How Could They Be Wrong – a Playlist of Mercury Losers

I don’t know if you can remember as far back as last night, but Young Fathers won the 2014 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize in what many uninformed commentators have described as “an upset”. Meanwhile, the blogosphere’s most prescient minds were busy letting everyone know they predicted the win.

RRP unashamedly includes itself in this category, by the way…

Meanwhile, the rest – those pitiful wretches who didn’t randomly shout out YOUNG FATHERS WILL WIN!! quick enough – were left to root around their archives to dig out the earliest blog post in which they vaguely mentioned Young Fathers as proof they’ve been backing them longer than anyone else.

Yeah, check the timestamp.

Tweet of the night, though, was this humdinger:

Down the years the award panel has handed over-sized cheques to many worthy winners, something covered in this playlist’s companion piece Emergent Thrumming – a Playlist of Mercury Prize Winners; the shortlist system working as it does, though, many credible nominees have failed to land the prize. Or, to put it in media-speak, they have been snubbed.

Let the unsnubbing begin!

Saint Etienne“Nothing Can Stop Us”

I don’t think anyone felt particularly snubbed when the prize was first awarded back in 1992. I would think it takes a certain amount of hubris to be nominated for the inaugural award and then get stroppy if you don’t win it. A strong if weird first shortlist included Erasure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Simply Red, U2, John Tavener & Steven Isserlis, Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart and Saint Etienne – at the time still in rotating-vocalist mode until settling on Sarah Cracknell after the release of “Nothing Can Stop Us”.

Therapy?“Screamager”

I994 – and in only its third year, the prize delivered a surprising winner that led to a great deal of head scratching and bafflement that hasn’t since diminished. I have nothing against M People, and you can’t deny Heather Small could belt out a tune like no other (and will forever be remembered fondly by RRP for her contribution to the BBC’s version of Perfect Day), but it was a choice that seemed designed to attract ridicule. The 1994 shortlist included Parklife by Blur, His “n” Hers by Pulp, Music for the Jilted Generation by The Prodigy, Wild Wood by Paul Weller, as well as Michael Nyman, Shara Nelson, Ian McNabb and Take That: a typically diverse shortlist, and one that laid itself open to accusations of being arbitrary. To then give the award to the massively popular soul-dance album on the list just seems ill-considered.

Cornershop“Good Shit”

I don’t begrudge Gomez their 1998 win, really. But When I Was Born For The Seventh Time is surely the better album any which way you choose to slice them. Sorry about the SFW title alteration for the video, by the way: not my decision, obviously.

The Chemical Brothers“Under The Influence”

In a (sort of) word: Wip3out.

The Delgados“No Danger”

The millennium bug didn’t kill us all! And the Mercury judges celebrated by giving the 2000 award to a shambling, ambling and amiable beanie-hatted troubadour. And a worthy winner Badly Drawn Boy was, too, even if it did mean that The Delgados missed out. They had to make do with the Spirit of Scotland Award instead.

The Thrills“Big Sur”

2003 was not a vintage Mercury Year. Of the non-winners you could make a kitsch case for The Darkness (Permission to Land), and Lemon Jelly’s Lost Horizons was much loved at the time, but Vehicles and Animals isn’t even Athlete’s best album, and you could say the same for Radiohead and Hail To The Thief.

The Thrills reached #3 with So Much For The City, and scored another top ten album with Let’s Bottle Bohemia. After the disappointing Teenager in 2008 the band was dropped by EMI, since when they have been adrift in the temporal void known colloquially as “indefinite hiatus”.

Emergent Thrumming – a Playlist of Mercury Prize Winners

Psst! Wanna know a secret?

Young Fathers are about to win the 2014 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize. You’re wondering, perhaps, how I know this. Truth is, I don’t. They’re among the outsiders, but it’s the classic no-money-down bet: if they win I look like a sage, and can nod my head in knowing victory; when they join the ranks of the losers, shaking the hand of the much more fancied winning act, I can, with a completely straight face, announce that “well, what I mean is, it would have been nice if they had won, wouldn’t it?”.

Wanna know another secret?

I’ve left one of the winners off the spotify playlist. I wanted it to be complete; I tried, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I wonder if you can guess who is missing.

