Ten Years of JackInABox by Turin Brakes

Unbelievably, [albumtitle]JackInABox[/albumtitle] – the third studio album by [artistname]Turin Brakes[/artistname] – is ten years old this month. In order to give the album a bit of love (and perhaps some well-deserved renewed interest), it was decided that we, the fans, would select and write about our favourite tracks from the album so we can share our thoughts with other lovely Brakes fans via Ether Site. A fitting tribute to a great album.

Initially this was just meant to be a brief piece on one of the singles from the album and why I liked it but, when I started writing it became apparent that as usual I had a bit more to say on the matter. This has now therefore become my brief history of discovering (and rediscovering) Turin Brakes’ third album and what it and they mean to me.

There is an overwhelming sound of summer sun about JackInABox

Firstly, a bit about the album itself. It was released in 2005 to good reviews and fared pretty well in the UK charting at number 9 in the first week. However, the first single from the album which was [tracktitle]Fishing For A Dream[/tracktitle] didn’t do that well only coming in at number 35. This is something I have written about before with Turin Brakes, the wrong choice of leading single. But as they don’t consider themselves to be a single led band (their own words) I guess they can be forgiven. And anyway, that’s just my own opinion and means nothing in the grand scheme of things really.

I have been trying to recall actually purchasing the album in the first place and have a vague memory of doing so. It was May 2005, I had recently moved away from my hometown of London and had ended up living in the Midlands. I don’t actually remember where I bought the CD, but it probably would’ve been somewhere like HMV I would guess. I’m almost positive I have the limited edition version of the album with the DVD included (I usually plump for the limited ones), but it’s currently residing in my loft with a large proportion of my collection so I can’t be 100% certain on that one. I do know that I need to get my hands on it again though. But fear not, I have a second copy of the standard CD in my current listening pile plus it’s on my iPod, so it’s all good!

Ten years is a long time to get to know an album, but I have to say, I have never been as attached to [albumtitle]JackInABox[/albumtitle] in the same way I am to [albumtitle]Ether Song[/albumtitle]. It could be that I just didn’t give it enough time to get under my skin as I did with the other albums, or, more than likely, it’s because it came along at what was one of the most awful times in my life and it just got boxed up and forgotten about after an initial listen. Not a good excuse really, but I spent most of 2005 moving around the country and my beloved CD collection was unfortunately not always travelling with me.

I do know that at the time when I first listened to the album I particularly loved the title track (and to be honest I still do) as it sounded so different from the tracks on [albumtitle]Ether Song[/albumtitle] and made you want to tap your feet. For me, that’s always been part of the beauty of discovering a new Brakes album, the unexpected difference in sound each time as they themselves grow musically with experience and gain confidence in what they do. Never being afraid to sidestep the norm (or what you’ve been pigeon holed into) is a refreshing trait to have and one which I respect greatly.

Listening again to the album recently I realised that perhaps I should have taken a bit more time with it way back when. There is an overwhelming sound of summer sun about it with a lightness and easy going nature as the tracks flow through. Whether that was deliberate or not, I can’t say, but opening with [tracktitle]They Can’t Buy The Sunshine[/tracktitle] certainly sets it up nicely and the gentle acoustic feel we all know and love is there to enjoy. There are some rather harder going tracks though, so don’t think it’s all ice-cream and dozing off with the fireflies, be prepared to have your heart strings tugged at a bit. I read some of the reviews from the time of the albums release and was not surprised to read the usual opinions about poor lyrics and that the fans would love it, but maybe a new audience wouldn’t, blah blah blah. I really do feel that I must be missing something then as I don’t hear that at all. And I’m not just saying that as I am one of ‘the fans’. As much as I support the artists I love, if I don’t like it, I’ll say. I’ll admit that I didn’t fully engage with this album back in 2005, but as someone who is always prepared to have their mind changed, I have gone back, listened again and have decided that actually, it’s pretty damn good. So there.

