31 October 2013

31st October - Dinosaur Jr.'s Bug

Artist – Album: Dinosaur Jr. - Bug
Released: 31st October 1988
Sounds Like: Spooky scary

Happy Hallowe’en! I hope you’re all having a monster day! For those of you looking for a Hallowe’en friendly playlist, get yourself over to my special spooky post (and then make sure you hurry right back again). Today’s regular blog has all the ingredients to frighten you too – Dinosaurs and bugs are scary right??

If you don’t find extinct lizards or small insects particularly terrifying (OK, that might well be most of you) – never fear! – because there is also some gruesome mutilation to be horrified by. Yes, J. Mascis, quite possibly indie rock’s greatest axeman, produces some of his all-time best fretwork, with the likes of ‘Freak Scene’ and ‘Let It Ride’ in particular featuring fantastic, face melting solos. …No, they don’t literally melt faces, but they are 100% awesome…

Hmm… still not convinced? Tough audience… well, how about the paranoid, druggy lyrics and freaky titles such as ‘No Bones’ and ‘They Always Come’? No dice?

Last try. Dinosaur Jr. hated each other at this point, and the internal feuding would lead to the band’s collapse shortly thereafter. Principal songwriter J. Mascis wrote all the songs, including the album closer ‘Don’t’, which is a horrible metal effort and forces singer-bassist Lou Barlow to scream ‘Why don’t you like me’ again and again in a torturous loop. Pained screaming and sadistic torture is good right? Ahhhh, so I’ve finally spooked you. Maniacal laugh! Maniacal laugh! Maniacal laugh!

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Freak Scene – 3:36
2.       No Bones – 3:43
3.       They Always Come – 4:37
4.       Yeah We Know – 5:24
5.       Let It Ride – 3:37
6.       Pond Song – 2:53
7.       Budge – 2:32
8.       The Post – 3:38
9.       Don’t – 5:41

Listen to ‘Freak Scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxLpEX2bt8w

Also released on 31st October:
2000: Outkast – Stankonia

Hallowe'en Party Playlist

Hallowe’en Special!

Listen to the full playlist on Youtube here.

Christmas aside, there isn’t a holiday out there that’s as playlist friendly as Hallowe’en. New Year is too close to Christmas, everyone’s a little too drunk to DJ on St. Patrick’s Day, and I guess Easter-inspired songs about eggs just don’t cut it. Nope, Hallowe’en stands decapitated head and shoulders above all other festive fun-times. And yet, despite the monstrous amounts of creepy songs out there, we find ourselves listening to ‘Thriller’ for the five hundredth time. Anyone can write a campy terror tune (check out 30 Rock’s Tracey Morgan’s effort) and ‘Monster Mash’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ are fun in a kind of ironic way, but it’s a sad point that they have become pillars of the petrifying party.

We all put a bucket of blood, sweat and tears into our fancy dress outfits (quite literally in some cases), so isn’t it time we put the same into our party playlist? Yes, yes it is. Here are my ten favourite alternative choices, featuring ghosts, zombies, and Ryan Gosling:

Roky Erickson & the Aliens – I Walked with a Zombie

There’s something disconcerting about just how cheerful Erickson is about the whole affair, even more so that he won’t divulge anything more than just gleefully repeating that he “walked with a zombie last night”. Throw in the fact that this is the same Roky Erickson who was the frontman of pioneering psychedelic band The Thirteenth Floor Elevators – who quit the band after being diagnosed with mental illness, had received electroconvulsive therapy and once claimed that he had been possessed by a Martian – and it gives the whole song a much more unhinged tone. 
The Jim Carroll Band – People Who Died

Jim Carroll was a poet and a writer as much as he was a rock roll singer. He also knew a lot of people who died young. This unrelenting punk rock hit is in reality a sad tribute to them all, but its peppy chorus of “those are people who died, died!” makes it perfect Hallowe’en fare. Want more punk rock? Try The Cramps’ ‘Human Fly’.
The Mae Shi – Run To Your Grave

You have to dig a little deeper to find Hallowe’en ready songs nowadays – gone are the days of Screaming Lord Sutch sadly – but there’s plenty of grim stuff out there still. Like ‘Run to Your Grave’, a song that, even after the title, encourages you to “tear, burn, soil the flesh” and “sleep in your tomb” and warns that “they’re coming for your brain, but they’ll leave with your head”. Lovely stuff.
Louis Prima and Keely Smith – That Old Black Magic

