Thursday, 8 December 2016

Musical Advent Day 8: "Sweetest Girl" Eleanor Friedberger

I'm a big fan of Eleanor Friedberger's solo work. Her 2013 album, Personal Record, was one of my top five that year and her latest album, New View, is just as good. The video has Eleanor playing Sweetest Girl in a stripped down solo format that makes it starkly beautiful. The album version features more lush instrumentation that makes it one of the best pop tunes I've heard all year.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Musical Advent Day 7: "Gardenia" Iggy Pop

Iggy & Bowie both making my songs of the year list. I didn't really think about this as I was deciding which songs would make the cut but I'm glad my choices cover new artists still in their teens through to established legends approaching their seventies. Gardenia was the lead single from the Post Pop Depression album, Iggy's collaboration with Josh Homme.

Homme has something of the magic touch when it comes to collaborating and seems to have brought the best out of Iggy. One of my regrets of the year was not catching this band live on their short tour of the UK. The band, featuring Queen of the Stone Age's Dean Fertita and, more unexpectedly, Arctic Monkeys' drummer Matt Helders, sounded tight and seemed to have a lot of fun playing together.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Musical Advent Day 6: "It’s Your Love" Hannah Lou Clark

In an unexpected twist of fate today's musical advent artist is also doing a musical advent so go check that out on Twitter. I discovered Hannah Lou Clark when she played a support slot at a gig in Guildford at The Boileroom. This single came out several months after that live experience and has been a favourite ear worm ever since.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Musical Advent Day 5: "I Can't Give Everything Away" David Bowie

I'm still a relative apprentice when it comes to Bowie, though I've expanded my collection quite a bit over the last couple of years. This tune was the third single from David's final album, "Blackstar", released two days before his death. I was surprised by how affected I was by his passing, particularly on the day the news broke. "I Can't Give Everything Away" brings the album to an uplifting close even though the lyrics seem to be about not being able to let on that he is dying.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Musical Advent Day 4: "Tick" Weaves

Weaves are a Canadian band who, as with much of this list, I discovered through Marc Riley on 6Music. I still don't know a huge amount about them as I failed to catch them live when they were over for a short UK tour but I did read great things about those shows. Their debut album, from which this tune is from, is full of great quirky pop and I like it a lot.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Musical Advent Day 3: "Trouble" Girl Ray

Girl Ray first caught my attention thanks to Marc Riley though soon after this I caught them live supporting Meilyr Jones. Trouble is their debut physical single though they had a couple of other tunes out electronically earlier in the year. Definitely a band to watch out for next year.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Musical Advent Day 2: "Into The Darkness" Ultimate Painting

Something more mellow for day 2. This is Into The Darkness by Ultimate Painting. The band are Jack Cooper formerly (and possibly still) of Mazes and James Hoare of Veronica Falls. They're both talented songwriters but seem to have hit a particularly rich seam since joining forces and have released three studio albums in three years.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Musical Advent Day 1: "Castleman" Cowtown

2016 has been a dreadful year for many reasons and possibly that's contributed to my lack of top fivery but Christmas is fast approaching and it's time for another musical advent (whether you like it or not) featuring my top 25 songs of the year in reverse order.

Things kick off with a blast from Cowtown an amazing trio from Leeds that include Jon Nash from Hookworms in their number. This is Castleman a tribute to John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees with a familiar Oh Sees style twang to the guitar sound. There are two videos as one has better visuals and the other better sound.

The Xmas countdown begins.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Chops Gigs - Late April to Early May

I've been a bit slack on the top 5 front this year. The main reason for that has been me trying to keep on top of my post gig reports. I've realised if I don't knock them out in the first few days following the gig they're a lot harder to write and I've been to a lot of gigs this year. So, sorry if you're missing the top fives, I'll kick off another communal vote soon.

Shonen Knife at Guildford Boileroom on Friday 22nd April 2016 - I'd had an eye on this gig for a while but hadn't bought a ticket and on a cold & rainy evening after a long week at work I almost didn't go. However, in the immediate aftermath of Prince's passing, and considering this was Shonen Knife's 35th Anniversary, I realised if I couldn't force myself to make the short drive to Guildford instead of staying slumped on the sofa I'd never get to see them.

