Archive for December, 2007

The new year cometh

December 28th, 2007 No comments

For the final post of 2007 we’re looking to the new year. Ten songs which review the year gone by and anticipate the next. I don’t like New Year’s Eve much. I resent the pressure of having to have a good time as time hurtles forward another digit closer to the year of my death. Bah! Still, don’t let me spoil it for you. And look, Ma, no U2!

Death Cab For Cutie – The New Year.mp3

The song that kicked off the stunning Transatlanticism album (the title of which I dedicate to the British music writer Robin Carmody) so brilliantly. Will you feel any different at 00:01 on January 1? I think Death Cab are due another album soon, which gives us a good reason to be welcome 2008 with some anticipation. I hear a new album by Postal Service, which features Death Cab singer Ben Gibbard, is on its way, too. And last night I listened to Nada Surf’s new album Lucky, out on February 8, on which Gibbard guests. Lucky deserves much buzz; it’s a very fine album.

District Six – New Year.mp3
Go to any New Year’s Eve party in Cape Town’s coloured (mixed-race) community, and you’ll be hard-pressed to avoid this song from the hugely popular and deeply moving musical District Six. The eponymous area was a large working-class suburb on the foot of Table Mountain, on the edges of the city centre, populated mainly by coloureds, one of four main population groups by which people were classified under apartheid. In 1966, the apartheid regime decided that District Six was a slum “” which it was, seeing that the white rulers had little interest in developing and upgrading the area. By the mid-70s, District Six had been cleared, and the inhabitants of this close-knit community were removed to ghettos far away from the city (while huge swathes of the area are still vacant today!). Some of these new ghettos were cruelly named after District Six landmarks, so as to drive home the humiliation. District Six – The Musical captured the life in District Six, and its demise, with great humour and heartbreaking pathos. “New Year” illustrates the party spirit in the community. With its blend of global musical influences, the song is representative of the traditional sound of the coloured community (though most would probably rather listen to hip hop, R&B or jazz fusion).

Hello Saferide – 2006.mp3
The wonderful Annika Norlin wakes up on New Year’s morning and already knows it’ll be “another shitty year”. She makes resolutions (” I will learn a new word each day. Today”s word is dejected”), chief among them, “there”s you”. “I”m going to be with you. I haven”t told you yet, but I”m going to be with you.” Oh, I think I’m in love with Annika. (more Hello Saferide here)

K’s Choice – Another Year.mp3
For some, the new year promises another cycle of being in a rut, which in itself can be a soul-destroying comfort zone, as Belgium’s finest observe. “You’re not sick, so you can”t heal. But I wonder do you feel the need to cry: ‘I’m out of here’?” Sarah Bettens’ smoky voice rarely sounded better than on this track. (more Sarah Bettens here)

The Weepies – Not Your Year.mp3
Not your life, more like. The Weepies have a good way of putting into words the vague unhappinesses of life. “Movies, TV screens reflect just what you expected. There”s a world of shiny people somewhere else, out there following their bliss, living easy, getting kissed, while you wonder what else you”re doing wrong.” (more Weepies here)

Maria Taylor – Leap Year.mp3
Well, 2008 is a leap year. So this song gets included on strength of its apposite title, even if it has little to do with the coming 366 days. The excellent Maria Taylor actually does make reference to the seasons in this touching song, from 2005’s 11:11, about a relationship that is somehow stuck. (more Maria Taylor here)

Dan Fogelberg – Same Old Lang Syne.mp3
Apart from the title, seasonal reference and the strains of Auld Lang Syne in the fade out, this has nothing to do with the forced jollities on December 31. In fact, there is nothing jolly about this apparently autobiographical encounter between Fogelberg and his old school girlfriend whom he meets by chance and they trade their stories. He finds that they could be great together if not for circumstances and unloved architects. The final line is quite wonderful. Sadly Fogelberg died a couple of weeks ago, putting to rest my briefly running gag of “fogelberging” as an euphemism. (more Dan Fogelberg here)

Mindy Smith – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.mp3
I really like Mindy Smith, but I’m uncertain about her Christmas album. Is The Man trying to turn her into Norah bleedin’ Jones? This standard has been recorded by many great singers, as well as by the likes of Diana Krall and Vonda Shepard. Mindy’s version has a lovely torchsong jazz arrangement, and as always her voice is lovely. The problem is this: here she sings the tune; on her originals (and her stunning cover version of “Jolene”), she lives the songs. (more Mindy Smith here)

The Walkmen – New Year’s Eve.mp3
Brilliant piano riff, great drums, and wonderfully alcohol-soaked vocals in this 2004 indie song about”¦er…a break-up? Adultery? Alienation in a relationship? Not a song to play after the corks pop.