Ok, ok, ok – I know that that old black magic is actually love, but it still counts. And Prima’s yelps of “flame, flame of desire” truly make him sound like a man possessed.
R. Dean Taylor – There’s a Ghost in My House

Again, the ghost here is actually Taylor’s lost love, and the most likely case is that she’s simply moved on. But let’s stretch it a bit and think that she’s in fact passed on, and the lyrics become much more haunted: “I just keep hearing your footsteps on the stairs, When I know there's no-one there” and “Sittin' in my easy chair I feel your fingers running through my hair”. Also, what is this Youtuber looking for...?? For another belting blast of R&B with a tenuous link to Hallowe’en, check out the phenomenal horns of KC and the Sunshine Band’s “I’m Your Boogie Man”.
Tom Waits – Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard

Tom Waits is without peer as a songwriter of the unnerving. This one’s so good Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (he of 'I Put a Spell On You' fame) covered it.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Fright Night

Two in one right there in the titles! Add fuzzy, distant vocals, lyrics of Ouija boards and a mysterious person who will “Knock knock on the door three times” and it’s enough to really give you the heebie-jeebies.
Kid Cudi – No One Believes Me

Rockwell’s ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ is undoubtedly a great paranoid song, but it too has been done to death (which you would think is a good thing around this time of year). Instead, try on Kid Cudi’s ‘No One Believes Me’, which is effectively an update: the gist is the same, the slow guitars are unsettling, the video’s a hoot, and it’s as fresh as newly slaughtered carcass. Hip hop has a rich history of cartoon violence, peaking with the Horrorcore movement of the 90’s. Although the music of Insane Clown Posse and Kung Fu Vampire couldn’t ever qualify as party songs, Gravediggaz’s ‘Constant Elevationis worth a listen.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand

There are scarier film soundtracks, but play the chilling ‘Suspiriaby Goblin at a party and you’re bound to clear the room within seconds. ‘Red Right Hand’, which was used in the Scream franchise, mixes theatricality and suspense with a rock vibe, all pinned together by Cave’s ominous croon.
Dead Man’s Bones – My Body’s a Zombie for You

Ryan Gosling’s band! It’s true! The entire self-titled album really is brilliant, but for sheer drama – a children’s choir singing “My body’s a Zombie for You” is wrong on so many levels – this one couldn’t be ignored.
What will you be playing at your Hallowe’en party?

30 October 2013

29th October - Frida Hyvönen's Silence is Wild

Artist – Album: Frida Hyvönen – Silence is Wild
Released: 29th October 2008
Sounds Like: Swede soul music
Bugger! Bugger bugger bugger. It seems that in my eagerness to listen to Pulp I clean skipped a day! Silly me. Still, first time it’s happened in 303 days, that’s not too bad a record I feel… Today’s post is for yesterday, yesterday’s has been updated to today (haha, make sense??):
The thing is, this is hardly a forgettable record. There may be a large number of singer-songwriters out there, but there are few like the kooky Swede Frida Hyvönen. Blessed with a gorgeously icy voice (best heard on this Judee Sill cover), Hyvönen writes personal lyrics, stuffed with poetic imagery and extended metaphors, and crafts them around her basic piano-led music. When it works, it is marvellous – album opener ‘Dirty Dancing’ is easily the strongest of the set (and actually one of my favourites from the whole year), weaving a tale of two past lovers who are reunited years down the line around a ‘Be My Baby’-inspired chorus. The album doesn’t always hit those heights (and the wailing chorus of ‘Highway 2 U’ is almost comical), but each song is likely to have something of interest: from the seemingly autobiographical lyrics of ‘My Cousin’ and ‘December’ to the bustling tribute to our capital ‘London!’, a city she has a real love-hate relationship with.  
Birds’, despite sounding a little unfinished, might be the song that indicates the direction Hyvönen will head to next, as it shuns the piano and embraces a more electronic sound. The lyrics too become more repetitive and less convoluted (i.e. more like a pop song), and in all it feels like the least solo effort on the record. Then again, trying to second guess a singer as individual and unique as Frida Hyvönen is probably about as clever an idea as posting that bloody Pulp post yesterday.
Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Dirty Dancing – 4:06
2.       Enemy Within – 3:48
3.       Highway 2 U – 4:09
4.       London! – 4:03
5.       My Cousin – 2:57
6.       Science – 3:32
7.       Scandinavian Blonde – 2:05
8.       December 4:05
9.       Birds – 2:50
10.   Pony – 3:05
11.   Sic Transit Gloria – 4:08
12.   Oh Shanghai – 5:42
13.   Why Do You Love Me So Much – 3:12
Listen to ‘Dirty Dancing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLiLCAq3zLk

