Thursday, June 22, 2017

40 From 40: 2006

The second year of STN's existence, so most of this is an unashamed Greatest Hits of that year Los Campesinos!' demos changed everything and we generally got our raison d'etre into gear, as it were. Out in the wider world iPods became big things, leaving the Zune and Creative Zen behind like so much Betamax as it expanded and took over the listening world. Just as Malcolm McLaren predicted with cassettes a quarter-century earlier or so, so the music industry valued digital players so much the actual content of them ended up being devalued, music ending up as another thing to put on your phone. Meanwhile Myspace became a thing, its discoveries like YouTube stars but with actual value, as Lily Allen's blog became the must-read of its day, Arctic Monkeys were labelled an ultimate Myspace Band off the back of their debut album sales despite never having touched the thing and Sandi Thom briefly became a star for having a webcam. 2006 was the year the singles chart really embarked on its becalmed path to irrelevance as digital sales tentatively started being added - Gnarls Barkley's Crazy going to number one a week before the physical media came out - and Top Of The Pops breathed its last, as did Smash Hits and CD:UK. A strange old year for the commercial sector, all told, as Paris Hilton and Katie Price bombed, Take That returned as a "man band" and picked up where they'd left off, a major label tried to make out folkie Seth Lakeman was the obvious new James Blunt, and then Amy Winehouse tore the limelight asunder by making a virtue of what would kill her five years hence. Girls Aloud and Justin Timberlake perked up a moribund pop landscape illuminated, if that's the right word, only by Britney's slow breakdown. Pete Doherty went to court seven times, was arrested six times, was implicated in some nasty business, stayed with Kate and inadvertedly launched a thousand impersonators. New Rave happened. So did emo as big business with My Chemical Romance's number one, leading to the infamous Mail piece and the NME's subsequent impression of a War On Emo. In the year of the Ordinary Boys' Preston on Big Brother there was still an outsider culture after all. As for this list, the Spotify set is 38 strong, missing the great underappreciated Anathallo, one of whom would later have a number one as a member of Fun.

Klaxons - Atlantis To Interzone
The Victorian English Gentlemens Club - Ban The Gin
The Thermals - A Pillar Of Salt
TV On The Radio - Wolf Like Me
Hot Club De Paris - Clockwork
¡Forward Russia! - Fifteen Part 1
Tokyo Police Club - Nature Of The Experiment
Clinic - If You Could Read Your Mind
Hot Chip - Over And Over
Peter Bjorn and John - Let's Call It Off
The Pipettes - Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me
Amy Winehouse - Rehab
Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
Jamie T - Sheila
Mystery Jets - Diamonds In The Dark
Lucky Soul - Lips Are Unhappy
Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken
El Perro Del Mar - God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)
Final Fantasy - This Lamb Sells Condos
Anathallo - Hanasakajijii (Four: A Great Wind, More Ash)
The Hidden Cameras - AWOO
Arctic Monkeys - A Certain Romance
Field Music - In Context
Midlake - Young Bride
Grizzly Bear - On A Neck, On A Spit
Jeremy Warmsley - Dirty Blue Jeans
Sondre Lerche - Airport Taxi Reception
The Broken Family Band - It's All Over
The Hold Steady - Stuck Between Stations
Band Of Horses - The Funeral
Cat Power - Lived In Bars
Guillemots - Sao Paulo
Scritti Politti - The Boom Boom Bap
Gossip - Listen Up!
The Decemberists - The Perfect Crime #2
Bat For Lashes - Prescilla
The Rumble Strips - Oh Creole
I'm From Barcelona - We're From Barcelona
Sparks - Dick Around
iLiKETRAiNS - The Beeching Report

Previously among the 40: 1970, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009

Saturday, June 17, 2017

STN recommends: 17/6/17

Right then, let's start with some premium STN content, Trust Fund feat. Gareth Campesinos. Their contribution to Art Is Hard's Postcard Club sees Gareth fulfil his Heaton fantasies with a version of the Beautiful South's I'll Sail This Ship Alone that transforms it from tender ballad to muscular fuzzpop. Also new on Art Is Hard, through more conventional means, are the established psych-popper Oliver Wilde and Lucky Shivers' Nicholas Stevenson (who we're pretty sure was a promising solo artist himself at one point) by their powers combined Oro Swimming Hour, Martial Arts Washing Cars being just over two minutes of a more restrained version of campfire Animal Collective, all harmonies and odd sounds. Album Penrose Winoa is out 28th July.

Hey, Everything Everything are actually now back after what seems like months of something being "impending"! You wouldn't really confuse Can't Do, from A Fever Dream out August 18th, for anyone else with the jittery elastic beats, tricksy guitar interruption and semi-cryptic lyrics in nasal, occasionally strained falsetto vocals, but it's evolution rather than revolution and ties in better with their debut than what's come since. A band who've been away for rather a lot longer, Ride, have slightly underwhelmed with their track choices thus far, but Lannoy Point, the opener to Weather Diaries, does the trick, classic floaty shoegaze to a fault with a fluid motorik undertow and Andy Bell set to 'chime'.

