Our latest road trip included a visit to The Village where I wanted to run around shouting and being a bit grumpy (not much of a change from my usual mode really) but managed to remain calm and take hundreds of photos instead. Here are a few of the best ones, followed by a soundtrack of some of the accompanying trip music…
The Village (aka Portmeirion) as seen from up in the woods where we managed to escape to / hopped off the little train tour. So much lovely architecture!
Welcome to your village. The sun was out for the beginning of our exploration but the wind was rather fierce at times. I took dozens of photos of arches.
The village green, with its beautiful gardens. So much nicer than that messy area behind our house.
The green as seen from up near the dome.
Shops and cafes, formerly used as exteriors for various homes in The Prisoner.
Jamie and one of the many arches. This one is up near the shops.
On the beach, where Rover was nowhere to be seen. Bloody windy though!
Back up to the main village after beachy fun times.
Be seeing you.
Soundtrack time! Here are some of the new tunes making me do the approving nod:
David Bowie: The Next Day. The album is still on rotation in my ears and this new video has just been released. Suitably weird, pretentious and exciting:
Ronika: Rough n Soothe. The latest single, another smash:
Florrie: Live A Little. Florrie has never put a foot wrong, hopefully there will be a full album sometime soon:
Fitz and the Tantrums: More than Just A Dream. The title track from their second album which introduces some new styles but the band still rock:
The Cliks: Savanna. Another returning top band, album duly purchased once again:
Slow Knights: Shame and Sweet Harmony. The Del Marquis / Bright Light Bright Light and pals supergroup have made my favourite album of the year so far:
Little Boots: Motorway. The second album Nocturnes is here! Loving this:
It could be said that I’m a bit obsessed with the work of Claudia Brucken…
That was some of my Brucken stash, dating all the way back to my years as a strange child. I finally saw her perform live last night after being a fan for almost 30 years (am I really that old?) and it was an excellent celebration of a fine catalogue of work. This tour is to promote the latest album the Lost Are Found which is a ‘dreaded covers project that’ is thankfully not a sign of running out of ideas, and songs from that were interspersed with a greatest hits selection taken from her previous release Combined. In other words, a perfect set list! Covers of mention included David Bowie’s Everyone Says Hi and Stina Nordenstam’s Memories of a Colour, mostly because they are songs that I bought by the original artists and are covered well. We had never been to the Borderline before and made the mistake of arriving too early so had a lot of standing around but we got a great view near the front and the achey legs / feet were only a temporary problem. The venue seemed to be 95% middle aged gay men which amused and fascinated me as I hadn’t realised the gay factor was quite so high with her fans but then I am a middle aged gay man so it makes sense. There’s probably an interesting study of music tastes and sexuality of fans somewhere but my media studies days are long behind me now despite finding this kind of thing worth pondering. Anyway…
Claudia was of course fantastic throughout and seemed to be having a thoroughly great time, and her band were impressive. Special mention for David Watson who excelled as co-lead vocalist on the Act songs Snobbery & Decay and Absolutely Immune, giving an energetic and entertaining performance. He shifted back into his other job of backing vocalist and occasional guitarist with a more subdued personality, getting it exactly right. The other Mr Watson (James Watson) provided several excellent guitar solos, including the one during the old Propaganda song Dream Within A Dream which handily gave most of the band time to nip backstage for a comfort break. As expected, we had the joy of seeing three Propaganda singles performed and Duel was the slightly obvious but always appreciated encore moment where the crowd went wild (and we clapped a little bit more than usual).
As well as the Act and Propaganda singles we also enjoyed the nineties solo single Kiss Like Ether, some onetwo singles and the newish songs from Combined: Thank You and Night School. A faultless performance!
We went out on Saturday night like what the young people do, or so I am told. Off to that North London for a gig in a pub in Camden Town via a series of trains and buses and footsteps, which at times was a bit stressful (obligatory bus nutter screaming at the bus driver because the replacement tube line bus was “not clearly labelled” despite being clearly labelled) but definitely worth it. What was it? It was Specks in the Sky, which is a night described on its Facebook page as this:
Not-for-profit music events promoter in London. We only book acts we love. We look after our artists and we look after our audiences.
