Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Lullabies To Paralyze

As a continuation of yesterday's American music thing I turn to the album that completely took me by surprise last year - it would have been in my top ten best records of 2005 if I'd made a list like that. Queens Of The Stone Age's Lullabies To Paralyze was released in March, but I personally didn't pick it up for another five or six months. It actually ended up in my collection because it was the stupid BMG Music Club's choice of the month (note to self: gotta cancel that sucker) - it apparently was fated to be mine. After I played it a few times I was smacked silly by it's combination of heavy duty riffage, tight rhythms, creepy falsettos - like the Eagles' best stuff from the '70s - and the band's ability to write incredibly catchy melodies. I love how hard rocking this record is, but it's the singability factor that really gets me here - these songs have hooks up the yin yang. I've played this at work and several people have inquired about it - people who I don't think would normally be into a QOTSA album. I chalk that up to the fact that once you hear it a few times it snags you and won't let you go. One of the more magnificent tunes is In My Head - a super fuzzed out riff over a steady beat, guitars set on stun, creepy falsettos harmonising and a gorgeous keyboard melody that is pure new wave greatness. I read a bunch of reviews of this record that panned it - I have no idea what they were talking about! More ROCK!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Mo' Devo 2.0
After funky Friday's Devo 2.0 post I had to look for some more info. A further bit of google-ry led me to the Devo 2.0 homepage. There you can stream audio samples and watch vid clips too. It is kid friendly for sure, and I don't think I can get on board - I just like Devo v.1 too much I guess. The album, out March 14th, also comes with a DVD. If you read far enough into the bio info on the site you'll find out who is next up on the "Disney Kidz Bopz The Rockers" slate - fellow '80s new wavers The Go-Gos. You think I kid, but it's straight from Disney baby. Wow.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

John Peel's Festive 15

The January edition of Uncut magazine had a spiffy little free CD attached. I don't usually buy the mag, but the allure of a compilation called John Peel's Festive 15 was too great. One look at the tracklist and it was a done deal. It gathers fifteen tracks that made it onto Peel's annual end of year lists, the "Festive 50". The lists were voted on by the listeners, who mailed in their choices, and the results were tabulated by John himself, by hand, into an old ledger. As you would expect, it's a very diverse list of artists, a veritable who's who of indie rock. The mag's accompanying featurette has a nice tracklist rundown and also includes a few interesting facts. The Fall had the most entries - a staggering 92 songs total. Also pretty amazing - The Smiths, between the years 1983 and 1987 had 36 entries on the lists.

1. Half Man Half Biscuit - The Trumpton Riots
2. Camper Van Beethoven - Take The Skinheads Bowling
3. Spizzenergi - Where's Captain Kirk?
4. The Mighty Wah! - Remember
5. The Sugarcubes - Birthday
6. The Woodentops - Well Well Well
7. Billy Bragg - The Saturday Boy
8. The Field Mice - Sensitive
9. Bhundu Boys - Foolish Harp / Waerera
10. Pavement - Gold Soundz
11. Felt featuring Elizabeth Fraser - Primitive Painters
12. The House Of Love - Destroy The Heart
13. Wedding Present, The - Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft
14. Robert Wyatt - Shipbuilding
15. The Fall - Eat Y'self Fitter

The Spizzenergi tune is a great blast of Trekkie new wave/punk, a 1980 track that has the distinction of being the first #1 record on the then just established UK Independent Singles chart. Spizz carried on for several more years, mutating into Athletico Spizz '80, Spizzorwell, Spizzsexual and Spizzorbit. The other tune is a brilliant song from 1985's list by Felt. It has the unique sonic quality of a Cocteau Twins song, due to the production of the Cocteaus' Robin Guthrie, and also due to the vocals provided by his counterpart Liz Fraser. The song is an uptempo rocker with swirly guitars and swelling organ, and singer Lawrence's Lou Reed drawl is perfectly matched by Liz' heavenly pipes. I love the way this tunes just builds and builds into the big guitar solo break. A classic bit of '80s indie Britrock.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Funky Friday Is Chavin' It
From the Wikipedia page - Chav is a slang term which has been in wide use throughout the United Kingdom since the early 21st Century. It refers to a subcultural stereotype of a person with fashions such as flashy "bling" jewellery and counterfeit designer clothes, an uneducated, impoverished background, a tendency to congregate around places such as fast-food outlets or other shopping areas, and a culture of antisocial behaviour. It is an insult to be called a chav.