Abba – Happy New Year.mp3
Among all these not terribly jolly songs, Abba deliver the right note of cautious optimism and anticipation. Life’s a bit shit, but, hey, let’s say Happy New Year, because things might get better. Here’s hoping it will, for all of us. Happy New Year everybody, see you in 2008.

Any Major Funk Vol. 1

December 26th, 2007 3 comments

This mix might come in time for your New Year’s Eve party: great disco/funk tracks from the glory years, 1978-82. The songs should fit on a CD-R.

I’ve tried to stay clear of the usual fare offered disco samplers, so no synth-driven Euro disco, no Bee Gees, no Alicia Bridges, and damn well no Village People or Boney M. This mix is not supposed to encourage the “hilarious” donning of Afro wigs, white suits and other such hi-jinx as doing the Travolta SNF pose. This is for people who take the funk and disco seriously and groove to it joyously.

1. Odyssey – Going Back To My Roots (1981)
2. Cheryl Lynn – Got To Be Real (1978)
3. Raydio – It’s Time To Party Now (1980)
4. Billy Ocean – Stay The Night (1980)
5. Shalamar – A Night To Remember (1982)
6. Skyy – Here’s To You (1980)
7. One Way feat. Al Hudson – Push (1979)
8. Positive Force – We Got The Funk (1980)
9. Fat Larry’s Band – Act Like You Know It (1982)
10. Jimmy ‘Bo’ Horne – Spank (1978)
11. Sharon Brown – I Specialise In Love (1982)
12. Tom Browne – Funkin’ For Jamaica (1980)
13. The Whispers – Let’s Go All The Way (1978)
14. Hi Gloss – You’ll Never Know (1981)
15. Sister Sledge – He’s The Greatest Dancer (1978)
16. Webster Lewis – Give Me Some Emotion (1979)
17. Leon Haywood – Don’t Push It, Don’t Force It (1980)
18. Rodney Franklin – The Groove (1980)

(PW in comments)

More Any Major Funk
More Mix CD-Rs

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Thriller: 25 years on

December 21st, 2007 2 comments

This month it was 25 years ago that Michael Jackson released Thriller, and we’ve all been rather over-excited about it ever since. Perhaps rightly so. When it came out, it was all quite fresh and innovative, and we had no knowledge of the fame and psychological defects which would eat MJ, even if the dabbles in extreme plastic surgery were already apparent. Like that other epochal album, the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s, the cracks in the hype’s facade are very visible now.

I must confess to what is probably heresy, I’ve always, from the moment I first heard it, hated “Billy Jean”, a track that would have stood out on the far superior Off The Wall for all the wrong reasons. It is still madly popular, so I’ll chalk it up as a classic, my own views on it notwithstanding.

The title track is melodically rather mediocre. Play it on a piano. But that weakness is masked by a fantastic production, Jackson’s iconic vocals and Vincent Price’s menacing voiceover. And then there is that groundbreaking video.

The opener “Wanna Be Starting Something” “” despite sounding like the inspiration to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” “” remains a fine ’80s disco stomper. “Human Nature” is a lovely little ballad. Written by Steve Pocarco of Toto, it was sampled to good effect by SWV on the “right Here” remix in 1993. It is actually my favourite track off Thriller.

“P.T.Y.”, on the other hand, sounds very much like a product of its time. Play it alongside Phil Fearon at your next ’80s party for that old kitsch effect (I’m being uncharitable towards poor Mr Fearon here). Don’t play the equally dated (though not unpleasant) “Baby Be Mine” “” only the diehard Thrilleristas (the type who in 1987 began dressing in leather outfits with lots of zippers) will remember it.

“Beat It”, which had a most hilarious video (a jheri-curled MJ preparing for the feast of comedy that was the “Bad” promo), is flaccid cocaine rock at its worst. I cannot imagine anyone hearing the Thriller album for the first time, and thinking it is one of the set’s better tracks. Unless you like Van Halen’s guitar wankery. And I don’t.

