Weezer – Jamie

Jamie first appeared on DGC Rarities, Vol 1, a Geffen compilation of rare and unreleased tracks by the label’s artists. A paean to the band’s lawyer Jamie Young, it was scheduled to be Weezer’s first release, but was dropped (not even the Weezerpedia knows why), and didn’t even make it onto their debut album, The Blue Album.

In September 1994, “Jamie” appeared as a b-side to the single “Buddy Holly”, before inclusion a decade later on the re-released deluxe 2CD version of The Blue Album.

Saint Etienne – Fake ’88

Originally appearing on Volume 6 of the legendary “Volume” series of indie compilations in April 1993 (and then on Sharks Patrol These Waters: The Best of Volume, Part II in May 1995), Fake ’88 got its first berth on a Saint Etienne release with the fan-club only and highly sought-after I Love To Paint. I Love to Paint later appeared as part of the Boxette collection of three fan-club releases and Eric Random, a CD of new and (still) unreleased tracks – in other words, tracks that were so unreleased they didn’t make it onto their first three colections of unreleased tracks…

Fake ’88 contains hints of So Tough-era Saint Etienne; a gently shuffling rhythm paired with the lightness of touch of Avenue or Hobart Paving gives way to a spoken word dream segment that takes in a gamut of 1982’s cultural references, from Dirty Den to Mark King, Nik Kershaw, BMX, Phil Redmond, Martin Fry, and the legendary Shakin’ Stevens.

Plus, perhaps most importantly in this month of World Cup 2014, there’s a mention for Alessandro Altobelli, scorer of Italy’s third goal in their 3-1 win over West Germany in the 1982 World Cup Final.

Bombay Bicycle Club – Come To

It’s all in that ringing guitar sound. I don’t know how, or why, but it does funny things to my brain.

Before reviewing the patchy but occasionally brilliant So Long, See You Tomorrow earlier in the year, I’d not been anywhere near Bombay Bicycle Club with a longish pole since being turned off by their second album, Flaws.

The release of “Luna” at the start of the year, however, had me discovering their third album, A Different Kind of Fix (2011), and looking forward to the new album. It didn’t disappoint exactly, even if it didn’t always thrill, but just before the end came such a dizzingly beautiful slice of dream-pop-perfection that it’s always been a mystery to me why it wasn’t given the dedicated video and single release treatment.

Luckily that oversight has now been corrected, and you can enjoy “Come To” in all its magnificence while watching the band performing it, but not actually performing it. But if the video is not a lot to look at, that doesn’t matter one bit when the song is this perfect. And even if it’s just a not incredible sequence of live footage – taken, by the look of it, from Bombay Bicycle Club’s Brixton Academy gig earlier this year – it’s all the excuse or reason I need to post about what is one of the most unexpectedly beautiful and uplifting songs of 2014.

Daisy Victoria – Heart Full of Beef EP

In this world you don’t always get what you pay for, or what you expect. Sometimes, though, free things come along and leave you wondering what you did to deserve such fortune. The risk of inviting submissions to this site was, I always felt, that you never know who’s going to turn up. Like holding a party for friends of friends of friends only, you’re at the mercy of chance and happenstance. Inevitably, this leads to a certain amount of filtering, and quietly laying to one side music that you really just don’t quite know how to form a useful opinion on.

The obvious upside is that from time to time you find yourself listening to the kind of blisteringly brilliant debut EP that makes you shout a silent “YES!” while simultaneously trying to figure out how it is that the world hasn’t already discovered it.

Heart Full of Beef is the debut from Daisy Victoria. On its five tracks of poetic post-punk, rough, abrasive guitars mix with occasional moments of unannounced beauty. Every now and then a lyric cuts through the mix and makes you want to go back and check you heard right. I’ll just leave the opening lines of the title track, and first track on the EP here, and let you discover the rest:

the blue hubbard is playing mother
and squashing my face to the wall
the pumpkin is put out but the juices are flowing
and my mind is a mirror ball

Second track “Macbeth to my Lady” is the EP’s melodic high point and most obvious entry-point for commercial success. Not that there’s much commercial about lyrics like “where did you find a tongue so grotesque and persuasive?”, but propelled along on lo-fi guitars and a hint of Siouxsieness it’s no surprise to find it drawing acclaim.

However, with a few more listens under the belt, it’s “Cloth” that reveals itself as the true standout track (which is saying something in this company). It performs the classic magic trick of opening out from raw to silky smooth and back again without you quite realising until you’re right in the middle of it, and its seductive tendrils are wrapping themselves all around, and you have no choice but to give yourself over to its twisted beauty. It would be high class dream pop if it weren’t so very, very dark.

By the standard set so far the first few seconds of “The Secret Garden Path” might have you fooled into thinking this is where it gets a bit more comfortable and straightforward, but, of course, all is not so simple (and that “where am I going?” bassline should have been a clue from the start, frankly). The sound might be cleaner here than on the other tracks, but the mood is no less sinister, the chorus melody no less beguiling.

The EP closes with “Tree”: more beauty, more fireworks, and a stunning vocal delivery. It marks an atmospheric end to a hugely impressive release.