Tom Dinsdale & Simon Frank, aka Audio Bullys, released their sophomore LP Generation last week in the US. The follow up to 2003's so-so Ego War, it sees them picking up where they left off - grime-y hip-house and electronica ring with the echos of dub and ska, and over it all is Simon's distinctively British vocals, telling distinctly British tales. They will always draw comparisons to Mike Skinner AKA The Streets' tales of chav life, and it's rightly so - they cover a lot of the same ground musically and lyrically. Earlier I referred to their debut as so-so, and I'm left feeling about the same with Generation. There are a handful of really choice tracks - I like the Steely Dan sample on Keep On Moving, the funky keyboard sound on All Sing Along, and the guest vocals of Roots Manuva and Madness' Suggs. The track that has me bumping on this funky Friday is Take You There, an uptempo jam with a funky beat, a plaintive melody, disco strings, horns and a scratchy guitar sample. It isn't neccessarily one of the better tunes on the album - I just like it's laid back feel and it's hook-y melody.

Bizarre Music News Story of the Week
Are you ready for Devo 2.0? The original line-up, in conjunction with Disney - yes, Disney, close that gaping jaw - have put together a new band - Devo 2.0 (Kidz Bop Devo!). Jerry Casale cast the band - all pre-teen kids, rehearsed them, and recorded an album of remakes of old Devo songs and two new songs - with the original line up playing the music. The band have since learned their parts and can play the songs live. Jerry is quoted as saying "it's benignly subversive. Some of the more controversial politics and irony of the adult Devo is left out - because that is the Disney mandate, but we enjoyed it. We think it's great." Insanity indeed, yet I feel I need to hear this record when it does come out on March 17th...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Missing Songs

One of my favorite records of last year was A Certain Trigger, the tight and taut debut from Newcastle's Maxïmo Park. I had approached the record with some trepidation - yet another Brit combo pushing the new wave of post-punk thing, and on Warp Records? A few spins later I was sold. It's catchy, filled with energetic and frenetic songs, with an unbelievably tight rhythm section and loads of sharp, angular riffage and a smattering of tasty keyboards. The record still gets regular airplay at home and work, and many of my co-workers have gone on to own copies of their own to play. This week I got a lovely package in the mail from Warp Records and contained within was a Maxïmo Park record called Missing Songs. It's a collection of nine b-sides from their UK/Euro singles as well as a few demos of songs that made it onto the album, most of it previously unavailable in the US. It has been out in the UK since last fall, and gets it's US release on February 21st. Hammer Horror was the b-side to Graffiti, and it is pure Maxïmo deliciousness, but with one great addition - vibes. Part of the melody is played out on the vibes, and it sounds freaking great. A nice stop gap release to tide us over until a new LP appears.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Can You Dig This One Hit Wonder?

Straight outta Madchester, circa the late '80s, The Mock Turtles were an eclectic, indie rock band who had some minor success on the indie level with a couple of singles and an album, Turtle Soup. The record got them noticed by Siren Records, who, desperate for a Madchester cash in, signed them to a deal. For their first single they re-recorded an old b-side, a song called Can You Dig It?. It was an instant hit which got them on Top Of The Pops, and it was assumed that some measure of greatness would follow. Unfortunately, it was not so. The follow up single tanked. This was already the tail end of Madchester, and by the time the Turtles' album hit the shelves the public was uninterested. Can You Dig It? is a glorious song though - uplifting and sunny with it's fab harmonies and danceable beats, and it has one hell of a guitar solo that sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. This is the extended version of the song so you get even more of the delicious, sunny goodness. A great tune to help you get over the mid-week blahs!

More Dan, Man
A big Steely Dan related story this week - March 7 sees the release of Donald Fagen's third solo LP and the final installment in the trilogy that began with "The Nightfly" in 1982. It's called Morph The Cat.