MJ’s duet with Paul McCartney, “The Girl Is Mine”, is a conundrum. Clearly it is a very bad song. But I like it for nostalgic reason; more or less the same reason why I still think the Sweet’s “Poppa Joe” is a great song. Sentiment aside, both are deficient in the artistry stakes. I know which one I’d rather listen to now, though.

And that was the relative mediocrity that was Thriller. Three noteworthy songs, a couple of decent tunes, a couple of plodders. And the clonker which has MJ whimpering: “I’m a luvva not a fighdda”.

Oh no, I didn’t forget “The Lady In My Life”. I bet you did, though.

And for your thrills (oh yes, I’m from the Yoshi school of comedy), the bonus songs from the special edition set released in 2001.

“Carousel” was supposed to be on the album, but was bumped in favour of “Human Nature”. It is not quite clear why Quincy Jones thought that “The Lady In My Life” was less expendable. Or why ten songs seemed excessive. “Carousel” is a pretty good mid-tempo number. Ignore the terrible lyrics, and listen to the chorus: it could be a Steely Dan song. A Michael Jackson track worth owning.
Michael Jackson – Carousel.mp3

“Someone In The Dark”, however is quite awful. MJ was never good at ballads, anyway, but this is a real ’80s dirge. Which means that Celine Dion must be about to record it. Why is it worth owning? Because this was recorded for a storybook of the E.T. story, and features E.T. groaning in the background, possibly anticipating a role for Michael Bolton in Celine’s cover version. And here’s a picture of MJ and E.T. hanging out together. E.T. is the on the right.
Michael Jackson – Someone In The Dark.mp3

I’ve uploaded it before, but what the hey; here is the demo for the song I don’t particularly like, recorded in 1981, apparently in MJ’s home studio. The bones of the song we all love (except me) are there: the hook, the bassline, the rhythm, the guitar break. But no shrieks yet. Which reminds me of the story I’ve heard about Quincy kicking the shit out of Michael for overdoing that “hee-hee” stuff. I want video footage of that.
Michael Jackson – Billy Jean (Demo).mp3

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Any Major Awards – The Winners

December 15th, 2007 16 comments

And here are the winners of the inaugural Major Dude awards. Kick back and watch the show unfold, grabbing a few samples of the music (most have previously appeared on this blog; newly featured tracks are marked as such) on the way before you rush off and buy the awarded music as thoughtful Christmas presents for yourselves and everybody you know. And here’s the gong our winners may take home — The Major Dude:


Indie Album of the Year:
Loney, Dear – Loney, Noir
(I know, it was released in Sweden a long time ago, but for the rest of us, it is a 2007 album)

and performing a song from this year’s best Swedish Indie Album:
Loney, Dear – I Am John

Other places:
Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter

and performing a song from this year’s best non-Swedish Indie Album:
Josh Ritter – Right Moves

Rock Album of the Year:
Foo Fighters – Echoes Silence Patience & Grace

and performing two songs from this year’s best Rock Album:
Foo Fighters – Cheer Up Boys, You’re Makeup Is Running
Foo Fighters – Statues

Pop Album of the Year:
Rilo Kiley – Under The Blacklight

and performing two songs from this year’s best Pop Album:
Rilo Kiley – Breakin’ Up
Rilo Kiley – Dreamworld

Country Album of the Year:
Miranda Lambert – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

and performing a song from this year’s best Country Album:
Miranda Lambert – Love Letters (new upload)

Americana Album Of The Year
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

and performing a song from this year’s best Americana Album:
Wilco – Hate It Here

Singer-Songwriter Album of the Year
Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala

and performing a song from this year’s best Singer-Songwriter (male) Album:
Jens Lekman – A Postcard For Nina

Rosie Thomas – These Friends Of Mine

and performing two songs from this year’s
best Singer-Songwriter (female) Album:

Rosie Thomas – Songbird
Rosie Thomas – Say Hello (with Sufjan Stevens)

R&B/Hip Hop:
Alicia Keys – As I Am

and performing a song from this year’s best R&B Album:
Alicia Keys (featuring John Mayer) – Lesson Learnt
(Link removed by DivShare)

Best Kicked-Back Album:
Richard Hawley – Lady’s Bridge

and performing a song from this year’s best Kicked-Back Album:
Richard Hawley – Dark Road

Overrated Artist of the Year:
Amy Winehouse
Comparable album people should listen to instead: Nicole Atkins – Neptune City

and performing a song from this year’s best
Better Than Overrated Artist’s Album:

