Wednesday, March 29, 2017

40 From 40: 1991

1991 is remembered these days as Nirvana's year and that of the alternative impinging on the mainstream, maybe brought about by the 1991: The Year Punk Broke documentary. Pop, the narrative went at the time, was in trouble, and Bryan Adams' sixteen weeks at number one proved it, beaten into retreat by not just loud, occasionally pedal-abusing guitar bands but also the commercial march of hip-hop, the last knocking of baggy and the chemtrails of rave culture that brought a dance music overhaul with it. Break free of the shackles of bad metal, you have nothing to lose but your make-up and backcomb etc. Obviously reality is far more slippery than myth. Nevermind was certainly seen as a way forward but it didn't reach Billboard number one until January 1992 or make the UK top ten until a month later (its all-time peak came in 2011!) The chart end didn't know what to do with itself, which would become more evident in 1992 but for now meant Color Me Badd, the Cher revival, a full welter of hits from adverts, Jason Donovan's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat barrage and the march of the megamixes. Even so, some kind of alternative sea change was evident in the biggest names, U2 retreating to a safe distance from what they'd been doing at the end of the 80s with Achtung Baby and Michael Jackson taking club sounds to heart on Dangerous. Simply Red colonised the sales list with Stars and Seal became an unlikely future soul pin-up, while acid jazz awoke in the corner. The KLF thought up 'stadium house' and then watched their obscure notions become actually huge. Rap threatened common decency as Ice Cube and Ice-T reinforced the path that Public Enemy were still building. And all this too, one song (the third here) short on Spotify but for a rounded appraisal of the year as we'd present it we couldn't really leave it out:

Del Tha Funky Homosapien - Mistadobalina
Saint Etienne - Nothing Can Stop Us
Pizzicato Five - Twiggy Twiggy
The Field Mice - Missing The Moon
The Future Sound Of London - Papua New Guinea
Young Disciples - Apparently Nothin'
A Tribe Called Quest - Check The Rhime
Electronic - Get The Message
Chapterhouse - Pearl
Flowered Up - It's On
Kitchens Of Distinction - Drive That Fast
Blur - Slow Down
My Bloody Valentine - Only Shallow
Senseless Things - Easy To Smile
World Of Twist - Sons Of The Stage
Mudhoney - Let It Slide
Ned's Atomic Dustbin - Kill Your Television(EDIT: this was a single in 1990, wasn't it? Ah, too late now)
The Jesus Lizard - Nub
Pixies - Alec Eiffel
Superchunk - Seed Toss
Manic Street Preachers - You Love Us (Heavenly Version)
Hole - Garbadge Man
Nirvana - Drain You
Throwing Muses - Counting Backwards
PJ Harvey - Dress
Public Enemy - Shut 'Em Down
808 State - In Yer Face
Stereolab - Super-Electric
Talk Talk - Ascension Day
Massive Attack - Five Man Army
Kirsty MacColl - Walking Down Madison
Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine - After The Watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way)
The Sugarcubes - Hit
A House - Endless Art
Billy Bragg - Accident Waiting To Happen
Teenage Fanclub - The Concept
R.E.M. - Country Feedback
Primal Scream - Primal Scream - Higher Than The Sun (A Dub Symphony In Two Parts)
Mercury Rev - Car Wash Hair
Slint - Good Morning, Captain

Monday, March 27, 2017

STN recommends: 27/3/17

W H Lung - Inspiration!/Nothing Is

Here is the sum total of what we can pass on about W H Lung - they're a trio based in Manchester, they release both these songs on a double A side on May 12th via Melodic, and despite no real proof of having played live yet they're already booked to play End Of The Road, Blue Dot Festival at Jodrell Bank, Sea Change and Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia. So there's clearly something going on here - we have our suspicions - and while we await further instruction we have the music to go on, two tracks that together reach just short of sixteen minutes, and luckily it's great in all the right psychedelic/motorik ways, replete with lack-of-air-in-lungs yelp, using that length to shapeshift and evolve through cosmic instrumental breakdown/build-up sections and intense climaxes without falling into shoegaze territory. On Nothing Is some darting, pulsing synths come into play, shifting from Philip Glass repetition into a driving, malleable shape for purpose.

Sam Airey - Lacuna

Finally after what certainly seems like far too long, the darkly intricate craft of Leeds-based Airey has been formed into album shape, In Darkened Rooms out 26th May. Inspired by Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, here his cracked, emotionally spent falsetto is close miked amid a spaciously minimalist setting recalling a less wintry For Emma, Forever Ago.

Sneaks - Hair Slick Back

Slicks is Washington DC's Eva Moolchan, signed to Merge who release It’s a Myth the end of this week. She's/it's an intriguing proposition - taut bass and drum-machine led, delivery based on repetition and how language sounds, like ESG having first heard Le Tigre, with the recording of Mary Timony and her Ex Hex bandmate Jonah Takagi drawing strength from minimalism, which is what you can draw strength from if your album is ten tracks in eighteen minutes.

