Sunday, 30 June 2013


Joe writes: One of my favourite tracks of the year, Song For Zula by Phosphorescent, owes a debt to Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen, which reminded me how remarkable it is that the film Philadelphia featured two wonderful original songs with Philadelphia in the title.

Here's Springsteen's:

And here's Neil Young's Philadelphia:


Thanks to Streets Of Philadelphia, Bruce Springsteen is on the short list of legendary artists who have written one of their biggest songs well into middle age (see also Bob Dylan - To Make You Feel My Love and Leonard Cohen - Hallelujah).

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels On A Gravel Road

Joe writes: I revisited this album recently for the first time in years, yet several of the songs were still firmly logged in my mind - Right In Time, I Lost It (with the opening line "I think I lost it, let me know if you come across it"), Greenville, Still I Long For Your Kiss... It really is an excellent album; almost a classic. Listen on Spotify.

But my favourite of all is probably Metal Firecracker. The verse reminisces about the high points of a past relationship, then shifts to the devastating refrain "All I ask, don't tell anybody the secrets I told you".  According to this YouTube video, a metal firecracker is a tour bus. Lucinda plays Glastonbury on Sunday night.

Lorde - Royals

Joe writes: If the internet is any indication then it looks like New Zealand teenager Lorde could break worldwide. Royals is a great tune and I really like what she wrote under the video on YouTube.

Willy Mason

Joe writes: Tonight I went to see Laura Marling play Secret Music, the debut music event from the people behind Secret Cinema. I have been waiting for someone to take the Secret Cinema concept and apply it to a gig, but actually the most magical elements of the night were the musical performances. Laura and her guitarist popped up without warning and duetted on a cover of Springsteen's Dancing In The Dark (which Springsteen apparently wrote for The Ramones but ended up keeping for himself). The night ended with a full gig from Laura - incredible - she just gets better and better.

But before all that was Willy Mason.

Of course he did Oxygen, this generation's Imagine, the song that should have saved the world:

And he closed with a great song called Tic Tac Toe, written by his father. This is a hit song for someone (why not Willy?):

And finally, here's James Blake singing a song written by his father. Power to the dads:

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Random Acccess Opinions

Joe writes: Basically I love the Daft Punk album. Wait, there's more!

I loved Daft Punk from Da Funk to Digital Love but haven't liked too much since. I had mixed feelings about Get Lucky, feeling it paled in comparison to the likes of One More Time and Digital Love. I'm not a big fan of funky music per se so I wasn't excited by Daft Punk bringing that back. Mostly I just thought - and still think - that the marketing campaign around this album is the best I've seen during my time in the music industry, especially when you consider that their last studio album sold 70,000 in the UK and the Tron soundtrack did 100,000.

So I listened to Random Access Memories once and thought it was OK. Then I listened again out of duty. Then something made me listen a third time. Now I can't stop listening and I think I will be listening for years to come. I can't remember the last time a new album had that effect on me.

There is one element that predisposed me towards this album - I'm a fan of emotional vocoder music. I loved bits of 808s & Heartbreaks, but song-for-song Random Access Memories wipes the floor with Kanye's album. It's long at 13 tracks but every track has merit. And to hear "electronic" music played by brilliant musicians on real instruments is just so refreshing.

I wonder if there was any A&R involvement in this album besides a vote of confidence from Columbia Records? I suspect the other huge album of the moment, Justin Timberlake's, may have been made with a similar lack of A&R involvement. I guess there's something to be said for leaving great artists to their own devices (not that it works every time, or for every artist).

Daft Punk eschewed the easy route of synthesisers and samples with this album. Instead they did what so few people would take the time, effort or expense to do - they recruited world class original musicians to play parts that are worthy of being sampled. Sometimes you get out what you put in to music. 

There's something fascinating about the artist or musician as film director, not necessarily performing or writing or twiddling knobs but merely directing and curating. This describes some of the most successful producers of recent time including Rick Rubin and Rollo. If you want to make an album that stops people in their tracks, maybe you need a little distance from the minutiae of the process. Having said that, Thomas and Guy are the sole producers, writers and vocalists on one of my favourite tracks, The Game of Love.

As the album campaign unfolded, it became clear there's a tension in Daft Punk between a desire to maintain distance and mystique, a strong degree of ambition, and one member (Thomas Bangalter) who clearly loves to talk and is extremely eloquent. So much of the brilliant marketing campaign must have come from them. 

Then there was the wonderful Pitchfork interview - a masterpiece in a band controlling how they are represented in the media. This quote in particular highlighted how much Daft Punk have thought about their music, and how that thought process has helped them make an album bigger and better than anything their contemporaries have managed: “It's very strange how electronic music formatted itself and forgot that its roots are about freedom and the acceptance of every race, gender, and style of music into this big party,” says Bangalter. “Instead, it started to become this electronic lifestyle which also involved the glorification of technology.” 

I'm so on board with this album I've even purchased a Chic Organisation t-shirt. I even love Giorgio By Moroder. 

I've added my favourite six tracks to a Spotify playlist called Joe's favourite new tracks (I'll be updating this regularly, adding tracks in reverse chronological order).

We Got Hope In Our Hearts

Joe writes: I really like this new Beach Blood single H.O.P.E. So ambitious and melodic.

H.O.P.E. has enjoyable echoes of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine so here's The Only Living Boy In New Cross:

(Full disclosure - I used to work with The King Blues, and Jamie from Beach Blood was in The King Blues)

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Bobby Charles - Small Town Talk

Joe writes: I have no idea how I came across this gem - I guess it must have been synced somewhere. It was written with Rick Danko from The Band.

Monday, 17 June 2013

How To Save American Music

Joe writes: I was at a wedding recently where Drops Of Jupiter by Train was performed. This reminded me that years ago Eddie Ruffett and I came up with a concept for a compilation album tentatively titled How To Save American Music, featuring all those tracks by mainstream North American rock bands that became hits in the UK in the 90s and beyond. Often, the bands were never heard of again over here, but their one hit still sounds great.

We couldn't persuade anyone to make this compilation album but maybe it was always destined to be Spotify playlist:

Friday, 14 June 2013

Laura Marling - Once

Joe writes: I seem to fall for Laura Marling's music more and more with each album, which I suppose is the way it should be as a young artist grows and develops. Even her style of singing, which felt slightly affected in the past, now makes sense because she seems so at ease with it. Once is the beautiful highlight of the new album Once I Was An Eagle. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Flamin Groovies - Shake Some Action

Joe writes: The Flamin Groovies are playing London soon, for the first time in 30 years. Should I go? If I do it will just be to hear this song, which I first heard on Mark Radcliffe's Radio 1 show Out On Blue Six many years ago. It has been a big part of my life ever since. It was produced by Dave Edmunds in 1976 and featured on the Clueless soundtrack in the '90s.