Monday, 22 October 2012

Another Late Night

So, lately I've been working on a feature centred around the Late Night Tales series. Naturally, when you do these sorts of things, the idea of making your own as a sort of pet project for fun will inevitably spring into your head. Which is what I've done.

The thing is, it'd be easy for me to just blandly link to a Spotify playlist, but that'd just be like giving a blank card to someone - faceless and meaningless. I recently reviewed the Saint Etienne film 'What have You Done Today, Mervyn Day?', and found myself unsurprisingly comparing it to their earlier work, 'Finisterre'. As both are a celebration of London above all else - albeint in different ways -  neither have an especially vivid storyline. 'Finisterre' is about a mythic 24 hour period in the belly of the capital, while '....Mervyn Day?' uses a mythical paperboy to explain the way it criss-crosses the now-redeveloped Lower Lea Valley. That said, the latter DOES add a sense of cohesion and focus that draws and immerses the viewer into its own world.

With that in mind, I decided to base my eventual playlist on a story, or perhaps more accurately give it a definite sense of time and place. In the Late Night Tales feature, Bill Brewster spoke about how his favourite editions all had a certain sound throughout, as though a sound had been imagined and the songs picked to fit. A sense of conceptualisation, if you will. Whilst the playlist doesn't have a unified sound running through it per se (not to me anyway), I'd like to think that giving it a setting and picking the music to fit has in some way given it a greater sense of focus. As follows:

The playlist draws on personal experiences, of travelling over for a night out with close friends and ending up sat up well into the small hours for no good reason drinking, listening and reflecting. That perfect kind of party-that-isn't that sits nicely between the dinner party formality and Skins style tearing-down-the-wallpaper mayhem. It starts off relatively uptempo, representing the high-spirited first couple of hours before gradually becoming more introverted, hazy and quieter as the hours slip away and late night gives way to the early morning. The last few songs represent the bleary-eyed awakening from whatever little sleep you've managed to get - if any - before watching the sun come up, unsteadily making your way through the city centre and finally the bittersweet moment when you board the train home equally content at the wonderful few hours you've just had and saddened that it's all over and you've had to say your goodbyes.

Whilst it's based on previous experiences the songs picked don't necessarily represent what we listened to. They just happened to fit into the scheme or idea that I had in my head.

The playlist can be found here. I genuinely hope you enjoy it Late Night Tales

For those of you who eschew such services, the tracklist is:

Fool's Gold - The Dive
Napoleon IIIrd - The Unknown Unknown
Meursault - Crank Resolutions
Shocking Pinks - This Aching Deal
Over The Wall - Settle Down
Orange Juice - Simply Thrilled Honey
Saint Etienne - Nothing Can Stop Us
Here We Go Magic - How Do I Know?
Dobie Gray - Out On The Floor
The Ronettes - Do I Love You
The National - Apartment Story
The Field Mice - Emma's House
Everything But The Girl - Are You Trying To Be Funny?
Pelle Carlberg - Pamplona
Jens Lekman - A Higher Power
Allo Darlin' - Let's Go Swimming
The Microphones - The Moon
The Spills - Lockets
Titus Andronicus - No Future Part 1
Arab Strap - (Afternoon) Soaps
Belle & Sebastian - Slow Graffiti
Felt - Mexican Bandits
Standard Fare - Darth Vader
The Modern Lovers - Girlfriend
Ballboy - Empty Throat
Scott Walker - Wait Until Dark
Mint Royale - Dancehall Places
Hefner - Don't Flake Out On Me
The Radio Dept - Your Father
Richard Hawley - Can You Hear The Rain Love
James Yorkston - Woozy With Cider
Aidan Moffatt + The Best Ofs - Living With You Now
Air - Ce Matin La
Taken By Trees - Dreams
Darren Hayman - London Fields
Stephin Merritt - One April Day
Jeff Lewis - Roll Bus Roll

Friday, 20 April 2012

Recommended by Ross #2: The Bloodening

That band from Leeds who sing about punching stuff, some miserable guys with beards and a drinking problem, a shitload of noise by two people who wear sunglasses all the time, some dudes who have issues with law enforcement and some bastards of the medium variety. 

