Some lovely songs.

I’m not blogging anywhere near as often as I would like (blame football) but here are a few tracks I’ve been enjoying and would like to share:

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Kendal Calling Preview No.2

In an earth shattering twist this is the second installment of my Kendal Calling preview. Enjoy! (more…)

>Like a moonlight shadow…

>As regular readers will know I do a bit of moonlighting writing about my other passion – Manchester United. Here are links to a couple of articles I had published on a blog this week on my frustration with Wayne Rooney and my favourite Manchester United game.

Published in: on 20/01/2011 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  

>Today in music

>Bit of an extra post. I’ve spent an afternoon doing a bit of marking and listening to a lot of music. The results of which can be summarised through the following points:

The Warpaint album starts well but gets a bit tedious

Lissie makes a fine EP but grates over an album

My Jerusalem are potentially a little bit special

Different Class sounds as good today as in 1995. For me the finest album of the britpop years.

Published in: on 15/01/2011 at 5:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

>Somebody up there likes me…

>Even as a cynical, embittered Humanist, sometimes out of the blue something happens that makes you wonder whether the almighty is a reality.

THE HEAD AND THE HEART ARE COMING TO LONDON!

Published in: on 12/01/2011 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

>Football related: So what did we learn?

>Here’s a preview of a Manchester United blog post I’ve written which should hopefully be appearing on http://www.stretfordendarising.com/ before long.

So what did we learn?
Last weekend I made the trek up to Manchester to watch the home game against Wigan. In many ways the performance and result encapsulated our season so far. We won comfortably but it felt somehow hollow. It was a game that once upon a time would have potential for a cricket score yet the players on the pitch seemed uneasy at the prospect of facing nine men and were it not for the excellent Rafael and introduction of Scholes a one goal victory would have been all we had to show. The dominant feeling through much of this season has been that too many of our players have been playing within themselves and taking the easy option. The number of times we declined crossing opportunities to cut back inside and play in front of Wigan was alarming and in the absence of Scholes we laboured in possession – Nani in particular being guilty of slowing down opportunities to counter attack and Michael Carrick seemingly relapsing to the form that led me to question his future just a couple of weeks ago. It would be grossly unfair to overly criticise a team shorn of the craft of Berbatov, Scholes and Rooney (for the most part) but it had become a worryingly familiar pattern.

Then came yesterday – if I were Dannii Minogue I would do that annoying standing up and waving my hands at the audience thing about now. Manchester United showed up and for the first time in a long while our swagger was back. As the chant joyously celebrates we were Manchester United and we were doing what we want. Gone was the fretting over formation shapes, and even personnel, instead it was a relentless red tide of exhilrating football which completely blew Blackburn away. In light of the scoreline comparisons were understandably made to the destruction of Roma and the style with which players interchanged, sharing the ball like it was a precious gift and seeking out space to unleash yet more damage was certainly reminiscent of that famous night.

So what have we learned?

1 It was only Blackburn – The Guardian match report chose to focus on the inadequacies of Rovers much to my chagrin yesterday, yet it is important to bear in mind that they were poor and in the case of Chimbonda remarkably generous. An eerie sense of de ja vu took over as Michel Salgado produced a superb impression of Gary Neville at Stoke. No attacking threat of any sort was offered and the ease with which players were lured out of position brought back memories of Silvestre at his worst. However you can only beat the team in front of you. Could we have played that way against Chelsea, Arsenal or City? Perhaps not, but after listening to endless odes to Chelsea’s ruthlessness against weaker opposition it was glorious to see us hand out a beating ourselves. I actually feel comfortable in our ability to hold a firm shape and retain posession against the bigger sides but what has been missing was the feeling that we can move up a gear and play pure attacking football. Each of Ferguson’s great teams, whether featuring Kanchelskis, Yorke or Ronaldo have shown this quality and yesterday was a timely indication that the current incarnation can do the same.

2 We need Wayne Rooney
– He will never win back my affection and will forever be sullied as just like all the other money obsessed modern mercenaries but bloody hell can he play football. The signs he showed midweek blossomed here and his contribution to the performance yesterday should not be overlooked. A hugely underrated quality of Rooney – and the main reason I have often called for his deployment in the traditional Scholes role – is his awareness of when to hold possession and slow the tempo and when to pop off passes quickly or drive at the opposition. As we contemplate a future without the Ginger Prince I feel happier knowing that in his absence we can rely on at least one other player to recognise the importance of moving the ball quickly to exploit space. The best outcome of this is it influences other players – witness Park and even Nani keenly looking to move the ball into good areas at the first opportunity.

