Thursday 28 June 2018

More Twists Than Harold Pinter

Sometimes, when a thick head drags you down, when a sore throat refuses to clear and when a nose CONTINUES to stream, all that's left to do is pour another hot toddy and listen to some really classy pop music. London-based singer-songwriter Lail Arad has two long players to her name, while Montreal’s JF Robitaille boasts a catalogue containing three albums and one EP. The pair met last year, since when they've been touring together and recording tracks for their debut collaborative LP, from which these two tasters have so far emerged. When I first heard their stuff I was convinced that they must be Australian - there's definitely something of The Go-Betweens about their delivery and song structure. I'm not sure that I can pay a higher compliment than that.

Monday 25 June 2018


I honestly don't know where it all comes from. Just over a week ago a 72 hour bug temporarily knocked the stuffing out of me, but thankfully galloped through my system so quickly that I didn't really have much time to think about it. However, ten days later and feeling in otherwise fine fettle (and with apologies for over-sharing), my head is still a phlegm making machine. The throat rattles & wheezes and the nose is a constant (and I mean constant) pouring stream. No matter how often I blow my schnoz, it just keeps on coming.

I do hope I haven't put you off your breakfast.

Given all this unpleasantness, there is only one tune from my collection that truly fits the bill today. I picked up 'Harcourt', a Pehr compilation, from a long-gone Greenwich Village record store in 2002. At the time, Pehr specialised in the kind of dark post-rock I was particularly partial to, but I'd heard of none of the acts on this cheap sampler. 'Lunarcy' by French four piece Phlegm is the standout and quickly became a favourite of myself and Mrs S. The tune is taken from a split 12" EP, 'Phlegm / Telemak', their only release, a physical copy of which took me a further ten years to track down. The full EP is now available on Bandcamp if you're interested, though given the sometimes graphic nature of this post, perhaps you'll never want to think about Phlegm again.

Phlegm - Lunarcy

Thursday 21 June 2018

I Will Listen to Your Every Word

Troubling news broke over the weekend that gifted singer, songwriter and producer Richard Swift was recently hospitalised in Tacoma, Washington due to a non-specified life-threatening condition. In addtion to releasing a clutch of fine solo albums and EPs, Richard has carved out a career as a well respected sideman and producer, working with the likes of The Shins, Dan Auerbach, Kevin Morby, Foxygen, Laetitia Sadier, Damien Jurado and most recently Jessie Baylin.

Richard is uninsured and his medical costs are high, so his friends have set up a GoFundMe page for anyone who feels that they would like to contribute a little to his care and recovery.

Richard Swift - A Song for Milton Feher

Monday 18 June 2018

Long Afloat On Shipless Oceans

One of rock music's odd little Trivial Pursuit facts is that Tim Buckley premiered 'Song to the Siren' on the last ever episode of the Monkees TV show. The 1968 performance, which was introduced by an off-screen Micky Dolenz, is stripped back, acoustic and in a completely different key to the studio version that finally appeared on the 'Starsailor' LP two years later. Also, in the interim, the line '...puzzled as the oyster' was wisely amended to the altogether stronger '...puzzled as the newborn child'.

Tim Buckley - Song to the Siren (1968 Version)

It is of course, spellbinding stuff, as indeed was the superb reading by This Mortal Coil in 1983, though there are some that would argue that this Peel Session from 2002 contains the definitive interpretation of Buckley's song.

Thursday 14 June 2018

Version City #70 - Jason Falkner sings Joni Mitchell

In the precious few moments that I've had to sit down and listen to any music at all since Brian posted this at the weekend, I dug out the first two Jason Falkner albums, 'Presents Author Unknown' from 1996 and 1999's 'Can You Still Feel?' Classics, the both of 'em and available for pennies on eBay and at Discogs. Our advice? (and I'm taking the liberty of speaking for Brian as well here) - buy them, buy them, buy them. They are astoundingly assured and extremely classy pop records. Brilliant songs, brilliantly executed.

In addition to these twin masterpieces, during the second half of the 1990s Falkner also committed an eclectic selection of covers to tape, including songs originally performed by the likes of Magazine, Monochrome Set, The Kinks, Swell Maps, Def Leppard and Joni Mitchell. Ironically, for a man who is no stranger to playing every single instrument on his studio recordings, the one time I saw Jason perform 'Both Sides Now' in concert at The Garage in 1999, he did so with his broken right arm in a plaster cast, thus preventing him from playing any instrument at all.