According to the Reprise Records press release, "'The Nightfly' is sort of looking from the standpoint of youth," Fagen explains. "'Kamakiriad' would be more about midlife. This new one is about endings, really." Built around extended, richly textured jazz, soul and rock grooves, the themes of "Morph The Cat" range from impending mortality and assorted apocalyptic scenarios to homeland security and the ghost of Ray Charles. "I don't think you can escape the environment we live in now," Fagen remarks on his songwriting strategy. "If Steely Dan has survived -- and I have survived as a solo artist -- it's partly because we've reflected what's going on around us." It was recorded in New York City and Kauai, Hawaii, with longtime Steely Dan engineer Elliot Scheiner at the boards. The album also features an extraordinary line-up of backing musicians, many of who have previously worked with Fagen and his Steely Dan partner Walter Becker on stage and in the studio. Included are drummer Keith Carlock, bassist Freddie Washington and guitarists Hugh McCracken, Jon Herington and Wayne Krantz. Fagen performs lead and backing vocals and plays keyboards.The album will be made available as both a CD and a CD/DVD in high-resolution audio and 5.1 Surround Sound.

He will also be embarking on a solo tour of the US, including a March 19th date in Minneapolis. The wife and I are already there. For more tour dates see donaldfagen.com. Woo-hoo!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Turns out there's a musical genre being investigated, documented and perpetrated by the blogosphere - hauntology. There are a bunch of lists being made chronicling the artists that could be included in this genre, it's many styles and moods. Gutterbreakz' article (linked above) links to several other articles, which link to several more. It's music that's spooky and spartan and spans all genres - there's hauntology tracks in rock, it's rooted in dub, electronica, library music and any other number of styles. Scribe Simon Reynolds' take on his blissblog lists Friday's Mekons track as part of his "Web Of Ghosts" thread. Angry Robot's piece about Ghost Box is also relevant. It's interesting stuff, and if you're a fan of experimental music it's worth your further investigation.

Here's some music that I think fits into the whole hauntology scheme from Talk Talk's 1988 masterpiece Spirit Of Eden. Gone are the days of the heady synthpop confections of their first three albums, with their big sing-along choruses. In it's place is fractured, languidly spaced out art rock without a catchy chorus in sight. Space as in trippy psychedelia and space as in "there's a lot of space in between the noises" - spartan and minimal is the order of the day. There are even long gaps of silence in between some of the tracks. Some of the space is occasionally punctured by intense moments of shredding guitar or pounding percussion. It was a breathtaking, career killing step away from who they were. It is one of those records that speaks to some people in the way only music can, like the way Boards Of Canada inspires feelings of childhood nostalgia in me and many others. Check out some of the stories that people tell about their experience with this album - scroll down the page a little. The Rainbow opens the record with eight minutes of spine tingling and yes, haunting, intensity. You just have to listen to it - my words won't do it justice.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Funky Friday Dropping Leftfield Gems

renegade soundwave piano overlord the mekons a certain ratio

Renegade Soundwave - The Man Who Wouldn't Let Wax Wane
From 1995's The Next Chapter Of Dub, this was some of the last new material from the by-then duo. This is a tasty little bit of hip-hop, done in typically skanking RSW style - there's lots of dubbed out guitars, a nice breakbeat and plenty of echo. Nice.

Piano Overlord - Diplo Electric Manatee Final Mixdown
From last year's The Singles Collection 03-05, Piano Overlord is yet another of Scott Herren's aliases. You probably know him as Prefuse 73 or Savath & Savalas. Here he delivers leftfield hip hop rooted in organic drum and piano. That having been said, this track is a Diplo remix that brings the glitchy, old skool electro flavor and loads of spacey synths.

The Mekons featuring Lester Bangs - One Horse Town
From 1990's F.U.N.90 EP. Released at the height of the acid house/baggydelic era, it could be seen as the band's "dance" record. The beats of the era are here - Soul II Soul's breakbeat and that DNA variation of it all appear, and the production is slick. This track is a sprawling, psychedelic dance rock thing that features the rambling vocals of music journo icon Lester Bangs - "burn the stars and stripes". It also has some lovely Celtic sounding vocals, some hugely skronked out guitars, and it's all pinned down by a big beat and lots of ambient bits and bobs. A great track, a great EP.