3 Berbatov is a luxury we can afford
– We may have to wait another six weeks to witness anything significant from the deft Bulgarian but can any Red really want to see a player of such mercurial talent sold in favour of a more functional alternative? I am not suggesting he be awarded the keys to Old Trafford and picked for every game – like many I have found it hard to defend him at times – yet in two games this season he has brought untold pleasure and quite simply plays the game in a way which epitomises what Manchester United should be about. He is the polar opposite to that tw*t from Argentina and I hope he stays at the club for years to come.

4 Rafael is the real deal
– Call off the search for the right back, what we all hoped has come to pass. Many of us have called for Rafael to be given a run of games and it is amazing the rapid progress he has made when given just that. Like all young players he has and will continue to make mistakes but what has impressed has been how he learns from them. The temptation to fly in on the contemptible El Hadji Diouf is something few could resist. Diouf always wears the expression of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man when under attack from the Ghostbusters and goes out of his way to bait players. Yet Rafael maintained his composure, continued to build the growing understanding with Nani and put the imbecile back in his box whenever the situation called for it. I feel the decision to sustain Neville’s inclusion in the playing squad can be justified by his role in the development of the young Brazilian.

5 The curse of South Africa has lifted
– As poor as Rooney had been upon his return from the World Cup a far less high profile but equally damaging slump was afflicting Patrice Evra. It is no conincidence that in the early games of the season with Evra subdued and O’Shea or Neville on the other flank we looked weak both going forward and defensively. Over the last few games Evra has emphatically reminded us of just how vital he is to our style of play – the value of having such a talented natural footballer in the full back position was underlined by his contribution to the sublime Berbatov third which was the finest at Old Trafford for some time.

6 It’s not all good news – I was delighted to see Ferguson make the decision to grant our imperious leader a well earned rest and offer a chance for Evans to feature in a great team performance in front of a crowd amongst whom several have doubted his appointment as the heir to Rio and Vida. This should have been a great opportunity yet the ease with which the admittedly monstrous Chris Samba handed off the Irishman before planting a consolation header was more fuel for the view that he lacks the presence to dominate the penalty box. I personally still feel Evans deserves time and hope to see this obvious flaw to his game eradicated over the next couple of seasons but the nagging fear remains that this is a quality that can’t be coached into him.

7 What the hell happened in three days?
– The chubby, man boobed substitute that looked to be blowing out of his arse merely from the jog onto Ibrox morphed into a totally different animal by Saturday afternoon. Anderson put in the performance we have been craving since his early promise and it was a tantalising glimpse of what he could become. 94 out of 99 passes completed and a leading role in no less than three of the goals – the stats don’t lie. Had this been the statistical report of a Paul Scholes performance you can bet your life Greedy Alan and the Preston Irishman would have eulogised the display on the Match of the Day sofa. As it was he garnered not a word of recognition but those who saw the game genuinely wondered whether he might be a more deserving recipient of man of the match than Dimitar ‘Five Goals’ Berbatov. That tells you everything you need to know about this display. Doron Solomon posted an excellent and timely blog yesterday morning on the issue of the frustrating Brazilian and let’s hope this was the first step on the road to becoming the player we want him to be.

Well a magnificent seven seems an apt place to finish. Please comment and criticise to your heart’s content.

Published in: on 28/11/2010 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

>Happy John Peel Day!

>Six years on from John’s death. I won’t pretend to have listened to him religiously – I think he would’ve been more essential listening had I been around a decade earlier – but I can think of few others with such immense passion for music. In many ways he’s the forefather of the myriad of bloggers all over the internet who have no time for marketing and financial reward, instead relishing the pure joy of music. For that reason, John I salute you. Here are a few of my favourite sessions:

Dancing in the Moonlight by Thin Lizzy (1974)

Published in: on 25/10/2010 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

>Ladies’ Night

>Friday night:

I’m sat here after a long week, enjoying the absolutely fantastic KT Tunstall album ‘Tiger Suit’.