That’s pretty simple and the evening was all about good music. I’ll plug the elements of that night as they deserve it…
DJ Sina played some tunes that were probably related to his All-Girl Pop Rock Indie Disco club night Debbie that I’ve never been to because I don’t like clubs. It sounds interesting though and he’s on Tumblr where you can see his great diary comics and pictures. Bonus points for playing Tori Amos’s cover of Ring My Bell which I had completely forgotten all about and now have to rummage through old CD-Rs to find.
Samantha Ashleigh Hayhurst can play the keyboard and sing and say “thank you” in at least three languages. Her music is on Soundcloud here and an example of it should appear below this sentence.
Ghost Carriage Phantoms are not as scary as their name suggests although I was concerned about how close I was to their glockenspiel. They did an acoustic set and kept swapping instruments between songs which kept it interesting, including the glockenspiel, two guitars, a small drum, a foot, some hanging jangly vibes-y things, a powerful male voice (whoah! ) and one of those hand-held mini keyboards that you blow into which I can never remember the name of. An odd fascinating musical experience that has led to me listening to their album that I bought just before I started typing this.
The final band of the night were The Melting Ice Caps who seem to be available in a series of limited editions. Past live versions have included Full Band, CD Walkman and Vocals (plus umbrella) and Acoustic Band. This time is was Three Piece With Occasional Flipchart. I’m a big fan and you may have noticed other blogs on this subject using words and phrases like “super singer songwriter” , “occasional indie disco” and “quite good” but the music speaks for itself so here’s some ‘speaking’:
Another year draws to a close and my annual plan to spend less money on music due to my ever-increasing old git status has failed as usual. I found that this year had a much higher proportion of reissues than before, due to the boom in deluxe pretty thing reissues in lovely packaging full of hard to find old songs. Nice. I also got into my charity shop record hunts in a big way and the wad of vinyl LPs is expanding across the room. Anyway, this blog post is concerned with the new stuff, specifically the tracks of the year. Albums to follow, along with some other odds and sods.
“We could have made it but we didn’t have the stamina, we both lost out in the end. “ Autoheart: Control. This track has been around for a while but its official release this year meant it sneaked back into my end of year review. Autoheart’s forthcoming album is my most eagerly awaited music of 2013 due to the quality of their songs which have appeared in the usual places on the internet. Melodic heartfelt pop is their strength and that’s something that I adore!
“Once a passion filled your eyes, left me speechless , satisfied. Now tonight all we have is this darkening sky.” Jimmy Somerville: Taken Away. Listening to this song led me to buy the EP it comes from, then his two other recent EPs and then his entire back catalogue. Jimmy Somerville is in an imperial phase right now but is not really in the limelight as much as he should be.
“It’s getting louder and louder and louder and louder and louder.” The Irrespressibles: Two Men In Love. This choice could have been their electropop + orchestra song Ship, narrowly beaten by the beautiful epic slow-build of a song that will not surprise you when I say it is about two men in love. The album is pretty amazing.
“From the outside, from the outside. Everyone must be wondering why we try.” Jessie Ware: Wildest Moments. One of those artists who was tipped for the top that actually did some tipping (in my ears)! This has soul, which is sorely lacking in a lot of modern pop music. Smooooooth but not too glossy, just right.
“Patiently, I’m waiting. For you to give up everything. And say just what you mean.” Twin Shadow: Patient. I discovered this song in our car via Jamie’s iPod, loved it, bought the album, played it a lot. I like it when that happens! Twin Shadow is one to watch, great song writing and performing, and the videos are also excellent. This one has dance routines!
“Tell me the truth boy, am I losing you for good.” Solange: Losing You. She’s back! She’s still amazing! Phew. This song is both old-fashioned and new/exciting. Funky heartbreak, oh yes.
