September 2012 Purchases

I had a bit of a splurge on Amazon MP3 this month as I had some discount vouchers from Pizza Express!

Dragonette – Galore
A bit of a catch up with Dragonette’s first album before the release of their new album Bodyparts. Fixin’ To Thrill was a fixture on my iPhone for a very long time (probably about three years at this stage given that I loved the album prior to seeing them at Manchester Pride in 2010).

Eurythmics – Savage
I was rummaging through my old music VHS tapes (specifically to show the hubby ‘It Couldn’t Happen Here’ to show him how odd early Pet Shops Boys could be!) when I found the video-album of Savage. While the visuals are very dated it struck me how good this under-rated Eurythmics gem was. It manages to blend the best of their guitar-driven material with the stripped down electronica.

Grizzly Bear
Shields – Grizzly Bear, like Fleet Foxes, offer a mellow and sophisticated take on Folk that is perfect for chilly autumn evenings.

Kindness – World You Need a Change of Mind
This album was first released in the spring, but it has gained traction in the last couple of months due to the 80s funk sampling ‘That’s Alright’. Great stuff – including a cover of ‘Anyone Can Fall In Love’ (aka The Eastenders theme) that is so utterly bonkers it works!

Lara Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
Lara Marling is still astoundingly talented. I don’t think this is news to anyone…

Marina & The Diamonds – Electra Heart
I wasn’t sure about this album based on the tracks I’d heard at the beginning of the year. It’s not as quirky as ‘The Family Jewels’ but it has definitely grown on me. I think part of the problem is that her personality struggles to get past the big name collaborators and a highfalutin’ concept. It’s a shame really as there are some good songs here, but someone seems to be trying to turn her into an X-Factor starlet and as such most of it lacks substance.

Pnau – PNAU
I love the Empire Of The Sun album so I thought it would be worth going back to find some PNAU, especially as their Elton John remix/reinterpretation project was getting a lot of good press. Not as song-orientated as Empire of the Sun, but still great melodic dance tracks. Great for the last rays of the summer we haven’t really had!

Queen – Greatest Hits
The lack of Queen in my collection has been a bit glaring of late. While I can take or leave the ubiquitous Bohemian Rhapsody (overwrought pretentious nonsense or a rock classic? my opinion changes daily) but songs like ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ and ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ really show the strength of their songwriting. Unlike GH Vol II every track on this is worth having.

Suzanne Vega – Close Up Vol 4: Songs of Family
Vega continues her stripped down trips through her back catalogue. While one would never accuse her of over-production these intimate ‘back to basics’ releases are a timely reminder of just how good a songwriter she is. For some reason volumes 1 and 3 aren’t on eMusic – so I’ll have to track those down elsewhere…

Toy – Toy
I first saw Toy supporting The Horrors and while they showed promise they were rather over-(eye)-shadowed by the main event. On their self-titled début the wall of distorted noise comes into focus and something rather special takes shape. There are obvious comparisons with The Horrors rather magnificent Skying but there are also flashes of 90s indie-distortion specialists such as Spiritualised (and indeed Spaceman 3) and My Bloody Valentine as well.

The xx – Coexist
I’m not entirely convinced by The xx. After last year’s Mercury win they suffered terribly from the familiarity that comes with over-exposure. Coexist doesn’t really tread any new ground and I’m not sure that memory has faded enough for their minimalist indie-electro with whispered vocals to sound anything other than a little tired. Maybe if they’d given themselves more time for their sound to evolve I’d be more enthused but as it is this is just more of the same…

August 2012 Purchases

I’ve been very slack at updating recently – must remedy that and at least do the purchase round-up posts on time! This was the month I discovered that Mute was back to being an indie (or at least part of it) and a crop of new albums had appeared on eMusic!

Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves of Destiny – Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose
I adore this album. Quirky and interesting Beth Houghton has, naturally, earned the moniker of ‘new Kate Bush’. Not sure that is a helpful description though, but if you think ‘Never For Ever’ era Bush it does give you an idea of what to expect…

Bloc Party – Four
After the speculation last year that Bloc Party were finished (Kele’s experimenting with brash electronic dance beats on The Boxer and rumours that the rest of the band were auditioning for a new singer) this album is a pleasant surprise. It is a more intricate affair than their early albums. The trademark choppy guitars are still in abundance, but there is also a flavour of Muse style theatrics. Think this one will grow on me…

Dead Can Dance – Anastasis
No one else does doom-laden ambient-goth like Dead Can Dance – close the curtains, light the candles and incense, pour a glass of red and let it sweep over you…

Elbow – Dead In The Boot
Elbow know that B-sides and rarities shouldn’t be songs that weren’t up to snuff for the main releases, but the songs that didn’t really work in the context of the album sessions they were recorded in. Given that I could quite happily listen to Guy Garvey intone the phone book this collection was a must-have…

Erasure – Tomorrow’s World
What does an iconic 80s band do when a swathe of young guns are copying their sound and making it sound much more exciting and contemporary than anything they have released in 20 years or more? Get one of them to produce their new album that’s what! While I’m not totally convinced by Frankmusik this collaboration has certainly breathed a bit of life into the good ship Erasure.