Alimony Hustle - Miss GB

It's been a little while since we've heard something new from the self-examining to a fault duo, who re-emerge with spacious, smartly vaulting guitar pop without succumbing to the usual bluesy/overdriven faults duos land in. Plus it's about Zara Holland, the titular beauty queen winner who was stripped of her title after going on Love Island. More particularly, "sexism, regret, the death of dreams and, ultimately, doing what you want in the face of all of that".

Gorillaz - Andromeda

The best, we reckon, of the four 80s revival bandwagon-flirting tracks revealed at the end of last week from fourth album Humanz, released 28th April, which seems to be a (quite uneven) club record for a darkened world. Indeed this is virtually old-skool house with its spaciousness, synth flashes and twinkles plus basic insistent beat, Damon in soulful, contemplative mood with rapper D.R.A.M. content to fill in the gaps.

BABY! - Home Sweet Home

BABY! is the nom du jangle of Orlando's Kaley Honeycutt, whose offering from forthcoming EP Pick Me is a sub-two minute joyous coast of surf guitar hooks and energetic warmth, invoking personal catharsis through sunny positivity like a lost Crutchfield sister.

Fazerdaze - Lucky Girl

A track that's been around for a few weeks but we only caught up with this week, and another typically swooning eternal summer kind of offering from the revived Flying Nun Records, New Zealander Amelia Murray similarly deals in bedroom-spawned hazy sunlight-dappled pop of breathy, reverbed for extra nostalgic quality vocal and contrasting emotions, the kind that sees joy and melancholy as part of the same package deal. Her album Morninside is due in May.

Caroline Lazar – Trigger

The young Atlantan was originally parsed as one of the latest country singer-songwriter wave, but this from her new Nevermine EP is a lot more, raw and brooding in minimalism even before it starts to slowly bloom, Lazar's huge voice pushing increasingly forward, before bursting into a emotively cathartic, intense coda involving seemingly all the electric instruments available.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

40 From 40: 1972

Compared to the two years either side of it, 1972 is a fascinating transitional year. Paul McCartney got banned by the Beeb for Give Ireland Back To The Irish, Led Zeppelin got banned from Singapore for their long hair, John Lennon was nearly banned by the USA for his out of date working visa... The playlist below reflects an age where the world was developing its own house styles for a greater audience and reggae was just entering its golden age, the singer-songwriters were carving their own paths through the undergrowth away from expectation, soul and funk were developing in stanta and people were starting to discover and then surreptitiously push back the boundaries of what instrumentation, rhythm and technology was allowing them to do - art-rock, Krautrock (or Deutsch-Rock/Teutonic rock as it was then mostly referred to then, the term that caught on thought to have emerged the following year), perfectionist studio experimentalists trying to put onto tape the noise in their heads. And yes, that ending is the most shameless of all 40 playlists.

Big Youth - Screaming Target
Augustus Pablo - Java
Laurel Aitken - Sex Machine
Prince Buster - Dance Cleopatra
Al Green - Love And Happiness
The Staple Singers - I'll Take You There
The Temptations - Papa Was A Rollin' Stone
The O'Jays - Back Stabbers
Curtis Mayfield - Pusherman
Van Dyke Parks - FDR In Trinidad
Lyn Collins - Think (About It)
James Brown - There It Is
Stevie Wonder - Superstition
Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons - The Night
Van Morrison - Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)
Hawkwind - Silver Machine
Roxy Music - Re-Make/Re-Model
CAN - Vitamin C
NEU! - Hallogallo
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Big Eyed Beans From Venus
Os Mutantes - Dune Buggy
War - City, Country, City
Tim Buckley - Get On Top
The Osmonds - Crazy Horses
Todd Rundgren - I Saw The Light
Steely Dan - Do It Again
Paul Simon - Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
Harry Nilsson - Spaceman
The Beach Boys - Marcella
David Ackles - Ballad Of The Ship Of State
Lou Reed - Satellite Of Love
Neil Young - Old Man
Nick Drake - Things Behind The Sun
Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come
David Bowie - Five Years
Mott The Hoople - All The Young Dudes
T. Rex - Solid Gold Easy Action
Alice Cooper - Elected
Slade - Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Lieutenant Pigeon - Mouldy Old Dough

Thursday, March 23, 2017

STN recommends: 23/3/17

Perfume Genius - Slip Away

The last time Mike Hadreas had something from a new album to share it was Queen, and it blew most of the year away. Like that song this bursts from a tentative opening into technicolour; unlike it this seems more metallic, less keen on outre sashaying than percussion-driven bold statements of individuality, strength through passion's vulnerability. No Shape is out May 5th.

Saint Etienne - Heather

Bob, Pete'n'Sarah's first album in six years, out June 2nd, is called Home Counties, that most London of bands getting round to considering their shared teenage years in Surrey and Berkshire. From just the (19-strong!) tracklisting business appears to be as unusual. There's a track called Sports Report! And Church Pew Furniture Restorer! And one, presumably in tribute to Earl Brutus' Nick Sanderson, called Train Drivers In Eyeliner! And Bob's finally got a track called Popmaster in! The song features an unexpectedly heavy bassline amid some quite restrained pastorial synth floatiness and Cracknell's lyrical muse stuck in suburbia.