Daisy Victoria has already caught the ear of the BBC Introducing team, and will be appearing at this year’s Latitude Festival, performing on The Lake Stage on the last day of the festival. By this time next year, expect a bigger stage and a higher billing.

Heart Full of Beef is available now from Bandcamp (name your price) or Soundcloud (free download).

The Beatles – Rain

Having been reared on 1962-1966 (aka The Red Album), and 1967-1970 (aka The Red Album), I took the path of least resistance and started my own Beatles album collection with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It took a while before I heard that Revolver was really the jewel in the crown, but when I got there, its brilliance needed no explanation, and in the context of my CD collection at the time – which was a mix of early ’90s shoegazing, baggy and general indie underachievers, and essential ’60s and ’70s albums by the likes of Nick Drake and Neil Young – its style made perfect sense.

One song in particular resonated: “She Said She Said” sounded like the long lost grandfather of the combined sound of all that I loved. Lyrically it was a perfect match for all those simple-lyric songs that aren’t about anything much in particular (“There’s No Other Way” springs to mind), while the guitar, unsurprisingly, brought to mind bands who had unselfconsciously modelled themselves on The Beatles in any case.

And then there’s Ringo’s drum patterns. Of all his work with The Beatles, it is said that this period contains his proudest moments. So often the butt of the joke, usually the one about him not being the best drummer in the band, on “She Said She Said” Starr hammers out rhythms that just scream out to be copied and tweaked and enhanced.

On “Rain”, recorded earlier in 1966, and released as a b-side to “Paperback Writer”, he does the same, propelling the track with his skittering, beautifully imperfect shapes:

I think I just played amazing. I was into the snare and the hi-hat. I think it was the first time I used this trick of starting a break by hitting the hi-hat first instead of going directly to a drum off the hi-hat.

Ringo Starr – Many Years From Now, Barry Miles (quote taken from http://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/rain/)

Grizzly Bear – Will Calls

Word is that Scorsese’s preferred cut for The Wolf of Wall Street is an hour longer than the theatrical release. That’s one whole hour on top of a film that’s already touching three hours. Quentin Tarantino, Richard Curtis, Peter Jackson: all fond of the lengthy cut, all could do with being more unafraid to leave the audience wanting more, rather than half an hour of their lives back.

So let’s hear it for Grizzly Bear, and make a collective wish that other artists in all fields could take a leaf out of their high-standards book.

After breaking through with Vecakatimest in 2009, and their subsequent tour in support of that album, the experimental folk-pop-rockistst Grizzly Bear took some time out before starting on its successor. In the summer of 2011, the band started working on demos and recordings in Marfa, Texas. Feeling they only got a couple of album-worthy tracks out of the sessions, the band decamped and returned to Cape Cod, where they had previously recorded Yellow House in 2005.

An album, Shields was released in 2012. From the Marfa sessions, only “Sleeping Ute” and “Yet Again” made the final album cut, but in 2013 an expanded version of the album was released, with eight additional tracks. In a move that should be celebrated by fans and collectors alike, these eight tracks were also given a standalone release as Shields: B-sides. Also to be celebrated is the quality of the new tracks. Leaving aside the three remixes, which are hit and miss, take it or leave it, what’s left is an EP of “captivating sketches” (so says Pitchfork).

It’s quite reassuring, really, to think that a track like “Will Calls” in this state, was seen as such a crushing disappointment by the band. It’s a lesson that could be well learned by double-LP releasers and directors everywhere.

Hey Good Weather

The sun came out and I thought it would be a good time to kick off a new project…

The aim of “20 songs” is to compile a playlist of twenty songs on a particular theme, taking somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes to come up with the final selection. Like my best games of blitz chess, the hope is that this enforced deadline will boost instinctive creativity and stop me getting bogged down in analysis paralysis (like my worst games of chess).

Depending on where you are right now, the sun might have gone, gone away, but perhaps this summer playlist will help you get over that. Entirely co-incidentally, BBC6Music’s People’s Playlist earlier this week was all about the sun, but mine was compiled first and is clearly the superior collection 

The Cardigans“Rise and Shine”

We kick off with The Cardigans, back in their sunniest days, long before they got all serious on Gran Turismo, and the almost impossibly bright and breezy “Rise and Shine”:

http://youtu.be/Ya9bdeSFi5s

Belle & Sebastian“Legal Man”

From there, we move to another occasionally twee artist, Belle & Sebastian, only here they’re dipping a toe into their Northern Soul crossover waters. On the face of it, “Legal Man” doesn’t seem like a summer anthem, other than in its sheer exuberance and fun, but wait until you get to those final lines before you cast judgement 

Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”

The disappointingly short-lived The Maybes? are up next with “Summertime” and their wise advice to “dance, dance, dance with the radio on”, advice roundly ignored by Jason Pierce on “Lay Back in The Sun”. The delicate and bewitching BC Camplight (real name Brian Christinzio) follows with “I Wouldn’t Mind The Sunshine” – Christinzio, fact fans might like to note, has played live with The War on Drugs, a band whose former members include one Kurt Vile, up next with “Wakin on a Pretty Day”.