Kate Bush – R.U.T.H. (Remix)
New vocal on the 80s classic released to co-incide with the Olympics closing ceremony. A bit spot-the-difference, but it’s welcome news that her desire to record is still there. Maybe we’ll get more new material next year?

Public Service Broadcasting – The War Room
Such a simple idea but terribly effective. PSB’s stock in trade is using samples from public information and propaganda films in their filmic electronica. Really good stuff.

Sugar – Copper Blue (Deluxe Edition)
Words cannot state how much I love this album. I was introduced to it when I was at University what seems like a lifetime ago but ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’ is still a perfect power-pop song. I don’t think Bob Mould gets enough credit sometimes – there’s a clear line through Husker Du to The Pixies and on to Nirvana and without him alternative-rock probably wouldn’t have got as big as it did in the 90s…

Yeasayer – Fragrant World
Solid followup to Odd Blood. Quirkier and more experimental but worth investing time in.

July 2012 Purchases

Grinderman : Grinderman 2/Grinderman 2 Remixes
These suddenly appeared on eMusic (it seems that some Mute catalogue is on eMusic now) so I thought I’d snag them. It strikes me that it doesn’t matter who else is in the band – Nick Cave’s personality will always dominate…

Dan Le Sac : The Space Between The Words
I love Dan Le Sac v Scoobious Pip so Dan’s first album sans Pip was a must have! Sharp beats, bouncing bass and a more song-orientated approach than you might expect. Great stuff.

Drake Jenson : On My Way To Find You
Country isn’t normally my thing, but Drake is arguably the genre’s first openly gay artist so I thought it was worth investigating. It’s acceptable country-tinged balladeering with enough mandolin to keep it interesting. If nothing else he’s a cute gay cowboy!

Yeasayer : Odd Blood
Quite an old album at this stage, I think they have some new material out soon. I originally saw them support Bat For Lashes and never got around to buying the album. I’d forgotten how good ‘Ambling Alp’ and ‘O.N.E.’ (which got a lot of 6Music play at the time) are…

Marc Almond : A Virgin’s Tale 1 & 2
I don’t know much about the Marc Almond period between the Marc & The Mambas albums and ‘Mother Fist’ – so this is a handy way to catch up. It’s an interesting set of songs from one of Marc’s periodic willfully uncommercial stages.

Sugar : File Under Easy Listening (Deluxe)
I adore Copper Blue and I’m very excited to see that the re-issue is available on eMusic. This month, however, I decided to get F.U.E.L. – the album that, for reasons that escape me, I never actually bought at the time. The Deluxe edition includes the whole of the limited edition live album ‘The Joke Is Always On Us, Sometimes’.

Rufus Wainwright : Out Of The Game
When you hear that Rufus Wainwright is working with Mark Ronson you’re not entirely sure what to expect – a gay man’s version of Back To Black? As it turns out you get a 70s AOR infused album of wistful understated melancholy. It doesn’t have the grandeur of the Wants, harking back more to Poses, but the songwriting maturity is undeniable. very much looking forward to his autumn tour of the UK.

Mixcloud – mixes from the past – Fox Base Alpha #2

This was the second mix I uploaded to mixcloud. This one had an 80s 12″ mix theme (though not all mixes were from the 80s the songs were). A couple of songs here cropped up in the wedding mix – you can tell I have my favourites!

Never Let Me Down Again (Split Mix By Dm + Dave Bascombe) Depeche Mode
What Have I Done To Deserve This? (Shep Pettibone Mix) Pet Shop Boys
Torch – Manhatten Clique Remix (Edit) Soft Cell
Sometimes (Danny Rampling Mix) Erasure
Into The Groove Madonna
People Hold On (Full Length Disco Mix) Lisa Stansfield
Voyage Voyage (Maxi Version) Desireless
Need You Tonight (Liebrand 12` Mix) Inxs
Two Tribes (Annihilation Mix) Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Mixcloud – Fox Base Alpha #6

At the start of the year I discovered Mixcloud – which looked to me to be a great way of getting mixes up online while making sure the artists get their cut.  I’m not sure I’d ever be a DJ as I’m just cack handed when it comes to beat mixing, but I like to think I make a good mix CD and these mixes are kind of a half-way house.