Gallops - Crystal Trap

A third advance cut from Bronze Mystic, out 21st April, starts off in ambient waters and then slowly gains its propulsive steady vertical takeoff by means of 8-bit settings, syncopated rhythms and electronic post-rock floating before a mammoth synth sturm und drang moment. It's quite the adventure, yet again.

H Hawkline - My Mine

Huw Evans' In The Pink Of Condition was one of the sleeper hit albums of 2015, and with Cate le Bon co-producing and playing alongside Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa I Romanticize, out 2nd June, might well give him that extra push. The single is certainly classically further along his trail of shaky, skewed take on harmonic psych-pop.

Thurston Moore - Smoke Of Dreams

Neither the folkishness Moore openly loves nor the noise of yore, Moore's new album Rock n Roll Consciousness, out April 28th, was produced by Paul Epworth, which might explain some of the sheen, and features Steve Shelley and MBV's Debbie Googe, which doesn't. It's quite contemplative and thinking retrospectively of youthful hopes and ghosts, in fact, maybe a side effect of his residing in London these days.

Big Walnuts Yonder - Sponge Bath

Reminder that BWY a) is a bad name and b) are Mike Watt, Nels Cline, Deerhoof's Greg Saunier and Tera Melos' Nick Reinhart, and when we first came across the project they were essentially free jazz hardcore. This time around they're up the hypnagogic end of the scale, Reinhart taking vocals on a queasy psych-out lope. There's a track on the self-titled album, out May 5th, called I Got Marty Feldman Eyes.

Ralegh Long - Take Your Mind Back

It's kind of dizzying seeing where Long goes, as he evolved from power pop to orchestral beauty and now into a kind of country rock take on Big Star/Paisley Underground moves, with his honeyed presence to the fore. There's a pre-order/manufacturing crowdfunding going on for Upwards Of Summer, out 9th June.

Mr Jukes - Angels/Your Love

Well, this is unexpected as much for being any good as its origins. A brassy soulful, sax-driven cool groove featuring a looping sax sample from jazz fusionist Jorge Lopez Ruiz plus impassioned vocals from one BJ The Chicago Kid, pitching somewhere between a becalmed Avalanches, a jazzier Gorillaz and the Face-friendly first flowerings of British jazz-funk circa 1982, you'd never guess it was the first solo work of Jack Steadman, formerly of Bombay Bicycle Club. Album God First is out June 9th.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Romance and adventure: a salute to Fortuna Pop!

As of this weekend, an enormous crater opens up in the bedroom-insular, open air-spectacular world of indiepop as the Chance the Gardener of indie majordomo of all he surveyed Sean Price winds up his Fortuna Pop! label with a long London weekend entitled Twenty Years Of Tears - maybe slightly telling, as the label's first release came out in 1996 - starring Simon Love, Two White Cranes and a special headliner on Wednesday; Withered Hand, The Ballet, our recent alldayer headliner Pete Astor and the Would-Be-Goods on Thursday; The Butterflies Of Love, Sodastream, Flowers and Darren Hayman on Friday; Comet Gain, The Proper Ornaments, Evans The Death, the latest Loves final gig, Mammoth Penguins, Milky Wimpshake, the actual Bearsuit final gig, September Girls and Tigercats on Saturday; and then a quite spectacular literal and metaphorical (and only date currently sold out) blowout on Sunday with Martha, Joanna Gruesome, The Spook School and Chorusgirl.

Seemingly increasingly so as the years passed, the F-Pop! accroutrement to a release has regularly proved a badge of quality, and as much as the scene seemingly has a relatively good cushion these days the current roster especially being left homeless is going to leave a hell of a deep crater both in impact and having some great bands floating with no as yet obvious place to go.

Never managed to get Sean to come up to Leicester for the Alldayer despite putting the vast majority of his roster on over the years, though. His loss.

As a fond farewell, this is the playlist we threw together back in August upon Price breaking the news, thirty examples from across the years of what his whims and craft were all about:

The Lucksmiths - A Hiccup In Your Happiness
Comet Gain - You Can Hide Your Love Forever
Airport Girl - The Foolishness That We Create Through Love Is The Closest We Come To Greatness
Sodastream - Blinky
Club 8 - Jesus, Walk With Me
The Ladybug Transistor - Always On The Telephone
Allo Darlin' - The Polaroid Song
Milky Wimpshake - I'm Saving Myself For You
Crystal Stilts - Shake The Shackles
Joanna Gruesome - Sugarcrush
The Spook School - I'll Be Honest
Bearsuit - Itsuko Got Married
The Loves - Xs And Os
Tigercats - Junior Champion
Flowers - Pull My Arm
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Young Adult Friction
Evans The Death - Threads
The Aislers Set - The Red Door
Martha - 1967, I Miss You I'm Lonely
Chorusgirl - No Moon
September Girls - Love No One
Tullycraft - Lost in Light Rotation
Herman Düne - Monument Park
Shrag - Chasing Consummations
Tender Trap - Train From King's Cross Station
Darren Hayman And The Long Parliament - We Are Not Evil
Let's Wrestle - Rain Ruins Revolution
Chain and The Gang - Never Been Properly Loved
Mammoth Penguins - Strength In My Legs
Withered Hand - Heart Heart

