Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Linda Lewis - Do You Believe In Love?

Reading about one of my favourite guitarists, John McLaughlin (The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis, countless others and solo). Turns out he co-wrote a few POP* songs in the 60s. Here's a very nice soul one by Linda Lewis, 'Do You Believe In Love?', written with Ian Samwell.




The A-side, 'You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet', is very good too. The Discogs page for the single shows no copies for sale and no previous copies sold. I'd love to find one.



There's a new(-ish, 2014) book out about McLaughlin, 'Bathed In Lightning'. Looks great, very thorough. Same for the website there, lots of info. 


*I'm spelling POP in all caps these days, often with an exclamation point at the end. Deserves such, don't you think?

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Songs Of 2014...

This is nearly an impossible task, to rank my favourite songs of this (or any) year. I'm confident of the Top 3, as they had the biggest effects on me. But after that, it's only a loose, ever-changing order. Nevertheless, this should give an accurate picture of what I've been listening to this year. So let's just start with Number 1...

(all quotes from my Quietus reviews)

1. Cleaners From Venus - The Band Plays Delilah





How I love this tune. I fondly recall wandering around Cardiff the day after Martin gave me the new album, listening to this on repeat, perpetually struck by its beauty. "Major key memories slide out from unsuspecting scenes, gathering in a processional to a triumphant chorus where 'the dancers hold each other closer still' and all seems right if just for a moment."


2. Gwenno - Patriarchaeth

Blew me away the moment I heard it. One of those magical Pop experiences, 'POP in all its transcendent glory', the kind that you got into music for in the first place. The joy I felt on hearing the outro of 'Patriarchaeth' ('Patriarchy') was simply indescribable, and one of those rushes one could not wait to feel again.  Unfortunately, the song's not yet online anywhere but you can hear a snippet here. Just buy the album, you won't be disappointed. 


3. Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene - I See What You Did There



This is the version from the live EP, though the original can be found on Blood & Brambles.  Spectacular song all around. A transcendent ripping across the starry night sky.


4. Trwbador - Start Your Car




"The outstanding highlight on their second album Several Wolves is 'Start Your Car'. It's pure cinematic cool with a seductive pulse, picture Ladytron in an opium-hazed driver's seat, propelling you around the bends of long urban tunnels, flashing multi-coloured lights as they speed by, all in slick, slow motion. There's an intelligent, purposeful use of backing vocals throughout the record, and here they're like night angels materialising and stretching across the ether."

5. Gwenno - Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki


 'A song to dance to at the end of the world' - Gwenno

Filled with spectral dance floor magic, "delivered with a power and intensity that we need more of in Pop music." 


6. Cleaners From Venus - He's Going Out With Marilyn




The hook really does its job. In the words of Robert Palmer, it's 'simply irresistible'. I had this on repeat countless times. And those 'ah' backing vocals - ace.


7. Papernut Cambridge - Accident's Children




Such a great laid back rock n roll tune. Killer melodies, honeyed voice, loose loose groove.


8. Guards! Guards! - That Spring




Perfect POP to me. Lovely tune. Great synths and charming voice.


9. Robyn Hitchcock- The Ghost In You




I find it strange to include a cover in such a list, as the song itself didn't actually come out this year. But Robyn's take on this Psychedelic Furs tune is so gorgeous (as is most of his record), I couldn't not include it.


10. Taylor Swift - Style

Can't find the audio to this anywhere online but I'm sure everyone already has the album anyways ; ) There was one week I had this on repeat like 50 times in a row. I actually had to pry the cd out of my car stereo to force myself to listen to something else. It's a great, great, very well constructed POP song. And those pick-up 'and I got that-' lines in the chorus are amazing.


11. St. Vincent - Psychopath




I Love the way this song, especially her vocal, moves.


12. Trwbador - Several Wolves




This song is so badass. How could it not be when it's called 'Several Wolves'? "As throbbing bass cavorts around this shadowy supernatural dancefloor, a lone figure comes to grips with the prospect of extinction."

13. Taylor Swift - Shake It Off



How could this not make the list? It's probably Song Of The Year as far as 'The World' is concerned, and listening back to it now, I'm surprised I don't have it higher. But figuring out where Taylor fits into all this has been a tricky one from the get-go. It is a Superb Pop Song. And so much fun.


14. Robyn Hitchcock - San Francisco Patrol




A gorgeous original from Mr. Hitchcock.


15. Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene - Bringing Rocks Back From The Moon




So nice to see this song get the proper single release that it deserves. An excellent tune and the lyrics are a lovely surreal dash off into the lunar beams, both fun and poignant, in an attempt to make some sort of sense of Mikey's harrowing car accident a few years back.