Meilyr Jones at The MOTH Club on Tuesday 26th April 2016 - Meilyr's set was another tour-de-force. The band sounds better every time I see them. Though the songs are more or less the same, there's so much going on in each one that every set has it's own unique freshness. They looked really good in the glittery surrounds of the MOTH Club too.

The Lovely Eggs at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club on Friday 29th April 2016 - On the band's website there's a statement of intent that runs "This is our band. We do exactly what we like. Some of our songs are ten seconds long. Some are four minutes long. We don't care. Because it doesn't matter. We have a lot of different sounding songs. Welcome to our world." I think that nails what's brilliant about The Lovely Eggs.

Lush at The Roundhouse on Saturday 7th May 2016 - I got into Lush in 1990. Along with the Pixies & Nirvana they were pivotal in my conversion from Metal to Indie and other alternative music. They became my favourite band for a spell and my pal Mark and I went to see them live whenever we could.


Friday, 29 April 2016

Guest Top 5 - Top Five Secular/Atheist Anthems by The Autumn Stones

It's been almost two years since I last had a guest top five to publish so here's a very welcome contribution from Canadian dreampop band The Autumn Stones. Written & selected by guitarist & songwriter Ciaran Megahey who provides us his favourite secular anthems in no particular order. Once you've read this you should go and check out The Autumn Stones music either via the band's website or via ubiquitous streaming platform Spotify.

Photo: Alison Waddell ©2015

The 6ths - "The Dead Only Quickly"
According to the songwriter's liner notes to his masterwork, 69 Love Songs, Stephin Merritt is a "rabid atheist". He is also my favourite songwriter and although he rarely tackles religion in his work, when he does he does so with wit and style. In verse two of "The Dead Only Quickly," he seems to be offering some degree of sympathy with the faithful: "It would be swell / To see some folk burn in hell..." But then comes the rejoinder: "But when they go / It's just as pleasant to know / That the dead only quickly decay..." leaving the listener wondering whether there isn't a trace of feline irony lurking in the shadows. The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon provides the masterfully understated vocal turn on this recording.

The Clash - "Rock The Casbah"
In the documentary film The Future is Unwritten, Joe Strummer describes "Rock The Casbah" as being about the inhumanity of religious fundamentalism. Not the kind of subject matter one expects to find topping the charts in 1982, but there you have it. I remember loving this song as a kid and love it slightly more now that I know what it's about.

Guided By Voices - "I Am a Scientist"
Another one of my all-time favourite tunesmiths: Robert Pollard. It's hard to imagine a finer moment in his extremely lengthy catalogue. "I Am a Scientist" comes across lyrically like his artist statement and perhaps the song that best defines him. Though making no mention of religion or faith whatsoever, it nonetheless seems to be about self discovery and finding meaning through art and being open-minded. "I know what's right / But I'm losing sight of the just unlock my mind / Yeah, to just unlock my mind..." A decidedly humble, secular and inspiring view in my book, making this song an appropriate fit on this list. I dare you to try to stop the hairs on the back of your neck from rising whilst listening.

Belinda Carlisle - "Heaven Is a Place on Earth"
This is another one that I remember from childhood as one of those songs that just makes your heart soar. It still does and as I read the lyrics to "Heaven Is a Place on Earth," I realized that this is pretty damn close lyrically to what I was trying to get at with one of my band's songs, "End Of Faith." Quoth Belinda, "In this world we're just beginning / To understand the miracle of living..." Dammit, she beat me to it. Heaven is a place on earth. And it is in the form of this song.

Kate Bush - "A Deal with God (Running Up that Hill)"
Yes, you read correctly: "A Deal with God" is the original, proper title of this Kate Bush classic. I am doing my part to help reclaim it! It was changed to "Running Up that Hill" at the behest of her fearful record company. Boooo! The public was very much ready for this — as its status as a classic attests. Hopefully, a lesson has been learned. The song isn't about religion; Kate Bush says it is about the misunderstandings that arise between men and women because of their differences. Still, the $uits feared that the lyrics would be interpreted as sacrilegious. They kind of are, actually — and that's why this song made it on this list (in addition to the fact that it is awesome).