A Certain Ratio - Touch
From the 2005 remastered and expanded reissue of I'd Like To See You Again. Originally released in 1982 on Factory Records, it was the band's last album. It saw then sounding a lot more like the NYC bands they were originally aping, and only garnered so-so reviews. I like it's slicker, electro style. This track kicks off the LP with much bass popping goodness. There are 5 extra tracks on this reissue, including the 7" and 12" versions of Knife Slits Water. Sweet.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

ABC's Alphabet City

I picked up the expanded remaster of ABC's 1987 LP Alphabet City this week. The follow up to the crazy, cartoon electro of How To Be A Zillionaire saw the band slimmed down to a duo - Martin Fry and Mark White. They jettisoned the cartoon imagery, enlisted Chic's Bernard Edwards to produce a couple of songs, and made a (slight) return to the sort of material that they broke through with. This album was the kind of thing fans were expecting after Lexicon Of Love - soulful pop with glittery production instead of the art rock of Beauty Stab. It has some nice songs on it, but it's not as consistently good as Lexicon. The big hit single was When Smokey Sings, one of the Bernard Edwards productions. The song is a Motown romp, a tribute to Smokey Robinson filtered through classic ABC sensibilities - those opening notes, the great arrangements, the sharpness of the melody and lyric. Much of the record suffers from the rather dated production values of the era, and it doesn't hold up as well for me as Lexicon. One nice thing about these reissues is that they've got the 12" remixes, several of which are pretty good, as well as the b-sides. The b-side of The Night You Murdered Love is a pure tribute to the sound of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis - THE hot production team of the day - called, fittingly enough, Minneapolis. I adore this song - it is pure pastiche with all of Jam & Lewis' trademark tricks, but it's such a great tribute to "the sound born in the city of Minneapolis". It is the reason I bought this remaster. The fact that I have called Minneapolis and it's twin city Saint Paul my home for the last 20 years could have something to do with it too I suppose...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Funky Snatch

Today's tunes are from one of my all time favorite movie soundtracks, Snatch. This is a record that gets played at least once or twice a month due to it's awesome party tape variety. Film maker Guy Ritchie was on a roll, with his last flick Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels having grabbed loads of positive reviews for it's "British Tarantino" approach. Like that one, Snatch is a grimy gangster flick set in London, a roller coaster ride of sharp wit, violence and great characters. It also featured some high profile Hollywood types like Brad Pitt, who turns in one hell of a briliantly unintelligible performance. The soundtrack is just as exciting. There are great little snippets of movie dialogue in between choice tracks from Oasis, Madonna, The Stranglers, 10cc, The Specials and Massive Attack.
There are some real oldies - Hava Nagila by John Murphy and Hernando's Hideaway by The Johnston Brothers. There are also a couple of brilliantly funky tracks by Maceo & The Macks and Bobby Byrd - hence today's admittedly terrible post title. Bobby Byrd's Hot Pants (I'm Coming, Coming, I'm Coming) is some pure, sweaty JB inspired funk with tight breakbeats, funky bass and guitar and sharp horns. Maceo And The Macks' Cross The Tracks (We Better Go Back) dials down the funk intensity, and dials up the jazz and the quirk - check the whistle. Some sweet grooving for your Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Who Covered In Cheese

