My Top 10 Compilations. Nos 5 – 1

 

Number 5. Spacelines: Sonic Sounds for Subterraneans

Spacelines

There are a good number of compilations that feature mixes of garage rock and some oddities; SEX, Andrew Weatherall’s Sci-Fi Lo-Fi mix, Cut Chemist has a couple out there but my favourite has got to be the one compiled by Spaceman 3’s Sonic Boom. Here’s a mixture of garage rock, Jazz, psychedelic rock, outsider music and Rolf Harris. It’s an album full of surprises and the tracklisting is seamless. My personal standout is Red Krayola’s Transparent Radiation (demo version)- that giggle in the song gets me every time.

Number 4. Rough Trade Shops : Counter Culture ’05

CC05

 

Consider my admiration for Rough Trade Shops, it was evident that one of the Counter Culture series would end up on this list. In theory all 16 volumes (17 if you include the special Counter Culture 1976 ) in this series are excellent but Counter Culture ’05 is a masterpiece.

The album is divided into two discs. Disc one features indie pop, folk, down tempo electronica, Alongside Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Spinto Band and The Boy Least Likely to, the compilation also features Jandek, Daniel Johnston, Scout Niblett and Smoosh so there’s a good mix of weird and listenable. There’s one hip hop track and cover version of Gary Numan’s Cars, that is jaw droppingly good. Cd 1 is perfect.

Cd 2 features the more aggressive and experimental music. It starts with a Nurse with Wound track featuring a boy talking about fish. From then onwards there’s Mongolian throat singing and Franz Ferdinand remix, obscure French art rock , screamo and  Swedish jazz. The compilation ends with a guy making a duck sound. Rough Trade Shops are established tastemakers and with Counter Culture ’05 they managed to put together a compilation that still is relevant 13 years later.

Number 3. The Kids at the Club: An Indiepop Compilation.

HDIF

 

Definitely the catchiest compilation in this list. The album was put together by Ian Watson, who runs the successful How Does it Feel to be Loved nights. The music at HDIF consists of indiepop and this compilation is a snapshot of what is played. What can I say it is just one earworm after another and if you’re a bedroom dancer I will guarantee that you’ll start moving along by the second track. Although this album is perfect I do ask for one thing, Ian, can we have a follow up?

Number 2. Rough Trade Shops: Post Punk 01

PP01

Yeah I included another Rough Trade Shops compilation. Sue me! This compilation introduced me to a genre of music I never knew about, increased my record collection and made me a post punk fanatic. Amazing tracklist with classics from Gang of Four, Young Marble Giants and The Raincoats and some newer bands like The Futureheads and The Rapture. Although back in 2003 I listened to this compilation everyday, I never got bored of it and although I listen to it once a year, I still feel the excitement of a fertile moment of music.

Number 1. David Shrigley’s Worried Noodles

WN

The theme behind this compilation is simple: take artist/poet David Shrigley’s words, get a ton of trendy and obscure indie bands to add music to them and sing the words. The end result is fantastic. It’s quirky, fun and melodic. The music is varied as well from folk to full on indie rock. Not one bad note and a ton of surreal swearing. A must have.

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My Top 10 Compilations. Nos 10 – 6

One thing I enjoy doing is making mixes for people, (I even had a free compilation subscription service back int he mid 00’s), there’s something special about listening to a selection of tracks consisting of different genres, each track sounding exciting, especially if the compilation is well put together the tracks complement each other. Sometimes you’ll discover a new band. It’s also serves a statement of  your musical tastes or a great way to woo a person.  Over the next two days i’ll be listing compilation which have influenced my way of putting together mixes or simply compilations I enjoy listening to. I didn’t restrict myself  so I included dj mixes and soundtracks.

Number 10- Trainspotting – OST

Trainspotting

The Trainspotting album was an important one for me as it was my first soundtrack (bought two days before Christmas in 1996, on cassette tape) and it introduced me to Iggy Pop, Lou Reed  and New Order. At the same time the other tracks on the compilation were exclusive songs from britpop bands so in every way this was a winner. This soundtrack was a huge influence on me, it proved that when tracks are well sequenced and mix becomes a sort of journey. It helps that every track is awesome, The brash opener Lust for Life   the dreamy Deep Blue Day , the funny Pulp song, and I thought the rave track was amazing.  The Trainspotting soundtrack was also the start of a habit I have of buying the soundtrack before watching the film.