I never like every single track on an album (no matter who the artist is) and this is no exception. I do have quite a few favourites though and will instantly always start with track two, [tracktitle]Red Moon[/tracktitle] as this is the one for me. Why do I love this song so much? Well, it’s basically the best single that never was. Yeah, I might have actually pinched that quote from someone who shall remain nameless (Olly I think)… In fact, I wrote a piece recently on tracks that should have been singles but weren’t and [tracktitle]Red Moon[/tracktitle] was my playlist choice as it fits perfectly into that category.

From the opening ‘oohs’ and the slow build up to when the guitar and drums let loose it has you hooked. And it doesn’t let up throughout. Lyrically, it resonates with me a lot and I find the words quite comforting in some respect. Listening to [tracktitle]If you try, you’ll be alright[/tracktitle] is an especially moving thing to hear and I think this might be part of the reason why I love this song so much.

As I noted above, 2005 was one of the worst years in my life, but I got through it and have come out the other side. Now, I’m not saying that this was to do with the song itself (I’m not that daft!), but as I’ve been writing this piece and remembering back to that time it hit me that it’s kind of a fitting memory for me personally. Listening to the album now (and especially that track) brings a wry smile to my face and I think it’s because actually, I did try and you know what? I am alright. Even though the song has absolutely nothing to do with that in the slightest doesn’t matter, it’s about what it means to you and how it makes you feel. For me, I’m at my happiest dancing round my kitchen whilst attempting to sing along and that’s the beauty of good music. If it sparks your attention and actually makes you feel something, then it’s hitting the right chord. And by rediscovering this album and that song in particular, that’s what I’ve found and I have Turin Brakes to thank for that.

So, thanks for everything guys. This is for you.


This article originally appeared on Ether Site, as part of their celebration of the ten year anniversary of [albumtitle]JackInABox[/albumtitle]. Head over there for more articles about the album, its tracks, and the memories it has given Turin Brakes fans.

Music and Memory

I’m not someone who necessarily looks that deeply into how music is produced or even conceived, although I possibly should bearing in mind that I was studying to be a sound engineer many moons ago. That dream sadly never came to fruition, but being the inquisitive person that I am, I still have a fascination with all things music and am resigned to understanding it as best as I can. I am currently reading the book “How Music Works” by the brilliant David Byrne and am looking forward to gaining some insight into this world via his prose. In the meantime though, my mind is still actively questioning.

I was recently on a train journey to London and, as always, I was carrying my trusty notebook and pen so I could write down anything that came into my mind as a possible new article. Staring out of the window and seeing the familiar scenery approaching the outskirts of London, I remembered growing up there and had various other memories of days gone by. I then had an idea. So into my notebook I wrote the words [albumtitle:“music and memory or association”. ]I also wrote some other bits and bobs around this and did a bit of googling. It was the start of a train of thought (literally) and the thought was this. Why does music link to memory and what does this mean?

We all have certain songs that are related to events in our lives. For example, when people get married they have a first dance and this song then becomes intrinsically important to their lives from then on. It will always be “our song” because of that. You may remember that a specific track was playing the first time you saw “x” across a crowded dance floor and suddenly realised that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with them. It may well be why “Saturday Night” by Whigfield means so much to you, but who am I to judge?

Anyway, this thought also reminded me of a recent radio show that I had been listening to where the host, Claire, asked folks to get in touch and tell her which song related to various events in your life like your first crush, when you were a teenager or when you left home etc. I had a ponder and ended up joining in. This also got me reminiscing about when I was younger and the various reasons why my songs choices were important to me. Claire had asked for the song that represented your first crush and mine was “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” by Sugar. The reason I picked this song is because it was on a mixtape that my first real crush made for me when I was about 19. It’s still a firm favourite with me and I have to say that when I listen to it now I am always reminded of him. It’s quite odd really as I haven’t seen him in person for nearly 20 years, but when I hear the jangly guitar of this track I can see his face as clear as day. And that’s what makes the link between music and association so very interesting.