Pulled Apart By Horses – Tough Love

The Leeds party train that is Pulled Apart By Horses have always been a favourite of mine; especially when I saw vocalist Tom Hudson, shirtless, mid-song, vomiting quite violently near his guitar pedals during their performance at Sonisphere last year. ‘Tough Love’ wasn’t as immediate as their debut; probably because I hadn’t heard rough-bastard versions of the songs years beforehand. It took a while for me to appreciate it, but perseverance pays off in this case.
There’s a proper gnarly edge to all these songs. It’s rough and gristly, built around this taunting bass grind and Hudson’s spitting delivery. ‘Wolf Hand’ mixes this dark, menacing guitar tone with spiky punk rock vitriol, while ‘Shake Off The Curse’ is that maximum dirt-bass and ballsy swagger of Bill Paxton in ANY movie that Bill Paxton plays a complete jerk. They’ve also been listening to southern rock, ala Every Time I Die – ‘Wildfire, Smoke and Doom’ has that arrogant strut about it, as well as this snappy, breathless yowl. ‘V.E.N.O.M’ sounds like a Yorkshire-version of The Blood Brothers – testicle-retracting screams, sawing guitars and that disjointed post-hardcore roar. It’s also a great way to start the album – it launches into this quite vicious tirade and keeps up the poison-edged spite throughout. It’s all massively tongue in cheek, because after all, it wouldn’t be Pulled Apart By Horses without the stupid puns, caustic delivery and being dumb.

The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past

Rock Sound magazine have got a lot to answer for. In a good way, mind. Although, my bank account would argue but it can’t, because it doesn’t have a voice, nor the ability for rational thought. Never heard a note of The Menzingers beforehand, but after hearing the wonderfully morose ‘Gates’ on Rock Sound 159; they suddenly burst on to my radar. It has that bitter edge about it, mixed with a slight tongue-in-cheek humour and sarcastic bile.
I Can’t Seem To Tell’ features the line “remember the days when I had a conscience? Yeah me neither” – the delivery is so disregarding, so cancelling out it feels like you’ve just been cut down. There are some great lyrics in this though – well, if you’re a fan of pessimistic jabs at your soul. “I’m pretty sure this corner of the world is the loneliest corner in the whole world” sings Tom or Greg (I have no idea) on ‘Sun Hotel’ – a track that sounds like it was cut from the last Crazy Arm album for being too fun/depressing at the same time.
Casey’ is a tuneful, post-hardcore song to drink heavily to, but you know, roar from the rooftops, especially for the shredded vocal delivery on the word “CAAAYYSSEEEE” – got to love that. ‘Burn After Writing’ is solid, gravely pop-punk, packed with bounce and rare optimism.
Even if you’re not a fan of punk, or cynical post-hardcore, ‘On The Impossible Past’ is worth your time, even if it’s just for ‘Gates’ or ‘Sun Hotel’ – top album, top band.

Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror

Reign of Terror’ by Sleigh Bells isn’t something I’d usually listen to, but good old itunes and their free downloads provided me with ‘Comeback Kid’ a track I can pretty much say, I bloody love. It’s perhaps the only track on here you could dance to as well; the beats fall right, like a pop-version of Alec Empire’s digital hardcore, whilst Alexis Krauss’s alluring voice purrs over the twinkling bells, and shrieking feedback.
Based on the strength of this one song, I gave ‘Reign of Terror’ a punt and good job too. ‘True Shred Guitar’ is a great first track – loud, stupid and intimidating like all good openers should be. Vocalist Alexis Krauss winding up the fake crowd, before it launches into heavy electronic drum blasts, Derek Miller’s strangulated guitar, which all swirl around her echoing, rap-vocal taunt cries of M-16s and six strings.