“I’ll be your warrior.” Mark Foster, Kimbra and A-Trak: Warrior. An unexpected crossover episode! This single with Mark Foster from Foster The People gave Kimbra’s album a further push, which was nice. I may be too old to know who A-Trak is but this is a super energetic pop number with the kind of offbeat video you’d expect from Mr Foster.
“You’re the reason there’s still hope in my heart.” Bright Light Bright Light: Feel It. Inspired by Laura Palmer’s diary and cheesy 90s dance pop, and featuring a great big diva voice : how could I not love this? Great single from an excellent album. Well done that man Rod Thomas.
“Keep Both Hands Behind The Cutting Edge, nobody wants to see your fingertips, detached from your piano fingers… At least not yet.” The Melting Ice Caps: Keep Both Hands Behind The Cutting Edge. This song is superficially a series of health and safety warning signs but actually something cleverer, as I would expect from the mind of David Shah (Mr Ice Caps). Another recommended album there.
“And when the music stops …” Little Boots: Headphones (Ronika remix). Yes, a remix! This version is better than the original, a peculiar old school dance sound about a disco with weird pitch changes to Ms Boots’ voice to make it just marvellously different and a bit non-specific gender. Hard to explain. Now where’s the album?
“She’s working at the pyramid tonight.” Frank Ocean: Pyramids. This one is also rather odd, in a great way. It’s not quite hip hop and not quite R&B either. When I got this album it was a priority playlist on the iPod for ages and deserving of all the hype it got.
“To you it’s just the same old story. Another fairy tale made of faded glory.” David Morales and Roisin Murphy: Golden Era. This Murphy / Morales collaboration was a lovely surprise and it was everything I hoped for in such a project. A deep housey disco number with regret in the lyrics, should have been a big hit.
“Get lost, you’re dancing to the beat of a different drum .” Gossip: Get Lost. The album may have annoyed some of their older fans (in loyalty, not in years) but this Xenomania collaboration was the first Gossip album I loved enough to buy. I’m weird but the vibes were right and this track is the highlight of a great pop long-player.
“… the dead don’t go away, They made us what we are, they’re with us every day.” Pet Shop Boys: Leaving. I loved this track immediately and recently the lyrics make me a bit too sad, which is not really a bad thing for a song to do when I think about it. A mixed album but I would compare it to a good b-sides compilation and we do love our b-sides.
“That’s why, the carols make you cry. Joy.” Tracey Thorn: Joy. Another weepy happy song, one of the original compositions on Tracey Thorn’s excellent (more than just a) Christmas album.
“No one should settle for a maybe, I’ll get an answer for you soon.” Saint Etienne: Answer Song. So many lovely songs on their Words and Music album but I had to choose one. I’ll go for the sad romantic one every time!
“I’m ready to learn what it tastes to burn, I’m gonna let you show me what it means to breathe fire.” Niki & the Dove: Tomorrow. I found this Swedish duo via a blog and was captivated by their atmospheric brand of slightly freaky big electropop.
“Honey get your hands off those boys. Honey put your arms around me.” Bearcraft: Honey. Another one of Jamie’s favourite artists and this single was definitely their best work yet. Bearcraft have been quiet recently as Dicky Moore (Mr Craft) has been busy playing guitar for Scritti Politti but they’ll be back with an album of this melodic synthpop soon.
“Sad, so sad.” Elton John vs Pnau: Sad. Not actually all that sad, mostly very pleasant and melodic. I think “melodic” is becoming one of my words. As well as this Pnau collaboration via a remix project I also finally bought Elton’s discoey Thom Bell Sessions on CD but didn’t get the urge for any other albums.
“I’m always trying to tell you, I’ve got problems, That I can’t work out.” Gaz Coombes: White Noise. The return of The Artist Formerly Known As Gaz From Supergrass was a big success for me and this track in particular showed him in fine form.
Next time: Albums of the Year, maybe some Gigs and Covers. The version type, not the images on the front of records although I do like those too.