Nicole Atkins – Brooklyn’s On Fire! (new upload)

Best Newcomer:
Colbie Caillat

and performing as this year’s best Better Newcomer:
Colbie Caillat – Realize
Colbie Caillat – One Fine Wire

Most Disappointing Album:

Joseph Arthur – Let’s Just Be


Richard Hawley – Valentine

Wilco – Impossible Germany (new upload)

Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go

South African Rock/Pop Song Of The Year:
Velve – Overpass (ne

w upload)

The nominees are:
Brandi Carlile – The Story
Loney, Dear – Loney, Noir
Rilo Kiley – Under The Blacklight
Rosie Thomas – These Friends Of Mine
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

………and the winner is:

and performing a track from this year’s Album of the Year:
Wilco – Either Way

And the nominees are:
Colbie Caillat – Bubbly
Richard Hawley – Valentine
Wilco – Impossible Germany
Brandi Carlisle – The Story
Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go

………and the winner is:


The best Blogs of The Year

Album blogs:
It feels unfair to choose a “winner” from all the nominated blogs. Even within one category, the diversity makes a comparison about as as easy as comparing the relative merits of black cherries and iPods. There are so many that have given me great joy. Earbleeding Country shades it for me on strength of great, detailed writing and the quality of music on offer.

(which since this month now lives here)

Singles blogs:
The same as above applies, perhaps even more so. With singles blogs, bloggers tend to write in greater detail, length and often variety than album blogs. I finally narrowed it all down to two finalists: The Late Greats and Echoes In The Wind. The former has introduced me to more new great music than any other blog; the latter is perhaps the best-written music blog I know, in the face of some incredibly tough competition (for the purposes of this exercise; I don’t think most of us compete with each other; quite on the contrary, I’ve found). And so the winner is:

Echoes In The Wind

Retro blogs:
Again, tough contest. All the nominees have provided me with so much pleasure. But our winner this year simply had the most stunning variety of music, some of it long-forgotten albums of old which deserve to be rediscovered.


I do both new and retro stuff round here. The latter especially is fantastic fun. That sense of fun was particularly evident in all nominated blogs in this category. The winner is an old favourite of many:

The Wolfman Howls

If choosing the best music blog was a headache, choosing the best non-music blog was a heartbreaking thing. Indie-Pop Ian Plenderleith’s sporadic blog entries are a monthly Internet highlight. Ndumiso Ngcobo’sSouth African iconoclasm invariably makes me laugh out loud. Rol Hirst’s “Dear Me…” post on the 13th almost clinched him a late winner. 15 Minute Lunch made big waves with the ’70s JC Penney fashion post, but there is so much more great writing there. But for style and exquisite prose, and an unforgettable post about the funeral of the Lazio fan shot by the Italian police, the winner can only be:

Spangly Princess

I did not make nominations for best U-18 blog. I really liked the cricket blogs by two kids living in Amsterdam, Sean and Dylan Reeves (how can one not love a blogger who links to his Dad’s blog by saying “it’s rubbish”). But for paternal pride, it has to be Any Minor Dude’s to rarely updated guitar tabs blog. This 13 year old kid does a better job of it than many adults. This is, of course, the little dude who as a10-year-old arriving for his first lesson was asked by his guitar tutor (a seasoned sessionman) what artist’s music he wanted to play. Tutor Rob may have expected an answer like Good Charlotte or some contemporary R&B hit. Instead, the answer came: Johnny Cash. Which is cool as anything.


Taylor Parkes’ Right-wing Rock mix was incredible: the music was either hilarious or actually quite good, the lyrics produced some serious jawdroppers, and Taylor’s sleeve notes were insightful and witty. Get the mix and commentary at Touched Mix, and check out this unbelievable track — especially when he starts singing!
Lil Markie – Diary Of An Unborn Child.mp3 (new upload)

Totally Fuzzy
with a BIG Thank You for the fantastic service these guys provide to the bloggers and those who search for great, new blogs. One more time: “Fuzzy And Blue” by the Sesame Street monsters

Best Any Major Dude series:
From a limited sample of votes, this is clearly the Time Travel to the 1970s series.