Crush’ has that sweet-sounding edge; Krauss constantly sounds out of breath, but incredibly sultry (when she’s not not doing the shouty, Bring It On-style cheerleader taunt) whilst the handclaps and solid beats rain down over Miller’s guitar wails. ‘Demons’ is again, more posturing, hip-hop-type beats, that shredding wall of noise (seriously, this is a loud album). ‘Road To Hell’ is smothered in Krauss’s echoing, husky drawl while the drum machine slows down to batter out a fairly, dream-like, breathless pop-rock bounce.
On the strength of ‘Reign of Terror’ I bought ‘Treats’, their first album, which is also pretty great, if a little rougher round the edges.

Cop Problem – Cop Problem

Man, listening to Cop Problem gets you pumped, Arnold style. I heard about this band when I was sent their EP for my listening pleasure by the METAL website I’ve regularly contributed towards for a number of years. It’s great, like, really great. Think skate punk, played faster than you can possibly imagine, whilst a female singer bellows over this breakneck racket. For a 3-song EP, there’s a surprising amount of depth on this. Opener, ‘Monuments’ is all double-bass drum beats, an unhinged urgency to batter the shit out of everything. There’s some proper scorn in the delivery as well; the vocals have that sneer about them, without sounding weak or cheesy.
Along For The Ride’ has a Guttermouth guitar tone, but if they were a sick-hardcore band and not a bunch of punk rock imbeciles. It’s skate punk fed through a shredder of metallic air-punching and fist-flails. Contemporaries I guess would be Trash Talk; the same blunt, no-mercy assault and the knowling feeling you’re leaving this party with at least a busted nose and a black eye; perhaps your Madball t-shirt encrusted in blood.  ‘Blinded By Power’ is the best track here though; it’s also the longest, clocking in at 4.46, it still manages to thunder past with that embittered hardcore edge.

You Slut! – Medium Bastard

This rocks the bastard house, seriously. Instrumental rock with big balls – none of that quiet shit; hails from Nottingham and Derby way, You Slut! just magnify and explode their ramshackle beast of a sound into your face. Discovered through a Rock Sound CD, ‘Magnifierer’ morphs and twists like an Adebisi Shank track that’s been hacked to pieces. The bass is so jagged and crunchy, whilst the guitars twitch and jerk like a room full of ADHD sufferers. It’s a spasmodic attack of meandering splatters of technicolour mayhem and something that sounds oddly like the Jaws soundtrack.
Fifzteen’ is a fairly tappy, affair – more in line with a This Town Needs Guns style noodling and a build of complex, twisting layers. ‘Elton Chong’ is a bonkers kaleidoscope of energy, whilst ‘Shopping Placenta’ is all 90s alt-rock meets metal, see-sawing riffage, interjected with more splashes of progressive splatters of twiddling genius.
Shellsock’ is a meandering, summery affair; intertwined guitars that circulate and overlap each other in this cosmic haze, before grinding down to a deep, bass-heavy roar.
There’s something quite energising and optimistic about You Slut! Their instrumental racket shifts in style and tone so much, yet it always feels decidedly affirming and positive. It will leave you grinning at it’s absurdity and wanting to throw shapes to their twisting commotion.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Indie Schmindie

I’ve got a lot of time for groups of people, or organisations, who appropriate a derogatory term used to describe them, and describe themselves by it. A friend of mine is a Quaker, who are (or were) officially known as Young Friends originally. Now, giving your group a name that lame, you’re asking for a bit of a ribbing, and Quakers became known as such because they quaked. As in, shook. Not played lots of FPSs. Whatever you might think of Quakers, props to people who can take being laughed at and say “actually, you’re right, and we’re proud”. Words to that effect, anyway.

