Can you fathom why?

I don’t go out much anymore, a mixture of laziness, increasing intolerance to both alcohol and other people, and the miserly British weather instead encouraging me to enjoy life’s more vicarious pleasures from the comfort of my living room.

So, it’s with some trepidation that I journey to the beating, multi-cultural heart of the country (Birmingham, fact fans) for frolics with several of my favourite people. To calm myself, I reach for the headphones and ponder the musical accompaniment to my little odyssey.

I start with German electronic wonders Ms John Soda, a band that have been away for a long time but fair strutted back into my world with their new album Loom. Go Check is the perfect warm up to the day.  Plus they sound like Broadcast’s pugnacious little sister and Broadcast where the last band I saw in Birmingham (so long ago a certain Mr. John Peel was dj’ing)

I am at heart an indie kid. My youth was lost in sweaty, awkward dancing with sweaty, awkward, factions of brothers and sisters united by self-deprecating lyrics and a regulation beat. As such, the main event is to be accompanied by a classic that only just bleeped onto my radar.

In 1982 , Ministry released Same Old Madness yet for reasons I can’t fathom it never hit a dance floor near me. With its syncopated beat and existentialist angst it would have been perfect:

As the day drifts to a close we cling to each other, hands clasped in a permanent perhaps, the world flashing by, too fast and too slow, as if we have have momentarily stepped off the perpetual treadmill to catch our breath. We are falling and Monte Booker catches us:

If you hadn’t guessed, today’s blog is a homage to my friends. To past nights blissfully lost and to future days of who knows what.

For this and more of the same check out this month’s skewed quiff as it gently rises up the mixcloud indie rock charts:

Spot the dog (or.. Welcome Spotfoxes)

bqub24w2kkgrhqeokiueuzj9o3fblwmdt2ky_35

I’ve always hoped that one day I’ll discover a band called Spot The Dog, which gives you an idea of the random ephemera which runs through my mind when I should be doing more important, or at least more worthwhile, things. Fortunately, at least for my burdensome impatience, I was recently nudged in the direction of Oxford’s Spotfoxes.

Their latest demo is a pitch perfect piece of 90’s pop culture nostalgia that so aptly fits its title, Vincent – Mia, that I did a cultural reference double take.

The first thing that’s sticks is that languid, honeydew vocal, floating across the room on shimmering guitars, unbalancing you with the stomach-punch universality of its story. We’ve all loved and lost. We’ve all sat in the small hours wondering if they’re still happy, and if we’re still sad, without ever being able to know for sure. We’ve all wondered what we’d say, or not say, if we saw them again.

The second thing is that this little song is really quite a clever thing. It was only after a couple of listens that the instrumental breakdowns, the changing of gears, the fluid refocusing of mood became clear. There’s some craft here, some serious potential. If they continue thus, I have no doubt that you’ll be craning to see them at an overcrowded little club near you soon.

This blog, is the first in an ongoing series looking at unsigned, or Bandcamp only, music. If you want to feature drop me a line or leave a link in the comments.

Just a thud, thud, thud

What better way to celebrate the launch of a new Skewed Quiff mix than with a little piece of magic courtesy of Crook who released their second EP, Calando, yesterday and it’s a beauty. He is, as he describe himself, ‘the kind of music that plays after the party is over, and everyone has gone home, which is pretty much how I like it. It’s most vulnerable moment, filtered through a gentle psychedelic fuzz, is both heart-breaking and heart-warming:

Just to plunge like an oar
Just to sing like a well
Just turn over like an engine
Just to beat like a bell

Just to thud, thud, thud

I don’t love you for any reason
I love you just to love
I don’t love you for any reason
I love you just because

Lots of what I’ve been listening to lately can be found on this month’s Skewed Quiff mix. There’s 90 minutes of musical loveliness, featuring The Rails, Fisher, Monte Booker, Lemolo, Boom Forest and a whole bunch of other under-appreciated brilliance:

Premier Fish

A name for the mental notebook backed by a legend of hip-hop. DJ Premier -of the utterly wondrous Gangstarr, see Just To Get A Rep – has produced or lent beats or samples to a host of artists : Nas, Jeru The Damaga, Blaq Poet, M.O.P. KRS One, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Brand Nubian, and Mos Def for a start. His record speaks for itself so when he brings out a new track my ears tend to prick up like a dog who catches the rattle of the feeding bowl. His latest effort involve Fisher (previously G. Fisher) a name who is new to me but is good enough to round off my brief visit to all things hip-hop. While you wouldn’t describe it as groundbreaking it’s hard, articulate and super smart:

An album is forthcoming so keep your eyes peeled.

