Saturday, 29 January 2011

A night to remember

At the outset of writing this blog I was conscious of avoiding turning it into a Ryan Adams fan-boy site. I recognise today that I am danger of going the same way with The Head and The Heart so I will keep this entry short for that reason.

On Monday night I had the privilege of seeing them make their debut performance in our green and pleasant land in a small venue in North London. The night itself didn't seem particularly promising as the support bands both exhibited the kind of faux-Mumford and Sons that has become the hallmark of the current folky scene. If the two support bands had been around ten years ago I have no doubt they'd be playing forgettable garage rock and dressing like The Strokes. Here it was a case of grandpa jumpers and 'oh how intense we are' facial expressions. The first band we only caught the end of but they looked and sounded like a bunch of public schoolboys whose guitars were too small for them 'having a go at this band lark.' The second band promised to be a step up but were undermined by their own self delusion. In their minds it was clearly a moving, awe inspiring set to stir the emotions - they were wrong. They were boring. I found myself far more engaged in pointing out attractive members of the audience to my friends like a Sky Sports night on the town. The saving grace was their lead singer looking vaguely like a fresh faced handsome Johann Cruyff which at least provided something worthy of comment. So after a lot of shoe gazing and a surprisingly good final song the support shuffled off.

It is a rare occasion that an artist I have grown to love are still at the level of setting up their own equipment. The band themselves do not look particularly remarkable, yet once they started their charisma was undeniable. The atmosphere in the room changed dramatically and the 'pin drop' effect took over. I sensed a genuine sense of wonder from the crowd which perhaps concerned the band who's effort to instigate melodic clapping fell flat as people appeared just too engrossed in the music to become reactive. We were admiring a show with no intention to form part of it, but even this changed as the gig progressed and a deeper connection was made. The biggest initial difference between TH&TH compared to their warm up acts was a sense of joy. It was like a revelation that it was okay, and positively encouraged, to smile and enjoy the music. Each of the three vocalists have gorgeous and contrasting delivery; incidentally I would dearly like to see Charity given more opportunity to take the lead as so far her unique delivery is underused. I'm not going to list the songs played and rate them individually as you can listen to their existing tracks yourself and make your mind up. It is fair to say the Lost in My Mind and Down in the Valley were as incredible as hoped for and goosebumps were sustained for long enough to be medically dubious. However a greater joy was new songs I was hearing for the first time which were as warm and inviting as last year's album which I adore so much. The set was an absolute triumph and it was well worth the uncharacteristic Monday night trek to the big smoke.

I am loathe to tip them for big things for fear of jinxing them as I have many others before (My Vitriol, Kinesis, and Thirteen Senses spring to mind). It might be that the rest of the world don't fall for this band in the way I have but I will always have that night in North London.

A few related links can be found here:
Hear Ya
Sound Cloud album preview

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Like a moonlight shadow...

As regular readers will know I do a bit of moonlighting writing about my other passion - Manchester United. Here are links to a couple of articles I had published on a blog this week on my frustration with Wayne Rooney and my favourite Manchester United game.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Today in music

Bit of an extra post. I've spent an afternoon doing a bit of marking and listening to a lot of music. The results of which can be summarised through the following points:

The Warpaint album starts well but gets a bit tedious

Lissie makes a fine EP but grates over an album

My Jerusalem are potentially a little bit special

Different Class sounds as good today as in 1995. For me the finest album of the britpop years.

'That's just talking over music son'

The title of this blog is my Dad's articulate and well reasoned opinion on 'that rap music'. Now before you get angry and start castigating me for covering rap music again I am doing no such thing. Inspired by Big Daddy Frederick I'm taking his description literally and have chosen five brilliant songs of which the chief component is a spoken vocal over music. I have taken artistic licence with small bouts of singing but generally I have stuck to the formula which meant having to overlook such magnificent tracks as Little Acorns by The White Stripes and Popular by Nada Surf. Baz Lurmann did not make the cut on grounds of being shite.