Also in my notes was a line that said ‘Glenn T – cowboy films’. I’m sure this will mean absolutely nothing to you, so let me try to explain my thinking around this bizarre notation. I am a big fan of the band Squeeze and in particular Glenn Tilbrook. Glenn has released some solo albums and also recorded a tour video when he travelled around America in an RV. As I was thinking about memory related to music, I recalled Glenn telling a story on his tour video about how when he was a small child he used to like watching cowboy films. Not very interesting so far, but just bear with me. He said that his memories of the films were linked to the sounds he heard in them rather than the picture he’d seen on the screen. He would hear the sound of metal on metal and place this as a cowboy scraping a spoon across a metal plate while eating beans. He did not recall the colours or what was in the background picture, it was all about the sounds that were being made. I find this fascinating.

I read about “Music-related memory” on Wikipedia and the opening paragraph says this:

Musical memory refers to the ability to remember music-related information, such as melodic content and other progressions of tones or pitches. The differences found between linguistic memory and musical memory have led researchers to theorize that musical memory is encoded differently from language and may constitute an independent part of the phonological loop. The use of this term is problematic, however, since it implies input from a verbal system, whereas music is in principle nonverbal.

Interesting stuff, but not really what I was aiming for. Looking at savantism or child prodigies who can play 10 instruments at the age of 6 is a bit beyond me. I also read an article on some new psychology studies around the link between memory and music. Again, not quite what I wanted to delve into, but worth a read none the less. Check it out here.

I think what I am more intrigued about is the relationship between music and how it messes with your emotions. Why does hearing certain pieces of music make you happy or sad and why do we feel the need to attach certain feelings to it? I also wonder why I can remember the lyrics to songs I haven’t heard in years, but I have no idea what I did last week? It’s a strange thing that you can recall all the words to a random song like “Snooker Loopy” by Chas and Dave and yet I can’t remember to pick up milk on the way home. It must perhaps be related to the part of your brain that holds what is basically useless information.

It could be that music is such an emotional tie because it’s more important to certain people. I would class everything music related as a hobby of mine so I am always focused on learning about it, be it a new artist, reading about it or a new way of obtaining songs. Perhaps if you don’t consider this to be an area of interest to you it wouldn’t have such an impact. Although I’m pretty sure that going back to Claire and the song requests on her radio show, that we all have records that mean something to us for whatever reason. It could well be that the bands your grew up with when you first started to take an interest in music have stuck with you throughout your life. I know that I attach my adoration for my hero Neil Finn to the fact that I discovered the music of Crowded House when I was in my teens and at the age where I was looking for something to speak to me about my life. I found that with Neil and his band and he has been something of a constant companion to me ever since.

I used to travel by train a lot in my early twenties and back then I didn’t have my beloved iPod with me as they hadn’t been invented yet (yes I am that old). Instead, I used to take with me my personal CD player and one of those CD holders where you could just carry the discs in a zipped pouch. The effort of picking only a few discs to take along was torture, but I always seemed to have “Ether Song” by Turin Brakes each and every time. When I listen to tracks from that album now, I can still sense those old train journeys from London to Liverpool and I remember how it made me feel. That album is my travelling friend and when the first track “Blue Hour” opens with the drum machine, I associate it with the train pulling out of Euston station and heading up the railway tracks northwards. I haven’t made that particular journey for well over 10 years now, but I’m transported back to those days whenever I play that record.

I suppose it’s easy to say that this is just human nature or memory working in the usual way. The same thing happens with more or less everything around us such as food we’ve eaten at specific places or certain books we’ve read. What makes the link with music so interesting to me though is the feelings that it brings with it. I mean, I can probably recall the first time I tried Chinese food, but it doesn’t really bring out any emotion in me. It was no doubt very nice and I still like it now, but does it make my happy thinking about it? Not really, no. When I hear that song by Sugar playing though, now there’s a completely different story. I find myself smiling and thinking about the person that made me a tape a very long time ago. And that’s the power of music. The images it conjures up and the feelings it brings with it are something wonderful and I really do hope the things I am listening to now will continue to have this effect on me for a very long time to come.

This article originally appeared on Nicola’s own blog.

Musique Le Pop – Same About You

Leaving their homes in the south of Norway behind, the members of Musique Le Pop headed North to write and record new single Same About You. Stopping only when they reached Finnmark, Norway’s northernmost county, they settled into a rhythm of regular Twin Peaks watching while writing songs for a new album.

