Thursday, 31 December 2015

Albums of the Year 2015 - 6 to 10

Here we are at the end of another year. Where did it go? A big thank you to everyone who stopped by my little corner of the internet over the past 12 months. Particular thanks go to all my blogging chums who continue to inspire me every single day. I'll leave you with numbers 6 to 10 in the countdown of my favourite albums of 2015. Top 5 tomorrow!

A Happy New Year to you and those you love. Let's do it all again in 2016. 

6) This is the Kit - Bashed Out

7) Low - Ones & Sixes

8) The Apartments - No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal

9) The Staves - If I Was

10) The Charlatans - Modern Nature

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Albums of the Year 2015 - 11 to 15

11) Dungen – Allas Sak

12) Sexwitch - Sexwitch

13) Sleaford Mods - Key Markets

14) C Duncan - Architect

15) Songhoy Blues - Music in Exile

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Albums of the Year 2015 - 16 to 20

Mrs S had a bad case of the dreaded lurgy for a couple of weeks in the run-up to Christmas, though thankfully felt a lot better come the big day. Now, somewhat inevitably, I can feel myself going quickly downhill with similar symptoms. Joints are aching, throat is sore and my brain is even more cloudy and befuddled than usual. So I'll be keeping my spiel to a minimum over the next 4 days as I unveil my favourite 20 albums of the year. Most of these artists have put in an appearance on the blog at some point, some more than once. Any that haven't will no doubt feature in greater depth in due course. I've included a tune with each entry, though not necessarily my absolute favourite, as I've tried not to duplicate any previous postings. Here's the first batch....

16) Bill Wells & Friends - Nursery Rhymes

17) Four Tet - Morning/Evening

18) Ryley Walker - Primrose Green

19) Colleen - Captain of None

20) Föllakzoid - III

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Compliments of the Season

I've been chasing my tail this year. For the past few weeks I've been re-listening to as many of my favourite albums from the past 12 months as I possibly can, but the task isn't complete and time has run out. So I pulled a long list together, hoping that this would make deciding on a top 20 a little bit easier. Unfortunately, the 'long list' proved to be exactly that - 69 titles. I'm actually waiting for a brand new release to arrive from Australia. It's by one of my favourite artists so I'm pretty darned certain that it will end up in the long list, at the very least. So make that 70 titles. Anyway, the long list didn't really aid the process, in fact if anything, seeing them all written down in front of me only compounded my indecision. Every year I swear I'm going to be more organised, like so many of my blogging chums, and keep a tally of potential favourite records as I come across them throughout the following 12 months. Perhaps I'll try that again in 2016. You never know, it might work.

Anyway, in the manner of a parent recklessly choosing the favourites of his beloved children, I selected 20 albums from the long list in a few minutes of blind panic (actually, the top four or five are pretty much set in stone, but you catch my drift) and have even attempted to arrange them in some kind of order. All will be revealed next week. Right now, I'm just stopping by to convey seasonal greetings from all the gang here at Swede Towers. Have a very happy, peaceful Christmas, however you choose to spend it.

I'll leave you with a festive message from one of our sponsors.

Monday, 21 December 2015

The Tracks Of My Year

I'm currently trying to hammer out a list of my favourite 10 albums of the year and as time wears on, I realise that it's a task I should've started a lot sooner. So while I'm mulling it over for the millionth time, here are 5 of my favourite individual tunes of 2015.

5. Drinks - Hermits on Holiday. When I posted this in May, blogging chum Swiss Adam memorably described it as 'weirdo lo-fi shit, in a good way'. Couldn't have put it better myself.

4. Lonelady - Hinterland. The scratchy post-punk-funk of Lonelady (think Gang of Four meet A Certain Ration) was pretty much the soundtrack to my year. One of my live highlights too.

3. Birds of Hell - Hometown Rage. This haunting lo-fi snapshot of Pete Murdoch's childhood concludes with a genuinely moving snatch of a 78rpm recording of his late Grandmother's voice, echoing down the years.

2. Daniel Knox - Blue Car. Singer, songwriter, part-time movie projectionist and Instagram artist extraordinaire, Daniel Knox played locally in March. Standing a couple of feet away from him as he sang the stunning 'Blue Car' was an absolute 2015 highlight.

1. This Is the Kit - Silver John. The lyrics are a gentle musing on the end of life as we know it, but in spite of the heavy subject matter, 'Silver John' is like a thick warm coat on a bitterly cold winter evening.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Reissues Of The Year - Richard Dawson

I have an ongoing and ever-growing list of artists who I'd quite like to see live. I also have a much shorter list of artists who I'm utterly desperate to see live. At the very top of this second list, surrounded by asterisks and underlined several times, are two words. Richard Dawson. I featured a handful of Richard's tunes in a post earlier in the year (here), a period when his profile was growing rapidly, but much of his back catalogue was nigh on impossible to track down. A couple of weeks ago, Weird World Records went some way to rectifying this deplorable state of affairs, when they reissued 2011's 'The Magic Bridge' and 2013's devilishly tricky to find, 'The Glass Trunk'. If you want to dip your toe, try 'The Magic Bridge', but both are just jawdroppingly great. With nothing more than his voice and a battered guitar, Richard Dawson can reduce you, sobbing, to your knees one minute and virtually pummel you into submission the next. It's extraordinary music made by an extraordinary man.