These days in addition to his own endeavours, Jason Falkner is an in demand producer (Daniel Johnston, R. Stevie Moore, Pugwash) and versatile gun for hire, contributing bass to Noel Gallagher's recent LP and establishing himself as the guitar slinging mainstay of Beck's live band.

Jason Falkner - Both Sides Now

Monday 11 June 2018

All That Jazz #6 - Miles Davis / Reggie Lucas

Miles and Reggie on stage

Reggie Lucas, one of the two guitarists in Miles Davis' controversial 1972-75 band, died in New York last month at the age of 65. Great commercial success came to Lucas in the 1980s when he produced the majority of Madonna's first LP, wrote her hit single 'Borderline' and, with fellow Miles Davis alumni James Mtume, co-wrote 'Never Knew Love Like This Before' for Stephanie Mills and 'The Closer I Get to You' for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.

The music played on stage by Miles and his band from 1972-75 was often a dense fusion hybrid that, to many observers at the time, challenged the very notion of jazz itself. In contrast 'Chieftain', a studio recording from August 1972, but which remained unreleased until 2007, is a sparse, nervy piece, pushed along by the relentless tap-tap skittering of Al Foster's rim-shots and Lucas' periodic guitar stabs. Even if you're not a fan of jazz in general or Miles in particular, this may be worth a few minutes of your time.

Miles Davis - Chieftain

Thursday 7 June 2018

Trying to Get Along Together

'Easy' is the latest track to be pulled from 'Hetrogaster', the debut LP from Blythe Pepino's new band Mesadorm, following the split of her art-pop trio Vaults. The song, which features vocal contributions from Blythe's Mother and Grandmother, concerns the day to day trials and tribulations of family life and, by unspoken extension, all human life. The touching video shows the band with various younger and older members of their own respective families. Don't go getting the impression that Mesadorm are a one trick pony though. 'Tell Me', released late last year, is the kind of off-kilter pop song that wouldn't be out of place in the work of fellow Bristolians Rozi Plain or This is the Kit.

Monday 4 June 2018

Lay Llamas

I was surprised when the the postman knocked on the front door on Saturday morning and handed me my pre-ordered copy of 'Thuban', the third studio LP by Italy's Lay Llamas, as it's not actually scheduled for release until Friday 15th. Unfortunately Mrs S and I have a particularly packed schedule for the next fortnight, so the one quick spin through the record that I've managed so far is probably all that it's going to get until well beyond that official release date. I'll hopefully return to 'Thuban' in greater detail in due course, but for now if I said that it features guest appearances from the likes of Goat, Clinic and Mark Stewart of The Pop Group and is an exotic melting pot of afrobeat, psychedelia and krautrock, it might get you into the general vicinity of the noises you can expect to hear.

Friday 1 June 2018

New Shoulders to Cry On

I felt every one of my 58 years earlier this week, when telling a couple of work colleagues the name of the artist I was going to see in concert that night. 'Nils Lofgren' I said. Blank faces. 'Singer-songwriter' I added helpfully. Blank faces. 'Well he's been a member of the E-Street Band for 35 years'. Blank faces. 'Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band?' I continued, becoming a tad desperate. '...Bruce Sprig...who?' Neither of them had ever heard of Bruce Springsteen. It wasn't that they were unfamiliar with his music, or knew him but didn't like his stuff - they had literally never heard of Bruce Springsteen. How do you get into your early 20s without ever having at least heard of Bruce Springsteen? I threw a few more big names at my baffled colleagues to see if anything stuck. 'Bob Dylan?' Nope. 'Tom Petty?' Nope. 'The Clash?' Nope. I was clearly being too obscure. 'The Beatles' I boomed confidently. 'You must have heard of The Beatles?' 'Oh yes, I've heard of them,' came a reply '..but I don't think I've heard any music by them. Are they an instrumental group?' I kid you not.

It's been 40 years since I first saw Nils Lofgren in concert and around 25 years since the last time. This latest tour is a stripped back celebration of his 50th year on the road and showcases material from all stages of that long and successful career. The highlight of the night for me was 'Black Books', a song originally released on his 1995 studio LP 'Damaged Goods', though this interpretation from 1997's 'Acoustic Live' is much closer to the atmospheric version we got on Tuesday evening.

Nils Lofgren - Black Books

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