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Love Songs For Every Situation: Regret

February 22nd, 2008 1 comment

Is this series bringing everybody down? Well, it’s a series, and we must get through it, with all the discipline that is absent in matters of love. Today, we deal with regret (we must still do heartbreak and ““ the one I’m really looking forward to ““ bitterness). Regret can come before or after bitterness, and often they coincide, but both emotions manifest themselves after a love has ended. Music has done better capturing bitterness than regret. Indeed, regret seems to be a bit of a stepchild in the canon of love songs, its rejection symbolised by Edith Piaf’s determined defiance.

Abba – One Of Us.mp3
My friend Tom the Sub-Editor once said that Kris Kristofferson has an eloquent song for every emotion. I would say that Abba do as well. “One Of Us” (from Abba’s final album, 1981’s The Visitors) is terribly sad and a little pathetic, in the real sense of the word. The protagonist was in what seems to have been a pretty good relationship but evidently felt cornered: “You were, I felt, robbing me of my rightful chances. My picture clear, everything seemed so easy, and so I dealt you the blow: one of us had to go.” So she dumped the guy only to discover later that she had made a huge mistake. And it is in her regret, self-inflicted though it was, that we begin to feel for her: “One of us is crying, one of us is lying in her lonely bed. Staring at the ceiling, wishing she was somewhere else instead.” Our compassion is tempered a little by her unceasing selfishness. Nowhere in the song does she wonder whether her dumping the guy caused him any pain.

John Mayer – Comfortable.mp3
Mayer is a bit of a hit-and-miss artist. When he stinks, he really does. But occasionally he hits the sweet spot. This is one of these occasions when the melody succeeds in scoring the lyrical sentiment. In “Comfortable” Mayer is in a relationship with a trophy beauty who has little warmth or culture, but has found the approval of his friends. Yet he yearns for an ex who might have been less of a looker, but evidently had lots of warmth and “knew Miles from Coltrane”. Where the beauty is boring and well-mannered, the ex was fun. More importantly, “our love was comfortable, and so broken in”. Seems like the grass was no greener on the other side (if you’ll forgive the lazy cliché). Mayer thinks so too when he sings in the final line: “She’s perfect, so flawless. I’m not impressed”¦I want you back.”

Ryan Adams – Somehow, Someday.mp3
Ryan tells a similar story: he had a good thing going, let it slip away, wants her back. His problem likely was a reluctance to commit (“I wish that you and I had those kids, maybe bought us that home”). Let’s hope that she has not moved on to a man more open to having those kids and real estate purchases, because Ryan plans to let her know, with imperfect grammar, that “there ain’t no way I’ll ever stop from lovin’ you now”. But Ryan better get cracking, because procrastination will not win him the girl back: “and I’m gonna try and show you somehow. Somehow, oh someday. Someday. Someday.” Tell her now, Ryan, tell her before some other dude gets her committed. Now. Not “someday”. Hurry!

Bill LaBounty – Livin’ It Up.mp3
This glorious slice of 1982 West Coast softrock (which featured in the Middle Of The Road series) initially suggests a steady recovery from a break-up: “I finally got my life together, scraped my heart up off the floor. My attitude is so much better, and I hardly ever cry the way I did before.” Oh what the hell, Bill is going to show her that he’s actually doing damn fine. He is living it up, “right from the women to the wine, livin’ out all those fantasies I never did get to.” Oh yes, he got himself “a new persona”, a whole new Bill. And, even as he tells her more of his partying ways and livin’ out all these fantasies he never got to do, he admits to being unhappy, because “it don’t seem living without you”.

Wilco – Hate It Here.mp3
Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy regards this as his joke song, seeing as he is happily married and wouldn’t know how to use a washing machine. Given that, his vocals suggest some studious method acting, because our man is dying. The wife is gone, so he keeps himself busy doing household chores, worrying what his mind will do when he no longer has these diversions (“What am I gonna do when I run out of shirts to fold? What am I gonna do when I run out of lawn to mow?”). He checks for messages from her, no luck, feebly phones the mother-in-law, dead-end. This song might have fitted just as well in the breaking-up post, or the forthcoming heartbreak one. I’ll stick it in here, because the reference to all the mundane household chores might suggest that the relationship crashed because of a lack of effort on his part (not necessarily in the arena of housekeeping).

Bob Evans – Rocks In My Head.mp3
Australian folk-pop troubadour Bob Evans (whose real name is Kevin Mitchell) is employing better timing than the other fools in this post: he expresses regret before he knows it is over (” I can’t go on if I don’t know that you’re on my side”). He has screwed things up, and is asking for another chance by admitting that he was an idiot: “Worse than all the worst things that I’ve done are the things that I said. I nearly lost you there; I must have rocks in my head.” Great save there, Bob.

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:


ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

Indie Album of the Year:
Swedish:
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

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

Female:
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

SONGS OF THE YEAR:

Pop/Rock:
Richard Hawley – Valentine

Indie/Americana:
Wilco – Impossible Germany (new upload)

Singer-songwriter/Country:
Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go

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

w upload)

ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
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:
WILCO – SKY BLUE SKY

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

SONG OF THE YEAR:
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:
ROSIE THOMAS – MUCH FARTHER TO GO


BLOG AWARDS

The best Blogs of The Year

MUSIC
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.

Earbleedingcountry
(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:
Albums:
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.

DeaconBlues


Singles:
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

NON-MUSIC BLOG OF THE YEAR
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

U-18 BLOG OF THE YEAR
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.