Here's a band we've never written about before - Wolf Alice. It's surprising given they pretty much have the kind of bases and influences we generally thrive off, but it just hasn't happened for us. Turns out all they needed to do on Yuk Foo (and maybe Visions Of A Life, out 29th September) is turn away from their radio friendly destiny and instead become Bratmobile. While we're on two minute ire and dynamism, Charmpit are two Californians based in London who deal in harmonic sparkly lo-fi garage pop, this Free The Burbs (a song they're on record as wanting Peaness to cover) from Jelly EP out 14th July. Across the self-sufficient way, part of that ever fluent Leeds DIY scene that we've featured plenty of bands from in the past, "post-punk pop party pack" Crumbs are a jittery, danceable, form that recalls the Au Pairs. Their debut album Mind Yr Manners is out July 28th. Are The Popguns spiritual parents of the scene? So Long, from the just released second post-reformation album Sugar Kisses, suggests their emotionally damaged janglepop has barely aged at all. From a slightly different place Superglu's songs aren't much longer, through a more restrained but still vital melodic indie-punk template with joy forefront on Communion Singles Club offering Welcome Home.

And now for something completely different, the post-apocalyptic industrial soul of Algiers. Inspired by the killing of Tamir Rice and the concept of injustice, Cleveland sees Franklin James Fisher deliver his best righteous fire-eyed preacher delivery over looped gospel samples and a surprising Detroit techno passage. The Underside Of Power is out Friday and might even top their stellar debut, our third best album of 2015. Meanwhile The Horrors have gone industrial on Machine, churning Cabaret Voltaire-style warped beats and synths replacing the shoegaze synths and pedals prowling around in the shadows looking for something to take on in a way their forthcoming tourmates Depeche Mode would recognise from circa 1983. Perhaps surprisingly, Paul Epworth is the man at the controls.

The Surfing Magazines are Dave and Franic of the Wave Pictures, Charles Slow Club and... a drummer, and they have an album out on 1st September. Even though Charles takes lead on Lines And Shadows the Wave Pictures influence is pervasive, at least in their laidback soulful variant and definitely sounding like that hallmark of sounding like they're casually tossing a melodic marvel off just because they can. Yes, of course there's an abrasive Tattersall solo. It's not difficult to imagine many of the records lying around in their studio are also in the collection of Ralegh Long, whose Sleeping On My Dreams commands power-pop and 1970s US radio rock for a homebrew English version of classic rock, if classic rock tended to last only 2:19. That kind of track length seems to have become this week's accidental theme.

Monday, June 12, 2017

40 From 40: 1977

You know God Save The Queen didn't really outsell Rod Stewart in Jubilee week before the BBC or whoever is supposed to have been responsible fixed the chart, right? Nobody's ever provided more than hearsay proof usually second hand from Malcolm McLaren or Richard Branson at their most quote-searching, the record was banned from chart return stores all over the place (remember "total sales" and "total sales registered for the official chart" were not the same thing, BRMB basing their returns on diaries compiled by up to 750 nationwide stores), the NME chart placing often brought up as proof is all over the place due to print deadlines and the difference in the type of shops diarised leading to natural differences between that and the main list (and it peaked at 5 in Melody Maker's chart, and somehow Never Mind The Bollocks topped BRMB but not NME), it's been officially registered as selling less than 300,000 for the year, and The First Cut Is The Deepest was shown as ahead when the BPI opened up their audited sales reports some time ago. 12,000 was the difference that week, apparently, at a time of a general sales level meaning that if Stewart really had been outsold two to one that week as often claimed his double A side wouldn't even have been number two. Also John Lydon says he was never bothered about whether it was fixed or not, so you can drop about it if he can. Anyway, a lot more than you're ever going to want to see has already been written about how 1977 was a watershed year for that whole punk thing, so here there's loads of angry/angular men with guitars (and the odd female singer) plus a wodge of early and thus fascinatingly exploratory electro, a handful of funk, disco and reggae, some more streamlined pop and AOR inventiveness, and also Mr Blue Sky, because it may now be illegal not to register it when you have the chance. This is the twentieth 40 From 40, so be reassured that at least there's only this long again to go.