Sick of this typical shit

Back to the hip-hop, then. First up we have a bit of a classic. Da Grassroots (three producers out of Toronto) released Passage Through Time back in 1999, to critical acclaim and general ignorance. It’s time this record was given a second look.  Check out the laid back anger of Black Dove:

Fast-forwarding to mid-October of this year, we find New York beatmaster Don Miguel and London MC SamueL having a bit of a riot. Then just in case it’s not mad enough Blaq Poet drops by with some borderline ridiculous gangsterisms. Not my usual thing but this is, frankly, irresistible:

A few more beats tomorrow.

I need the moon to see the day coming

A little French music for your evening, then.  Let’s start with this excellent song by Francoiz Breut, an artist I admit I know little about. Still, KM 83 is a graceful, hypnotic little number which will have you hooked:

Up next, someone considerably better known – who Francoiz has collaborated with – the inimitable Yann Tiersen. I first caught him a few years ago doing a heavy duty post-rock spectacular at an ATP and then got further acquainted after happening across his excellent record with Shannon Wright, imaginatively entitled Yann Tiersen and Shannon Wright. He’s probably best known for his soundtrack work on Amelie and Good Bye Lenin! and has produced some truly haunting music on piano including this fragment of melancholic beauty:

To follow this we turn to the gentle, orchestral swell of Francois & The Atlas Mountains. They’re signed to the ever-reliable Domino and you can buy their lovely records here.

And a little smart as whip pop music to finish. You’ll all have heard of them, but Pheonix never fail to put a smile on my face:

Have a happy, safe evening wherever you are.

In our nightgowns

A brief hiatus from all things hip-hop to celebrate the launch of an album in very excited about. Tomorrow Lemolo release their sophomore album Red Right Return on White Mustang. For those of you who are a bit more au fait with modern technology (or don’t live in the states) you can grab it from their bandcamp page.

I came across Lemolo at some point last year drawn in (as I often am) by a combination of ethereal vocals and slinky indie moves. I also love a bit of nominative determinism in a song and Open Air is definitively that. A song born for the open roads, top down, endlessly wheeling through the lost hours between darkness and light:

So what can we expect from this latest effort? Well, the track Low Halo  has been doing the rounds for a few months and is another quietnoisy work of wonder. Enjoy, and don’t forget to buy their record:

You can check more Skewed Quiff here.

Sunday politics

Don’t worry, there’s no (further) mentions of Andrew Neill in this brief note. Instead, a couple of angry, young men and some ambitious, articulate hip-hop.

First up, is Akala, who as the winner of a MOBO and the younger sibling of a certain Ms Dynamite is not exactly an unknown quantity. His new record Knowledge Is Power Vol 2 is currently in my listening loop and I’ll report back when I have something of actual interest to say. In the meantime check out The Thieves Banquet from his last record (of the same title). Four groups compete to be crowned the kings of hell: monarchs, bankers, priests and dictators each group more persuasive than the last, more assured of their place in the hierarchy of evil. It’s a ride:

Better still, is this track from Semi Hendrix (rapper Ras Kass and producer Jack Splash) Jesus Pressed Mute. The disasters of the world laid bare to a gospel boom bap that  then gives way to that late night existential angst that haunts us all. If there’s a God, where is he in all this?

Corporations bloodsuck

Wall Street glutinous

They steal our money and never get touched

The middle class struggle

While the poor get crushed

Homicide, genocide, government corruption

Can you hear me god, did Jesus press the mute button

The album Breakfast at Banky’s has just come out and you can get it here.

Fortunate

I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop lately, without actually meaning to, so the next few posts are about some of my favourites. They’re devoted to Luke, the ghost of hip-hop past, and Dan, the ghost of hip-hop present. Without them I’d still be listening to Jay-Z and wondering where it all went wrong.

Atlanta seems to be a sensible place to start. It’s heritage speaks for itself: Arrested Development, Goodie Mob and Outkast (also Usher, but nowhere is perfect).

Rome Fortune attracted my attention by working with the brilliant Four Tet. While Kieran Hebden’s tunes may be a bit too eclectic to be described as pure electronica he hasn’t exactly provided a lot of hip-hops beats so I was a tad tentative as I clicked play.  The result, though is sensational. A perfect balance of swagger and play:

There’s a sharpness to his lyrics -a harshness for the mainstream that’s not unusual in alternate hip-hop – but more than that it’s a call to arms, a reminder to be your own man:


Scars ain’t scars on a star

Tomorrow ain’t today if you change who you are

Don’t imitate a lame cause he gotta lotta followers

Whores or the car you want, bargain for none

Dollars burn, dreams don’t

Fortune has also worked with Toro Y Moi, another chameleonic electronic type who defies traditional genre boundaries. The subject matter this time seems to be more personal, a broken relationship perhaps. A sinking sense of regret at sins that though they can be forgiven forever change your relationship with someone:

True fools do learn

But this time I skip my turn

Treat heartbreak like heartburn

So I die just to keep me focused

More later, I promise..

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