boys sounded exactly the same. It’s refreshing to hear acts like Timmins coming through, influenced by many of the same artists as Mumford, Marling and the like, but capable of producing a sound so different from so many of them. We’re honoured to feature him ahead of his gig tonight at the Sno!Bar, at the top of that whopping great artificial ski-slope in Milton Keynes.
Ash – Intergalactic Sonic 7″s Ok, so my first choice is a greatest hits compilation, but trust me. It’s entirely justified (besides, this is my six albums not yours). I inadvertently got into this band when I was little because one of my older brothers had the single of ‘Girl From Mars’ which I adored. Then, I unforgivably forgot about this band until about October last year when I was at my local indie night, when I heard the aforementioned ‘Girl From Mars’ played almost as soon as I got in. It just reminded me of my younger days (ok, I was an underage kid sneaking into this club anyway but you know what I mean). It prompted me to start listening to them properly and really start appreciating them. As a seven year old you don’t really listen to the songs, you hear them, but now when I listen to them properly I just think that they’re the perfect “indie” songs. Treat yourself, get a pair of headphones, turn this record up and enjoy all forty-one tracks of perfection.
Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea It was close between this and On Avery Island (another fantastic album which I thoroughly recommend). Lyrically, this is probably my favourite album of all time, musically it’s one the biggest inspirations for me as well. On first listen to the untrained ear it sounds messy, but once you’ve listened to it a few more times and actually take it in, you learn to ignore the tuning issues and really begin to appreciate the brilliance of it. I was in Amsterdam last year and was lucky enough to visit Anne Frank’s house so, with this being an album about her, it felt right to listen to it whilst going around which kind of added a new poignancy to it. If anyone asks me to tell them some music to listen to, this is always the first thing I say. It was released in 1998 and is still relevant now and could hold its own against any “modern” album which is the sign of a masterpiece. And a masterpiece this most certainly is.
Cat Stevens – Tea For The Tillerman Most people would pick The Smiths or Joy Division as their teenage angst albums, but I think this has to be mine. This album covered pretty much every emotion in my mixed mind. The one song that helped was ‘Father And Son’. I can vividly remember now a heated spat with my Dad, and all I can remember doing afterwards is sitting in my room with the lights off and the curtain drawn in silence listening to this song. It made me realise how stupid I was being and how little I actually knew. Thankfully, my Dad and I are now extremely close and we can look back at these kind of events and laugh. I love my Dad and I wouldn’t want him any other way.
Meet Me In St. Louis – Variations on Swing The heavier moment on this list. But don’t let that deter you from it if you’re not necessarily that way inclined. As a violinist of a classical tendency I’m always interested in what I would deem “clever music” – music that makes you think. This is a prime example of an album that makes you think and one that demands your full attention otherwise you’ll get completely lost. Time signature and tempo changes a plenty add to the clever song writing. So, whenever anyone says that heavy music is just chugging along open strings, play them this record. Seriously good musicianship and songwriting. The best album Big Scary Monsters have released.
Simon & Garfunkel- Bridge Over Troubled Water I’ve mentioned a record that bought my Dad and I closer, so now it’s time for one that my Mum introduced me to. I can remember being played this record when I was probably about four years old whilst stood on a chair in the kitchen helping my Mum draw faces on the baking paper to put in the round cake tins and singing along to ‘Baby Driver’ with her. It’s memories like that which are why I don’t need to really describe the music. You’ll all (hopefully) have soundtracks to the happiest days of your childhoods. This is mine. That’s why it’s on my Six Albums.
The Frames- The Cost My final choice is an album by my favourite Irish band, The Frames. I was introduced to this band via the means of the film Once (which is a wonderful film that you should watch if ever you get the chance). The frontman of the band Glen Hansard was the lead male in said film and after hearing his singing in that and about a year after first seeing it, I discovered that he was in a band too. This album is one of the most achingly beautiful assortments of songs you will probably ever hear. If you want to delve deeper into the back catalogue of The Frames, I’d recommend you listen to Dance The Devil. This album also has another personal reason for my choosing of it. The first girl I ever thought I loved was at a gig I played, unusually I decided to play a cover and my choice was Falling Slowly. She met me afterwards and told me that it was her favourite song that I’d played. Okay, it wasn’t my own, but still. We spent the whole summer together professing our undying love to one another which inevitably didn’t last. She and I are still incredibly close friends after realising that’s all we ever were. But if the young can’t make mistakes, then they can’t learn. This album was the soundtrack to some of my mistakes, but it’s also been the soundtrack of my building on them. Without this I wouldn’t have one of my closest friends. If Mr Hansard is, on the off chance, reading this, I would like to sincerely thank him.
Josh Timmins plays the Sno!Bar in Milton Keynes tonight, and will be appearing in one form or another at the March 2nd Folkroom.