Scritti Politti played in Windsor last night so we spent an hour and a half on a series of motorways (and only 25 minutes to get home) and visited The Firestation. It would not be a shock to reveal that the venue used to be a fire station, would it? It’s rather nice and I found myself sipping a refreshing lager beer on a Friday evening like it was the nineteen nineties again, waiting for all the fun to begin. After a late start we found our way up to the seated area with other young old gits and sat watching the young folk down on the ground standing still except for the Top of the Pops Corner which consisted of a lady and a flamboyant man who pulled some shapes during the more up-tempo numbers.
What was it like? Well…
The band need explaining as it’s a complicated list of people I’m vaguely familiar with:
Firstly we have the man who is Scritti: The Marvellous Green Gartside who did a little introductory speech for most of the songs in the Scritti Politti Songbook before switching his voice into that special warm soulful sound that doesn’t seem quite real but definitely is. Green had a cough but this didn’t appear to affect him at all and I was hypnotised by his performance of so many songs that I’ve loved for so long.
Rhodri Marsden was on keyboards and programming with a guitar for one song (Umm) and I recognised him from Dream Themes who we’ve seen live before. If you ever need a band who perform charming versions of old TV themes then they’re your men. If you’re interested in the programming of these live versions of the songs I can recommend the interview here which includes this: “what often happens is that I create a MIDI file with all the parts as I THINK they are. Green then works through it and corrects any mistakes I’ve made, and then creates / chooses all the sounds for the parts on his Mac. So by the end of that process we have a recreated Scritti song in Logic Pro which we then use to work from.” Now you know.
Dicky Moore played guitar and we know him better as Bearcraft whose Honey single from last year was on my Annual Big List Of Good Stuff. you’ll like it, honest. Here it is:
Hot Chip’s Rob Smoughton aka Grovesnor played drums and some electronic elements from what I could work out. Great band and even though the sound system was “a couple of hi-fi speakers” according to Green the performance was top notch and a great teaser for a big full tour next month. They’re doing gigs with Saint Etienne who we’ve already seen this year, what are the chances of that happening?
Seeing the cream of the song book performed live, which is something I never thought I would see/hear. Absolute, The Word Girl, Wood Beez, The Sweetest Girl , Umm, Die ALone, Brushed With Oil and many more.
Green deciding to be a middle aged white man doing rapping on several songs from the Anomie & Bonhomie album. He was pretty good.
The bit on Die Alone where Green did the Meshell N’DegeOcello bits in a deep voice then quickly carrying on with his regular lines in his usual singing voice.
Their performance of A Day Late and a Dollar Short: one of my favourite new tracks and done in a very energetic way.
One new song which I don’t know the name of. No news on a new full album but can be patient.
Here’s a musical taster for the different ages of Scritti Politti:
If it’s not already sold out here’s a link for next month’s Saint Etienne / Scritti Politti tour: click!
It was Jamie’s birthday last week and what says “birthday” more than looking at plasticised animals, dinosaur facts and equestrian skeletons? Yes, we went to the Natural History Museum to see the plastic dinosaurs and my goth archaeologist sister who happens to work there. Here are some photos with a bit of new music because that’s what I’m like…
The plasticised camels were in the main foyer where photography was allowed so I didn't have to try and be sneaky.
I took a photo of a horse’s head. I am not the mob but I did get told off.
A different horse, also a lovely horse.
The new Jens Lekman has the perfect blend of heartbreak and beauty, if you like that sort of thing.
Charli XCX is our new Pop Diva of the Month. This single is chunky hooky electropop!
ToriBot5000 is back with a new album of old songs plus an orchestra! I shall buy this one.
MONSTA (who love the Caps Lock button) have made a video for their most excellent song from last year.
We visited the Epping To Ongar Railway on Saturday as a prelude to a family meal in Essex. I won’t go on about the vinyl records of Epping’s charity shop (funk!) but I will recommend the railway for anyone who even slightly has an interest in Ye olden Dayes as I’m not a train person and I enjoyed it. Great stations full of interior design to keep me taking photographs and the train experience was fun. Here are some visuals along with new music that has been in my ears recently:
We went on a mission to London yesterday for a bit of culture. Here are some photos:
A trip to ‘Baker Street’ which is actually just around the corner from Euston Square tube.