Monday, March 20, 2017

STN recommends: 20/3/17

The Orielles - Sugar Tastes Like Salt

People who know things have been talking about the Halifax trio for a while, and now signed to Heavenly they've decided to abandon protocol and just go for it off the bat with an eight and a half minute debut single that swings gladly between reference points - scratchy post-punk, doomy psychedelia, frictionless punk-funk, Tarantino soundtracks, early Factory Records groove, dubby breakdown launching back into a sprint - whilst still seeming of a piece. It's a brave and exhilarating way to open, and it'll grab you before long if you make the commitment to run alongside it.

Feist - Pleasure

The title track from Leslie's first album in six years, out April 28th, is intriguingly low-key and swampy, even more so than the deliberate step away from over commerciality that Metals represented. Its single bluesy guitar with minimal backing and late on devolvement into wild-eyed half-shouted statements of intent recall Rid Of Me-era PJ Harvey, with the upfront brazenness mixed back in favour of the title's suggested hope of something basic and, yes, carnal to cling to.

Furore - Eyelid

Furore is Roxy Brennan, of what seems like hundreds of bands but chiefly by herself Two White Cranes. The guitar has been swapped for synths and a machine handclap setting, but even if it's more constrained by the machine beat the sense of turned inwards emotional rawness remains. An EP will be released on Mat Riviere's label Bleak Spring on April 3rd.

H. Grimace - Call It Out

When we first came across H. Grimace a few weeks back they were coiled springs, but if the second track we've heard from Self Architecht, out April 9th, is more restrained until its collapsing climax it's only through trying to push against where it's going, built on a cyclical insistent riff and the pure nervous energy coursing through the driving bassline and Hannah Gledhill's vocals alike.

Guided By Voices - Dr Feelgood Falls Off The Ocean

Robert Pollard feels like he releases fifty albums a month in various permutations, but GBV's August By Cake - a double! - will actually be his hundredth when released on 7th April. One year fewer than it took Billy Childish to get to that mark, by our reckoning. Apart from being driven by a drum machine, you pretty much know what to expect from this if you know your mid-paced slashing slacker end of the GBV template.

Pronto Mama - Double Speak

The percussion-heavy Glaswegian sextet, who release debut album proper Any Joy on 5th May, matches its urgent post-punk capture and release energy struggling to hold onto itself by considering what it is to think you have the world at your beck and call.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

40 From 40: 1999

The last year of the old millennium, all talk of new ages and old bugs, and we find music trying to work out itself where to go next. Shania Twain spent more weeks atop the album chart than anyone else, Westlife's reign of terror began, and the number one slot was the territory of Eiffel 65, Baz Luhrmann and the Vengaboys. Indie started its drift into becoming a dirty word for a while as Travis took root. While the post-Spice girl group glut burned itself out - 21st Century Girls would become one of the more notorious flop pop acts of the era - outside the pure pop sphere women found an inventive footing more in the wake of Lauryn Hill's success rewarded with five Grammys at the start of the year. Macy Gray appeared and charmed all before a gleeful dive into the deep end, but hadn't others done retro-soul with more staying power in the previous years? Destiny's Child and TLC took the R&B hindmost as Britney and Christina gathered all before them, nobody quite sure what to do with the former's forcefulness in a way that seems quite quaint these days if it didn't seem vaguely disturbing. Eminem was the counterpoint, daring all to do him down and then watching fascinatedly as oppobrium piled up. In a big year for trailer trash, The Offspring had a number one single. THE OFFSPRING. Mind you, so was Flat Beat, which barely qualified as a tune. And The Millennium Prayer, likewise. Woodstock's third go-round was the disaster of the year, though the nu-metal hordes fingered as the cause of its degeneracy would only become bigger from here on in. Trance was at its height and UK garage became the in thing as the herds went down to Ayia Napa. And if the rate of turnover wasn't enough, in June Napster was quietly launched, which would go on to change things completely.

We're still playing with how to present these playlists in text and realising you don't really want reminding what albums they're from as we all have both Google/the ability to click a hyperlink and the ability to listen. So...