“Schmindie” has been a bit of a derogatory term used for the more, ehh, emotionally susceptible side of indie music. Ballads, songs about heartbreak, fey white men with acoustic guitars and the occasional electric. Generally a bit overwrought. Heck, there’s a lot of this kind of music, you know full well what I mean. I don’t mean the sort of stuff that Dom Passantino legendarily branded “Mondeo Pop”, stuff for 20something sales reps living in West London and engaging in ‘banter’ in an effort to fight the ongoing dreariness of their soulless existence.

Okay, that paragraph was just an excuse to shoehorn some Dom Passantino and some generalisations in. Sorry about that. But my point was, it’s high time that those making schmindie (and yes, there will be no more inverted commas for schmindie in this blogpost), those appreciating schmindie and everyone else, start, only if challenged, wearing it as a badge of honour. But the point of this isn’t to argue the case for a genre name, it’s to give a bit of love to an often-overlooked style of music.

Unlike a lot of my peers, when getting into music I eschewed the angry-teenager brand of Slipknot, RATM, Linkin Park and their (admittedly very wide-ranging) ilk in favour of the likes of Coldplay, Radiohead, Starsailor, Elbow and the like. To this day I’ll still maintain Parachutes is one of the greatest albums ever made, though at least common sense makes me realise the same isn’t true of Love Is Here. But I’m sure it’s that which gives me this affection for sensitive-soul, heart-on-sleeve, guitars-turned-up-to-5 kinda thing.

This was all sparked by putting Bell X1’s Music in Mouth on yesterday. Bell X1 always confused me, they’re a band who should’ve made it bigger in Britain than they did, yet their former lead singer, Damien Rice, made it fairly big with an album of near-unparalleled dreariness. Bell X1’s first two albums are schmindie par excellence, and have plenty a nod-along and plenty to stand on the side of a Pennine on a breezy summer’s day, emoting to. I say that specifically because track 10, In Every Sunflower, certainly soundtracked 2005 me’s just-been-broken-up-with-by-a-girl-going-to-stand-and-stare-into-the-middle-distance-and-wonder-what’s-it-all-about-now status. The line with the biggest impact? “I wouldn’t swap the pain, for never knowing you.” See what I mean? 19 year-old sensitive indie kid fodder.

Bell X1’s Tim Noonan pulls off a similar trick lyrically to Guy Garvey, in that there’s this undercurrent of wryness across Music in Mouth and its follow-up, Flock. I particularly like the line “I’m not over you, can I get back under”, the kind of tongue-in-cheek thing I was, again, thinking a lot in 2005. Elbow are unsurprisingly dead-good for this kind of slightly self-depracating schtick, in something like the wonderfully understated Not A Job, as a simple bass hook and acoustic line accompanies Guy Garvey singing “Words to make her stay, you said: ‘Leave me and the plants die’, a panicked smile across your face”.

Latterly, Frightened Rabbit have become king components of schmindie, as the sadly now-defunct Don’t Make Lists blog noted. Head Rolls Off is that wonderful combination of jangly guitars, overwrought vocals and hell-of catchy melodies that all the best schmindie has, along with grimly upbeat vocals. The break-up-tastic Good Arms Vs Bad Arms makes an endearing desperate point as a slightly overweight man suggests that because his exes arms fit all the way round him, they were made for him. It’s that kind of grim-faced optimism-cum-desperation which marks out the Rabbits.

There’s a mass of great schmindie. Andy Yorke’s band Unbelievable Truth managed a wonderfully understated version of schmindie with “Almost Here”, Snow Patrol flirted with it before they hit it big with Run and bigger with Chasing Cars (and mark the point where maybe schmindie meets Mondeo Pop). Delays added some synths and made You Need Colours, an incredibly underrated album. It always makes me sad that sensitive white boys with guitar get a bad rep from sneery look-at-me types. Granted we’re responsible for some utter shite like Longview and Haven (hint: if a band moves to Manchester to ‘try and make it’, they will be unspeakably dreadful), but c’mon. Every group is.