Those Sudden Nights

It had been a week of sleepless nights, and now in the brief respite of day, the glorious early spring sun has left the world saturated and overexposed. Colours shudder and linger, the passing landscape a haze of lines behind a cloudy, childhood cordial of sky. My thoughts crackle and pop like dry wood on an open fire, splintering in a thousand directions before collapsing in an ashy mess.

Somewhere down the road a cherry picker has died and I’m stuck in snaking, growling backlog of impatience. A trickle of sweat rolls inexorably and itchily down my spine and my hand shakes as it raises the cigarette, warm and tarry and harsh, to my mouth. My fingers flicker over the buttons of the car stereo, incessantly seeking distraction.

Middle Kid are the latest in a fine stream of Australian bands finding global recognition. Never Start is the quiet roar of repressed anger, of not knowing why, of knowing that you’re gonna pick a fight because you need to pick a fight. It’s wild and messy and an utter joy. I scream along to it, much to the amusement of the surrounding pack.

Sacred Paws are a two piece London/Glasgow reggae/riot grrl hybrid who have just released their debut album on Mogwai’s Rock Action label. They are jittering pulse, all poise on the surface, wayward and wild underneath. I sway like a broken stalk in the breeze.

We stutter forward and Hamburg’s Sick Hyenas fill the void with a wall of surf that crashes over my body shaking loose the fillings in my teeth, bending muscle and bone to it’s will. I’m home again, my home away from home: Saturday night’s pressed up to the edge of a stage the world washed away by the flood of noise.

All of these songs (and lots of marvellous other ones appear) on this month’s Skewed Quiff:

 

 

 

 

 

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Treading carefully

The problem with life – because there’s only one problem with life, obviously – is that you constantly want to embrace new things, to be mesmerised by the wonder of something new and vibrant and beautiful but that you often don’t notice what you’ve lost along the way.

Taking music as an example (and Quiff is as bad as most for this) new music is too available to us now. We can get it when we want it and can organise and arrange it as we want it. Artists no longer need traditional means to get their work to you and this means there is a profundity of music out there. There is a bygone era where you had to go a shop and buy a record if you wanted to listen to it, now it’s a few clicks away and – if you’ll excuse the extended metaphor – the shelves are infinitely long and wide and fully stocked with every type of music you could imagine.

This is a wonderous thing, I truly fucking love it, but along the way the ease of access and sheer volume of choice has meant that we have stopped listening to albums anywhere near as much as we used to. Albums should be the high point of a musicians output. Months, years even, put aside to the creation of a singular object. All that heart poured into a perfectly formed hour. Getting an album right is hard, much harder than writing one great song, but the reward for both performer and listener is so much greater.

At this point some of you’re thinking either a) fuck, this is a long and fairly inane introduction or b) fuck, this is hypocritical for a blog that puts out a compilation of 40 odd tracks a month all by different artists, sourced almost wholly from the Internet. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were thinking both.

So, by way of explanation, this blog came about because earlier this week someone asked me what albums I’d been listening to and I didn’t have much to say. As a result, I decided to list some of my favourite LPs of the year so far so that you can indulge yourself in something special:

Laura Marling – Semper Femina

Marling’s six album may be my favourite yet. This is an artist at the height of her powers, musically and lyrically.

 

Jay Som – Everybody Works

A record of endearingly anxious and frazzled bedroom rock that twists and twirls through different styles. It’s frankly lovely.

Tinariwen – Elhan

Masterful, driving desert blues crossed with American folk. I struggle to see how anyone couldn’t love this.

Patch & The Giant – All that We Had We Stole

London based folk excellence from Patch. Recorded with care and love this is the album that captures their live sound and should catapult them towards stardom. Instead, they’ll probably just end up with a Radio 2 folk award nomination.

Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s gone

I’ve banged on enough about Loyle in the past but this is a great record. Refusing to bow to the huge pressure to make a bunch of ‘bangers’ and hit the radio 1 playlist hard, Loyle has done what he does and made an intimate, funny and warm album. More like this please.

Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness

I’ve saved room for a little bit of bleak in here. There is heartbreak and wisdom writ large across this record.

Priests – Nothing Feels Natural

Priests debut album is so cool and considered it hurts. Sometimes a band just knows what it’s doing.

 

From Here: English Folk Recordings (Compilation)

A while back a few people decided it would be wise to wander around the UK getting a bunch of folk artists to record a song from their local area. It was wise.

 

Michael Chapman – Fully Qualified Survivor (reissue)

Imagine that it’s 1970 and Bowie and Jansch decide to make a record together. Imagine that it’s actually great. This has just had a vinyl reissue and is a necessity for your collection.

 

Many of these tracks either appear on this month’s new Quiff or last the two months. All of those can be checked out here:

Give them  a listen and then get down to your local record shop and buy some lovely, lovely albums.

Something From The Weekend

Friday night is fuelled by release. Release from work, release from pressure, release from the everyday irritations that add up to being responsible. We are in the pub for a truly English end of week, an intoxicating blend of overpriced drinks, empty stomachs and sexual tension descending on us like an invisible mist, whispering through our skin, driving us to frenzy like a plot device in some mid-budget horror movie.

Conversations happen in brief, random bursts, individuals and groups colliding with each other before spinning away, a shower of flames and debris left in their wake. The carefully preserved mask of social niceties cracks and frays. There is emotion here, love and joy and anger and fear, too much emotion. So, we pack away what we see and hear and do tonight, an unwritten pact that let’s us embrace the wild nothing. Only God Knows what happened.

Saturday is bathed in glorious sunshine and we nestle under trees, the sunlight dappling across our skin, the breeze crisp and sharp through our hair. We form a chain, a factory line of alcoholic intent, each person with their designated ingredient, lime, mint, sugar, soda water or rum. We consume slowly but methodically and as the light descends we rise and play.

Under the glow of paper lanterns, half a dozen people serenade a dashing hero, the rhythmic pulse of guitar battling with a tinny speaker lost somewhere on the ground. Some gather in the corners, plotting and planning and promising a series of events that will most probably never happen. Others sit cynically aloof, both actor and audience in this little play. Philosophy, culture and politics flirt with inanity and a quiet joy settles across the fallen paper cups and picnic blankets.  There is chaos here, as before, but it’s benign, gentle almost.  We whirl and cartwheel and cavort only standing still long enough for a photograph.

Sunday feels like a mistake, as if someone else has commandeered our bodies and then left us to pick up the pieces. The world smells of fresh vomit and stale bodies and tiredness kicks like an angry mule. I spend an unnecessary amount of time wondering whether I’m empty or worthless, as if there should be a winner, as if a decisive vote one way or the other would at least give me a path to follow.

Fortunately, I’m rescued by a call to arms, an overly ambitious walk and the warmth of dear friends. We continue as we left off, cocktails in hand, quietly, happily watching the weekend collapse. The sky drifts from blue to grey, the sea mist rolling across the streets, the heat dissipating within minutes. We sit and shiver and smile, cigarettes glowing in the darkness, a comfortable silence embracing us. It could be the apocalypse. To my addled mind it feels like the apocalypse. We should be miserable, but no one is.

All of these tracks will be appearing on the new Skewed Quiff, which should be with you this week. In the interim there’s loads of fantastic music here.

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