Leftfield feat. Roots Manuva - Dusted
Dead Prez - Hip Hop
Add N To (X) - Skills
Aphex Twin - Windowlicker
Blur - Bugman
Appliance - Food Music
Death In Vegas - Flying
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Moya
The Flaming Lips - Race For The Prize
µ-Ziq - The Fear
Lemon Jelly - The Staunton Lick
Day One - I'm Doin' Fine
Lyrics Born - I Changed My Mind (Stereo MCs Rattlesnake Mix)
Ol' Dirty Bastard feat. Kelis - Got Your Money
Cassius - Cassius 1999
Morgan - Miss Parker (Dust Brothers Mix)
Beck - Sexx Laws
Super Furry Animals - Northern Lites
Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Spanish Dance Troupe
Beulah - Score From Augusta
The Clint Boon Experience - White No Sugar
The Magnetic Fields - I Don't Want To Get Over You
Wheat - Don't I Hold You
Smog - Cold Blooded Old Times
Badly Drawn Boy - It Came From The Ground
Murry The Hump - Thrown Like A Stone
Hefner - The Hymn For The Alcohol
Tom Waits - Get Behind The Mule
Cousteau - The Last Good Day Of The Year
Doves - Sea Song
Plone - On My Bus
Clinic - The Second Line
Ladytron - He Took Her To A Movie
The Chemical Brothers - Music:Response
Le Tigre - Deceptacon
Sebadoh - Flame
dEUS - Put The Freaks Up Front
Sleater-Kinney - Get Up
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Mistakes And Regrets
Sigur Rós - Svefn-g-englar
Blackalicious - Alphabet Aerobics

Monday, March 13, 2017

STN recommends: 13/3/17

Napoleon IIIrd - The Scrape

A quick primer, as there's always latecomers - Napoleon IIIrd is James Mabbett and both of his previous albums made number four in their respective years' STN end of year lists. The Great Lake, out 19th May, comes more than six years after Christiania and is a five track literal change of pace, funereal, experimental and abstract in an ambient/Mark Hollis influenced sense, meditating on grief, transcendence and self-destruction. It'll get under your skin.

Public Service Broadcasting - Progress

No news on the subject matter linking PSB's as yet unannounced third album, but we can make an informed judgement from their new single. Or, y'know, just listen to it. Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura takes the chorus vocal amid the restrained whilst still propulsive motorik and samples of research and development both harking back to their debut record, as always retro and futuristic at once.

Fleet Foxes - Third of May/Ōdaigahara

3rd May 2011 was the release date of Helplessness Blues, the last new material from the once ubiquitous nu-folk trailblazers. The near nine minute, several phase first taste of Crack-Up, released June 16th, considers what's changed in that time via the medium of quiet-loud crescendos, self-examining introspection and a great deal of what got them this far, just now in subtly different, more overtly expansive and cinematic clothing before turning into something more acoustic ambient, not far from what Animal Collective used to do circa Sung Tongs. A fascinating return and proof that there's more than one way out of the pastoral impasse.

Soulwax - Missing Wires

The concept behind the Dewaele brothers' new album From Deewee, released March 24th, is they recorded the whole thing in one take in one recording session. It fits too, the pulsing electronics fitting in around the song seeming impulsive, synths dancing across a rutted landscape and shapeshifting effortlessly.

Darren Hayman - Upper Slaughter

Hayman is onto the second volume (out May 26th) of his Thankful Villages project, visiting the 54 UK villages where every soldier returned alive from WW1 and writing a song inspired by the folklore and landscape of each. For his visit to the titular Cotswolds village, halfway between Cheltenham and Chipping Norton, he invited local resident and Fairport Convention's first singer Judy Dyble, who lends autoharp and clearest of folk vocals to a tale of history flowing like the bisecting River Eye.

Sean Rowe - Newton's Cradle

Another track from Rowe's third album New Lore, out August 7th, it feels somehow wrong to hear his familiarly gruff voice against something quite musically upbeat, more appreciably outright Philly-soulful than he's ever been before in fact. Luckily, it fits nigh-on perfectly.

Pip Hall - James

Preston-based sixteen year old Hall created a groundswell of attention towards the end of 2017 with a lush electronically aided commercially leaning soulfulness, the kind of thing that can and often does dip into MOR Remember The Eighties? wash but keeps its head above water here with subtlety and meaningfulness, the song being about Hall coping with the passing of her father.

Year Of Birds - Western Splits (After Lear)

Teeside now-trio Year Of Birds have been around for a few years but the tremendously titled White Death To Power Alan, out this week on Odd Box, is their first album to be approached and written as a full actual album, if that makes sense. Their ragged lo-fi weird garage nods greatly at the Fall but would more willingly fit into the mid-80s scene John Robb described as Death To Trad Rock, and the more bands we have that sound like they could be filed next to A Witness or Bogshed the better these days.

Friday, March 10, 2017

40 From 40: 1983

Before we start, to commemorate yesterday's International Women's Day we put together a special 40 From 40, forty female-led songs for each year from 1977 to 2016.