February's issue of Mojo Magazine has The Who as the cover stars - there's a big special about the band in the mag and a free CD called The Who Covered. It's 15 covers of some of the Who's best known tunes, from a very wide selection of bands. It kicks off with The Jam doing Disguises, and goes on to include songs from The Flaming Lips, The Greenhornes, Petra Haden (from her accapella version of The Who Sell Out), The Waco Brothers, and Richard Thompson. It's a very nice listen, full of variety. There are several straight versions that don't veer too much from the originals, some inspired creativity - hello Petra! - and some straight up cheeze. I mean cheezy like easy - go go boots, swingin' '60s, Bacharach and Quincy Jones' bossa nova - yeah, baby! First up is Sandy Nelson's Pinball Wizard. He was a session drummer in the '50s and '60s - played sessions for Phil Spector and Gene Vincent - who was best known for his instrumental cover tunes. Driven by some tight and funky drums, it starts off as you'd expect, but soon it's all cheese guitar and horns playing the vocal lines. The chorus is brilliant - all massed horns and big organ, and it slides effortlessly into the mid section's laid back "feel me, hear me, see me" break. Truly swinging. Next up is Lord Sitar's I Can See For Miles. It was rumored for a while to be an alias of George Harrison, but in actual fact it was another session player, guitarist Big Jim Sullivan. Released in the late '60s, it was a blatant attempt to cash in on the sitar's risiing prominence in western pop - thank you, the Beatles. It is also an incredibly swinging take, with the psychedelic, Brit rock of Carnaby Street clashing with the tablas and sitar of India. Very shagadelic.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Funky Friday? ¡Claro Que Si!

Yello's second LP Claro Que Si! - Spanish for "Yes, of course" - was released in 1981, a quick year after their debut Solid Pleasure. Musically it picks up right where that record left off - left field electronics, quirky new wave, samba and a little bit of everything else collide with Dieter's deliciously bizarre lyrics and vocals. The first tune on the record is Daily Disco. Dieter is in full on new wave rant, singing about a sexy dancer on the floor over a disco beat with spooky synths and a bit of Moroder shimmer. It leads into a great, spaced out dance break, then back into the song, ending with the lyric "I wanna see you moving, Dancing all the night, Don't come any closer, It's damaging my sight." Gotta love it. This remaster has been expanded with 6 tracks - a couple of remixes, a live track and two songs rerecorded in 1985 - The Evening's Young and Daily Disco (1985 Version). The re-recording drops the new wave quirk, adds some epic, spooky church organ, a much tighter beat and a slicker, produced backing track. This was the last Yello record of it's kind - future releases saw the duo focusing more on dancefloor electronics and pop songs and less on the quirky experimentation.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Scream Deluxe Edition

Siouxsie & The Banshees' seminal debut from 1978, The Scream, has gotten the super sweet, two disc deluxe edition reissue treatment - in Europe. It's a slow time for new releases so I picked up the import this week. It is, of course, ultimately delicious. The digital remastering was done from the original tapes, sourced with Steve Severin's help. Disc one is the original LP, produced by Steve Lillywhite. It's blend of punk, post-punk and art rock holds up very nicely. The album mixes hard edged rockers with spartan atmospherics, and tops it all of with the unmistakable voice of Siouxsie Sioux. She whoops, yells and screams and it is captivating and original. There is also the fab cover of the Beatles' Helter Skelter, with voices replacing the trademark "da na na na na na na" riff in the chorus. One of my fave tunes from the record is Mirage, which starts out strummy like an Adam Ant tune and then promptly marches into strident punk territory with big riffs and shouty chorus. The second disc is rarities, Peel sessions and singles. It's a great companion to the LP to hear the songs done in a rougher, more unproduced style. Hong Kong Gardens (Single A Side) is the tune that made most people pay attention, with it's instantly recognizable guitar riffs and bamboo vibes and that voice. It sounds freaking great. A fantastic reissue that will hopefully see a US release. Bring on Kaleidoscope and Ju Ju...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Midweek And It's A Bit Off-Centre

