Archive for July, 2007


July 13th, 2007 No comments

Introducing the softer side of the Killers. “Smile Like You Mean It” is a great song. I love the Killers’ original; I love Tally Hall’s superior cover; and I love the acoustic version (but I’m a sucker for acoustic versions).
The Killers – Smile Like You Mean It (acoustic).mp3

Sounding a lot like the Killers is Cape Town band The Dirty Skirts, who made an impression at this year’s SXSW showcase. Their full debut came out in March, but this is their SA #1 hit from last year. Dudes will make it big.
Dirty Skirts – Set Me Alight.mp3

My England-based informant has told me that the very great Joshua Radin is supporting the ghastly Tori Amos on her tour there. FFS! It should be the other way around. Radin’s Nick Drake-channelling full debut We Were Here was my album of 2006. This track, from the First Between 3rd & 4th EP, remains my favourite Radin song.
Joshua Radin – Do You Wanna.mp3

One of the best songs of the last year was the Beauty Shop’s “A Desperate Cry For Help” (I love that line: “and all the friends I used to know have gone and formed a hate club…” video here). Use the Hype Machine to find it, but first check out the great opener from Crisis Helpline.
Beauty Shop – Paper Hearts For Josie.mp3

Props to the Bolachas Grátis blog for alerting us to the Antlers’ In The Attic Of The Universe, a quite excellent Indie album (according to Bolachas Grátis even an Album of the Year contender). OK, I confess, first time I listened to it I thought it was indifferent (that usually happens when I first listen to Indie albums; I thought the Arcade Fire were crap first up). After the second listen I was intrigued; after the third I was hooked. And the band wants people to download their album for free, for which we should love them!
The Antlers – Stairs To The Attic.mp3


July 12th, 2007 No comments

Revisiting a few older tracks…

Two songs with a similar theme: retirement. Where Ben Folds’ Fred Jones is mostly sad and just a little frustrated (“and all of these bastards, who’ve taken his place, he’s forgotten and not yet gone”), the protagonist in Belle & Sebastian’s magnificent song is pissed at management and lets them have it in his farewell speech (“The others were shocked at this shameful disgrace at the end of an honoured career. He paused in the silence to pull down his tie
and observe the melee”). Both are lovely songs; how the B&S one was just a b-side and not a huge hit is incomprehensible.
Belle & Sebastian – Take Your Carriage Clock And Shove It.mp3
Ben Folds – Fred Jones Pt 2.mp3 (Live in NYC; DVD Rip)

Playing on the same bill as Ben Folds at that NYC concert were Guster (and Rufus Wainwright). I’ve been revisiting Guster”s outstanding 2003 album Keep It Together, which I expect to be regarded as some sort of classic before too long. From that CD:
Guster – I Hope Tomorrow Is Like Today.mp3

The proto Indie group arguably was Big Star, whose heyday was the early “70s. Listen to their stuff from that era, and you might well believe it was recorded by some Indie outfit fairly recently. Especially “Ballad For El Good”, possibly one of the loveliest songs ever written.
Big Star – The Ballad Of El Goodo.mp3

One of the unlikely hits of 1986 was It’s Immaterial’s “Driving Away From Home” (a song I always associate with Stan Ridgway’s “Camouflage”. I suspect I bought both records at the same time). It was also one of the best hits of 1986. Hmmmm, I think I should have a 1986 retrospective some time…
It’s Immaterial – Driving Away From Home.mp3

Higher and higher

July 9th, 2007 1 comment

Here is a music cliché that pisses me off: that a singer who is able to hit high notes must have a problem with testicular position, constriction or development. Or maybe I’m just being sensitive because I can do a mean falsetto and the contents of my scrotum are in perfect working order (too much information, right?). In honour of all men who can hit the high notes, here are some of the best:

Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire has a good claim to be the king of falsettoists. Check out the live version of the magnificent “Reasons” when he goes into duel with the alto sax. But Bailey demonstrates the skill it takes to sing falsetto not when hitting the glass-shattering high notes, but when he goes down deep (listen to his “ba-a-a-aby” just before the sax comes in).
Earth, Wind & Fire – Reasons.mp3

They say “Keep On Trucking” was the first disco hit when it reached the US #1 in 1973. By then, Eddie Kendricks had already established his legendary status as a member of the Temptations. The falsetto you hear on “Get Ready” is Kendricks’. I’d say in the battle of ’60s falsettos, Eddie wipes the floor with the chipmunkish novelty yelpings of Frankie Valli.
Eddie Kendricks – Keep On Trucking.mp3