This is my third listen to the new album and the highest praise I can give it is it just made ironing shirts actually bearable. In all seriousness this is a far better album than I was expecting – Tunstall is established as a talented song-writer but what truly surprises on this album is her confidence to use this as a base for experimentation. I have read the album described as taking a dance-oriented direction; ‘nature techno’ apparently. At times undoubtedly there is a hint of Pet Shop Boys (Lost) but it is misleading and frankly unfair to dismiss Tiger Suit as some kind of pet dance project. I found myself making links to Kings of Leon and even INXS on occasion yet the country, acoustic staple of Tunstall still has plenty of input. A huge amount of credit must go to Jim Abbiss the producer (of Arctic Monkeys and Editors debut album fame) who matches Tunstall’s ambition and delivers a glorious, fuller sound that raises the bar. It is honestly one of the best albums I have heard this year and urge you all to buy it.

Eight out of Ten.

Saturday morning

So given my eulogising over KT it seems only right that I look to sort of meet Turner’s request for a focus on the greatest female singer-songwriter. I say sort-of because quite frankly I don’t feel able or particularly inclined to make that decision. It would lead me down a well trodden path of mining history and most likely ending up in a face off between Billie Holiday and Joni Mitchell. Instead I’m going to pick out a handful of female artists I rate highly, tell you why and let you see/hear a bit of them in action:

Bjork

Probably my favourite of the lot, an artist guaranteed to divide opinion. I liked Bjork right from the first time I saw her as a young whippersnapper finding her incredibly interesting and unconventionally highly attractive. I accept that physical appearance shouldn’t come into views on a musical artist but as a hormone driven teenager it was a major factor. I even bought Echobelly and Elastica albums in the futile hope that in some way this might push me closer to my britpop dream romance. Anyway I digress; the majesty of Bjork is that she has always sought to challenge the conventional without ever losing sight of the fundamentals of crafting a song. Her greatest asset of course is her voice and this never more evident than on her interpretations of classic Icelandic folk music like the gorgeous Gling-Glo. Her finest work for me has to be Hyperballad – the way the ominous music builds the tension and perfectly matches the imagery of the lyrics before unleasing a hit of pure emotion is simply glorious. Bjork also bears similarity with Ryan Adams and Gnarls Barkley in her flat refusal to simply reproduce the album mix in live performance, instead experimenting with new approaches often infusing different cultures.

Jenny Lewis

Unlike Bjork, Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley has yet really to become more well known as a solo artist as in her work with a band. However I genuinely think it is only a matter of time. I really like Rilo Kiley but since the fantastic More Adventurous the solo projects of Lewis have been far more interesting and memorable than anything produced as a band. The most notable, and in my view most enjoyable, off shoot has been her gospel tinged collaboration with The Watson Twins. The style of music really suited Lewis’ songwriting style as it laid bare her vocal and gave her lyrics a new clarity which highlighted her gift for story-telling. Although dramatically different in musical direction her writing style reminds me of Richmond Fontaine in the way she creates a scenario that feels too real to be fiction.  Her other solo work includes the lively Americana ‘Acid tongue’ of which Elvis Costello was a contributor. For me undoubtedly her finest moment is the majestic ‘Rise up with fists’ which is one of the finest songs of the last decade.

Cathy Davey

You would be forgiven for thinking ‘who?’ Back in the days of being a carefree student going to gigs on my Leeds doorstep I went to see ‘Thirteen Senses’ and Davey was the support act. Talk about hitting the jackpot – she was absolutely mesmeric as she effortless switched between sultry and veangeful showing off a repertoire of songs which made a mockery of only having released one EP at that point. She has since produced three albums – the best of which in my view being her debut Something Ilk. The pounding drums which open the barnstorming Come Over are an unmistakeable declaration of intent and would be a worthy pick of the bunch were it not for the brilliant ‘Cold Man’s Nightmare’ which is the closest anyone has come to explaining the infuriating case of lovely girl being treated like shit yet staying around. Davey’s voice is remarkable without being overpowering and this is beautifully showcased in the clip I found of her covering Arthur Hamilton’s Cry Me a River. It is criminal she hasn’t received the levels of press that the equally brilliant Laura Marling has enjoyed.