The Style Council – “Long Hot Summer”

Taken By Trees (aka Victoria Bergsman of The Concretes) carry us off to distant shores, then that bloke from The Strokes‘ dad warns us of possibly metaphorical downpours in southern California. And then it’s time to get in a boat with Paul Weller and ask him why exactly it was he had to split The Jam up so soon and go all coffee-shop jazz on his fans:

The first half closes with Caribou’s one-word solar paean, “Sun”.

The House of Love – Pink Frost

I think I’ve explained the demise of The House of Love in enough detail in previous posts (nutshell: drugs, egos, bust-ups and bus stops), but it’s always worth reminding yourself that they were as good musically as they were messed up psychologically.

“Pink Frost” is the last track on the CD single and 12-inch of ‘The Girl With The Loneliest Eyes‘, and is so quintessentially perfect as a House of Love casually tossed away piece of b-side brilliance that it came as some surprise a few years ago to discover that I hadn’t been paying close attention to the liner notes, and that the song was in fact credited to Martin Phillips and Terry Moore of New Zealand band The Chills.

Originally released as a single in 1984, “Pink Frost” reached #17 on the New Zealand singles chart (further evidence to my as yet not fully formed theory that there’s some correlation between chart audience size and a prevalence of humdrum chart hits) before finding its way onto Kaleidoscope World, the band’s 1986 album that collected their early EPs into one handy LP-sized slice of fried gold. As such, this makes “Pink Frost” a double score for the playlist: a cover version (released as a b-side) of a standalone single that was part of a compilation album.

Here’s the original for you to compare with the later cover. Note the first part to the intro, which The House of Love dropped, and the edge and darkness of Phillips’ vocals: it’s altogether less certain, less glossy than Guy Chadwick’s take. To add to the haunting poignancy, The Chills dedicated the song to Martyn Bull, their drummer, who had died in 1983.

The Wonder Stuff – Something For Sammy

Some songs, no matter how good, are just destined for hidden track status. Brilliant though they are, catchy though they may be, something about them means they don’t quite work as album tracks, but leave a pause after the last song on the official tracklist has faded out and hey presto – you’ve just created a space for the magical otherworld of the hidden track.

Some hidden tracks are rubbish, pointless, or just plain annoying (hello Stone Roses, yes I’m looking at you). Others are sweet and quirky, but only make sense in the crack between the closing bars of the album proper and the click of the tape end, or the whirr of the CD spinning down to a halt.

“Something for Sammy” falls firmly into the last of these categories. A shade under three minutes long, it consists almost entirely of its introduction – two minutes of swirling strings that hover and crest, occasionally teasing a vocal only to soar away again. When the lyric finally breaks in, it consists of just two almost indentical cryptic lines:

Well there’s better necks to break and better cars to crash
Yeah there’s better necks to break and better cars to crash

It closes with a brief reprise of the intro melody: quirky and esoteric, it’s perfect hidden track material.

The Specials – Why?

This b-side to ‘Ghost Town” – one of two stellar songs accompanying the number one single, the other being ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning” – was written by Specials guitarist Lynval Golding after he suffered a racist attack that left him hospitalised.

I know I am black
You know you are white
I’m proud of my black skin
And you are proud of your white, so

Why did you try to hurt me?

It’s a pure, simple, straightforward plea for tolerance that sounds just as current today as it did on release over 30 years ago. Perhaps a line like “We don’t need no British Movement” will, sadly, always ring true.

Gene – I Can’t Help Myself

You have to go all the way back to Gene’s début single “Be My Light, Be My Guide” for today’s selection. Dropped in as a b-side to that excellent single, “I Can’t Help Myself” later appeared on the b-sides etc compilation To See The Lights in 1996. The song exists in two equally strong forms: the studio version is a full-band affair, while live or as a session track it was often stripped back to a piano-only track, sounding like a very distant foreshadowing of lead singer Martin Rossiter’s 2012 solo album The Defenestration of St Martin.

Despite being a compilation, and not a studio album proper, To See The Lights is considered so highly by the fans that when Gene’s albums were recently remastered, rather than take its b-sides and other tracks and use them to make expanded 2CD versions of each of the studio albums, To See The Lights was itself given the deluxe treatment, with a second CD consisting of some added session tracks and a live set from the short-lived Phoenix festival in 1996.

Bob Mould – Can’t Fight It

In 1993, Bob Mould was in the middle of an early 90s purple patch of chart and critical success, that had started with the formation of Sugar and the album Copper Blue in 1992, continued with single “If I Can’t Change Your Mind”, the fiery and uncompromising Beaster, and concluded with File Under Easy Listening in 1994.

Towards the end of 1993, he found time to contribute “Can’t Fight It” to the No Alternative compilation in support of AIDS relief. Very much drawn from the “Hardly Getting Over It” end of the Mould musical spectrum, “Can’t Fight It” is an ode to a broken relationship that might surprise coming on the heels of Beaster, but which makes perfect sense once you start to remember that EP’s emotional closer, “Walking Away”.