The iPod Random 5-track Experiment Vol.4

December 13th, 2007 2 comments

For the sheer joy of it, five more of the random best:

Nicole Atkins – Maybe Tonight.mp3
Oh, I kissed the iPod when it threw up this gem first. I had just finished putting together my Any Major Awards nominations, in which I already awarded Nicole Atkins, for being a viable alternative to the horribly overrated Amy Winehouse. This song sounds like… Petula Clark meets Blondie meets Abba. It’s glorious pop. On other tracks, Atkins gets all soulful (“The Way It Is”), or goes into ’80s throwback mode, sounding like the B-52s as sung by Sandie Shaw on Broadway (“Love Surreal” or “Brooklyn On Fire”). Absolutely marvellous, and so much better than schtick merchant Winehouse.

Crowded House – Fall At Your Feet (live).mp3
This is from the Farewell To The World live CD, which was recorded in 1996 and released ten years later. That album was one of those rarities among live sets, where the stage versions almost invariably eclipse the studio originals. And so it is with “Fall At Your Feet”, one of Crowded House’s finest moments. The lyrics get me every time: “The finger of blame has turned upon itself, and I’m more than willing to offer myself. Do you want my presence or need my help…Who knows where that might lead.” Try hitting the high note of the ad libbed “I fall” rigtht after that verse (at 2:25).

Kevin Devine – Longer I’m Out Here.mp3
Why is Kevin Devine not more popular? This is a great Indie-pop-rock workout, from 2003’s Make the Clocks Move, with some seriously strange and beautifully poetic lyrics (“And you say that there’s someone that you need to reconnect with; some scarecrow from high school that you loved and never slept with; a baby with a pipedream playing hopscotch on your bandages”) .

Ennio Morricone – Deborah’s Theme/Amapola.mp3
I’m not big on movie soundtracks, unless it is a musical. But Ennio Morricone’s score for Once Upon A Time In America, itself one of my all-time top 3 favourite movies, is astonishingly beautiful. It can create emotions like few other albums I have. This track closes the soundtrack, reprising two running themes throughout the movie: “Deborah’s Theme” and the 1930s hit “Amapola”. The strings in the former can make a grown man cry; the latter, coming in at 3:30, might cheer the listener up, but here the tune induces a certain quiet wistfulness.

Radiohead – High And Dry.mp3
I revisited “Creep” over the weekend. Any Minor Dude’s friend brought his new PS2 Sing Star game along, and, lo, there was Thom Yorke feeling “so very special”. I totally nailed this song. As did Any Minor Dude. So we battled until I set an unassailable score. But I know that the very Minor Dude, with his musical talent and competitive streak, won’t let it rest there… Anyway, to the sing at hand. iPod has done well again with a topical pick: “High And Dry” apparently is about Evel Knievel, who has just died. Listening to it now for the first time in a long while, I’m reminded that this is a very good song.

Any Major Awards 2007 – Nominations

December 13th, 2007 10 comments

Unlike The Grammies, which in March 2008 will celebrate the (probably most objectionable) music of 2006, this blog wastes no time in honouring the Best of 2007. And, no, I haven’t heard the Radiohead album, and, yes, I know I’m From Barcelona and Auggie March where released in their countries last year. The winners will be announced on Sunday, or thereabouts.

And the nominees are:

Nominees to be announced with the category awards

Indie Album of the Year:

Billie the Vision & the Dancers – Where the Ocean Meets My Hand
I’m From Barcelona – Let Me Introduce My Friends
Loney, Dear – Loney, Noir
The Mary Onettes – The Mary Onettes

Other places:
Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Band Of Horses – Cease To Begin
Feist – The Reminder
Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter
Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
The Shins – Wincing The Night Away

Rock Album of the Year:
Bruce Springsteen – Magic
Collective Soul – Afterwords
Foo Fighters – Echoes Silence Patience & Grace
Fountains Of Wayne – Traffic And Weather
Manic Street Preachers – Send Away The Tigers

Pop Album of the Year:
Abra Moore – On The Way
Barenaked Ladies – Are Me
Colbie Caillat – Coco (see Songbirds Vol. 5)
Rilo Kiley – Under The Blacklight (more here)
Sara Bareilles – Little Voice

Country Album of the Year:
Miranda Lambert – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Tim McGraw – Let It Go
Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles – Diamonds In The Dark (see Songbirds Vol. 2)
Steve Earle – Washington Square Serenade
Rickie Lee Jones – The Sermon On Exposition Boulevard (see Songbirds Vol. 1)

Americana Album Of The Year
Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
Son Volt – The Search
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