Out of this time came the appropriately ethereal and distant-sounding Same About You, a song very much of its geographical and cultural origins. It captures the mystery of Julee Cruise and combines it with the musings of isolation to create a dream of quiet introspection.

MLP 3

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Is the single a thing of the past?

I wrote recently about the album Dark On Fire by Turin Brakes and made mention that I thought they chose the wrong tracks to be released as singles.  Well, this got me thinking about how a band decides on what tracks they are going to release and whether there is some thought around album tracks that perhaps were overlooked at the time.  You know, those songs you hear on the record, absolutely love, but they weren’t ever considered for release.  More’s the pity.

I suppose the first question though should be this.  Is the single actually that important?  Many moons ago I think the choice of single was extremely important to an artist.  I mean, it was an indication of what fans could expect from the upcoming album, especially if they were released by drip feeding to us over a space of time.  It was the hook to get people excited about what was to come so it had to make an impact on the audience.  Nowadays though, we are in the age of streaming and iTunes etc and there is no longer that initial waiting period for fans to find out what the album will be like.  It’s an immediate response.  In most cases an artist will stick the entire album online before general release in whatever form they want and the consumer can choose to buy one track for say 99p or just a couple from the album that they like.  No need to purchase a CD and find out that actually you don’t like the majority of it, just buy the tracks you enjoy listening to.

Nme_blur_oasisBut what has this got to do with tracks that should have been singles?  I guess what I’m trying to establish is the importance of a single in the first place.  Does an artist need to hit with a top class tune and draw people in, or should they just make an album regardless and allow their audience to decide on how much of it they buy?  I am of the old school persuasion and still enjoy buying CDs on a regular basis.  I do, however, need a bit of a pre-empt of what to expect of the artist, so I am always interested in hearing a snippet of what their work sounds like before I wade in and buy the full album.  Perhaps I am in the minority on this though.

I did ask the question of a recording artist to find out how they go about choosing what tracks to release as singles when an album is completed.  I asked the lovely Olly Knights from Turin Brakes what their process usually is.  This is what he told me:

We argue amongst ourselves and then we let a radio plugger help settle it.  It helps when you have a clear front runner.  It’s not that easy with Turin Brakes though as we simply aren’t a single lead band.  But we’re really trying this time with the new album.  It’s been very eye opening doing lots of co-writes for others.  It’s ALL about the single!  Who knew?

I found this very interesting to hear, especially the part about not being a single lead band as I had never really considered this before.  Clearly there are artists out there who put together an album for the love of the art, but don’t ever necessarily think about how it will attract and stand out to the record buying public.

1952_nme_chartRadio play is also a big part of getting the single out there and heard by the public.  Years ago it was the top 40 on the radio every Sunday that let us know who had the number one that week and what people had been buying.  The charts now seem to be focused around the downloads that take place bearing in mind you can’t actually buy singles much anymore.  If the artist is lucky, perhaps some kind DJ will play a track they like on their show and get people talking about it.  This is exactly how I discovered Leon Bridges.  Zane Lowe played his song “Coming Home” on Radio 1 and I just happened to hear it.  It was only available on Soundcloud as Leon is a new up and coming artist.  I fell in love with it as soon as I heard it and went off to seek it out and have been telling people about Leon ever since.  Zane did his job very well indeed and decided to share something he thought other people would enjoy.  Job done.

So is it still important to craft a stand out song when you’re composing an album?  I would say yes.  You still need that little piece of magic that will intrigue the album buying folks out there, whether it be online or in an actual shop (gasp!) to prick up their ears and listen to your wares.  Without a track that can do that, you’re pretty much relying on your solid fanbase to just buy your album because they like you and not considering the whole new audience that you could be reaching by selecting the right song.

And this (finally) is what brings us to those songs that should’ve perhaps been released as singles.  I’m sure we all have an opinion on certain album tracks that we think would’ve fared better for our favourite artists.  I know I do.  I sometimes find it a real shame that an awesome track is hidden away on an album and unless you actually have that record it won’t be heard out there in the world.  With this in mind, we asked the nice folks on Twitter whether they could recommend their favourites to us.  We had lots of responses and decided to take heed of your suggestions and come up with a playlist featuring your tracks.  I really enjoyed listening to them, so a big thank you to the people listed below who got in touch.  This is your playlist.  Enjoy.