X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage! Up Yours!
Penetration - Don't Dictate
Ramones - California Sun
The Saints - This Perfect Day
Sex Pistols - Holidays In The Sun
The Clash - Career Opportunities
The Damned - Neat Neat Neat
Buzzcocks - Boredom
Wire - Ex-Lion Tamer
Ultravox! - Young Savage
Dead Boys - Sonic Reducer
The Stranglers - (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
Suicide - Ghost Rider
Brian Eno - King's Lead Hat
Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express
Giorgio Moroder - From Here To Eternity
Donna Summer - I Feel Love
Space - Magic Fly
The Rah Band - The Crunch
Electric Light Orchestra - Mr Blue Sky
Dennis Wilson - River Song
Fleetwood Mac - The Chain
ABBA - Knowing Me, Knowing You
Mink DeVille - Spanish Stroll
Commodores - Brick House
Evelyn "Champagne" King - Shame
Parliament - Flash Light
Talking Heads - Psycho Killer
Iggy Pop - Nightclubbing
Elvis Costello - Watching The Detectives
The Congos - Open Up The Gate
Willie Williams - Armagideon Time
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Waiting In Vain
Culture - Two Sevens Clash
Althea And Donna - Uptown Top Ranking
Wreckless Eric - Whole Wide World
Television - Prove It
Ram Jam - Black Betty
Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill
David Bowie - Heroes

Previously among the 40: 1970, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009

Thursday, June 08, 2017

STN recommends: 8/6/17

Quicker one today. The Camp extends PJ Harvey's new line in songwriter journalism, a collaboration with Ramy Essam based on the displaced refugee children of Lebanon's Bekaa Valley - all proceeds go to Lebanese non-governmental organisation Beyond Association - a deceptively straightforward strum given weight by the words and the conviction of Essam, an Egyptian dubbed the voice of the country's 2011 revolution. Nadine Shah's own politicised turn, unveiled in full on Holiday Destination come August 25th, continues on the brooding Yes Men, adopting her emotive keening to desperation at the ruling classes with low-key approaching menace.

Katie Crutchfield's second album as Waxahatchee, Out In The Storm, is approaching on July 14th, and opener Never Been Wrong bodes well in terms of upping the ante on the focused anger of someone wanting their say too much to unravel and associated laser pointed single-guitar attack, breaking free of a pop son structure in the process. You almost don't need to be told B-Boys are from New York, such is the recognisable cool quotient spikiness of their debut single Discipline, from debut album Dada out on the 16th, twisting art-rock shapes originating somewhere between Fugazi and Parquet Courts around each other uncomfortably. Finally, "a bit like Radiohead" is both an overdone description and usually an invitation to head for the hills, but it's a decent back of the hand description for Looks by Brazen Head, a hesitant, twisted piece of slow building tension in the way of OK Computer without the electronics or guitar heroics but with a piano part designed to pull the melody in a different direction from everything else. Suspiciously little made public about a band who sound so accomplished from the off, but this is more than a fascinating start.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

40 From 40: 1990

1990, time for the Guru. (That's not here.) It was the year of rave in many ways, the evolvement of travelling sound systems and free open air festivals exploting loopholes in the law and bringing the emergent house and trance scenes out of the smiley face acid house umbrella just as the traditional outlets such as the Hacienda grind to a halt under the weight of drugs and non-weight of cash. They came to be called raves, directing endless cars around the M25 into warehouses and fields, and over the next couple of years they'd change things. Kiss became the UK's first legal dance radio station, Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty invented ambient house, and all manner of indie hangers-on discovered there'd always been a dance influence on their sound, their "moment" being Spike Island. Eurodance through Snap! and Technotronic - Beats International and The Adventures Of Stevie V holding up Blighty's end there - bolstered a fading singles sales market that was usually all over the place. Stock Aitken Waterman were on the way out as they had their final number one and several of their big hitters from the previous couple of years disappeared, so in their stead Turtle Power and Timmy Mallett's Bombalurina made it a very long summer silly season amid a welter of reissues and MOR in which the year's best selling single was Unchained Melody, off an advert. At least Madonna was doing interesting things, continuing down the path of least sexual resistance with Vogue, the Blonde Ambition tour and The Immaculate Collection leading into Justify My Love. Milli Vanilli admitted to miming and lost their Grammys, MTV Unplugged began (with Squeeze!), Wembley held a Nelson Mandela tribute concert, Curtis Mayfield was paralysed after an onstage accident and 2 Live Crew were cleared of obscenity charges in a big freedom of rap speech case. Not a great year at the time, but in retrospect a key one for what was about to happen. The two Spotify refuseniks this time around are a KLF track from Chill Out, you'll know why that is, and the remarkable sole solo single by former Stump bassist Kev Hopper, which I and everyone else who saw it remembers from its one ITV Chart Show outing. That was quite the EXCLUSIVE experience that week.

Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine - Sheriff Fatman
They Might Be Giants - Birdhouse In Your Soul
The Chills - Heavenly Pop Hit
The Sundays - Skin And Bones
The Blue Aeroplanes - Jacket Hangs
Cocteau Twins - Iceblink Luck
Adamski - Killer
The Orb - Little Fluffy Clouds
A Tribe Called Quest - Can I Kick It? (single version)
Dream Warriors - My Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz Style
Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence
Pet Shop Boys - Being Boring
Public Enemy - Brothers Gonna Work It Out
LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out
N.W.A. - 100 Miles and Runnin'
The Fall - Telephone Thing
Gang Starr - Just To Get A Rep
Happy Mondays - Loose Fit
Mazzy Star - Blue Flower
Lush - De-Luxe
Pixies - Is She Weird
Galaxie 500 - Fourth Of July
Teenage Fanclub - Everything Flows
Nirvana - Sliver
Pavement - Debris Slide
Ride - Chelsea Girl
Sonic Youth - Kool Thing
Dinosaur Jr. - The Wagon
Fugazi - Repeater
Inspiral Carpets - She Comes In The Fall
Kev Hopper - The Sound Of Gyroscopes
My Bloody Valentine - Soon
Deee-Lite - Groove Is In The Heart
The La's - Doledrum
His Name Is Alive - How Ghosts Affect Relationships
The KLF – Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard
Lou Reed & John Cale - Style It Takes
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Ship Song
Julee Cruise - Falling

Previously among the 40: 1970, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009

Friday, June 02, 2017

STN recommends: 2/6/17

It's only been a week and again EVERYONE has decided to release new material for us to pick carefully through and highlight the peaks rather than foothills of.

May as well start with Arcade Fire, whose Everything Now - title track of album out July 28th, as you know - extends the synth and disco elements they grazed towards on Reflektor into a sweeping, Abba and Bowie-nodding chant of a chorus and replacement of the traditional run to the crescendo sun with a steady insistent progression to a big coda that turns out not to be the coda. And a synthesised pan pipe break, but y'know.

We next find Sweet Baboo on unusually funky mood on Pink Rainbow, from the album Wild Imagination out today. "Arthur Russell meets Robert Wyatt" says the press release, and with Stephen's delivery and the warm synth against clipped funk guitar for once it's not all that wrong, though the none more glittery rainbow-wigged model in silhouette in the window of a Rewind club solo takes some getting used to. Apparently the lyrical inspirations were Rainbow Connection and the Lovely Eggs' son explaining the Flying Scotsman to him. Another album out today is Peach, by Emma Winston's 8-bit DIY pop under the guise of Deerful. Conceptual Art traces its own path again, wistful Game Boy half-speed minimalist wistfulness. "Not everything's confessional" Winston claims towards the end having just made that sound like a lie.

Featuring members of Johnny Foreigner (which isn't mentioned in the press release so it literally is just us now), God Damn and Viv Albertine's band, Mutes might just lap all o... at least one of them with debut album No Desire, the title track of which is a magnificently sprawling juggernaut touching on noise-pop, Krautrock insistency, bludgeon riffola and cresting avant-indie, the kind of compact while stretched out thing that ultimately demands your attention. That album is out now too.

Doing things by halves has never been part of Kiran Leonard's agenda, which is why Derevaun Seraun, out 15th September, is a "piece in five movements for voice, piano and string trio" with each part inspired by a work of literature, led by seven and a half minute Living With Your Ailments inspired by Albert Camus' The Myth Of Sisyphus. (Given Leonard's previous hugely ambitious arrangements and autodidactic work we'd like to think he played all the string parts too, but that seems unlikely) It's dramatic, literate and as singular as you'd expect from him.

Karen Sheridan's Slow Skies project seems to be a lot more upbeat than it once was these days, not entirely giving itself to abandonment given the melancholia at the heart of Sheridan's voice, but Dancing is about forgetting everything in the joyous moment driven by handclaps and developing with the aid of subtly triumphant horns into warm exuberance of a kind. Brooklyn's Big Thief are a guitar band by definition, signed to Saddle Creek for Capacity out June 9th, but Mary is a stark piano ballad engineered for what seems to be maximum emotional sparsity, Adrianne Lenker's vocal closeness matched by the run of personally charged memories and imagery, pain and empathy.

We've been waiting for the spectral Nordic pop of Anna Of The North to make it to album stage for a while, and that finally lands on 8th September. Title track Lovers shows a lot of those route-one post-XX/London Grammar electropop types that show up on the weekly Spotify playlists where they're going wrong, utilising drum pads and glacial synths much as they all do but coming at it from a direction that's both more assured and icier, maybe emotionally emptied out.

And finally, forwarding the Australian indie resurgence, Melbourne's School Damage are exemplars of the kind of falling apart DIY bubblegum punk-pop that traces its lineage through those 1978 7"s via Swell Maps through the more ragged end of the Scottish and Australian celebrated early 80s scenes, running on charm and effort. Plus the song is called The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down, so full marks there too.