Primal Scream“Don’t Fight it Feel it”

Might as well start at the top, with inaugural winners Primal Scream, who took the trophy and the big flappy cheque in 1992, thanks to the unexpectedly brilliant Screamadelica – an album so good even staunch guitar-loving indie and shoegazing types couldn’t get enough of it.

http://youtu.be/eFuE-thYZ1A

Suede“Sleeping Pills”

Hopefully you see where this is going now – occasionally I’ll have to resort to obvious tracks (or, in some cases, whichever one appealed slightly more than the others when listening to a winner’s album for the first time earlier today…), but I’m as likely to pluck out an album track worthy of re-loving.

Suede won with their self-titled debut in 1993, beating The Auteurs by a single vote. In my original attempt at Mercury coverage, in which I was trying to construct an alternative history of the award, this was going to be the foundation for a hilarious line about how, after The Auteurs had actually won that year, a conspiracy theory later emerged in which it was alleged that the vote was rigged in favour of Suede, only some suit cocked it up. Unable to shake off these rumours, Luke Haines would become increasingly unstable, before turning his paranoic bitterness into a humourless and violent album called After Murder Park.

Gomez – “78 Stone Wobble”

Be honest – when was the last time you listened to Gomez?

I said be honest.

Well you should go back and give them another listen, because there’s a lot more to enjoy there than you might imagine if you thought 1998 winner Bring It On was a bit of a one-off.

Badly Drawn Boy“Fall in a River”

After winning the award in 2000 with The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, Badly Drawn Boy – some say – went off the rails a bit. But then who among us truly knows how they’d handle the short, sharp shock of celebrity that leads to making a video with Joan Collins?

And who among us has written a song as simple yet as beautifully atmospheric as “Fall in a River”, and then stretched it out into a seven-minute dream?

Dizzee Rascal – Fix Up, Look Sharp

19 years old, and wins with his debut album Boy in da Corner in 1993. Basically including this here to make it seem like this is the Dizzee Rascal I know and love, when the truth is more like pulling embarrassing nightclub shapes to “Holiday”. Don’t judge me.

Antony and the Johnsons – My Lady Story

If this prize wants continued (or recaptured) relevance, it could do a lot worse than reward artists such as the 2005 winner Antony and the Johnsons: talented, remarkable, impressive, tender, affecting…

Elbow“The Fix”

Talking about killing two birds with one stone. “Richard Hawley’s been robbed!” declared Alex Turner when The Arctic Monkeys won in 2006 with Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. You have to admit he had a point. So here’s the former Pulp and Longpigs man, now appropriately established as a mellifluous and much-loved solo artist, joining 2008 winners Elbow.

PJ Harvey“The Last Living Rose”

The only two-time winner of the prize, winning with Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea in 2001, and Let England Shake ten years later. Two quite different albums, one unique talent.

James Blake“Retrograde”

Confession: I never did quite get round to digging into last year’s winning album, Overgrown. That said, I’m not a complete dolt; I did accidentally spend a fair amount of time captivated by Retrograde.

Young Fathers – LOW

This entry might be getting a hasty edit in an hour’s time, but what the hey, and let’s hear it for blind optimism.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you your 2014 winners, Young Fathers, following their Scottish Album of the Year award with more silverware.

Belle & Sebastian – The Party Line

Stop everything, carefully place valuables and breakables on the nearest level surface, and drop everything else.

Why? Well only because Belle & Sebastian have released a first taste of forthcoming album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, that’s why. And it does not disappoint.

“The Party Line” shimmies here, and grooves back over there; it’s a far cry from the fey indie-pop of yore. It’s a giant shiny stride away from “There’s Too Much Love” – on which Stuart Murdoch did assure us he could “dance all night like I’m a soul boy” – and with a head-glance over at “Your Cover’s Blown” and a knowing node, we head into what seems to be Belle & Sebastian’s brave new world of lit-up dancefloors.

Buy Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance from Matador

http://www.belleandsebastian.com/
https://www.facebook.com/belleandseba…
https://twitter.com/bellesglasgow
http://instagram.com/bellesglasgow
http://www.matadorrecords.com

Jack Adaptor – J’Accuse!

After The Family Cat split in the mid 1990s, the band’s singer Paul “Fred” Frederick formed a new band, Pure Gain. He met Chris Cordoba through a mutual introduction from a mysterious third party (who no-one can quite remember), and together the duo have been releasing records as Jack Adaptor since their self-titled debut in 2004; J’Accuse! is the duo’s fifth studio album.