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I am a longtime fan of Jack Dangers and his recorded output as Meat Beat Manifesto. Anyone who has read my ramblings for more than a year will know there's a MBM post coming every few months or so. There is something about his big, sonic boom breakbeat dubscapes that continue to appeal to me even tho' his style has remained essentially the same for the last decade. Last year saw Jack hook up with some jazz cats to record an album for indie label Thirsty Ear's Blue Series, a collaborative series of records with a revolving cast of young up and coming hep cats from the worlds of electronics and jazz. The resulting MBM album was called At The Center. Recorded with drummer Dave King (The Bad Plus, Happy Apple, Halloween Alaska), pianist Craig Taborn and flautist Peter Gordon, it was a happy mix of Jack's boombastics and jazzy noodling. I loved it, and I also dug the ensuing EP Off-Centre. Leadoff track Wild (Rmx) is indeed a remix of one of the LP tracks, and is a shuffle-y, Fender Rhodes laden groover chock full of the trademark MBM sounds, played live instead of sampled of course. I love the key runs on this track. The rest of the EP is made up of a couple of tracks that were previously available as amazon.com exclusives and two live tracks. Shotgun! (Blast To The Brain) (Live) is another track from the LP, and it is given a hardass makeover by Jack's crack live band - Lynn Farmer on drums and Mark Pistel on the sampler, and Jack and Ben Stokes on the video samplers. If you've never seen MBM live and you get a chance I would recommend going - it's a unique audio visual experience.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

My '80s Remastered - Solid Pleasure

In 1980 the Swiss duo Yello released their debut album Solid Pleasure. Just one look at the cover and you know you're in for something pretty unique. An early review headline referred to Dieter Meier and Boris Blank as funloving futurists, and it's a very accurate description. The album is a genre bending trip that goes from new wave to synth pop to experimental electronica to latin beats to gonzo rock to skanking reggae. It embraces NY No Wave and electro, the slick Euro club music of Bowie and Moroder and the avant jazz of Zappa, as well as cinematic ambience. It's a roller coaster ride of musical twists and turns. The whole Yello back catalogue has recieved the expanded remaster treatment. They can be purchased together in a box or individually. Solid Pleasure has 5 extra tracks. Four have never been released before - 2 tracks from the soundtrack LP Jetz und Alles, two from the band's debut 12" single and the 12" version of Bostich (N'est Ce Pas?), the band's first big hit. It's an infectious electro romp, set to a militaristic beat with a great, shouty chorus - "EVERYBODY! BE SOMEBODY!" The duo's quirk shines through all over the rest of the album, but I particularly enjoy the zany Bananas To The Beat - a dubby, spaced out tribal electro skank with goofy chanting. I have to say that I'm very impressed with how well this record has held up, especially considering that it's 25 years old. I also picked up Claro Que Si and You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess, so stay tuned for more Yello posts.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Cash Machine

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Hard-Fi are one of the UK indie scene's rising stars. Their debut LP CCTV came out last summer in Europe to mostly postive reviews. They have been lumped in with the new wave of post-punk bands - the Bloc Maximo Chiefs crowd. There is a bit of that but these guys add a hefty dose of dubby skank to their songs a la The Clash, and in a few places I even feel the spirit of those early '90s baggydelic bands so dear to my heart - I think it's the keyboards. Lyrically it's all about the lad's life, a sort of indie rock take on The Streets. Last month saw the band reissue one it's early singles, the Cash Machine EP, and it also got a US release. It's three tracks from the LP and a track that is not on the album called Sick Of It All, which is one of the band's dub-rocker moments. A nice, skanking riff builds into a loud, fast and shouty chorus. It's a nice mix - super catchy melody couched in grimy roughness. Since this EP got a domestic release I'm hoping that the album will be soon to follow...

Friday, January 06, 2006

Funky Friday's Disco Triple Play

Three tunes guaranteed to get you grooving...

Jackie Moore - This Time Baby

Yesterday I sent you off to explore Jockohomo's Top 20 of 2005. Number 11 on that list is Freemasons' Love On My Mind. It's a tasty disco-house track with a big catchy vocal hook. One of my co-workers (and a fellow disco afficionado) said he recognized the vocal hook, and mentioned that it was lifted from some classic disco tune. He came to work today with a CD for me, and on it was Jackie Moore's This Time Baby. It is seven minutes of gorgeously orchestrated disco heaven, straight outta 1979. This is some classic shit - big beats, lots of percussion, those horns and strings and Jackie's husky vocal all make it a real stomper. Spot the bit the Freemasons lifted of it for their hook, and see how the lyrics make up the title of their track. It's fantastic. Thanks to Greg for the sample spotting!