Next up in our actual attempt to playlist and contextualise forty years of the devil's music is a year of notable advancement in myriad forms. The American underground raged, the forward thinkers got to work on synthesisers and sequencers, rap found its voices of street level anger and charismatic poetry as it edged inch by inch closer to mainstream approval, and post-punk and new wave devolved into intelligent voices, pop oddity and some wild swings in between. Stuck as to what should represent the alternative, NME featured both Test Dept and Einsturzende Neubaten on its cover during the year. More telling was a August edition leading on Anarchy In The Arcades, a wonderfully tut-tutting 'it's dangerous for your health, kids' piece about video gaming that maybe betrayed a certain panic about the way youth culture was heading. If it wasn't those machines it was video comfortably into its hostile takeover phase of radio stars, the rise and rise of MTV helping create iconic looks in an instant. A second British Invasion was spearheaded by Culture Club, Eurythmics and Let's Dance Bowie, but Michael Jackson was about to take them all on with first the Motown 25 moonwalk and then all nine minutes of Thriller. The industry had a backup plan too as CDs went on sale in America and Tracey Ullman sold us a new concept in compilations. If you want a vision of the future, imagine Ashley Abram rubber stamping a final tracklisting - forever. Anyway, here's what else was going on that year in forty installments.

The Fall - Eat Y'Self Fitter
A MIT-DEM! From Perverted By Language
The Birthday Party - Sonny's Burning
Classic Nick Cave reputation enhancer at the start, from The Bad Seed EP
Minutemen - Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs
From What Makes A Man Start Fires??
Sonic Youth - Kill Yr Idols
The first recorded days of art-rock's dissonant post-Glenn Branca finest, from Confusion Is Sex
The Three Johns - Men Like Monkeys
Three men called John (one of whom had co-founded the Mekons), an insistent drum machine and some agit-noisepop sloganeering. From an EP of the same name, now collected onto the compilation Volume
New Order - Blue Monday
5p on every 12" sold, they say. Now on some versions of Power, Corruption & Lies
Kraftwerk - Tour De France
Now to be found on Tour De France Soundtracks
Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel - White Lines (Don't Do It)
Liquid Liquid - Cavern
The former is a re-recording by the Sugarhill Records house band, by the way, not a sample
Rip Rig + Panic - Keep The Sharks From Your Heart
Tropical jazzy post-punk everything from a couple of the Pop Group and Neneh Cherry on vocals. From Attitude
Depeche Mode - Everything Counts
From Construction Time Again
Yello - I Love You
From You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess
Run–D.M.C. - It's Like That
From the self-titled album
JoBoxers - Just Got Lucky
Surprising to learn they were considered too overly macho and aggressive at the time, with their flat caps and braces look despite essentially being a soul-pop band. Mind you, one of them later formed Earl Brutus. From Like Gangbusters
The Rain Parade - This Can't Be Today
Let us now briefly consider the Paisley Underground, the harmonic post-Byrds/Big Star psych-pop enclave based in early to mid 80s California that influenced Prince and from which the Bangles emerged. This is the best thing that emerged from it not touched by Hoffs, from Emergency Third Rail Power Trip
The Smiths - This Charming Man
From The Smiths
Echo & The Bunnymen - The Cutter
From Porcupine
Aztec Camera - Walk Out To Winter
From High Land, Hard Rain
The Chameleons - Second Skin
From Script Of The Bridge
Shriekback - All Lined Up
From Care
The Lotus Eaters - The First Picture Of You
Classic, classy one hit wonder territory, from No Sense Of Skin
The The - This Is The Day
From Soul Mining
R.E.M. - Talk About The Passion
From Murmur
Care - Flaming Sword
Paul Simpson, who was in Teardrop Explodes early on and more notably Wild Swans, on vocals, Ian Broudie, who had been in Big In Japan and would become the foremost Lightning Seed, on everything else for a handful of charming singles later collated on Diamonds & Emeralds
The Go-Betweens - Cattle And Cane
From Before Hollywood, and no, that's not the right version on Spotify
Billy Bragg - A New England
From Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy
Violent Femmes - Blister In The Sun
From Violent Femmes
Virna Lindt - Attention Stockholm
Here's a weird one, almost forgotten now, but Lindt was a big deal at the time - appeared on The Tube, interviewed in broadsheets - a Swedish sometime professional interpreter discovered by the man who found Mari Wilson, who vanished after two albums of sing-speaking over retro-lounge jetset John Barry spy chic. From Shiver
The B-52's - Song For A Future Generation
From Whammy!
Fun Boy Three - The Tunnel Of Love
From Waiting
Kissing The Pink - The Last Film
Current stars of the Top Of The Pops reruns, with the multiple drummers and Donald Stott on keyboards. From Naked
Tracey Ullman - They Don't Know
From You Broke My Heart In 17 Places
Captain Sensible - Glad It's All Over
Do seek out Dolly Mixture's own records, by the way. From The Power Of Love
The Replacements - Willpower
From Hootenanny
Elvis Costello/The Imposter - Pills & Soap
Initially released under a pseudonym, see. From Punch The Clock
Robert Wyatt - Shipbuilding

Tom Waits - In The Neighbourhood
From Swordfishtrombones
Ryuichi Sakamoto - Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence
From the soundtrack of same
Cocteau Twins - Five Ten Fiftyfold
From Head Over Heels
This Mortal Coil - Song To The Siren
From It'll End In Tears

Monday, March 06, 2017

STN recommends: 6/3/17

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - French Press

Another of that growing band of taut, whipsmart young bands, the kind-of-title track from The French Press EP, out 10th March, is expansively melodic surf-pop with bite that lands somewhere between the Dunedin Sound and the nu-slacker Parquet Courts/Real Estate types in its relentless semi-jangle building to a crescendo of a climax. They call their sound "tough pop/soft punk", which does the job better than we could.