As a work, it’s a pretty eclectic one, ranging from the jazzy lightness of “If Not Now When?”, and the funky “Zodiac Bones”, through to the easy pop of Big Star paean “Number One Record”. It’s also pretty smart, both lyrically and musically; it’s extremely likely that it’s the only album you’ll hear this year with a closing track that references a French playwright and proponent of the theatre of cruelty. (Although do let me know if you it’s not…)

It begins with the wonderful one-two of “Number One Record” and “Get it Right First Time”. The former is a tribute to Big Star and all those other musical heroes who stopped too soon – “the ones who got away” – and screams radio play (or possibly Radio City) at you, but if we lived in a world where “Number One Record[/tracktitle] got regular air-time, we probably wouldn’t need a catchy pop song like “Number One Record” to remind us of the genius of Chilton, Bell, Stephens and co in the first place.

“Get it Right First Time”, meanwhile sashays, mambo-style, all the way through to its guitar and saloon piano outro.

Having set you up to sway, though, Frederick and Cordoba change the mood, and continue to do so through the rest of J’Accuse!. The curveballs start with “The Circle”. Subtle and dense, it’s also lyrically and melodically intriguing:

this foolish showing off will kill me
will kill me in the end
but pulling hateful faces
alienates my friends
the circle’s done

“Paper Thin”, meanwhile, pulls out a piano stool, lights up, and slips into confessional mode:

I’m in conflict with myself
ain’t no-one else gonna put me right
fighting with myself
ain’t no-one else gonna put it right

The song builds a head of gloomy steam before drifting away in a delicate and minimal piano outro.

It’s no surprise that an album influenced by Plush, Joni Mitchell, Curtis Mayfield, and Penguin Cafe Orchestra should keep you on your toes, and to get to “Paper Thin” from “The Circle”, you have to navigate “If Not Now When?”, and “Zodiac Bones”: the former soulful, clean, jazzy; the latter dirty, funky and fuzzy. Popping out the other side you find yourself landing in the lap of the “VU”‘s soft drums and Velvet Underground references:

You might say no but all of us are coming round –
hide the silver, drink the wine.
You might be listening to the Velvet Underground –
the first album for the thousandth time

Actually it would be only the first or second time. I’d really rather listen to VU, you know…

“Wall Builders” and “Antonin Artaud” send J’Accuse! out in formidable style. “Wall Builders” has possibly the album’s best instrumentation and melody, with a beautiful guitar solo and understated horns set up by the opening lyric:

I don’t know why way to turn –
left I drown and right I burn.
See the morning shift and yawn
like the day that I was born
on the wrong side of the wall.
Can’t see over it at all.

After the relative lightness of touch of what comes before it, the wailing and rough edges of “Antonin Artaud” come as a bit of a shock. At this point you can look back to the bouncy “Number One Record” and really appreciate the path J’Accuse! asks you to walk. “It’s such a cruel joke”, and “Can’t do anything to save the world” Frederick sings over a slowly forming maelstrom, a devastating guitar landslide.

This is beginning to feel like the age of the 90s comeback. So many of the indie artists from that time have returned in one way or another: The Stone Roses have toured and teased new material; Pulp toured and released one single (albeit not a completely new one). Suede and Inspiral Carpets meanwhile have gone further and released new albums, generally well received. And then there’s the lead singer turned solo artist: Martin Rossiter (Gene) and Andrew Montgomery (Geneva) for example.

And it’s these last two that seem closest to Jack Adaptor, in spirit at least. Not that J’Accuse! is a comeback album in any way, given that the duo have been recording together for years, but like Rossiter’s minimal almost entirely piano/vocal album The Defenestration of St. Martin, and Montgomery’s evocative Ruled By Dreams, this is an album that has left the past behind, and expanded its horizons. Indie is not the world.

You might not know and might not care that these songs share a creator with former indie chart hits like “River of Diamonds” and “Steamroller”, and while knowing that doesn’t change these songs except to add a pinch of historical interest and context, it’s great to hear old voices doing new things, and doing them this well, with a freshness and intelligence that old indie scene didn’t always allow for.

Buy J’Accuse! from 3 Loop Music

There is no Ending

What happens if you take the opening track from each of 20 albums and construct a playlist from them, then take the closing tracks from the same 20 albums, and create a playlist out of those, in reverse order from the original playlist?