16. Kylie Minogue - Into The Blue




Excellent Pop tune from Kylie. That chorus is so dang uplifting!


17. St. Vincent - Digital Witness



Thankfully someone's making interesting-in-a-Bowie-esque-way Pop. Great tune.


18. Penny Orchids - Shell Beach




Everything about this is lovely - the changes, Kate's voice, the whole feel. "A beautiful, cinematic dream, with a lovely lazy twist towards the end of the chorus further played upon in the middle eight."

19. The Lovely Wars - Brân i Frân



The Lovely Wars really know their way around a Pop tune (last year's 'Young Love' was my Song of 2013). Here it's that twisting rise through the pre-chorus that really does it for me.


20. Tyson Meade - Buddy Dash



Again it seems to be all about rise, and Tyson's duet with Smashing Pumpkins' Nicole Fiorentino is hundreds of fireworks that just can't wait to BLAST OFF.

21. The Church - Laurel Canyon




Lovely number by The Church. From their very good new album that I need to spend more time with to fully appreciate.


22. Véronique Vincent & Aksak Maboul - Afflux de Luxe




A floating pop dream, reminiscent of Saint Etienne's filmic interludes if they were given a full-on Pop makeover. 



And then there were some discoveries of some absolutely Brilliant songs that didn't come out this year but are very worth noting:

Rita Ora - How We Do?



I was driving back from Cardigan to Carmarthen after a day of hanging out with Nik Turner and his family at the beach at Mwnt. It was my second day of driving on 'the other side of the road' which was still a little thrilling and as Avengers-esque scenery swept by me, this came on the radio. I was jumping out of my skin with excitement. The sheer exuberance it brought reminded me of the all-consuming excitement that my first forays into the world of Pop music held.


Akira The Don featuring Gruff Rhys - We Won't Be Broke Forever (Baby)




This is a great tune. I just love the sentiment. Especially the beautiful hopeful dreamyness of the middle eight.


P.P. Arnold - Everything's Gonna Be Alright




Kevin Reinhardt put this on a mix cd for me this year and it totally floored me. What an incredible Northern Soul tune (co-written by Andrew Loog Oldham) and what an amazing performance/voice.


Life Without Buildings - The Leanover




This is so unique, idiosyncratic, and yet wonderfully POP.


Neon Neon - Dream Cars




How this passed me by I do not know. But it is a perfect perfect tune.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Top 10 Albums Of 2014...

It was a great year for music. I really made the effort to keep up with what's come out and it very much paid off. My Top 10 albums of the year are:

10. Taylor Swift - 1989





A great Pop record. And like all great Pop records, a celebration of the Moment. I loved 'Shake It Off' when it came out and when I bought the album I became, as is Pop's wont, completely obsessed with the whole. 'Blank Page' was on repeat at the beginning although now I find it too sad to listen to (this most likely has something to do with the overwrought video). I have to hand it to her though - the 'you love the game' line is one of the year's best Pop Moments. 'Out Of The Woods' is also killer. But it's 'Style' that really did it for me. A GREAT Pop song, the pick-up 'and I got that' lyrics in the chorus bring wide, wide smiles. There was one week I had to pry this cd out of my car stereo because I must've listened to 'Style' 50 odd times. And like all great Pop Of The Moment, I haven't really listened to it since. Though I know I will again.


9. Kylie Minogue - Kiss Me Once




I bought this on Danny Rowe's suggestion and man, it does not disappoint. Lead-off track 'Into The Blue' is euphoric. 'Les Sex' is also very ace. My favourite Kylie album and one I need to spend even more time with.


8. Richard Pinhas & Oren Ambarchi - Tikkun



I first heard this when I went on Patrick Rand's WZBC radio show this summer and was immediately blown away by 'Washington D.C.'s relentless pulverising bassline and huge cosmic atmosphere. From my Quietus review:

This is music that demands and deserves our attention. You might as well tune in, it's going to get it anyway. Tikkun is the Kabbalistic idea that our souls have come to the physical plane to make a correction. And Richard Pinhas and Oren Ambarchi's cosmic juggernaut reflects perfectly the strength of character needed to plow on into the psyche to sort out its defects...Wild guitar atmospherics soon begin to illuminate hidden outer depths and lead lines rip across this turbulent sky. Throughout its 30 plus minutes–every second captivating–diverse whorls of feedback entice the ear. Walls (of sound and otherwise) may be implied but these are gigantic writhing creatures. Beyond the usual left and right, agitators in the sonic field churn, glide, and progress betwixt above and below as well as forwards and back. Mighty processions, whether they be huge swathes of noise or flickering spectral dots. That bass stays valiantly in throughout almost the entirety of the piece, thrusting well beyond the known that it was railing against. And when both fall away, 'Washington, D.C.' has not so much mellowed out as found itself in the twilit arena of an even stranger land.