January 28, 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
It’s relatively easy to avoid the stark historical truth of today if you’re a resident of England. We’ll hide away, pretend nothing happened, maybe joke that we never really wanted them anyway. We kind of did, though, America. And as another Independence Day passes by, we Brits continue to mourn the fact that you are no longer our little bitch, that you are now more of the cumbersome cousin, who crashes into parties uninvited and ruins everyone else’s fun. Happy 4th of July, you noble fools! In honour of your unswerving national pride (that always seems to verge on racism, when you’re telling your school children to write essays about why they’re from the greatest country in the world), here’s the We Write Lists selection of Six Songs That Almost Make Me Want To Live In America.
1. ‘America’ by Simon and Garfunkel
Though, let’s face it, this could read for ‘entire catalogue’. The lyrics of Paul Simon have always made America seem like the most optimistic and hopeful country on the planet, even when it is painfully obvious that it is not the case. ‘America’ tells of the stroy of young people on a journey of self-discovery. Journeys of self-discovery, incidentally, are a concept that was copyrighted by the American people sometime in the early 1950s, and it is impossible to undertake one in any other country in the world.
2. ‘The Ecstacy Of Gold’ by Ennio Morricone
One thing that always amazes me about America is the sheer expanse of the place. In England you are never more than seventy miles from the coast. The majority of America is well over seventy miles from the coast. Morricone’s music is the perfect soundtrack to this… spaciousness. A friend and I are planning, next summer, to drive across the States, from New York to San Francisco, and those long stretches in the middle, where there world around us is wide, and flat, and the horizon seems infinite – those are the stretches when I’ll be playing The Good, The Bad and The Ugly soundtrack. America is about so many things, to so many people, but geographically, more than anything else, it’s about the pure size of the country. Sprawling, and endless. ‘The Ecstacy of Gold’ is neither of these things, but it feels as though it could be.
3. ‘Thunder Road’ by Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen is seemingly viewed by millions of adoring Americans as the country’s greatest rock export. This always seemed odd to me, for two reasons. Firstly, because he actually is America’s greatest rock export, and the American people are often very talented at completely ignoring their best artists (Scissor Sisters, early Killers…) and secondly, because the America that Springsteen has made his career singing about is more often than not significantly less glorious than Americans tend to realise. ‘Born In The USA’, for instance, is not the fist-pumping anthem of a nation’s pride, but rather an anti-Vietnam song. Still, ‘Thunder Road’ somehow manages to make America enticing, through its tales of everyday life, and the charmingly cruel line “You ain’t a beauty, but hey, you’re alright”.
4. ‘Stuck Between Stations’ by The Hold Steady
The Hold Steady get more than enough comparisons to Springsteen, but it’s their own fault. ‘Southtown Girls’, from the same album as this choice, centres on a line not all that different in sentiment to the ‘Thunder Road’ one above. “Southtown girls won’t blow you away, but you know that they’ll stay.” Brilliant. Nevertheless, ‘Stuck Between Stations’ stands out above the others. Not because of its thumping anthemic quality, but because it is an evangelist of literate America. The song opens with a reference to Sal Paradise, the protagonist in Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’, and stands strong against the ongoing international joke that America is a nation of idiots. Oh well, we’ve still got the fat jokes…
5. ‘Summer Breeze’ by The Isley Brothers
Alright, America, we’ll give it to you. Your country has weather sorted down to a tee. Hell, even your rain is better than ours. England shuts down after four inches of snow, but New York will get four feet of the stuff, and the taxi drivers will just lean back in their seats, look at you with their rogueish, stubble-ridden faces and say ‘Aaahhh, whaddya gonna do about it?” Originally by Seals and Crofts, ‘Summer Breeze’ is the sort of song that just wouldn’t have been written had the musicians behind it come from Ipswich. Only America has the meterological scope to create the sort of gorgeous weather that inspires songs such as ‘Summer Breeze’. This is probably why the British equivalent to the song is (Balham-based) Turin Brakes’ ‘Pain Killer (Summer Rain)’.
6. ‘New York State Of Mind’ by Billy Joel
If there’s a sure-fire way to lose any credibility you had regarding your musical taste, it’s mentioning Billy Joel. I just don’t get it. One of the most successful recording artists of all-time in America, critics still treat him as middle-of-the-road and unimportant. Sometimes I wonder if the only song the critics have ever heard is ‘Uptown Girl’ (which itself as a tongue-in-cheek homage to early Motown). Elsewhere in his back-catalogue are gems such as ‘New York State Of Mind’ – the blueprint of a million ‘state of mind’ songs to have followed, not least Alicia Key’s recent ‘Empire…’, the song is a tribute to Joel’s hometown, and plays out on his album Turnstiles over the course of six minutes. Nothing wins me over more than a love song to a place, and so, short of Turin Brakes writing an ode to Balham, no song about a place has won me over more than Joel’s.
Happy Independence Day, America!
(We didn’t want you anyway…)
July 4, 2010 No Comments