Also released on 29th October:
2003: José Gonzàlez – Veneer

29 October 2013

30th October - Pulp's Different Class

Artist – Album: Pulp – Different Class
Released: 30th October 1995
Sounds Like: Cocker spangles 

Britpop’s crowning glory didn’t come from Oasis or Blur, or even Supergrass or The Verve, but from a band that weren’t really very Britpop at all. Pulp had been floating about on the periphery of the UK’s indie rock scene since 1978 – back when the Gallaghers were just ruddy-cheeked rapscallions, scrapping away in primary school playgrounds – and had released three unremarkable albums before hitting big with His N’ Hers in 1994. Although their sound was more ensconced in alternative rock and post-punk than any Sixties revival, the public picked up on the lively ‘Babies’ and the single ‘Do You Remember the First Time?’ and bundled the Sheffield group on to the burgeoning Britpop bandwagon.

Fast forward a year and Pulp had headlined Glastonbury and scored a huge hit with the unbelievably good ‘Common People’ (a song so strong that even a cover by William Shatner couldn’t undermine it). Different Class was released in October and it became clear that any one of the other 11 tracks within could be released as a follow up single. As it was ‘Sorted for E’s & Wizz’, ‘Disco 2000’ and ‘Something Changed’ all made the top ten, but the theatrical opener ‘Mis-Shapes’, the relentless ‘Live Bed Show’ or the calm closer ‘Bar Italia’ could surely have troubled the charts too. The album is stuffed full of accessible rock pop, with Jarvis Cocker’s pithy observations about class-tourists (how about: “What's the point of being rich if you can't think what to do with it? 'Cause you're so very thick.” or “You will never understand how it feels to live your life with no meaning or control and with nowhere left to go”) and accented vocals the cherry on the cake. About the only thing that hindered their commercial appeal was the sexualised content of ‘Pencil Skirt’ or ‘Underwear’, and the darker moments, such as the frightening ‘I Spy’ and the insecure ’F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E’ .

The following year Cocker wiggled his bum at the Brit Awards audience during Michael Jackson’s performance, got arrested and released without charge thanks to Vic and Bob’s Bob Mortimer acting as legal representation, and forever cemented his place in my mind as one of Britain’s greatest frontmen.

Albumaday... rating: 10/10

1.       Mis-Shapes – 3:46
2.       Pencil Skirt – 3:11
3.       Common People – 5:50
4.       I Spy – 5:55
5.       Disco 2000 – 4:33
6.       Live Bed Show – 3:29
7.       Something Changed – 3:18
8.       Sorted for E’s & Wizz – 3:47
9.       F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E – 6:01
10.   Underwear – 4:06
11.   Monday Morning – 4:16
12.   Bar Italia – 3:42

Listen to ‘Live Bed Show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6hkldGTFXs
Also released on 30th October:
2001: The National – The National

Also released on 30th October:
2000: U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind

28 October 2013

28th October - Stevie Wonder's Talking Book

Artist – Album: Stevie Wonder – Talking Book
Released: 28th October 1972
Sounds Like: Gloomy Monday: the antidote

The best music has an ability to transport you far away from your bodily situation. Hence, although it may be miserable Monday morning in late October – one where we I am groggily sat in work preparing myself for the worst storms to hit these shores for a quarter of a century, whilst my girlfriend is sunning herself in beautiful Sicily and my housemate is en route to Paris – when the opening bars of ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life’ kick in I still feel all warm and fuzzy and good inside.

If ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life’ is just a little too sickly sweet for you (I do get that, but for me it’s just too pure to warrant cynicism), rest easy that this isn’t just a collection of saccharine love songs. The funky hit ‘Superstition’ is blistering in its attack on old-school mind-sets, whilst the Orwellian ‘Big Brother’ shoots down power hungry politicians who only care about the population during voting season. Even those tunes about love aren’t concerned only with giddy infatuation – ‘Maybe Your Baby’ is overwhelmingly paranoid (“Maybe my baby done made another plan with another man”), whilst ‘Blame It on the Sun’ is genuinely heart-breaking self denial.

If, after all, you do just want a gigantic, no-holds-barred love song, then look no further than ‘I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)’, quite possibly the most uplifting five minutes Stevie Wonder ever recorded.

Albumaday... rating: 10/10

1.       You Are the Sunshine of My Life – 2:58
2.       Maybe Your Baby – 6:51
3.       You and I (We Can Conquer the World) – 4:38
4.       Tuesday Heartbreak – 3:02
5.       You’ve Got It Bad Girl – 4:59
6.       Superstition – 4:26
7.       Big Brother – 3:34
8.       Blame It on the Sun – 3:26
9.       Lookin’ for Another Pure Love – 4:43
10.   I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever) – 4:53

Listen to ‘I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0Y9P45XYUc

Also released on 28th October:
1966: The Kinks – Face to Face
Also released on 28th October:
2003: The Strokes – Room on Fire

Also released on 28th October:
2011: Rizzle Kicks – Stereo Typical

27 October 2013

27th October - Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols

Artist – Album: Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
Released: 27th October 1977
Sounds Like: It’s my 300th blog post (never mind the bollocks)

Wow, 300 posts! Hands up who thought I’d reach 300... Put your hands down guys, even I thought I'd get bored by mid-February...

Albumaday... rating: 9/10

1.       Holidays in the Sun – 3:22
2.       Bodies – 3:03
3.       No Feelings – 2:51
4.       Liar – 2:41
5.       God Save the Queen – 3:19
6.       Problems – 4:11
7.       Seventeen – 2:02
8.       Anarchy in the UK – 3:31
9.       Submission – 4:12
10.   Pretty Vacant – 3:18
11.   New York – 3:05
12.   EMI – 3:10

Listen to ‘Holidays in the Sun’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ah1JM9mf60

Also released on 27th October:
1982: Prince – 1999
Also released on 27th October:
1986: XTC – Skylarking

Also released on 27th October:
2006: Amy Winehouse – Back to Black

26th October - R.E.M's Up

Artist – Album: R.E.M - Up
Released: 26th October 1998
Sounds Like: Rarefied electronic music

R.E.M. didn’t find things easy after the massive success of their career defining album Automatic for the People. In fact, after more than a decade of carving out a niche sound all of their own, they began to suffer from an identity crisis. Automatic was followed by the glam grunge of Monster; still a special album in my book, but one with enough flaws and a hard enough edge to alienate sections of their fans. Next up was New Adventures in Hi-Fi, a pretty lost record which couldn’t really make its mind up on what it wanted to be. And so we come to Up, an excursion into electronic music that baffled half of its audience upon release. Uh-oh.

On first listen, there’s only two shining lights that pierce the otherwise all consuming electronic fug: the Brian Wilson tribute ‘At My Most Beautiful’ and the typically beautiful, old-school R.E.M. ‘Daysleeper’. However, further listens reveal a stash of hidden gems: the ominous opener ‘Airportman’, the Casiotone for the Painfully Alone-esque ‘Hope’, the sarcastic ‘The Apologist’ and the folktronica of ‘You’re in the Air’. It is a hesitant, unsure album, but once it opens itself up to you, it is incredibly well-crafted and ahead of its time. Well done again boys. 

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Airportman – 4:12
2.       Lotus – 4:30
3.       Suspicion – 5:36
4.       Hope – 5:02
5.       At My Most Beautiful – 3:35
6.       The Apologist – 4:30
7.       Sad Professor – 4:01
8.       You’re in the Air – 5:22
9.       Walk Unafraid – 4:31
10.   Why Not Smile – 4:03
11.   Daysleeper – 3:40
12.   Diminished – 6:01
13.   Parakeet – 4:09
14.   Falls to Climb – 5:06
Listen to ‘Daysleeper’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUcKeKt8C1k