Guitariotabs

BEST BLOGGER’S MIX-TAPE
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)

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
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

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

Albums of 2007, so far

June 8th, 2007 1 comment

It is a scientific fact that 78,4% of all MP3 bloggers are busy compiling their top 10 albums of the 2007 so far as we speak. So, before it becomes a bore, I’ll get in early. I might be on safe ground doing so before the first half of the year is up, because I’ve seen no releases for June that would be obvious contenders, other than the new Joseph Arthur album (and I can live without the White Stripes, I’m afraid). So…

1. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
Some Wilco fans have expressed their disappointment with the unpretentious Sky Blue Sky, measuring it against the experimentations of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born. These fans are mistaken to measure Sky Blue Sky not on its own merits. Here, Jeff Tweedy eschews the cacophonic innovations for a straight-forward, mellow rock album that channels the “60s (Dylan, Grateful Dead, Abbey Road-era Beatles) and “70s (Van Morrison, Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Thin Lizzy) without losing its identity as a Wilco album.

Sky Blue Sky is immediate and intimate. Nels Cline”s guitar work is an utter joy. The cadenced dual guitar solo on “Impossible Germany”, the album”s stand-out track, is perhaps the best of this decade.
Wilco – Either Way.mp3
Wilco – Hate It Here.mp3

2. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
In 2005, I”m Wide Awake, It”s Morning was by far my album of the year, and it remains one of my all-time favourites. It was an immediately accessible album in ways its predecessors, or the simultaneously released (and quite awful) Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, were not. Cassadaga is not as easy to fall in love with as I”m Wide Awake, but once it hits you, it hits you hard. This is a beautiful, richly textured, and cohesive album. I cannot say whether Cassadaga will equal my affection for I”m Wide Awake (which provided the soundtrack for a particularly intense period in my life), but I do know that I will return to it for a very long time.
Bright Eyes – If The Brakeman Turns My Way.mp3
Bright Eyes – Make a Plan To Love Me.mp3

3. Loney, Dear – Loney Noir
The bizzarely named Loney, Dear (real name Emil Svanängen) is a genius working in his Stockholm bedroom studio, in which he conducts an orchestra consisting of himself. Operating mostly under earphones so as not to wake the rest of the household, his songs often start softly before building up to an orgasmic crescendo. For once the critics got it right when they proclaimed Loney Noir a work of genius.

Too often artists who don”t conform to the corporate expectations of the mainstream music industry fall between the cracks, especially when they come “foreign” countries. All the more my pleasant surprise when I caught the video the the utterly stunning “I Am John” on VH-1 a few weeks ago (see the video here).
Loney, Dear – I Am John.mp3
Loney, Dear – No One Can Win.mp3

4. Rosie Thomas – These Friends of Mine
Music at the moment is blessed with a crop of women with guitars, singer-songwriters who take their inspiration from Joni Mitchell and Carol King, not the corporate skanks that populate the Top40. Rosie Thomas is one of the finest artists in that crop. “Heartachingly beautiful” has become a cliché. With These Friends Of Mine it provides an accurate description. On her fourth album Rosie fulfills all the promise she hinted at in her previous efforts: There is now a consistency of quality in her exquisite melody to complement the sheer poetry of her lyrics. The album”s stand-out song, “Much Farther To Go”, features the brilliant Sufjan Stevens on vocals and, yeah, the banjo.
Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go.mp3

5. Missy Higgins – On A Clear Night
On her new album, Missy (real name Melissa Higgins, which sounds rather better) cheers up a bit, at least musically, from the quite wonderful The Sound Of White. Where The Sound”¦ was beautiful in its melancholy, On A Clear Night is a little more relaxed in sound, if not lyrically. The excellent lead single “Steer” is a pop-hit-with-intelligence along the lines of The Sound“s hit “Scars”. Higgins” does not sound as pained as she used to and she has thankfully tuned down her distinctive Aussie wicketkeeper”s accent.
Missy Higgins – The Wrong Girl.mp3

6. Maria Taylor – Lynn Teeter Flower
Not quite as wonderful or eclectic as 2005’s 11:11, but there is still a lot to like here.
Maria Taylor – No Stars

7. Brooke Fraser – Albertine
Released in Fraser’s native New Zealand in December, but elsewhere in 2007. I’ll confess, Sarah McLachlan is one of my guilty pleasures (give a woman a guitar, let her record her own songs, and I’m a fan, really). Fraser has some of the McLachlan thing going on. Bonus points for including the names, activities and contact details of several human rights and relief organisations in the liner notes.
Brooke Fraser – Deciphering Me

9. Fountains Of Wayne – Traffic And Weather
Not a Fountains Of Wayne classic, but there’s much to like here. If it disappoints some, then only by the group’s own high standards. FOW are furiously channelling the ’80s. But where those idiots Maroon 5 fail doing the same, our friends from NY pull it off most of the time. And then there is this wonderful alt.country song below…
Fountains Of Wayne – Fire In The Canyon

9. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
This will rate highly on the top 10s of most of the 78,4%, and possibly higher on those not compiled by the remaining 21,6%. I rate this album highly, and the ubiquitous “Heretic” is one of this year’s stand-out tracks. But, truth be told, I prefer the predecessor, The Mysterious Production of Eggs.
Andrew Bird – Cataracts

10. Crowded House – Time on Earth
Not yet released, and the track sequence of the album we CH fans have been downloading reportedly might yet change, which would be welcome. It’s really a Neil Finn solo album with chums, and it is not entirely convincing, a clutch of very good tracks apart (such as the one below). Still, it is Crowded House and therefore will always be in contention.
Crowded House – Nobody Wants To

Last year at the halfway mark, my interim Top 10 consisted of albums by Joshua Radin (number 1 then and at year-end), The Weepies, Eels, Belle & Sebastian, Josh Rouse, Collective Soul, Counting Crows, Devics, Ron Sexsmith, James Hunter. By the end of the year, only three other albums (Crowded House, Ben Kweller and Snow Patrol) managed to get into my final Top 10. Let’s hope for a better second half of the year.