I’m glad you asked…

Teenage Fanclub – “Speed of Light” (Songs From Northern Britain)

Elbow – “Puncture Repair” (Leaders of the Free World)

Joan as Police Woman – “We Don’t Own It” (Real Life)

The Strokes – “Take It Or Leave It” (Is This It)

Grandaddy – “So You’ll Aim Toward The Sky” (The Sophtware Slump)

Cornershop – “Norwegian Wood” (When I Was Born For The Seventh Time)

Arab Strap – “There is no Ending” (The Last Romance)

Belle & Sebastian – “The Rollercoaster Ride” (The Boy With The Arab Strap)

Nick Drake – “Saturday Sun” (Five Leaves Left)

Primal Scream – “Long Life” (Vanishing Point)

The Alternative Top 40 – Autumn 2014

Here at <record> <<rewind<< >play> we are proud to now be one of the blogs hosting the Alternative Top 40, run by Universal-Horse.

The Alternative Top 40 is a regular music chart shared across multiple music blogs, and a great way of discovering music you might not have heard elsewhere. You can contribute to the #AltTop40 by simply naming your favourite tracks of the moment on the dedicated page at Universal Horse. Here’s the new edition:

  1. Michael O’Neill – “Cheetham Hill Speed Scene”

  2. Robert Plant – “Little Maggie”

  3. Noura Mint Seymali – “Tzenni”

  4. Grumbling Fur – “All the Rays (East India Youth remix)”

  5. Cassetteboy – “Cameron’s Conference Rap”

  6. Hazel Winter – “Y.D.F.L.M.”

  7. Vessel – “Red Sex”

  8. The Bug feat. Warrior Queen – “Fuck U”

  9. Deerhoof – “Exit Only”

  10. Alex Dingley – “Knuckle Bone”

  11. SJ Esau – “Soul II Skull” / +
  12. Lowell – The Bells / +
  13. Stop Motion Orchestra – “Mystery Grandma” / +
  14. Boxcar Aldous Huxley – “The Slow Decline of the London Necropolis Railway” / +
  15. Vietcong“Oxygen Feed” / +
  16. Kogumaza“NB / Kолокол / Ursids” / +
  17. Yellow Creatures“Spinning Orange Catherine Peel” / +
  18. Perfume Genius“Fool” / +
  19. The Feminists“Schnippi” / +
  20. New Cowboy Builders“Black Moses” / +
  21. SJ Esau“Frustrating” / +
  22. Mogwai“Teenage Exorcists” / +
  23. Amanda Palmer“The Killing Type” +
  24. Hamell on Trial“Happiest Man in the World” / +
  25. Camera“Synchron” / +
  26. Kendrick Lamar“Swimming Pools (Drank)” / +
  27. Mano’s Daughter“You” / +
  28. Mylets – “Hungover Tehran” / +
  29. Perfume Genius“Queen” / +
  30. The Death of Pop“Whenever” / +
  31. By the Rivers“Vultures” / +
  32. Rachael Dadd“Strike Our Scythes” / +
  33. Kate Tempest“Circles” / +
  34. Marianne Faithfull“Late Victorian Holocaust” / +
  35. The Wytches“Burn Out the Bruise” / +
  36. The History of Apple Pie“Special Girl” / +
  37. Logos feat. Mumdance“Wut it Do” / +
  38. The Brackish“Surf’s Down” / +
  39. Kate Bush“There Goes a Tenner” / +
  40. Metal Office“Downard” / +

Follow the Alternative Top 40 on Facebook and Twitter. #AltTop40

Futsu – Mechanical Bride

There’s a lot to like about “Mechanical Bride”, the new song from Futsu: the twin vocals; the organ bubbling gently or loudly at all the right times; the, ah, interesting and colourful video. These are all just appetisers to the main dish, however – the tasty feast that is the bassline in the chorus.

Futsu is a Indie Pop Rock band from Paris via Sydney Australia. “Mechanical Bride” is the first single from their upcoming album Body Island, due out in December.

In the band’s own words:

Futsu is a band, armed with falsettos, harmonies, guitars, effects pedals, violin, tambourines, shakers and a smile as a rifle. Futsu play melodically sharp pop songs that move people and make people move.

Futsu emphasizes melody and emotion in his vocals and guitar playing with a taste for organic percussive sounds constructed from household objects. While the music encompasses an experimental approach in the recording process embracing “accidents” and “mistakes” it is always contained in a strong pop coating.

Official Futsu website: http://www.futsu.fr/
Futsu on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/futsuband

And 15 facts you might not know about the video.

Crocodile – Crocodile Vs. The Mutant Alligators From Space

Crocodile Vs. The Mutant Alligators From Space is a five-track EP from Austin, Texas, band Crocodile. An EP of fun and playful indie rock reminiscent of Ben Kweller or B.C.Camplight with the quirkiness turned down a notch, it’s full of great melodies, often backed with equally great harmonies, played with an energy and verve; there’s often barely time to savour a drum fill or the guitar that’s just burst into life before it’s followed by another.