Speedy’s Cafe is appropriately named. The mushroom omelette and chips was quick and delicious… and about 40% of the sit-down customers were Sherlock geeks.
Speedy’s interior. Lots of Sherlock photos and even some drawings on those walls.
This is part of an interior wall in the Petrie Museum which is in the UCL campus. If you like Egyptian things from a very long time ago or enjoyed that documentary about Flinders Petrie that was on BBC Four a while back.
The Cats & That (plus a bit of Anubis) range at the Petrie was my favourite.
Eye of Horus please.
Then it was off to my museum choice which was actually Forbidden Planet. The plastic Barrowmans were extraordinarily lifelike.
After Westfield (it was air conditioned nicely but full of money-wasting orange types) we went to TV Centre for the first time in ages where I bought a nice TVC mug, we had some Unofficial BBC Victoria Sponge Cake (as seen at the Radio Theatre Cafe recently) and then went into the studio…
No photography, how naughty! Well we used no flash, unlike several others. Do you want some Magic of TV facts about Pointless?
We saw episode 372 being made.
Unlike sitcoms and sketch shows which usually take up to three hours to record, Pointless only took 75 minutes for a 45 minute episode. It is a well-oiled machine.
Richard Osman has legs and is almost an actual giant.
The audience is actually tiny compared to every other recording we have been to. The standard rows of fixed seats were barely used (not even one whole row) and instead there were several rows of individual plastic chairs that made it feel a bit like a school assembly.
The shiny oval area at the front of the set is comprised of several sections of laminate, with a row of little lights attached as a blinky trim.
There’s a little pause before the Pointless tower starts to count down while a boffin does something important. Everybody does musical statues poses when that occurs.
When the tower counts down the audience have to do the “oooh” humming noise. I did a lot of oooh humming.
There are several levels of clap: disappointed light clap for a correct but not that impressive score, a big clap with an “ahhh” when it’s good but not quite pointless, and a super clap with full scale whooping if they get a pointless answer.
The edging on the screen of the ‘podiums’ that the contestants stand behind is held on with velcro which makes it easy when the head to head requires the screens to have different colours.
No spoilers but one of the final round’s rejected subjects was ‘Katie Price.’ This rejection was not totally unexpected.
Maybe they’ll open with an album track / Or a top five hit no turning back
Like A Motorway only reached number 47 in the UK singles chart but it was a great choice to open the show with. The rescheduled Saint Etienne at the London Palladium last night was as magnificent as I’d hoped for. Sarah Cracknell in a shiny silver dress with black boots and a feather boa, Bob and Pete doing twiddly things with knobs and Debsey being excellent on the right hand side of the stage with her dancing, backing vocals, ooohs and occasional hitting a wooden thing with a stick. So many moments of joy from the band who I’ve followed since their debut single (I had the regular version of Only Love Can Break Your Heart but my friend Simon had the Weatherall remix 12″) through multiple editions of albums. My tapes are in a drawer somewhere but my b-sides tape with hand-picked film and TV extracts between the songs is long gone. If I had to choose one moment it would be Sarah singing Only Love Can Break Your Heart as I had never seen her do that before and it also featured Debsey playing the strange mouth organ with keys instrument that made the wah waaaah waaaah noise, but the quality of the whole show was astonishing, even down to the little films accompanying the music on the screens with their kaleidoscope moments of vintage footage, Cliff Richard and cassettes montage sequence and even a compilation of Top of the Pops chart run-downs with a certain not-quite-real version that I’ve been a fan of for a while…
Tonight when the lights are going down / I will surrender to the sound
From memory, they did the following classic songs:
Like A Motorway
Who Do You Think You Are
A Good Thing
Nothing Can Stop Us
You’re In A Bad Way
Burnt Out Car
Songs from the new album:
When I Was Seventeen
The inevitable big pop tunes encore, with big balloons:
I’ve Got Your Music
He’s On The Phone
My friend Rod was down the front and took that great photo. He’son Twitter and well worth a follow.