Number 9 – Dj Kicks, Erlend Oye.

Erlend Oye

I’m not a huge fan of the Dj Kicks series but this mix is absolutely amazing and original too! Kings of Convenience’s Erlend Oye blends techno tracks but then sings popular songs. As an example mid way through the mix Erlend drops a Royksopp remix but sings The Smiths There is a Light that Never goes out over it. In some cases Oye will sing the intro of a song a cappella and then play the full track. On paper it sounds gimmicky but it works and the end result is a fun mix full of surprises. Plus the first track of the compilation is Jurgen Paape So Weit Wie Noch Nie, which is the best way to open a mix.

Number 8 – Late Night Tales: Air

LNTA

The Late Night Tales formula is simple: take an artist and let him (so far they have all been males) compile a tracklist suitable for late night listening. However my favourite one to date has got to be Air’s selection, comprised mainly of soundtrack pieces, this compilation floats like a cloud. If any band took the late night philosophy to heart, then it’s definitely Air. This compilation cannot be played in the daytime. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Number 7 – Baby Driver – OST

BD

As stated previously, I still haven’t seen Baby Driver but this heady mix of soul and early hip hop is pure perfection AND it’s a double album. Not one song sucks and this will get you dancing.

Number 6 – Fabriclive 39 – DJ Yoda

FabricLive.39

All my favourite dance mixes are of the cut and paste variety (but are all dance mixes cut and paste hmmm) I like it when a dj mixes an indie song and mashes it with a hip hop one and Dj Yoda does that on his mix. There are tons of genius moments and oddball surprises. The Salmon Dance/Coral mash up is my particular highlight. Although the last few tracks go intp hardcore dubstep territory, this is an album that will make you move from the moment you hear those klaxon horns.

 

Various Artists – Rough Trade Shops: Counter Culture 17.

RTCC17

Ever since 2003, one yearly treat I look forward to is the annual Rough Trade Shops compilation. To date this is a double album which has some highlights from major albums released during the year and some surprise hits for the upcoming one. The best ones usually contain a lot of hidden gems that were overlooked.

In previous years the Counter Culture albums would have one disc dedicated to folk, accessible dance music and indie pop and a second disc dedicated to the loud, weird and off kilter tracks. I was always worried that a sign of old age would be when I preferred the quiet disc to the loud one but never happened. Anyway last year they did away with that and now we listeners get a well sequenced set of tracks that alternate between all the genres I mentioned above.

I could be biased but I barely can find anything wrong with these compilations (well if you force me to dis a Counter Culture compilation I would say disc one of CC 11 – I have heard all the tracks before) so this years is no exception: I think it is awesome and exciting. I think there’s a certain magic listening to a lot of aural treasures.

My personal highlights at the moment are the following:

Chastity Belt – Different Now

Flat Worms – Motorbike

Rolling Black Outs Coastal Fever – French Press

Superorganism – It’s All Good

Michele Mininni – Rave Oscillations

Honestly I could chuck some more links but i’ll leave it at that.

 

For 42 years Rough Trade Shops have been at the forefront of taste making and, trust me, with a compilation as strong as this one, they are still ahead of everyone.

 

 

 

 

Jim James – Tribute to 2

jim_2

There’s something exciting about cover versions. I just enjoy the idea of a person interpreting someone else’s songs, I particularly like it when the artist does not replicate the cover note by note, thankfully Jim James does this.

For those who don’t know Jim James is the lead singer of psychedelic group My Morning Jacket so I was expecting covers with rich instrumentation with a strong cosmic vibe. However with one exception, I was completely wrong.

The album starts with a cover of The Beach Boys I just wasn’t made for these times and it is a stunner. It’s as grandiose and spectacular as I expected. The song bursts into a flurry of brass and even features an Isaac Hayes sample. It is a triumphant opener, despite the dour lyrics of the tracks.

From then onwards Tribute to 2 is a sparse album. The Sonny and Cher cover, Baby Don’t Go is a track that features the piano, the 30’s standard Midnight, the Stars is another piano heavy track but has a bit of a Disney feel to it, there’s acoustic ballads (Elvis Presley’s/The Orioles Crying in the Chapel), a spattering of country (Willie Nelson’s Funny How Time Slips Away and Bob Dylan’s I’ll be your Baby Tonight) The standout is definitely the cover of Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Lucky Man it’s an acoustic ballad that has some haunting keyboard sounds, and probably is the track where James’ sentiments about Trump’s America comes clear. Despite the bare bones arrangements there’s variety.

