Thursday, 25 December 2014

Dion and the Belmonts - Where or When

Phil writes: One of my all-time favourite songs by a singer I like a lot.  Released in 1959, it's very much a performance of its time but it's no wonder that it was his, and their, greatest hit:

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Hot Chocolate - You Sexy Thing

Joe writes: Iggy Pop just played this on 6 Music (along with Alfie by Cilla Black). Sometimes hearing a track in an unexpected context makes me realise how brilliant it is. The backing track is super catchy - classic Mickie Most - but what really makes it stand out is Errol Brown's unbelievably passionate vocal.

Like Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, this started life as a B side and ended up being Hot Chocolate's (and, arguably, Mickie Most's) greatest hit.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

TQ - Westside

Joe writes: I heard Westside by TQ on 1xtra recently. It still sounds great. This kind of melodic rap/R&B hybrid was never cool even when it was huge, and seems to have disappeared now, although I guess you could say there's a hint of it in Drake's music.

See also Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis - Baby Bye Bye

Joe writes: Is this ray of sunshine a cover? I do hope not - I'd be really impressed if it's not.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Best of The Crimea and The Crocketts

Joe writes: The Crocketts built a dedicated live following but there was something slightly comedic about them (not least their name, as their singer was called Davey), which I felt held them back. But they did have one wonderful song, Mrs Playing Dead. Its opening lines are almost perfect: "It's not every afternoon that you walk into a bar" (I always thought it should be "a room") "and I look at a woman and I know I'm gonna love her all of my life".

Next came The Crimea, who featured two members of The Crocketts - singer and songwriter Davey Macmanus and drummer Owen Hopkin. They were a serious band with a serious name which was partly a reaction to the comedic element I mentioned earlier. I stumbled across them by chance at In The City (a now-defunct music industry conference which gave many bands early opportunities). Their gig was shambolic but I thought songs like Baby Boom and Bombay Sapphire Coma were literate yet anthemic, with the most wonderful extended melodies, and lyrics that pinpointed the male psyche like no-one else. They became the first signing to my publishing company and the first band I worked closely with.

There was a time when every relevant Radio 1 specialist DJ was a fan of theirs, including John Peel and Zane Lowe. Then they signed to Warner Bros US and disappeared to the US to remake their album (which, in retrospect, was unnecessary). By the time they returned home, their moment at Radio 1 had passed, never to return.

After leaving Warner Bros, they made headlines around the world by giving their second album away for free online, but they didn't manage to capitalise on that moment in the spotlight, nor on a TV ad for the most commercial track on that album, Loop The Loop.

Like The Crocketts, they built a loyal fanbase without truly breaking, and I'm still hurting about that, but at least they left behind some wonderful, unique music:

There's one Crimea song you should hear that isn't on Spotify et al - Six Shoulders Six Stone, wherein Davey's girlfriend dies from anorexia. It's hard for me to be objective about The Crimea so I will you leave you to decide whether this is brilliant or uncomfortable or both. It's definitely brave:

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Best of Laura Marling

Joe writes: I know lots of people love Laura Marling's debut album but I didn't get it at the time and, as you'll guess from this playlist, I still don't. But from the second album onwards, she became one of my favourite artists. For me she just gets better and better. She's one of very few contemporary artists who I feel could have stood shoulder to shoulder with the folk rock greats of the early seventies.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Greywind - Afterthoughts

Joe writes: Greywind are an Irish rock band and their tune Afterthoughts is a total standout for me. The vocal really cuts through, the song is good, and the video shows them on the cusp between the endearing enthusiasm of a new band of amateurs and a group with worldwide potential.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Bobby Charles - Small Town Talk

Joe writes: I'd never heard Small Town Talk until this year and now I've heard it twice, most recently chosen by Baxter Dury when he was a guest on my new favourite radio show - Cerys Matthews on 6 Music.

The whistle on the intro, the way the vocal is slightly behind the vocal, the horns, the laid back feel throughout... Sadly, they don't make them like this anymore.

You can hear that Baxter has taken some inspiration from Small Town Talk and he said his dad Ian was a big fan too.