7. St. Vincent - St. Vincent




I was looking for new music one day earlier this year and as Alex Sarll had mentioned her to me, I decided to take a listen. And was VERY VERY IMPRESSED. 'Digital Witness' is fantastic and 'Psychopath' even better. I love the movement within these songs. The rest of the album is very good indeed, especially closer 'Severed Crossed Fingers'.


6. Trwbador - Several Wolves





And this is where it got very hard to order the rest of the albums. I LOVE them all. And listened repeatedly, joyous that they had come into my life, when I first heard each and every one of them. Ani Saunders recommended Trwbador to me and they are just the sort of thing I love. Plus this record is called 'Several Wolves' for goodness' sake!  From my Quietus review:

The outstanding highlight on their second album Several Wolves is 'Start Your Car'. It's pure cinematic cool with a seductive pulse, picture Ladytron in an opium-hazed driver's seat, propelling you around the bends of long urban tunnels, flashing multi-coloured lights as they speed by, all in slick, slow motion. There's an intelligent, purposeful use of backing vocals throughout the record, and here they're like night angels materialising and stretching across the ether. Along similar lines is 'Longing'; laid back and minimal, but nevertheless a heart pounding out – heard distinctly from somewhere within the murky swirling greys - a presence that cannot be ignored. The way these songs build is smmooooooooth. Trwbador have a knack for placing the right part in the right spot at the right time. Their style is not so much simplicity as uncomplicated, and these parts are indeed stylish.
The title track is all kinds of ace. What else would you expect from something called 'Several Wolves'? As throbbing bass cavorts around this shadowy supernatural dancefloor, a lone figure comes to grips with the prospect of extinction. It's worth noting the way Angharad Van Rijswijk's voice forges a melody. Peripatetic, aware of the possibilities, she knows there is much terrain that can be covered and pushes on to encompass this, without any trace of the agoraphobia that keeps others tied to smaller ranges.

5. Papernut Cambridge - There's No Underground


I was done reviewing records for the year. Ralegh Long sent this to me and I thanked him, because 'Aphrodisiac' from last year's debut is an incredible song, but said I was waaaaayyyyy too busy to review. And then I listened to it. Then listened again. And again. And there was no way I couldn't review it. It's just too good. From my Quietus review:

This is a great rock & roll record. Ian Button may be "haunted by the insects in his dark imaginings", as he intones on opener 'The Ghost Of Something Small', but outside that buzzing hook-laden head of his, it's a leisurely ride through glittering neon, the fluorescence that illuminates rock's shadowy nighttime world. The lights that feel like they're never gonna end whilst terminating all too quickly – there's 12 songs in 30 minutes here. But no matter, press play again and we're back amidst the exiled warriors on Electric Main Street. Just as one would never fault T. Rex for being derivative, so here the nods to rock's past – The Stones, Bolan himself, The Replacements, Kinks, and Mary Chain – are simply the lineage continuing itself. All sung in that sweet sinister voice a la Jim Reid, with just as sharp an ear for melody.


4. Robyn Hitchcock - The Man Upstairs




Just a wonderful collection from Mr. Hitchcock. Gorgeous originals and mesmerising takes on other people's songs. His lovely lovely version of the Psychedelic Furs' 'The Ghost In You' blew me away when I first heard it. From my Quietus review:

Robyn Hitchcock's latest release, The Man Upstairs, stands amongst his all-time best albums. His finest work in years, the opening three songs are stunning, mesmerising even, in their intimate beauty. And this is a tone he will flow back into again and again, sliding through the crests of a gentle oceanic tide...This is especially true on the two most beautiful songs Hitchcock has written in ages – 'San Francisco Patrol' and 'Comme Toujours'. The former sees Robyn running through that city's streets with the alluring refrain of "I can't take my eyes off you". The one-third French, two-thirds English 'Comme Toujours', with its arresting high held notes, is said to have been written with Bryan Ferry in mind. This isn't the only time Ferry will pop up on the album. 'To Turn You On' is much more intimately romantic than the Roxy Music original. And sonically there is nothing to resemble that version, Robyn taking the chords and melody and making them his own.