Bob Sinclar - My Only Love

Last night I had a sudden urge to listen to some Bob Sinclar. Today being funky Friday I took his 1998 LP Paradise to work to mix into the 5 disc shuffle. It's a fun set of retro flavored Franco-disco, slickly produced and packaged with tongue in cheek '70s soft core porn shots. The big hit was the Jane Fonda workout sampling Gym Tonic, but one of my fave tracks is My Only Love - feel the funk of that popping bass and the smooth soulful vibe of Lee A. Genesis' vocals.

Towa Tei - Time After Time

Another record making it into the 5 disc shuffle today was former Deee-Lite member Towa Tei's second solo LP Sound Museum, also from 1998. Best known for Kylie Minogue's vocals on GBI, where she sexily intones what it's like to be a font - German Bold Italic to be precise, I also really dig the mid tempo disco vibes of Time After Time, which feature the dulcet tones of singer Amel Larrieux.

The Juan MacLean video for Give Me Every Little Thing is nuts. A tremendously funky song, the video is a crazy ride involving hookers, aliens and some graphically animated virtual reality sex scenes - definitely not appropriate for the workplace!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I've Got My Own Hell To Raise

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Bettye LaVette is an old school blues, soul and r'n'b singer. She had her first hits in the '60s - “Let Me Down Easy” and “He Made a Woman Out Of Me.” She has a great, growling voice that can be soft and vulnerable or loud and angry. The Epitaph Records sublabel Anti- hooked her up with singer/songwriter Joe Henry to record an album of covers called I've Got My Own Hell To Raise. The songs are all by women - Fiona Apple, Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton, Sinead O'Connor and Aimee Mann are some of the more prominent names. It's a gripping set of songs, played out in low-key, alt.blues-rock fashion. Henry is here as producer and guide, and his understated style is felt. I'm not normally a big fan of this kind of music, but when everyone (not just the blues geeks) at my record store is talking about how great a record is I know I have to check it out. They're right of course - it's a fine record. My fave track right now is the lovely, tough rendition of Joan Armatrading's Down To Zero, a track from her 1976 self titled LP. Originally acoustic, here it's a full band in countrified blues mode, with some great piano and a pretty smokin' guitar solo. Bettye's voice will slay you. A great record.

Twenty Tasty Tracks
Somebody with whom I share a great deal of musical taste is fellow blogger Jocko. He has posted his top 20 tracks of 2005, and it is as varied and fun as anything you'd find here. Do yourself (and your music collection) a favor and check out Jocko's Top 20 of 2005.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Ghost Of Love
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Ola Frick and Carina Johansson are the Swedish duo Moonbabies. Their 2004 album The Orange Billboard was easily one of my fave records of that year. I loved it's mix of electronica and shoegaze-y rock and sunny, psychedelic pop. The two of them harmonize beautifully, and the songs ranged from full on raging to blissful space outs. It reminded me of Folk Implosion and Sparklehorse and My Bloody Valentine, and even a bit of the melancholic power pop of bands like Snow Patrol. In July of 2005 they released a mini LP called War On Sound, a stop gap release to tide us over until the next album is done. I only just got my hands on a copy of it last week. The title track is a real gem, picking up where they left off and then some. The rest of the record is not as strong as that first tune, but still pretty damn good. There's a demo of The Orange Billboard, a couple of other new songs and two very interesting covers. New song Ghost Of Love starts off with an enormous, arpeggiating synth riff, and then gradually adds layers - first a beat, then the blissed out vocals, then more synths, and finally some classic, Kevin Shields style shredding guitar. Then, about 2/3s of the way in the big rock drums pound in and it's gone from moody electro to raging rocker. The covers are inspired choices. Pink Floyd's Arnold Layne is whimsical and trippy like you'd expect. The most surprising one for me is their version of Midnight Oil's Stars Of Warburton. I was a pretty big Midnight Oil fan back in the day, so this impressed me. It's a relatively obscure album track from their 1990 album Blue Sky Mining. How many bands do you know that have covered Midnight Oil? I can't think of any. Moonbabies turn in a lovely version of this song, which is a mellow, melodic rocker with a lovely chorus and a melancholic feel to it. A great little EP that has me wanting more...