Rick Danko from The Band wrote the song with Bobby, who appeared at The Band's Last Waltz concert.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Cris Cab - When We Were Young (and Mika and Whipping Boy)

Joe writes: Listening to When We Were Young for the first time was a nerve wracking experience - would it be as brilliant as it promised from the start? They should have used more of the Mr Wendal vocal part that comes in at 47 seconds, but there are so many great parts. Almost brilliant.  

This isn't on Cris Cab's debut album but it is on an early EP and it's available for download on his Facebook.

The guitar riff reminds me of my favourite Mika track. I could never understand why this wasn't huge; Mika was never huge again.

And I couldn't post a song called When We Were Young without remembering another track that should have been much bigger - When We Were Young by Whipping Boy.

Oh and here's Mr Wendall:

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Flyte - Light Me Up

Joe writes: I really like Flyte and their singles are getting better and better. This one reminds me of Avalon-era Roxy Music.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Duncan Browne - Journey

Joe writes: I heard this track for the first time recently on Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie's excellent BBC 6 Music show. It reached no. 23 in the UK charts in 1972 on the RAK label - another sad reminder that the moderate hits of that era would be amongst the best releases of this era.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Cousin Cole's re-edit of Marcia Griffiths - Everywhere (Fleetwood Mac cover)

Joe writes: I used to think Everywhere was uncoverable because the brilliance of the Fleetwood Mac version owes a lot to Christine McVie's vocal. I take it back - Marcia Griffiths' reggae cover is great - thanks to Cousin Cole for bring it back to life.

Get more Cousin Cole remixes at Legitmix

Friday, 19 September 2014

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Zucchero - Ahum (I'm In Trouble)

Joe writes: I could never understand why this 2001 Zucchero single wasn't bigger. Bocelli meets Moby's Play - surely a winning formula? The internet insists that this is called Ahum (I'm In A Trouble), but I find that hard to believe.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Kooks - Sweet Emotion

Joe writes: An indie band, who seemed like their time had passed, go funky. Normally I would hate such a track but Sweet Emotion is just too good. Songwriter Fraser T Smith worked on this album - I would love to know whether he worked on this track.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

my favourite R Kelly tracks - Spotify playlist

Joe writes: R Kelly was probably the best songwriter to emerge in the nineties, and a brilliant singer too, but no-one needs to hear an entire R Kelly album so here's a Spotify playlist of his best tracks:

My favourite R Kelly track that isn't on Spotify or iTunes is Bad Man. I wonder if it's missing because of its honest lyrical message? Anyway, it's on YouTube:

Friday, 5 September 2014

Ten Walls - Walking With Elephants - official video

Joe writes: Great track, great video. Ten Walls are in a class of their own right now.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Barry Louis Polisar - Me and You as featured on the Volkswagen advert

Joe writes: Is this a Bob Dylan pastiche? Anyway, it's very good. Barry Louis Polisar is a children's author and singer-songwriter who provided the opening song for the film Juno. He is very synchable!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Harry Nilsson - One as featured in Boyhood

Joe writes: Another song from Boyhood - I didn't know this smooth Harry Nilsson number until I heard it in the film:

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were

Joe writes: I've heard three tracks from Ben Howard's new album and all three are great. I Forget Where We Were is possibly my favourite of three thanks to its shades of Jeff Buckley and Mike Scott.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Family of the Year - Hero as featured on Boyhood

Joe writes: I meant to post this ages ago. Boyhood - what a brilliant film. I'm a big fan of the song Hero by Family of the Year; I even included it on my How To Save American Music Spotify playlist:

Hero features prominently on Boyhood which made me realise I hadn't posted it here previously so here it is:

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Ben Howard - The End of the Affair

Joe writes: I've always been an admirer of Ben Howard's; now I'm a fan. I'm not comparing him to Laura Marling but, like Laura, I feel that his best tracks stands up next to the classic folk rock of the early seventies. End Of The Affair is the first single from his new album, clocking in at 7.48 so not exactly going for the commercial jugular, but it's beautiful. I've heard two future singles from this album and they are even better.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The 2 Bears feat. Stylo G - Money Man