Pow Pow by LCD Sound System

I chose this song as it came on my ipod whilst putting away the shopping this morning (rock and roll) and made me think of this subject for a blog. I long had an irrational dislike of LCD Soundsystem. They seemed to represent the try hard, indie wannabes that infested my favourite places as a student in Leeds and I never have (nor will) see the big fuss about 'Daft Punk is playing at my house.' So it was with some surprise that when enjoying the excellent Minnesota radio station The Current I heard a really interesting track and it turned out to be by the very band I'd often derided. Thankfully my stubborn days are over as meander towards my third decade so I can happily embrace the fact that I was wrong. The latest and allegedly final album is well worth a listen but then you are most likely cooler and trendier than I so know that already.

Be Safe by The Cribs

I love and always will love The Cribs. They were introduced to me by my best friend and we would take huge amounts of pleasure from experiencing groups of comedy outfitted scenesters bopping along to their songs totally ignorant of their meaning. It is always a bittersweet feeling when a band you have felt a personal link to becomes hugely successful. Although they have not hit the heights predicted The Cribs have undoubtedly gone up in the world - recording albums in LA and inviting Johnny Marr into the band. The mainstream output has left me cold in much in the same way as recent Kings of Leon songs have failed to resonate with me as Youth and Young Manhood so emphatically did. However it is doubtful that had they not pointedly looked to make an impact across the Atlantic they would have managed to attract Lee Ranald of Sonic Youth to collaborate on this absolute belter of a track. The Jarman brothers are underrated lyricists and this song is packed full of imagery so sharp you can picture it in your mind e.g. 'Ideas swirl but don't stick. They appear but then run off like rain on the windshield. One of those rainy day car rides my head implodes, the atmosphere in this car a mirror of my skull. Wet, damp, windows dripping and misted with cold. Walls of grey. Nothing good on the radio. Not a thought in my head.' Bob Dylan would be proud of that.

The Revolution will not be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron

Here is where it all began. My first awareness of this classic was somewhat ironically a television advert about  Nike basketball. As cool as that advert was as a yank obsessed teen it jars somewhat with the original which is a devastatingly cool and pithy take on the political and cultural whirlwind that was enveloping the globe with the fall out from the changes of the previous decade. It is hard to believe but this song initially featured no backing other than percussion in the form of bongos and conga drums. The right choice was made when it was re-recorded as what I can best describe as audio silk. The man himself has enjoyed an unlikely revival in the past couple of years and a good friend and fellow blogger even saw the great man in concert. You can hear Gil Scott-Heron explaining the meaning behind the song here.

Fire coming out of the monkey's head by Gorillaz feat. Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper is cool as fuck. Whether you feel Gorrilaz are a brilliant, avant-garde art project proving unexpectedly popular or a mawkishly self-indulgent vanity vehicle for Damon Albarn and friends you have to admit that Dennis Hopper reading a fable about primate dominated land facing environmental difficulties is inspired. His sad passing has left behind so many great moments on and off screen, but this might just be my favourite.

Going the Distance by Cake

Two songs always seem to sneak onto mixtapes and play lists I put together. One is the fantastic Teenage Angst by Placebo which seems ever relevant and the other is this ode to tenacity. It is essentially Aesop's tortoise and hair fable turned into a song yet it works brilliantly. I'm no great fan of Cake's other material but praise is due for concocting this quite ingenious motivational nugget.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Somebody up there likes me...

Even as a cynical, embittered Humanist, sometimes out of the blue something happens that makes you wonder whether the almighty is a reality.


Saturday, 1 January 2011

Dusting off a classic

Last night I watched the BBC adaptation of Nigel Slater's toast. It was potentially brilliant but was let down by woeful pacing that fractured the emotional connection built up in the first half. Anyway the undoubted highlight was the use of this absolute gem that I had never heard before. So I thought I'd share it with you...

If You Go Away by Dusty Springfield

Utterly beautiful.

For those in need of some soothing relief...

I had a quiet New Years but judging by my twitter feed ( I was in the minority so perhaps some of you might appreciate five delightfully chilled tracks. No complicated words for you to read, just blissful music.

Alone in Kyoto by AIR

Breathe Me by SIA

Love Will Tear Us Apart covered by José González

Nocturne Op.9 No.2 by Chopin

Jigglypuff's Song by Jigglypuff