A great album from one of my favourite songwriters. An updated version of 'Sometimes' makes it all the more lovely, while 'Blackberries', well, from my Quietus review
the intensity of which has been rarely heard in pop for quite some time. Nothing short of a full on battle cry, this three chord assault rails against the state of The State – "smells of decaying vegetation seems emblematic of the nation" – with passion and charm.

Talk about a full-on Experience. And 'I See What You Did There' elevates even above this. A transcendent ripping across the starry night sky.


2. Gwenno - Y Dydd Olaf 



Last year's single 'Chwyldro' ('Revolution') really blew me away. I had high hopes for the album, despite knowing I wouldn't understand a word of it, being sung all in Welsh and Cornish. When I finally did hear most of these new songs at the Eisteddfod this summer (recounted here in our great Quietus interview), it was one of those magical Pop experiences, 'POP in all its transcendent glory', the kind that you got into music for in the first place. The joy I felt on hearing the outro of 'Patriarchaeth' ('Patriarchy') was simply indescribable, and one of those rushes one could not wait to feel again. The whole album is a wonderful listening experience, an emersion into the world the artist carefully created. Along with the bad-ass groove of 'Chwyldro', 'Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki' is filled with spectral dance floor magic, 'delivered with a power and intensity that we need more of in Pop music.'




Ben Prior and I went out to interview Martin for what was to be my third feature on him. Will get around to doing something with that soon. When we got to Wivenhoe, he excitedly put on his new record for us. And it sounded FUCKING GREAT. 'He's Going Out With Marilyn' I just wanted to listen to over and over again with its killer Pop hook. So many absolutely great ones, from his Eurovision hopeful 'The Royal Bank of Love' to the wistful 'Imaginary Seas', the 'evening shadow twists that go straight for the heart' of 'Days Of May' to the poignant 'Time We Talked Again' or very catchy rocker 'King Of The Sixties'. But for me it's 'The Band Plays Delilah', my Song Of The Year. I fondly recall wandering around Cardiff the day after our interview, listening to this on repeat, perpetually struck by its beauty. From my Quietus review:

Major key memories slide out from unsuspecting scenes, gathering in a processional to a triumphant chorus where 'the dancers hold each other closer still' and all seems right if just for a moment.

And for the record as a whole:

This is one of those albums pop fanatics dream of. A collection of songs that - once one gets past the initial "wow!", and this may take a long time – picking a favourite from will be endlessly debated. It would be hard to imagine a finer record released this year.  

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Guards! Guards! - That Spring

Definitely one of my POP songs of the year. Guards! Guards! first single 'That Spring' has got all the right ingredients - lovely female vocals, big melodic synths, joy and sadness in equal measure - for the type of Pop song I love. Guards! Guards! is Bobby Barry (The Pipettes, Monster Bobby) and Lisa Bouvier (who has a ton of projects I'll now have to check out). 




They started out with this gorgeous melancholy slice of synthpop, 'Go Nowhere', on the Eardrums Pop compilation 'Between Two Waves: The Second Wave' (free download, grab it!).


Robert Pollard with Doug Gillard - Tight Globes

If you're looking for a dose of pure ROCK N ROLL, here you go:




'Tight Globes' from Robert Pollard & Doug Gillard's 'Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department'. Glad to see GBV has played this live a lot too. Killer track. When that lead line kicks in, it just takes off skyward on a full-on Rock N Roll trip. Making me think once again that all you need is a I - IV chord progression.

Darren Hayman once said on Twitter something like - 'If aliens came to Earth and demanded to know what Rock N Roll is, Guided By Voices are what you'd play them'.  How true.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

My Top 10 Songs from The First Half of 2014

1.  Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene - I See What You Did There

There's no convenient way to embed a way to hear this tune but just buy the album, it's Amazing. Spotify link.


2.  Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene - Blackberries







3.  St. Vincent - Digital Witness







4. The Lovely Wars -  Brân i Frân





5. Kylie Minogue - Into The Blue





6. Rob Britton - Long Enough






7. St. Vincent - Psychopath





8. Steve Kilbey - The Panthalassic Sea





9. Florrie - Seashells






10. Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene - Till It's Over


Friday, 14 March 2014

Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene

Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene's Blood & Brambles came out earlier this week on pop-Z and is my Pop Album Of The Year So Far. My Quietus review is here. 'I See What You Did There' is an astoundingly good tune.

And here's the excellent video for the first single, 'My Heroine' (previously known as 'One More Dose' on Mikey's Demonstration Songs . You can grab those for free if you want, I highly recommend them.)