I’ve been rather quiet on the mixes front for a couple of months. This is because I’d been planning my wedding along with moving my boyfriend (now husband!) in. I thought I’d kick things off again by mixing some of the selections we chose for the wedding reception. The party was loads of fun and we used the iTunes DJ mode to automix it and let the guests make requests! As always this mix is mixed live using Djay. From what I can remember all the tracks were played on the night! Enjoy!

Video Killed The Radio Star Buggles
Small Town Boy (Extended Mix) Bronski Beat
Brimful Of Asha Fatboy Slim
Starman David Bowie
I Want That Man Deborah Harry
My Delirium Ladyhawke
Enjoy The Silence Depeche Mode
Voyage Voyage (Maxi Version) Desireless
I’m Coming Out (12″ Mix) Diana Ross
Just Dance Lady Gaga Vs Eurythmics Dj Rizzo
Invisible Light Scissor Sisters
What Have I Done To Deserve This Pet Shop Boys
Pick Up The Phone Dragonette
I’ve Got Your Music Saint Etienne
Let The Music Play 12″ Shannon
Doctor Orbital

June Purchases – Part 2

Here are the rest of my eMusic downloads and album purchases for June 2012:

Maximo Park – The National Health – Another strong album from Paul Smith and the crew.  If you’ve heard ‘Hips and Lips’ you know what to expect.  Pop with a political edge is so rare these days – so its nice to see there is still some bands out there with things to say about modern life…

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless – I’ve been waiting for this re-issue for quite literally years.  Rumours that a remaster was being worked on started around 4 years ago and I’m pretty sure this has been delayed by at least 2 years.  I guess that’s MBV for you!  This shoegazing masterpiece is every bit as beautiful as it was 20 years ago.  As an aside the sleeve of my vinyl original is now displayed in the door of one of my bookcases in the study.

Pete Shelley – Homosapian – In the context of the current influence of 80s electronica this is probably a bit of a hidden gem.  I don’t think anyone expected this album of quirky electronic dance-pop from the  Buzzcocks frontman, but it should come as no surprise that it still sounds great.  Shelley was definitely the catchiest and most melodic songwriter of the punks and the move from sweaty punk clubs to the dancefloor is seemless.  The fact that this was his ‘coming out’ record is almost irrelevant.  Definitely homo-superior…

Public Image Limited – This Is PiL – Lots of good reviews for this, but I’m not sure about it.  Lydon can be very brittle and so far I’ve not found anything here to draw me in…

Richard Hawley – True Love’s Gutter – I get a regular mailout from Amazon’s MP3 stores with their £3.99 downloads of the week.  This one tied in with the release of Hawley’s new album (which I must get soon) and sees him in full-on love-lorn crooner mode.

Saint Etienne – Words & Music by… – I adore this album.  Must do a proper review soon.  Probably the purest pop album they have ever done. Think this is the sound of summer 2012, if not the year…

Scissor Sisters – Magic Hour – Very disappointed by this one.  Maybe I haven’t given it a fair hearing, but it sounds to me like they’ve gone for a collection of trendy producers in search of ‘hits’ and they’ve lost their personality along the way.  There are a few bright spots such as opener ‘Baby Come Home’ but generally, like the equally disappointing Ta-Dah, its a bit of a mess.

Simian Mobile Disco – Unpatterns – I’ve only really given this a cursory listen.  Quite different from ‘Temporary Pleasure’ but sounds interesting.

Squarepusher – Ufabulum – Downloaded on a whim to use up credits.  Not had time to listen to yet!

The Temper Trap – The Temper Trap – Followup to the excellent ‘Conditions’.  I suspect this may benefit from a bit more effort than it’s predecessor as there’s little as immediate as ‘Sweet Disposition’ or ‘Fader’.  Second-album-syndrome is always a danger when the début is as strong as ‘Conditions’…

We Have Band – Ternion – Another one I need to give a bit more time to.  Seems to live up to the promise of 2010’s self-titled début…

June Purchases – Part 1

I’m planning on doing this regularly at the end of the month.  I’m a bit late this month I got married and I’ve just got back from honeymoon!

So – here are my album purchases in June 2012

Best Coast – The Only Place – an eMusic download that I haven’t quite got round to listening to properly.  I do love the jangley C86ness of ‘Crazy For You’ and this is more of the same.

Ladyhawke – Anxiety – This album already feels very familiar, partially due to the ubiquity of ‘Black, White & Blue’ and ‘Sunday Drive’, but also due to having seen Pip and the band live in May.  While it may not have the immediate impact of the début it’s a good solid followup.