Singer-Songwriter Album of the Year
Cary Brothers – Who You Are
Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala (more here)
Josh Rouse – Country Mouse, City House (more here)
Josh Woodward – Not Quite Connected

A Fine Frenzy – One Cell In The Sea (see Songbirds Vol. 1)
Brandi Carlile – The Story (see Songbirds Vol. 2)
Brooke Fraser – Albertine (see Songbirds Vol. 4)
Kate Walsh – Tim’s House (see Songbirds Vol. 5)
MariaTaylor – Lynn Teeter Flower (see Songbirds Vol. 4)
Missy Higgins – On A Clear Night (see Songbirds Vol. 1)
Rosie Thomas – These Friends Of Mine (see Songbirds Vol. 3)

R&B/Hip Hop:
Alicia Keys – As I Am
Amerie – Because I Love It
Common – Finding Forever
(yes, I did struggle in this category)

Best Kicked-Back Album:
Richard Hawley – Lady’s Bridge (more here)

Overrated Artist of the Year:
Amy Winehouse
Comparable album people should listen to instead: Nicole Atkins – Neptune City

Best Newcomer:
A Fine Frenzy
Colbie Caillat
I’m From Barcelona

Most Disappointing Album:
Joseph Arthur – Let’s Just Be

Final nominees to be announced with awards

Colbie Caillat – Bubbly
Foo Fighters – The Pretender
Hello Saferide – I Was Definitely Made For These Times
Jens Lekman – A Postcard For Nina
Michelle Featherstone – Rest of My Life
Powderfinger – Wishing On The Same Moon
Relient K – Deathbed
Richard Hawley – Valentine
Rilo Kiley – Breakin’ Up
Sara Bareilles – Gravity

Augie March – One Crowded Hour
Bright Eyes – If The Brakeman Turns My Way
I’m From Barcelona – Oversleeping
Iron & Wine – Flightless Bird, American Mouth
Loney Dear – I Am John
Pelle Carlberg – Crying All The Way To The Pawnshop
The Bird & The Bee – Fucking Boyfriend
Wilco – Impossible Germany

Abra Moore – Family Affair
Adam Merrin – Still Alright
Brandi Carlisle – The Story
Elvis Perkins – While You Were Sleeping
Fountains Of Wayne – Fire In The Canyon
Ingrid Michaelson – Keep Breathing
Josh Rouse – Sweetie
Kate Walsh – Is This It
Phil Campbell – Maps
Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go
Tim McGraw – Nothing To Die For

South African Song Of The Year:
Velve – Overpass


Best Blog of The Year
Album blogs:
Just Good Tunes
Pascal’s Country Sounds
Peanut’s Playground
Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers
Touched Mix

Single blogs:
Digital Citrus
Echoes In The Wind
Don’t Burn the Day Away
I Am Fuel, You Are Friends
Ill Folks
It’s Hard To Find A Friend
Jefitoblog (R.I.P. till the resurrection)
Music Of The Moment
The College Crowd Digs Me
The Glorious Hum
The Hits Just Keep Coming
The Late Greats

Retro blogs:
Beehive Candy
Music Buzz

Lost in the ’80s
Mine For Life
Not Rock On
Retro Remixes
The Wolfman Howls
The Infonistacrat

15 Minute Lunch
Girl On A Train

Spangly Princess
Stay-At-Home Indie Pop

Sunset Over Slawit
The Black Hole
The Ghost Of Electricity
The Silwane Files

Totally Fuzzy
with a BIG Thank You for the fantastic service these guys provide to the bloggers and those who search for great, new blogs. One more time: Fuzzy And Blue by the Sesame Street monsters

Best Any Major Dude series

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The Locomotion: 60s Soul – Vol. 2

December 6th, 2007 6 comments

Is everybody else feeling Christmas song overload in blogworld this year? If so, then for a bit of respite some more ’60s soul. Read more…

The iPod Random 5-track Experiment Vol.3

December 4th, 2007 No comments

It’s fun, this iPod randomising thing. And, as Rol of the excellent Sunset Over Slawit blog pointed out in a comment (I do like comments), my iPod does have good taste. So here’s today’s lot, though it’s a 8-track experiment, iPod having suggested two songs I just recently posted, by Josh Rouse and Miles Davis, and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Keep Breathing” which I just recently downloaded from the fine Don’t burn the day away blog, whose thunder I didn’t want to steal.