The accompanying blurb for Crocodile Vs. The Mutant Alligators From Space included the following:

At most, we just want to put a smile on your face

Mission accomplished, Crocodile. Mission accomplished.

Crocodile Vs. The Mutant Alligators From Space is available on a name your price basis from the band’s Bandcamp page. As ever – if you love it, please buy it.

Follow Crocodile on Soundcloud:
https://soundcloud.com/crocodile-2

Foreign Shores – Alone in Time

Alone in Time is the second album from Chicago-based band Foreign Shores. Recorded, mixed and mastered by guitarist Nick Reuille, it’s a beautiful mix of the best of the band’s shoegazing and dream pop influences, but at the same time very much their own creation.

With influences that include bands like My Bloody Valentine, Foals, The Cure, Slowdive, TV on the Radio, DIIV and Airiel, Foreign Shores have created a sound that varies from a chilled out House of Love if they’d listened to more Cocteau Twins, and The Cure without the distracting kooky vocals.

Alone in Time is available from the band’s bandcamp page on a name your price basis – following the “support more of what you love” policy, if you enjoy it, buy it!

Foreign Shores are:

Nick Rynott (Vocals and Rhythm guitar)
Nick Reuille (Guitar)
Dom Gaddini (Drums)
Eric Plancon (Bass)

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/foreign-shores
Bandcamp: http://foreignshores.bandcamp.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ForeignShoresMusic

Neighbour – Taste Me

Every now and then a band comes along with a promise of recapturing a part of the 90s, making it fresh and exciting all over again with a new take on an old sound.

“Taste Me” is the latest track from Kettering Britpoppists and dreamy-sound makers Neighbour. Its breathy vocals and an easy vibe that’s somewhere between baggy and Britpop give it an early 90s postcode, where it lives among all the bands of the day who were lazily described as “shoegazers” even though they tended towards a more expansive sound. It catches us here at RRP while we have our own 90s thing going on, and we’re thoroughly addicted already.

“Tasteless lately – just lick it up and taste me” go the lyrics, as a cavalcade of Japanese game show contestants do the sort of things that you probably first saw introduced by Chris Tarrant, or Clive James if like me your memory stretches back that little bit further.

Listen to more Neighbour over on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/neighbourband

Find out more at the band’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/neighbourband

Follow Neighbour on twitter: https://twitter.com/neighbourband

Belle & Sebastian – Lazy Line Painter Jane

Before hipster (in its most recent incarnation) was a thing, there was fey. And it was OK. It was perfectly fine to wear a cardigan and enjoy harmless indie-pop. It was not only fine, but rather splendid in fact to be a member of the Sinister mailing list, set up in 1997 by and for Belle & Sebastian fans, and which allowed a free flow of their most endearing and innocent musings through bedrooms up and down the land. Or in my case, the office’s “internet computer”. That’s right, the computer that was connected to the internet. The one we could use to check our emails if it was free. Because, for a while, there was only one. What a world we lived in. I probably still used phonecards (I definitely still used phonecards), and cashback was exciting enough that you might ask for it even when you didn’t need any.

Belle & Sebastian released a hat-trick of superb EPs in 1997, starting with Dog On Wheels, and finishing with 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light. Sandwiched between them was Lazy Line Painter Jane, which was released in July, and very nearly broke the Top 40, peaking at #41.

Having already released two albums the previous year – the limited release Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister – and with another one on the way the following year this was a time in which the Glasgow band seemed to have an unlimited supply of sweet tales to tell and gentle melodies with which to tell them. 1997’s EPs effectively amounted to a whole album between them, and together they amounted to the first disc of the 2005 compilation Push Barman to Open Old Wounds.

There’s nary a filler track to be found, and although the opening track on each EP is the obvious picks, there are gems to be found throughout, such as a different version of “The State I am In” from the one to be found on Tigermilk, and the glorious runaway train that is “Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie”.

“Lazy Line Painter Jane” itself is undoubtedly the pick of the songs. Beefier than “Dog on Wheels”, it features a glorious guest vocal from Monica Queen, swirling organs, guitars turned up, handclaps, and a noise and energy that Belle & Sebastian had kept mostly hidden up to this point. As it gathers steam, the force is irresistible, culminating in an outro that is completely owned by an organ seemingly played by an uncredited crazed madman who wandered into the church where the song was being recorded and felt like hammering away for a few frenzied minutes.