Wire - Diamonds In Cups

The second offcut from that difficult fifteenth album Silver/Lead, out 31st March, is them in restrained mood, which in Wire's world means a glam guitar sound and Colin Newman sounding simultaneously equanimous and threatening in a way you can imagine having equally appeared on Chairs Missing or A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck.

Laura Marling - Nothing, Not Nearly

Again, the way things are going we'll have videos for the whole of Semper Femina before it's released, and yes, we're aware that's the end of this week now. Lots of words, bluesy power chords as eight-bar punctuation and a paen to love's imagery and resilience.

Trust Fund - Splitter

We'd not had anything from Ellis and co in 2017 and it's now March so that had to change sharpish. Taken from Put Ears On Yourself, a 7" series from Sligo-based Art For Blind Records, as usual it sounds like it might fall apart if you prodded it just had enough and deals with the notion of companionship, around the notion of using a headphone socket splitter on a coach journey.

Meilyr Jones - Watchers

To tie in with the last dates to support 2013, a chamber orchestral ballad about a man who goes blind looking out to sea at night after his loved one drowns, with the literary hopelessness and grandiosity that all of the above naturally suggests.

yr friends - i got nothing/Magana - To Be the Same

Two tracks now from the latest of Audio Antihero's compilations, Unpresidented Jams raising money for the Southern Poverty Law Center and National Immigration Law Center - Alexei Berrow you'll know from many, many STN points of exposure before, Jeni Magana continues building on her reputation for semi-broken resilience. Elsewhere there's new Fridge Poetry (Junior JoFo), Jeffrey Lewis, Jack Hayter, Benjamin Shaw, Deerful and Cloud among many others.

Overcoats - Nighttime Hunter

At first the New York-based duo resemble First Aid Kit with a laptop, but with Autre Ne Veut and Nicolas Vernhes (Dirty Projectors, Daughter, Deerhunter) co-producing it's bound to turn into something else, and so it proves as the crystalline harmonies, already dipped in self-doubt and vulnerability, are sent through loops and restrained beats to emerge as R&B-tinged spectrality. Album Young is released 21st April.

Big Walnuts Yonder - Raise The Drawbridges?

There's a name. Quite the background too, as they're a coming together of the great and legendary Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE, latter day Stooges), Nels Cline of Wilco and plenty besides, Greg Saunier of Deerhoof and Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos. They have a self-titled album out May 5th, from which the first bolt starts off aiming to filter hardcore through free jazz a la Minutemen themselves, then threatens to turn into Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band instead, before attempting to find common uber-psychedelic ground regardless of sense.

Wavves - Daisy

Hey kids, remember the hazy, crazy days of 2010? Nathan Williams is off a major and on his own Ghost Ramp label for sixth album You're Welcome, due May 19th. That he/they are promoting it by supporting Blink 182 isn't entirely helpful, but the single is the kind of natty, slighty screwy surf-punk cut that made people aware of him in the first place.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

40 From 40: 2002

At the time, 2002 was portrayed as a nadir for popular music. Alongside Westlife's peak of popularity, a decline in British interest in the Billboard Hot 100 and much hand-wringing about the effect of filesharing as the pop charts turned fifty years old, Pop Idol happened and Will Young's single sold in figures only Candle In The Wind '97 had glimpsed before. This was of course all seen as the harbinger of the end of it all, reducing everything to a Cowellocracy, not so much like punk never happened as the previous decade being wiped out too and everyone being general light entertainers again. For the next couple of years you couldn't move for reviews and press releases claiming some act or another were "the antidote to Cowell manufactured pop" as if they were the one true light in the darkness when everyone else in the world who wanted to make music was in an audition queue. Other things, contrary to popular belief, happened - even in the pop world, where the mashup/bootleg craze hit critical mass as Sugababes 2.0 covered Girls On Top (Richard X)'s We Don't Give A Damn About Our Friends, Blazin' Squad attempted to harness the previous year's garage underground march for the pop audience, and Daniel Bedingfield went to number one with If You're Not The One, a song Cowell chose on Desert Island Discs and claimed would be a standard in twenty years' time. Well, still five to go. Hell, even in the reality pop show world, as Girls Aloud formed right at its end. Against that, Noel Gallagher telling all and sundry to "listen to the Beatles and write some proper songs" wasn't exactly the bravado it once might have resembled. What else? Various musicians were angry about the impending Iraqi invasion, Coldplay made their international enormo-breakthrough, the superclub era ended with Cream's closure, BBC 6 Music began on 11th March, Graham Coxon left Blur, John Entwistle died, We Will Rock You proved critic-proof, Brian Wilson toured Smile, the Neptunes took over R&B and electroclash failed to happen outside the style magazines, though a decade on that sound would have its unexpected revenge. Fischerspooner were signed for a million pounds, you know.