Joe writes: Wow, this is great. They're in that fun space where they've established their cool credentials so now can get away with total pop and it still seems cool.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Little Feat - Willin'

Little Feat are one of those bands I know about without having heard much so thanks to Jon Webster for introducing me to Willin’. It’s in the middle ground between Gram Parsons and Crosby Stills & Nash so very much up my street.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Kranium - Nobody Has To Know

Joe writes: This reggae tune has been bubbling under for ages, as reggae tunes do, and looks set to crossover this summer. It’s so accessible and light in a good way. I wonder about the effectiveness of “You know me have a fat cock for you” as a chat up line but it certainly makes for an effective lyric.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Bill Withers - Hello Like Before

I recently discovered there’s more to Bill Withers than Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean On Me and Lovely Day. They don’t make them like this anymore. The song was written by Bill and John Collins, but it sounds like it could have been by Stephen Sondheim.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Kina and Sissy Nobby - Sabotage Part II AKA Girl From The Gutter

Joe writes: I heard this on some random Tumblr and it took me ages to figure out what it is – according to Shazam it's Sabotage Part II by Sissy Nobby, but essentially it's a remix of Girl From The Gutter by Kina. Kina was in Brownstone, then once solo was one of those artists who didn’t stick when a big US label (in this case DreamWorks) threw her at the wall. According to Wikipedia, Sissy Nobby is an "overtly queer practitioner of bounce music". This mix just has such great energy.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Watermät - Bullit

Joe writes: It's relatively unusual to find a dance instrumental that could be a proper hit without the addition of a topline but there are a few around at the moment - the two Ten Walls singles and the excellent Bullit by Watermät from France. Wonderfully uplifting.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Amadou & Mariam - Chérie

Joe writes: I heard this at a friend’s BBQ. I always thought there must be an Amadou & Mariam track out there for me and here it is. Lovely guitar part and it sounds like they had a lot of fun making the track.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Kiesza - Giant In My Heart

Joe writes: I wasn't 100% on Kiesza's follow-up until I saw the video. Now I'm sold - great video and big tune.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Daniel Avery - Drone Logic

Joe writes: This is the track that made me realise what all the Daniel Avery fuss is about. It reminds me of Underworld in the era of dubnobasswithmyheadman (one of my favourite albums).

Saturday, 21 June 2014

NONONO - Hungry Eyes (Tontario Edit)

Joe writes: Tontario is from Finland and is hot on the blogs thanks to his remix of James Bay. NONONO are from Stockholm and write catchy tunes like Pumpkin Blood. But they've never sounded bigger or more current than on this Tontario Edit of Hungry Eyes.

R.I.P. Gerry Goffin

When you look at the list of great lyrics Gerry Goffin was responsible for it's mind-blowing (especially as, by all accounts, his mind was blown for much of the time).  So it's difficult to pick out favourites. This is certainly one of the most enduring Goffin and King songs:

This is perhaps my favourite, a perfect match of music and lyrics and a very 'grown-up' song for its time. Though many people have done it justice, I still love Carole King's own version, with James Taylor and Joni Mitchell on backing vocals:

Although it seems very much a woman's song, it has been recorded by a number of male artists including Bruce Springsteen and Neil Diamond. And the one and only Smokey:

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Ten Walls

Joe writes: I love Ten Walls, who with Requiem and Walking With Elephants, has come up with two of the freshest, coolest electronic tracks of recent years.

Ten Walls is Marijus Adomaitis from Lithuania, who I suspect also makes (made?) music under the name Mario Basanov.