@starsfrighten / @HertfordSoul / @glynmorgan89 / @Adycolclough / @theGranerator / @MrKilliecrankie / @JohnyNocash / @Supernova_zine

Trails and Ways – Say You Will

Trails and Ways have announced a new track from their forthcoming album Pathology. “Say You Will” was written by bass player Emma Oppen; the original inspiration for the song came from falling in love with someone almost instantly, to the point of issuing a bold ultimatum: say you will, or don’t say anything at all.

From there it’s progressed into a slinky pop groove, all bass buzzes and shimmering, swaying new wave guitar strums and a sweet vocal style masking the lyric’s bold insistence.

Pathology is out on June 2nd, via Barsuk records.

Catch Trails and Ways on tour this summer, with support from Waterstrider.

6/5 San Francisco – bit.ly/TWSFJun5
6/6 Los Angeles – bit.ly/TWLAJun6
6/7 Phoenix – bit.ly/TWPhxJun7
6/9 Austin – bit.ly/TWAustinJun9
6/10 Dallas – bit.ly/TWDallasJun10
6/12 Atlanta – bit.ly/TWAtlJun12
6/13 Chapel Hill, NC – bit.ly/TWChapelJun13
6/14 Washington, D.C. – bit.ly/TWDCJun14
6/16 Philadelphia – bit.ly/TWPhillyJun16
6/18 New York City (Manhattan)- bit.ly/TWNYCJun18
6/19 Boston – bit.ly/TWBostonJun19
6/20 New York City (Brooklyn) – bit.ly/TWBknJun20
6/22 Cleveland – bit.ly/TWCleveJun22
6/23 Chicago – bit.ly/TWChicagoJun23
6/24 St. Paul, MN – bit.ly/TWStPaulJun24
6/26 Denver – http://bit.ly/TWDenverJune26
6/27 Salt Lake City – bit.ly/TWSLCJun27

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Vanbot – The Way You Say It

Swedish beats, Swedish brilliance.

Vanbot has put out a third track from forthcoming second album Perfect Storm. It is almost, but not quite, a straightforwardly massive slice of euro-synth. And it’s that “not quite” that makes “The Way You Say It” stand out from the competition: the way on several occasions it fools you into thinking you can see where it’s headed, only to body swerve into a different room altogether.

Perfect Storm is out on May 15th, via Lisch Recordings.

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Ella Janes – Mechanical Mind

Ella Janes is a 22 year old singer/songwriter from London. Writing and performing in French and English, Janes is usually accompanied by a cellist and bass guitarist, who also sing harmonies.

“Mechanical Mind” is heavenly acoustic folk, built on Janes’ pure vocal, with no more instrumentational embellishment than is required from a bit of guitar here, a few notes on the piano there. At least, that is, until the song steps up a gear towards the end. A truly wonderful piece of work.

Ella Janes will be appearing at the Isle of Wight festival this summer – I strongly recommend you find out exactly where and when and take in her set.

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Yukon Blonde – Como

Catchy, catchy, catchy. Pretty much sums up the defining characteristic of “Como”, the new single from Yukon Blonde. Taken from their third album, On Blonde, due out next month, “Como” is splendidly effervescent indie pop that’ll have you checking your list of all-time favourite sun-fuelled anthems in case you need to make room for a newcomer. Barely pausing for breath at any point it dances for three and a half minutes of dizzying pop splendour.

On Blonde will be out on June 15th, via Dine Alone records.

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Tessera Skies – Out of Sight

The members of Tessera Skies have backgrounds in speech, sound, science, classical music and jazz. On their latest single Out of Sight they whip delicate peaks out of those ingredients, creating a deliciously smooth piece of alt-pop. Soft and smooth vocals sidle up alongside gentle synths. Everything’s in perfect balance: mellow and easy. Beautiful.

“Out of Sight” will be released with b-Side Dreaming/Sleeping on June 1st, on North Base Records in conjunction with Amazing Radio Co.

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