Such noise and confusion is of course grist to this particular mill, a year that encompassed the initial rise of James Murphy's DFA empire and the dance-punk scene, the grouping of abrasive, loud, grimy British bands that the NME attempted to entitle The Scene With No Name, the peak of weird R&B production and the eclecticism of what a modern singer-songwriter could be.

LCD Soundsystem - Losing My Edge
The infamous agenda-setting debut single, eventually released on the 2CD version of the eponymous album
The Rapture - House Of Jealous Lovers
And the other track that did the punk-funk trick, charted a year later and then on Echoes
Radio 4 - Our Town
Another DFA client, from the tremendously underrated Gotham!
Clinic - Walking With Thee
From the album of the same name
Wire - In The Art Of Stopping
First entirely new material in eleven years, and it raged back. From Send
Electric Six - Danger! High Voltage
They never did confirm it's Jack White. From Fire
The Cooper Temple Clause - Film Maker
From See This Through And Leave
Mclusky - To Hell With Good Intentions
From Mclusky Does Dallas
The Buff Medways - Troubled Mind
From Steady The Buffs, Billy Childish's hundredth album and the closest he got to actual mainstream attraction - playlisted on 6 Music, released on Graham Coxon's label. Childish didn't welcome it at all, obviously
Liam Lynch - United States of Whatever
Still the shortest ever top ten single, and yes, I'm aware it appeared on Sifl & Olly in 1999 but didn't get released until this year. From Fake Songs
Miss Black America - Infinite Chinese Box
From God Bless Miss Black America
Liars - Mr Your On Fire Mr
From They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top
Queens of the Stone Age - No One Knows
Go, Grohl, go! From Songs For The Deaf
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Another Morning Stoner
From the 10.0 Pitchfork rated - it isn't worth that really, but worth remembering that - Source Tags And Codes
Guided By Voices - Everywhere With Helicopter
From Universal Truths And Cycles
Interpol - PDA
From Turn On The Bright Lights
Broken Social Scene - Cause = Time
From You Forgot It In People Mew - Am I Wry? No
*sigh* Yes, it was released first in 2000 on Half The World Is Watching Me, but the 2002 single version was a different mix and the first time it had been widely available. OK? OK. From Frengers, which may have been our album of the year
Idlewild - You Held The World In Your Arms
From The Remote Part
British Sea Power - The Lonely
From The Decline Of British Sea Power
Rocket Science - One Robot
Don't sleep on this one, the Melbourne band's expressive sci-fi garage looked like it was going to do something big until the singer ended up in an induced coma after an accident. From Contact High
The Polyphonic Spree - Soldier Girl
Sorry about the fanvideo there. Would love to have featured the compactly joyous 2:30 single version of this instead - in fact, here it is - but there you go. From The Beginning Stages Of The Polyphonic Spree
Ballboy - A Europewide Search For Love
From A Guide For The Daylight Hours
The Flaming Lips - Do You Realize??
From Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Low - (That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace
From Trust
Beck - Lost Cause
From Sea Change
Madrugada - Majesty
Haunting Norwegian melancholia, from Grit
Johnny Cash - Personal Jesus
We're trying to steer clear of covers in these compilations, but the American Recordings versions feel so much like Cash's own that it might seem unfair not to acknowledge them. From American IV
The Mountain Goats - The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton
From All Hail West Texas - and Tallahassee came out in the same year!
The Electric Soft Parade - Silent To The Dark
And not what Spotify says the track is, don't know what's happened there. From Holes In The Wall
Boards Of Canada - Music Is Math
From Geogaddi
Brandy - What About Us?
Rodney Jerkins on production. From Full Moon
Missy Elliott - Work It
Run DMC sample in here, which we'd never spotted before. From Under Construction
Ms Dynamite - Dy-Na-Mi-Tee
From A Little Deeper
The Streets - Let's Push Things Forward
Has aged better than the Artful Dodger reference. From Original Pirate Material
Doves - There Goes The Fear
From The Last Broadcast
Ladytron - Seventeen
From Light & Magic
Elvis Costello - When I Was Cruel No.2
The first great Costello album in years, the centrepiece and near-title track another from his personal file of expansive, wordy long songs
Cornershop - Staging The Plaguing Of The Raised Platform
From Handcream For A Generation
Ikara Colt - May B 1 Day
Atypical of their work apart from the backing vocal shouting, fair to say. From Chat & Business
The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster - Chicken
From Horse Of The Dog

Thursday, March 02, 2017

STN recommends... February 2017

As is now our wont, please find enclosed every new song we've posted this month that's on Spotify and great tracks from our favourite new albums of those 28 days.