Here's 'Wooden Bag' from 'The Magic Bridge' and 'A Parents Address To His Firstborn Son On The Day Of His Birth' from 'The Glass Trunk'. I've also included an absorbing new 20 minute documentary, made during Richard's 2015 tour. Watch it and perhaps you'll appreciate why I'm so very anxious to see this man in concert.

Friday, 18 December 2015


I know that there's a lot of love for TeenCanteen in this little corner of the internet. By all accounts, their long-awaited debut LP is virtually complete and should be with us in the first half of 2016. Carla J Easton, the mighty voice of TeenCanteen, has simultaneously been working on a side project, Ette, who also have a debut album, 'Homemade Lemonade', due early next year. Before all that though and with consummate timing, this week Ette released a fine festive tune, 'Spending Every Christmas Day With My Boy'. Find out more here.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The National Jazz Trio Of Scotland

If you enjoyed the recent 'Nursery Rhymes' LP by Bill Wells & Friends (as featured here) and have room in your heart for something of a similar style, but festive in nature - look no further. In 2012, Bill, in collaboration with members of Francois and the Atlas Mountains, The One Ensemble and Golden Grrrls, together working under the misleading moniker of The National Jazz Trio Of Scotland (there are 5 of 'em and it ain't really jazz), released 'Christmas Album'. 'Like 'Nursery Rhymes', 'Christmas Album' is produced by Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake and the two records share a similarly dark and haunting tone. Familiar tunes are disassembled, keys are changed, time signatures are tinkered with and the result is a beautiful collection that is less joyful and triumphant and more bleak mid-Winter. Here's a selection to demonstrate what I'm trying to get at. Check out the whole of this excellent LP here.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Version City #48 - The Mad Lads sing Glen Campbell

Charity Chic caused a good natured kerfuffle last weekend, when he posted a pretty shocking cover of 'Wichita Lineman' by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (check out the grizzly evidence here). All is well in the world once again though, following yesterday's post, which featured a brace of Jimmy Webb penned classics performed by Glen Campbell himself (here).

Many, many years ago, a friend who worked in local radio let it slip that he was due to interview Glen Campbell later that week. The next time I bumped into my chum, I 'coincidentally' happened to have a couple of Glen's singles from my own collection tucked under my arm. My mate took the hint and managed to get the labels signed for me after the interview. Unfortunately, Glen was under the impression that the records actually belonged to my pal, making the dedication out to him instead of me. No matter really, I'm well pleased to have them.

I always though that Roy Orbison should've had a crack at 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix'. Here though are The Mad Lads from the Summer of 1969 with their soulful take on the song. The single, on Stax subsidiary Volt, was produced by Al Jackson of the MG's and proved to be the group's final hit. Check out those moves.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Trembling Bells

Following their excellent collaboration with Bonnie Prince Billy on 2012's 'The Marble Downs' and recent live work with Mike Heron of the Incredible String Band, Trembling Bells take the 'Rock' element of their 'Folk-Rock' genre-classification, up a notch on their fifth LP, 'The Sovereign Self' - actually, we're talking Psych-Folk-Rock here folks. On 'Killing Time in London Fields', there's perhaps even a hint of Psych-Folk-Kraut-Rock. 'The Sovereign Self' is a heady and engaging brew, which, as with so many of the very best albums, just keeps getting better with repeated plays.

Monday, 7 December 2015


I'm not sure how I'm going to mark the end of the year on the blog. At the conclusion of 2014 I put together a long, sprawling post looking back over the music of the previous 12 months (it's here if you're interested), though still managed to miss out some absolute corkers. I doubt I'll have time to produce anything quite so elaborate this time round, but while I wait for inspiration to hit, I've been re-listening to some much loved albums of 2015 that, up to now, haven't put in an appearance on these pages.

French sound sculptor Cécile Schott, who performs as Colleen, released her sixth LP, 'Captain of None', in the Spring and it's a beautiful thing, full of rhythmic loops and delicately catchy vocal shenanigans. Here's 'Lighthouse', my favourite song from that record, plus a live version, filmed in the Summer, that shows just how she makes those glorious noises.

I'm somewhat alarmed to note that I bought Colleen's first album, 'Everyone Alive Wants Answers', back in 2003 - 12 years ago. 12 years! Aaargh! The spooky 'Ritournelle', from that very record, was the first thing I ever heard by her.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Saturday Scratch #52

It's been a while since the last edition of Saturday Scratch and this one comes bearing some bad news. A couple of days ago, part of Lee Perry's Swiss home was destroyed by fire. Thankfully no-one was hurt in the incident and, clearly distraught, Perry himself took to Facebook to explain what happened.


Awful news. We wish you the best and send good vibes your way Scratch.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

The Kingsbury Manx

I happened to mention The Kingsbury Manx in a comment I left over at Charity Chic Music the other day. What a fine little band they are. Their sixth LP, 'The Bronze Age', was released in 2013, but the only time I caught them live was way back in 2001 on the New York stop of a US tour they undertook with The New Pornographers - an excellent double bill. The Kingsbury Manx can be a subtle proposition at times and I remember wandering around the hall a bit that evening, in an effort to get away from the chatterers in the audience, not to mention an over zealous Uncle Tupelo fan who wanted me to sell him the t-shirt I happened to be wearing. Anyway, I dug out a couple of Kingsbury Manx albums this afternoon and am happy to confirm that they sound as good as ever. Here are a couple of good 'uns from their self-titled debut of 2000.

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