Here's Requiem:

Requiem might end up being bigger but I’m starting to think Walking With Elephants is even better:

Allie X - Bitch

Joe writes: I heard this on Popjustice and have been listening to it loads. It’s produced by Billboard and Cirkut from Dr Luke’s camp and I know very little else about Allie X but I really like Bitch. Billboard (the magazine) have a little more info.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Prince - The Breakdown - his best track for years

Joe writes: Prince doing what he does best, and back to his best, or pretty close anyway

Friday, 2 May 2014

Tom Hickox is on Later with Jools Holland tonight

Joe writes: Here's my favourite song of Tom's, actually one of my favourite songs of recent years, Let Me Be Your Lover. "Let me be the one to shut your eyes when you die". This sounds like a standard to me.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

songs about Pattie Boyd

As wife and "muse" to George Harrison then Eric Clapton, Pattie Boyd has inspired some classic songs - George's Something, and Eric's Layla and Wonderful Tonight - plus this one you may not know, Ashton, Gardner and Dyke's Sweet Patti O'Hara Smith:

Ashton, Gardner & Dyke were one hit wonders in the early seventies which is surprising given what a great singer Tony Ashton was.

Back to Eric Clapton. Wonderful Tonight was actually a bit of a dig, written while Eric encouraged or perhaps hassled Pattie to get ready for a night out.

If you listen to the original demo of You're Beautiful by James Blunt, you can hear that it owed rather a lot to Wonderful Tonight so you could argue that's another classic that Pattie inspired:

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Jamie Scott - Just

Joe writes: Jamie Scott is currently one of the world's hottest songwriters, having co-written Story Of My Life by One Direction. Jamie's debut single Just came out in 2004, charting at no. 29 in the UK. It was all downhill from there until he started writing songs for other people, but Just still sounds good - Jamiroquai was so huge, yet there has been so little music of that ilk since. Also, Jamie is a big fan of Joni Mitchell's Blue so he's alright by me, although he may be the only person who can see a connection between Blue and Story Of My Life.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Todd Terje, are you reading?

Joe writes: I've previously blogged about Todd Terje, and about Johnny & Mary by Robert Palmer, and now Todd has covered said song. So Todd must be inspired by this blog right? Anyway, his cover of Johnny & Mary has Bryan Ferry on vocals and is wonderfully brooding while staying true to the song. Well done Todd.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Pharrell - Happy (Woodkid Sad Remix)

Joe writes: This "sad" remix of the song of the moment is really enjoyable, and not just because of the image on the YouTube video:

Monday, 10 March 2014

Roy Vedas - Fragments Of Life

Joe writes: On August 17th 1998*, an act called Roy Vedas released a single on Mercury Records to no acclaim except perhaps mine. Such a weird but infectious lyric, sound, and concept. Even the name of the act is weird. On October 26th 1998, Believe by Cher was released in the UK? Did Cher's producers get the idea for the "Cher Effect" overuse of Autotune from Roy Vedas? No - there would barely have been time.

The account I heard is that producers Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling acquired Autotune on the advice of David Foster, who'd told Cher it suited her voice. Mark was experimenting with, and learning how to use, the software when he happened across the effect by accident. Brian and Mark liked it and nervously played it to Cher and her then-label boss Rob Dickins. Rob started to say "It's too much, it's distracting, take it out...", or words to that effect, before Cher said "It comes out... [dramatic pause] over my dead body". Good call Cher.

In celebration of International Women's Day, Believe has just been announced as the biggest selling single by a female artist ever in the UK. Meanwhile Fragments Of Life continues to languish in obscurity, but still sounds great to me.

* In case anyone wants to update Wikipedia, I got the Roy Vedas release date from a PDF of music industry publication The Tip Sheet, which I have on my computer.

Låpsley and other women doing interesting things with their voices

Joe writes: Been meaning to post this Låpsley track for a while. A real moment, perfectly judged with loads of space but plenty of hooks too, and she is still a teenager. The "male voice" is actually her pitched down.

That got me thinking about other records which stopped people in their tracks through their use of effects on a female voice.

Hide & Seek by Imogen Heap:

I thought O Superman by Laurie Anderson had something to do with calling her mum's answerphone after she had passed away, but Wikipedia informs me it is more of a political song about America's Iran hostage crisis. Either way it is genuinely haunting:

And finally, who could forget Believe by Cher? I remember where I was the first time I heard this - in the shower, which made the deliberate overuse of Autotune (by producers Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling) even more confusing.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

A Great Big World and PS22 Chorus - Say Something

Phil writes: I was hesitating about posting this instant classic of a song because I thought most people will already have heard it.  Then I came across this great performance which also introduced me to the amazing PS22 chorus:


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Kill J - Bullet

Joe writes: I know nothing about this except they're from the lovely city of Copenhagen, it's on the lovely Chess Club label, and I really like it.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Sage The Gemini feat. IamSu - Gas Pedal

Joe writes: Massive and interestingly minimal hip hop party tune (albeit with some objectionable lyrics).