I could happily go on with this all day but alas duties call. I could for example have waxed lyrical about the unexpected excellence of the debut album of Natalie Imbruglia (seriously!), the sensual brilliance of Melody Gardot, or the brash anarchic joy of MIA. However I will leave you with three performances from three magnificent, enduring female performers:

And this one is specifically for Mr Turner…

>Obeying the General’s command

>Allow me please to take a detour into some previously unchartered territory today. This blog is primarily a music blog but I have recently done a bit of moonlighting in other areas. I was asked to do a guest blog by Peter Turner for his magnificent blog It’s been a long time General. Click the hyperlink to find mine and some other guest movie reviews as well as Pete’s impressive back catalogue. This is to celebrate the blog reaching 50 posts and if you haven’t already take some time to pour yourself a brew and read through his previous reviews. They really are of the highest quality and I know Pete (like me) really appreciates feedback. If by chance you read his or my blog anonymously please sign up to blogger to follow and hopefully offer your thoughts. I am also a passionate fan of Manchester United and the wonderful people at ManUtd24 have included my thoughts on the great Eric Cantona as part of their latest feature. Follow the hyperlink to the site and enjoy.

*Massive side note; Love, love, love by The Mountain Goats came on BBC 6music during this blog and I had completely forgotten how utterly charming it is. I think it could well be their finest hour. Enjoy.

Published in: on 02/09/2010 at 12:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

>How ears compliment eyes.

>I feel like going off on a bit of a tangent today. After the dentist appointment from hell (one filling, one hour, massive head ache) I treated myself to a solo trip to see Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. The film was ace but that’s for another blog. However what struck me as integral to the film was the soundtrack. It is something I am extremely conscious of in the films I watch and thought I would share a few snippets of gems today. I am considering both scores for films and songs included in a movie for effect. The art of composing a series of pieces for a movie deserves huge respect, but so does compiling the perfect accompaniment to different scenes. I have often listened to a song and thought about how it would fit into a film.

Summer ’78 by Yann Tiersen (from Goodbye Lenin, 2003, Ger)

For those of you who haven’t seen GL it is yet another magnificent German film from the last decade looking at the impact of East German socialism on a single family. Tiersen (who also sound tracked Amelie) wrote the film’s score and he pitches the music perfectly to reflect the melancholic atmosphere of the film. For a film dealing with the fall of the Berlin Wall it must have been extremely tempting to go down a very obvious route of using music from the era yet Tiersen boldly ignores such influences to create a truly original, atmospheric score.

Summer in the City by the Lovin Spoonful (Die Hard with a Veangence, 1995, US)

Michael Kamen was wisely invited to return to soundtrack the third (and finest) movie of the Die Hard series. Kamen is well-respected in Hollywood and has been rewarded with high profile gigs like Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and X-Men. Arguably his finest to date was on the small screen as he scored the majestic Band of Brothers series. However in this instance it is his choice of song that I am heralding rather than his own composition. It is quite simply the perfect song to reflect the heat and bustle of NYC. On top of that (and perhaps the director takes the credit for this) the timing of the explosion cutting in is genius. Even though I have seen the film countless times I never quite guess the exact point the song is interrupted by an almighty boom. Brilliant.

Superstar by Sonic Youth and Sea of Love by Cat Power (Juno, 2007)

Pilgrim has obviously inspired me to link back to Michael C and Juno is genuinely one of my favourite movies of the last decade. It is quite rightly lauded for its use of music and many of you probably own or have heard the soundtrack. The soundtrack is dominated by The Moldy Peaches but it is actually two other cover versions which for me are the highlights of the soundtrack. Both are used to perfection at key moments in the film to indicate the development of relationships in the film. Sonic Youth’s deeply unsettling cover of The Carpenters encapsulates the differing outlooks of Mark and Juno and hint at something darker in Mark’s intentions. Cat Power’s fragile and beautiful cover of Phil Phillips I’m not ashamed to say moves me to tears every time in the film. I don’t want to spoil a key plot in the film so will be deliberately vague but it compliments the sublime acting skills of Ellen Page to produce a truly powerful emotionally moving scene.

 

I genuinely would love to hear your own favourite soundtrack moments and why so please sign up and leave a comment.