Foo Fighters – Statues.mp3
I love Foo Fighter’s new album, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. It might well have replaced The Colour And The Shape as my favourite Foo album, even if the new set has no “Everlong” on it. Clearly, my iPod loves Foo Fighters as well, having featured Grohl’s lot in the first random experiment. “Statues” is turning out to be one of the best songs on the album, a fine piano driven number which however reminds me of some other song I cannot place. The line “we’re just ordinary people” is driving me mad, I’m sure I’ve heard it before.

Serge Gainsbourg – Cargo Culte.mp3
From 1971’s Histoire de Melody Nelson, a mindfuckingly great album on which the music tells you everything you might not understand from the French lyrics (the album is about our dirty old friend picking up young English girl Melody and, guess what, seducing her). Someone once said that listening to Histoire de Melody Nelson is like being fucked by Gainsbourg (don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re gay). Listen to this incredible track to know what my pal meant. It drips with sex, especially when Melody introduces herself 5:40 in. Is that what the “Porn Groove” category on WinAmps ID3 Tag manager refers to?

Ron Sexsmith – Whatever It Takes.mp3
When I watch the Grammys and see how the music industry celebrates boring old dinosaurs (hello Mr Clapton), mediocre young boredom merchants (good evening Ms Jones) and assorted overrated nonentities (sorry, but who are you again?), I despair for all these great artists whose music stands well above these clowns, but receive recognition only in the blogosphere and, perhaps, on hip soundtracks of TV shows. Why is there no industrial felatio administered to the likes of Josh Rouse, Ben Folds, Joshua Radin or Ron Sexsmith. The latter has been around for more than a decade and a half, but while his fuckwitted compatriots Twain, Lavigne, Morrissette and Dion found fame and fortune, he remains a best-kept secret (one with the most magnificent surname). I love Sexsmith’s immensely warm and intimate voice, his songcraft and his variety. “Whatever It Takes”, from 2004’s excellent Retriever, has a great late ’70s soul influence, melodically rather than in its arrangement. It is a happiness-inducing song.

Howie Day – Collide.mp3
I don’t like the man’s name. It sounds like he might be a singer in a boy band. That he is not. Howie Day is, in fact, a singer-songwriter type. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of much of his work though there are three or four songs I really rate, and nothing I might despise. “Collide” is a very good, catchy tune. I think he sings it very well. It is Mrs Major Dude’s cellphone ringtone, and it reminds me of somebody I once knew. My favourite blogger in the whole world did the guitar tabs for the song. Check them out here.

Warren Zevon – Lawyers, Guns And Money.mp3
Everybody knows “Werewolves In London”, and maybe “Excitable Boy”. Fine songs both, but I think 1978’s “Lawyers, Guns And Money” is even better (though, perhaps, not as good as “Jeannie Needs A Shooter”). The powerful guitar and keyboard chords that drive the song grab your attention from the go, then Zevon tells his story about how “the shit has hit the fan” in a Central American cold war spy intrigue (which, one suspects, might be a huge bullshit story the waster scion tells his rich Dad). I love the “heya” at 1:35 and the “ugh” at 2:32, and the other assorted yelps, groans and exclamation marks. A fantastic driving song. If you don’t know much about Warren Zevon, try to get his live album, Stand In The Fire.

Boston Camerata – A Renaissance Christmas

December 2nd, 2007 8 comments

I do not usually upload full albums, but I will make an exception to mark the first of Advent and this blog’s first Christmas with something very special: A Renaissance Christmas, recorded in 1986 by the Boston Camerata.

As the title suggests, the Camerata recreate the sound of Christmas from the 15th, 16th and 17th century, spreading the international flavour liberally. I’m no expert in such things, but those who are say it’s flawlessly performed.

Especially fascinating are the brief readings from the New Testament that intersperse the album, delivered in what is supposed to be the English accent of the 16th century.

I tend to put the album on when we have our Christmas dinner. Christmas Eve (when in our family we have our celebrations) I tend to play first CDs that mix the traditional carols with yer red-nosed reindeers. Then some Nat ‘King’ Cole for the mother-in-law (actually, I like it too). For dinner the Boston Camerata. Then the kids used to be chased out of the lounge to await their presents — alas, not an option any longer as they are a bit too old for such fun & games — while the adults would kick back with some Christmas jazz (Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas, for example). Then, when the presents come out and when the kids were allowed into the darkened lounge, some traditional carols would play. Once the lights went on for the violent tearing up of lovingly folded and sellotaped wrappings, the pop & rock Christmas CD would come out (Slade!). Once mother-in-law gets stressed, we revert to the old crooners singing about roasting chestnuts on open fires and letting it snow in sunny South Africa.