Cornershop – Urban Turban – This one needs to be lived with a bit more.  Cornershop are one of those bands that are hard to pin down (the hit remix of ‘Brim Full of Asha’ is as much Norman Cook as Cornershop) and this almost has the feel of a compilation album.

Dexys – One Day I’m Going To Soar – Not sure why this has been getting such good reviews.  It really hasn’t grabbed me – the songs are rather ordinary and the production is pedestrian (reminds me of band recordings people did at university!).  I guess people are just glad to have Kevin Rowland back again.  It’s OK – but not in the same league as ‘Searching for the Young Soul Rebels‘…

Garbage – Not Your Kind of People – Another revived band.  Manson & co pick up exactly where they left off.  This is a good thing!

Ian Dury & The Blockhead – Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll – I was browsing through eMusic and saw that this compilation that tied in with the recent bio-pic was available.  All the hits are there plus a few 12″ versions – definitely worth the credits.

John Talabot – Fin – Recommended by @richy1311 – not really had time to investigate properly, but what I’ve heard so far sounds good.

Lady Gaga – Born This Way – I think Lady Gaga was an inevitable choice for the wedding reception.  In my defence it was only £3 and there’s quite a few fun pop songs (though it’s not as good as the début imo)

Matt Zarley – Change Begins With Me – Recommended to me by someone who’s musical taste is normally impeccable. In this case I think he was swayed by a pretty face…  This is *not* good!

I’ll followup with the reset of the month’s purchases in another entry shortly!

My music – Contradiction

Another song from my final year at University this was written and recorded in the winter of 1995.

This song is about a very specific person and situation though I’d like to hope it can be interprited more generally. It’s about people that are very lively and talkative but you never really know them….

Words pass like someone else’s story
I know you have a past, why won’t you talk to me?
Yet you tell me things you think I ought to know
Are you a martyr to the cause?
So self assured, yet scared inside
So open, but what’s on your mind?
You seem so free but the chains they bind

Talk to me…..

Tell me how it felt when you lover died?
Tell me when was the last time that you cried?
Do you think I can’t see the pain you hide inside
I can see behind the facade
You’d help anyone, does it ease the guilt?
You’re so alone, why did you need to escape?
You live with this but you know its too late

Talk to me
You’re a contradiction

Words and music by Foxbase Alpha
Stewart Tolhurst: Synthesisors, programming and string arrangement.
David McLean: Guitars
Eleanore Thomason: Singing
Philip Rawson: Saxophone
The voice of Matt Gunby

Strings conducted by Alastair Warwick
Violins: Elisa Bergenson, Oliver Ogg, Anne Renshaw, Ben Selby, David McLean
Violas: Erika Brunnen, Ben Harris
Cellos: Kristian Hibbard, Hannah Payne

Recorded in Edit 1 and Studio 2, University of Surrey Department of Music, October 1995.

Albums of the year… so far…

The Guardian have published a list of their contributors’ albums of 2012 (so far) and it’s a fairly eclectic list.

I think the fact that I don’t actually know many of these albums or indeed artists is a sure sign that my hipster days are over (if they were ever there at all!), but there’s certainly things there that I already have or pique my interest…

Saint Etienne ‘Words & Music By…’  Easily their poppiest album since ‘Good Humour’ and its nice to see that they managed to avoid the trap of having their personality subsumed into that of the production team.  I must do a proper review of this soon.

Django Django ‘Django Django’ Great album – nothing else quite like it out there at the moment.

Chairlift ‘Something’ I’ve heard a few tracks from this one, so I think it needs to go on the buy list.  ‘Met Before’ got a fair amount of play on 6 Music.

Grimes ‘Visions’ Grimes is another one that’s getting quite a lot of play on 6 Music and I’m liking what I’ve heard.

Hot Chip ‘In Our Heads’ Hot Chip are one of those bands that I always end up overlooking. I suspect if they were on eMusic I’d have this already, but for some reason they never come to mind when I’m buying in-store…

Dexys ‘One Day I’m Going To Soar’ I’ve heard a *lot* of good things about this, which is rather unexpected given how mercurial Kevin Rowlands can be.  Must download this from eMusic now that my credits have rolled over…

Lana Del Rey ‘Born To Die’ I’m afraid I just don’t get LDR.  She’s got a good voice and the production is top-notch but for me the songs just aren’t there.  All sheen and no substance I’m afraid – from the carefully constructed persona (complete with backstory) through the the faux-Lynch videos – scratch the surface and she’s just another pop-starlet with some rather ordinary songs…