HitchHike - Travel Girl

Joe writes: I just discovered this gem from Greece thanks to the excellent This Must Be Pop blog. Strange and enjoyable.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

"I know you're tired of loving with nobody to love"

Joe writes: Sigma did a great bootleg mix of Bound 2 by Kanye West and now it's getting an official release under the title Nobody To Love. Huge.

I'd love to know who wrote the hook that Sigma has used - maybe Charlie Wilson and/or John Legend? Here's the track that was sampled as the basis of the Bound 2 backing track, Aeroplane (Reprise) by Wee:

Sway Clarke II - I Don't Need Much

Joe writes: Great tune, production, lyric... This is an anthem.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Joshua Kadison - Jessie

Phil writes:  Have heard this on the radio several times recently.  I thought it must be a track from the Sixties that I'd somehow missed.  In fact, I was three decades out.  Anyway, like some other songs that feature phone calls (almost up there with 'Diamonds and Rust') it immediately grabs, and keeps, your attention:

Friday, 7 February 2014

Peter Broderick - I Tried

Joe writes: Erased Tapes is the niche label of the moment and this is the best and most accessible track I've heard from them yet. Ambitious, melodic and quite unlike anything else I've heard recently.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

R.I.P. Pete Seeger

Phil writes: This is his 94th birthday celebration.  By now his voice had more or less gone, in terms of singing, but the audience participation, which he always encouraged, helps to make this very moving.  He wrote the music and the words were adapted, by others, from the Book of Ecclesiastes:

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Kiesza - Hideaway

Joe writes: Big dance pop tune from Canada via New York, but heavily influenced by the sound of UK right now

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Ages and Ages - Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)

Joe writes: Ages and Ages come from Portland, Oregon which is where I should be living according to Buzzfeed. I heard this track on the Guardian's New Band of the Day column (could I be anymore Portland?). Anyway, it's a great tune that builds and builds, and I like the message - I have a friend whose personal motto was "still trying to do the right thing".

Jakwob feat. Tiffani Juno - Somebody New

Joe writes: Full disclosure: I know Jakwob. But when I heard this on Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show, I knew that I knew it, couldn't think what it is, but thought it sounded massive, which it does.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Orwells - Who Needs You

Joe writes: I enjoyed this controversial Letterman performance and I really like this song:

Friday, 17 January 2014

Everly Brothers - All I Have To Do Is Dream

Phil writes: I meant to post this to mark Phil Everly's death.  For me it is their greatest track, with a memorable melody and the timeless harmonies for which they were noted:

One of my all-time gig highlights, was when Simon and Garfunkel, on their last reunion tour, acknowledged the debt they owed to the Everlys and then (this was a total surprise to me) introduced them:

Sunday, 12 January 2014

You Ain't Alone by Alabama Shakes as featured on the Dallas Buyers Club trailer

Joe writes: When you hear the whole track, you start to suspect the appeal is more the performance and the sound than the underlying song, but it works brilliantly on the end of the Dallas Buyers Club trailer.

If you want underlying song and all the rest as well, how about Stay With Me Baby by Lorraine Ellison. I first heard this as the closing song to a British TV drama about a self-loathing comedian. It played as he committed suicide at the end by driving down a mountain on a motorbike. I wish I could remember more about it.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Buika - Mi Niña Lola

Joe writes: Buika is from Mallorca, lives in Florida, but born to African parents. Her voice is incredible.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Harry Chapin - Taxi

Joe writes: I love a good story song and this is one of the best. If you've never heard it before, make sure you listen to the end. Taxi seems appropriate to New Year's Day. Let's hope it's a good one.