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The iPod Random 5-track Experiment Vol.2

December 1st, 2007 1 comment

Another five random songs from my iPod’s Shuffle function. Like before, Any Major iPod was in a mellow mood. That is perhaps because a high percentage of the music on it is mellow…

Alexi Murdoch – All Of My Days.mp3
Murdoch’s “Orange Sky”, from the astonishing Four Songs EP, received a lot of coverage on several TV shows. Off-hand, I remember it featuring in The O.C. and Prison Break, as well as on that wonderful film Garden State. Alexi Murdoch remains a staple on TV drama series, and yet he is not very well known at all. That is a pity, because his Nick Drake-channeling music has greater depth than inclusion on the soundtrack of Brothers & Sisters, or whatever, might suggest. Indeed, his full debut, last year’s Time Without Consequence recalled Drake even in requiring a few listens before it really clicks. “All Of My Days”, which kicks off the album, manages to sound at once laid back and intense, gentle and urgent. Good choice, iPod.
More Alexi Murdoch here and here.

Missy Higgins – Nightminds.mp3
Apparently Missy Higgins is absolutely massive in Australia. Now that the Aussies have turned that objectionable shit Howard out of office, made fools of themselves at the rugby world cup and have given us the adorable, wonderful Melissa Higgins (and Bob Evans and Auggie March), I can now object only to their cricket team, with the spit-rubbing captain. “Nightminds” comes from Higgins’ excellent 2004 debut, The Sound Of White. It’s one of those rather intense ballads on the album. I take it that the song addresses somebody with either depression or an addiction, with Higgins offering support and understanding. In the initial verses, the solitary piano and Higgins’ delivery communicate a sense of emotional pain. With the chorus, a cello (or something with strings, I can never really tell) and drums come in, and the melody and lyrics become more hopeful. A beautifully constructed song.
More Missy Higgins music here.

Gram Parsons – She.mp3
Not to be confused with the Charles Aznavour hit covered by Elvis Costello. Here, Gram Parsons (one who is too easily overlooked in the “gone too soon” stakes) infuses his country/rock with soul, perhaps having just listened to Donny Hathaway (another one often easily overlooked in the “gone too soon” department). Of course, a song about a slave girl who could sing requires a soul influence. But what Parsons — formerly a Flying Burrito Brother and a Byrd — accomplishes on this track from 1973’s G.P., his full debut solo album, is to show just how close country and soul used to be. Parson’s lifestory can make you weep: his father committed suicide on a Christmas Eve when Gram was 13; his mother died on the eve of his graduation; and Gram was dead of a heart attack by the time he was not yet 27, leaving behind a rich musical legacy (without Parsons, no Wilco) and our regret at how much more he might have accomplished in shaping modern music. Read about Parsons’ death soon after the release of G.P. here.

Jam – Eton Rifles.mp3
This is the joy and the trouble with the iPod Shuffle function. You get into a particular mood during a sequence of certain kinds of songs, and then something completely different comes on. And so it is here: Alexi, Missy and Gram create a kicked-back mood, and then the sharply dressed threesome go all The Who on us, with ripping guitar chords and incendiary singing, punctuated by the menacing backing heys. “Eton Rifles” is an air-guitar anthem for those who would feel stupid playing imaginary instruments to “Freebird” or ’80s hair rock. Play it loud and don’t forget to time your triumphant leap in the air at the smack-in-the-gob end.

Dobie Gray – Drift Away.mp3
The soul song even soul-hating rock fans could love, sort of an inverse to Parsons’ “She”. The Rolling Stones covered it, Uncle Kracker (newsmaking sidekick to the revolting Kid Rock) covered it with Dobie Gray, even Michael fucking Bolton covered it before he decided he wasn’t Otis Redding after all, but Luciano Pavarotten. I don’t recall Bolton’s version, but surely even he couldn’t mess this song up. Or could he? The excellent Echoes in the Wind blog has a vinyl rip of the Dobie Gray album on which “Drift Away” originally appeared.

The iPod Random 5-track Experiment Vol. 1