Wednesday 16 December 2015

2015 - one year in an hour

Yes, time for the annual compilation that I give to friends who quite rightly have better things to do than find music made by people whose efforts would, if they enjoyed greater exposure, increase public demand for the return of military conscription.

Every year around April I wonder 'will there be enough nuggets for a compilation at this rate?' I should never worry. There are always too many. And some absolute belters have been left off this year thanks to computer problems, or perhaps my problems with computers.

So a truer reflection of the year's stand outs would include Degustation by Point Being and I Want To Want You by Breakfast Muff and Fan The Flames by Sheer Mag. But what would they replace? Just know that there's a lot of brilliant stuff out there still to discover.

This is pretty much all new acts. You know that Robert Forster's album is amazing, that you must buy The Leaf Library's Daylight Versions and that Jonathan Richman's first new material in 5 years is essential? You're smart people. You did know that.

Noteable themes of 2015:

  • the UK DIY scene is on fire. I can't wait to hear what comes next, very possibly some 16-year-olds inspired by what's knocked them out this year
  • Melbourne's gone a bit quiet, but Sydney and Brisbane have taken charge, so Australia is still the window to watch. 
  • it's a girl's world - this compilation could have been 100% women. As it is, two-thirds of the songs are by women or all-women bands, or bands with a distaff element. 
  • and so much brilliant new soul revival music. Yeah, if you're into the very cutting-edge of dance music, you'll dismiss it as 'Dusty Groove soul', but you could easily dismiss much of this compilation as '90s indie revival'. I can live with that.

This is the new stuff that I love. Take your pick. I hope you find something you love.

  1. Rebble - The Cathys
  2. Ferris Wheel - Frozy
  3. Melbourne - Shit Present

Sunday 13 December 2015

Dee Dee Warwick - You Tore My Wall Down

Last year's 35-track Dee Dee Warwick compilation of early 70s Atco recordings was a revelation. Not least for its 12 previously unreleased songs and most of all for You Tore My Wall Down.

It was inevitable this string-swept northern belter would get a 7" issue. Its punch, adrenaline and bruised emotional delivery demand it. It reminds me of Eloise Laws' Love Factory.

You Tore My Wall Down was written by Ed Townsend. This is, next to Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On and Theola Kilgore's The Love Of My Man, my very favourite of his songs.

Saturday 5 December 2015

Whyte Horses - Pop or Not

What if Broadcast were influenced by Sesame Street instead of Czech fairy tales?

What if Adventures in Stereo's compact soundtracks were covered by Stereolab?

What if Vashti Bunyan travels by horse and cart had led her not to the Hebrides but continental Europe?

What if Lee Hazlewood's Cowboy In Sweden had been recorded in France?

All of these things and more - Bee Gees psych-pop, Gainsbourg breathy noir, Ellie Greenwich melodrama - make Pop or Not a modern classic ensemble album in the same vintage as Wasps' Nests by The 6ths and Maintenant by Gigi.

Maybe when it's reissued next year (it has to be) in a run greater than 300, it'll hit the headlines and top all the year-end lists.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Christmas indiepop songs

Alasdair MacLean, Elizabeth Morris, Julian Henry and Shirley Lee talk about the Christmas hits they penned.

The Clientele
For London’s poet laureate of precipitation, Alasdair MacLean, it always seems to be raining. Once though, long ago, he let it snow.

“In 1997 I wrote a song called 'Saturday' which was consciously aimed at the Xmas no. 1 spot. We even had the video worked out - the band strolling down Embankment Walk under festive lights, the Thames flowing enigmatically in the background.

“The British public were unmoved, though to be fair, it was never released as a single in the UK (only in the US, in August). Since then, sadly, I've become indifferent to the festivities and rites of passage I once hoped to soundtrack for my generation.”

Allo Darlin’
There wasn’t snow in Australia at Christmas time for the young Elizabeth Morris, but she didn’t let that stop her from dreaming of the northern winter’s romance.

“Everybody loves Christmas songs, and I'd written one once before that I liked, called Silver Swans in NYC that I'd only ever played live once or twice at Christmas time. At my parents' house by the beach in Queensland one September, I was starting to think about Christmas songs - I can't really remember why. I ended up writing a bunch of Christmas songs and self-releasing them on CDR as the first Allo Darlin' recordings. I think my favourite on that collection is Will You Please Spend New Years Eve With Me, although I much prefer the version that's the b-side to the Polaroid Song 7".”

The Hit Parade
“Thank God for the rain, what a metaphor” trilled the young Julian Henry of teen pop sensations The Hit Parade. The miserable sod then turned his attentions to Christmas Tears and corralled Amelia Fletcher to sing about being lonely this and every bloody Christmas to a disco beat. The sunshine never lasts, does it, Jules?

“Christmas Tears is our manly attempt to follow Wizzard and Mud into the pop history books by writing a timeless yuletide hit. There's so much rubbish to deal with at Xmas; stupid Santa, people you hate coming round for supper and nothing to do but get drunk...but the idea of 'hoping for a Christmas card from someone who once broke your heart' appeals to me, probably cos it's just the simple old notion of wishing you could be with someone that you love at a time of year when the temperatures are dropping to sub-zero levels.

“Our band specialise in failure so this song made absolutely no impression on the chart despite having the amazing Amelia Fletcher sing lead vocal. Shocking really. Interestingly though the love affair that Xmas Tears was written to mark still seems to flicker to life each time I hear the record, and I'm glad to have named checked the road Orchehill Avenue in the song, as that's the street where I was born.”

In 1999, Spearmint made a brilliant album of soul-infused pop [citation not needed] and then went ding dong merrily on high with a yuletide concept album. Do you dream of Christmas songs, Shirley Lee?

“My absolute favourite is the Phil Spector album - that gets played at home loads during December (never before the 1st!). I also love the albums Sinatra, Elvis, Doris Day, and Motown artists made. The only frustrating thing is they all sing the same 20 songs; there aren't enough real classics.

“We always knew Spearmint would make a Christmas album. "Oklahoma!" partially scratched the itch, as it's set at Christmas. We released it in summer because we couldn't wait until winter! I suspect we'll do more Christmas songs at some point...”
(I wrote this article 5 years ago for a club night's one-off fanzine, so in the unlikely event you read it then, please contact the Did Not Chart customer complaints bureau for a refund.)