Closer to the Valli sound was Eddie Holman, who had a hit with the cute “Hey There Lonely Girl” in 1970. This signalled the emergence a whole string of falsetto-dominated soul acts throughout the ’70s. Most, like the excellent Chi-Lites, the Delfonics, the Manhattans or the more poppy Stylistics, alternated the high pitches with deeper voices. Some, like Blue Magic led with the falsetto “” and it was beautiful. These acts enjoyed a fair run of success. Poor Jimmy Helms remained a one-hit wonder. His exquisite falsetto on “Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse” suggests that this was a musical tragedy.
Eddie Holman – Hey There Lonely Girl.mp3
The Chi-Lites – Stoned Out Of My Mind.mp3
Blue Magic – Sideshow.mp3
Jimmy Helms – Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse

By the ’80s, the falsetto had become unfashionable, perhaps because of its association with disco acts (if so, then unfairly so). There were a few exceptions, but even then, only a handful found commercial success. One singer cruelly denied such recognition was Paul Johnson, the bespectacled British soulster whose joyful 1987 single “When Love Comes Calling” was one of the finest recordings in its genre in the decade (oh yes), and arguably the finest falsetto performance of the past 25 years. I can think of only one rival to that claim: Prince (or “symbol”, as he called himself then) singing “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World”.
Paul Johnson – When Love Comes Calling.mp3
Prince – The Most Beautiful Girl In The World.mp3

Lastly, an artist whose gentle countertenor would sometimes slip into a most restrained falsetto and back again: Curtis Mayfield. This song is not a falsetto, and I’m posting it gratuitously because it is a most beautiful song most beautifully performed. Released just a few weeks before the accident that robbed Curtis of his mobility in August 1990, this belongs in the canon of Mayfield’s absolutely greatest hits. But nobody seems to have picked up on that. You judge:
Curtis Mayfield – Do Be Down.mp3

Ben Folds live mix

July 1st, 2007 3 comments

Here in three packages is my mix of Ben Folds live tracks from:

Songs For Goldfish EP, 2005
Soundboard recording from gig in Berlin, 4 June 2005
DVD Rip of Summerstage gig in New York City, 14 July, 2004
DVD Rip of concerts with the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra in Perth, March 2005)

All tracks have been normalised, and packed in three files for safer downloading (nothing as annoying as a 70MB download cutting out at 95%)

File 1
File 2
File 3

1. There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You
“Make me feel tiny if it makes you feel tall, but there’s always someone cooler than you.”
2. Rockin’ the Suburbs
“Mom and dad make me so uptight, I’m gonna cuss on the mic tonight”
3. One Down
“And I hate hearing belly-aching rockstars Whine and sob, cause I could be bussing tables, I could well be pumpin’ gas. But I get paid much finer for playin’ piano and kissin’ ass.”
4. Zak And Sara
“Sara spelled without an ‘h’ was getting bored on a Peavey amp in 1984 While Zak without a ‘c’ tried out some new guitars, playing Sara-with-no-h’s favourite song.”
5. Fred Jones Part 2
“Yeah, and all of these bastards have taken his place, he’s forgotten, but not yet gone.”
6. Brick
“Driving back to her apartment, for the moment we’re alone. And she’s alone and I’m alone and now I know it…”
7. Rock This Bitch (New York version)
“R.O.C.K. with your C.O.C.K. out in N.Y.C.”
8. Army
“In this time of introspection, on the eve of my election, I say to my reflection: God, please spare me more rejection.”
9. All U Can Eat
“See that asshole with the peace sign on his license plate? Giving me the finger and running me out of his lane. God made us number one because he loves us the best, well he should go bless someone else for a while, give us a rest.”
10. You To Thank
“Christmas came around and everything was going to crap. For moms and dads not a clue to be had; we put on a pretty good act and they seemed to all need to believe it. So we danced and smiled and paddled hard beneath it.”
11. Landed
“Down came the reign of the telephone tsar, it’s OK to call.”
12. Bitches Ain’t Shit
“I used to know a bitch named Eric Wright, we used to roll around and fuck the hoes at night. Tight than a mutharfucka with the gangsta beats and we was ballin’ on the muthafuckin’ Compton streets…” (it’s not autobiographical…)
13. Gone
“I wake up in the night all alone, and that’s alright. The chemicals are wearing off
since you’ve gone.”
14. Trusted
“She’s gonna be pissed when she wakes up, for terrible things I did to her in her dreams.”
15. Still Fighting It
“Everybody knows, it sucks to grow up,and everybody does; it’s so weird to be back here.”
16. Not The Same
“They come knocking at your door with this look in their eyes, you’ve got one good trickand you’re hanging on…”
17. Rock This Bitch (Perth version)
“We’re gonna rock this bitch orchestrally.”
18. The Luckiest
“What if I’d been born 50 years before you in a house on the street where you lived.
Maybe I’d be outside as you passed on your bike; would I know?”

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