>A great week for music

>It’s a pretty damn exciting time for music at the moment – a lovely mix of finding brilliant albums I never knew existed and anticipating exciting new releases from artists I already love. This week see’s the release of the new album from the massively under-rated KT Tunstall. KT will always be dear to me for forming a part of the soundtrack to my road trip across South Africa a few years back. Like many people my first glimpse of KT came with her performance on Jools Holland which absolutely blew me away. 

Another new release I’m excited about is Jimmy Eat World returning with Invented. At the risk of repeating myself they are a hugely underrated band who are capable of both truly beautiful fragile and visceral, energetic music. Chase this Light was gloriously pop and I secretly hope for more of the same although it would be nice to get a Hear You Me or Drugs or Me on this album as there wasn’t anything comparable on the last record. To get in the mood here is a great video of them performing in the studio from the Bleed American sessions and just for sheer nostalgic joy Salt Sweat Sugar on Letterman:

This was also the week that I embarrassingly only just found out that the finest voice in music Ray LaMontagne had released a new album last month with a backing band called The Pariah Dogs. I actually only found out thanks to the single ‘Repo Man’ being played on the brilliant Minnesota radio station The Current that I have been listening too a lot online. ‘God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise’ will probably receive the full blog treatment before long so I won’t say much except that I am far from disappointed. I’ve added a live performance below of Repo Man and the sumptuous Can I Stay? which had the honour of being second dance at my wedding. I’m sure Ray views that as his greatest achievement!

I’ve also had the pleasure of discovering a couple of artists I wasn’t familiar with; Clem Snide and Matt Costa. All credit has to go for the peerless Heather Browne at fuel friends blog who continues to enrich my musical palette with every post. Costa has a new album out this year ‘Mobile Chateau’ which is a soulful, sixties tinged album which showcases his impressive knack of matching catchy hooks with inciteful lyrics. Mobile Chateau is his first venture into self-production and importantly features a drummer called Corey Gash which is to be applauded. Similarly Clem Snide had not previously entered into my consciousness despite a large back catalogue. It is one of life’s great pleasures to find an artist you enjoy only to discover they have hours of material to enjoy. The band’s seventh studio album ‘The Meat of Life’ is a great slice of alt-country which I heartily recommend. Enjoy the videos below (the Clem Snide track needs forwarding to 1m 35s).

All that leaves is for three quick observations and an excuse for a couple more videos. I drove back from the in-laws on Sunday and listened to Whatever, and ever, amen for the first time in a while and I think it deserves to be considered one of the finest albums of all time. Ben Folds is a genius. Secondly on my cycle in the Autumn sunshine yesterday I listened to Reservoir by Fanfarlo again and can’t believe they aren’t absolutely huge. Fans of Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons and The National really should check them out if they haven’t already as they deserve a bigger following. Finally in a seamless link I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful friend who picked me up a ticket to go an see The National in Brixton on November 29th. I will make it my first live review blog and am really rather excited.

Enjoy your week everyone (well all five or six of you!)

ps – If you have enjoyed this or have some constructive advice it would be most kind of you to leave a comment. x

>Freddie’s prize…

>Ok so the Mercury list was announced recently. ‘Who gives a shit?’ I hear you cry. Admittedly like all subjective industry awards it is a creative veneer for a basic sales push but I don’t mind that – in fact I celebrate it. It is something of a paradox that with so much music available on the internet and blogs aplenty for many people their contact with interesting, rich music is minimal. For many their main channels of musical exploration amount to national radio and video music channels. Thank christ for 6 music but that’s a blog for another time. The Mercury list is rightly considered a selection of creative, quality music produced by real artists as opposed to brands. The real value of the contest is not the contest itself but the fact that many people who otherwise would not come into contact with artists such as I Am Kloot will seek them out for a listen as a result of the Mercury list. Last year’s choice of Speech Debelle was widely criticised for being too clever, yet the real problem with the choice was it simply wasn’t very good.

So who do I think should win? Well having already established that the contest itself isn’t important I feel freed from the burden of significance. The early favourites are The XX and Dizzee Rascal. I have listened to both albums on a number of occasions and I fail to see the excitement in either. The XX is perfectly good background music but they are doing nothing that Stars for example don’t already do much more creatively. I’m a long term admirer of Dizzee and unlike some applaud his mainstream success yet no way can Tongue ‘N Cheek be regarded as his best work. It lacks the lyrical imagination and social commentary of Boy in Da Corner and though an above average pop album it shouldn’t win this award (a Brit is probably a dead cert). Any winner from four would for me be a fine reflection on the year’s music – Laura Marling, Wild Beasts, Mumford and Sons and Paul Weller. There is much to applaud about each of these artists. Wild Beasts are of course from the mighty Kendal and as a result are already winners in life. Two Dancers showed clear improvement on their first album Limbo Panto and they have a great talent for crafting interesting, challenging yet accessible songs. Mumford and Sons have rightly received huge acclaim on both sides of the atlantic, particularly for their mesmeric live performances. They seem to have come along at the right time with the door recently opened by Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses. These songs seem to have real soul and make a connection with the audience. If you like M&S I urge you to seek out Fanfarlo who I suspect will similarly cheer your heart. Weller has frustratingly not produced a great solo album with the possible exception of Stanley Road. How brilliant then that such a talent has put together a wonderfully coherent album of timeless songs. I’m not sure how much Wake Up The Nation is a document of our times but it is a fantastic album. Which brings me to my choice, Laura Marling ‘I speak because I can.’ Her first album was one of my favourites and I had high expectations for her follow up. Those expectations have been blown out of the water; the song writing has gone up a notch but the true masterstroke was enlisting Ethan Johns to produce who brings his unparalleled talent for bringing out the personality of the person behind the music. If you don’t already own this album what the hell are you doing?