Other than the execution of these covers, Tribute to 2 shows depth. Within these eleven tracks we get the picture of someone who is dissatisfied with the world and yet believes that love will still prevail. In order to channel that sentiment through other people’s songs is something I find admirable.

As covers albums go Tribute to 2 is a strong one, especially if you ‘collect’ cover versions. Personally I see it as one of the few times a covers album can be a statement about the inner feelings of a musician.

Karl Blau – Out Her Space

Karl Blau - Out Her Space - Packshot-2[2]

I am a member of the Rough Trade Album Club and every month there are ten albums which are featured. All members get a ‘core’ album and then it is up to you check out the other ten. I usually buy an extra two albums and I make an effort not to purchase artists that I have heard of, obviously there are exceptions now and then.

In the case of Karl Blau, I have heard of him, mainly through the production credit on The Microphones rather awesome album, The Glow pt 2 uhhh you should listen to that record ASAP.

Anyway other than that Karl Blau is an enigma so I was glad to acquire this album. On reading the credits I found out that Out Her Space was recorded at Spacebomb Studios and Spacebomb head Matthew E. White  (uhhh check out his two solo albums – they are great) plays guitar. That got me excited.

Music-wise this album is filled with tracks that mash country with reggae. I know that sounds terrible but, Blau does it effortlessly and each song sounds so good! I honestly cannot highlight any track due to the sheer quality.

Other than the melodies, it is the details which grabbed me, be it a violin, tuba or a thumping bass, saying that, this is music that is not fussy , Blau’s wavering tenor is the main focus and all instruments are allowed breathing space.

There is variety as well. Valley of Sadness sounds like a long lost folky prog track from the 60’s. Poor the War Away is archetypal of the Country/Reggae fusion style and there’s a dub version which closes the album. Blue as My Name has a nice skippy feeling to it and then transforms into some mariachi number. There’s a good wholesome feeling to these tracks.

So yeah, check out this album. it’s fun, got some tunes and you’ll feel good afterwards. Out Her Space is the aural equivalent to a healthy breakfast. It will give you pep to face the day. Blau Flakes.

 

Charlotte Gainsbourg – Rest

gainsbourg rest

It is probably an unpopular opinion but I’ve always felt that Charlotte Gainsbourg is at her best when she ditches the breathy French ballads and embraces more upbeat tracks. Now don’t get me wrong but I did like previous albums 5:55 and IRM but I felt that they needed some oomph.

Well for Rest Gainsbourg did bring in the oomph factor. She has always been great at choosing collaborators and producers (previous ones have been Air, Jarvis Cocoker and Beck) but for rest the main producer is SebastiAn,  with  Connan Mockasin contributing to two tracks, Paul Mccartney (yes the Beatle) adding some guitar, string arrangements by Owen Pallett and Daft Punk’s Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo producing a track as well.

SebastiAn gives Gainsbourg’s music a much needed bounce. That is not to say that this is a full on disco album but at least, the ballads have a bit of pep in them. Despite the fact the music sounds upbeat, Rest is a concept album about death and the grim reaper leaves his traces throughout the record. The opener Ring-A-Ring of Roses harks the familiar nursery rhyme, which is about death. There’s a track which quotes tragic heroine Sylvia Plath, Lying with you is a meditation about a deceased loved one and so one. As I said though most of it sounds upbeat. The aforementioned Sylvia Plath quoting track is the standout: a slo mo disco number with an addictive groove. Deadly Valentine is weirdly danceable, Songbird in a Cage (The Paul Mccartney one) is a funky toe tapping number that soars. Even the most mournful piece here, the title track (the daft punk one), floats like a digital cloud. Kate could easily be on a Wes Anderson soundtrack. There are tons of great moments on this album.

With Rest Gainsbourg has managed to create an introspective album, that doubles as a dance record. It is serious and yet there’s a playful element which not too many people know how to pull off with such panache. Rest is definitely Gainsbourg’s best album to date.

Oh and stick til the end, there’s a bizarre rendering of the alphabet which is very… French (you’ll know what I mean when you hear it)

Albums I’m looking forward to in 2018

At this point I’m not sure what type of year 2018 will be musically but there’s a trickle of releases I am looking forward to. Here’s my list:

Shame – Songs of Praise

The first major release I REALLY want to listen to is London’s Shame. Judging by the single One Rizla, this could be an exciting record. I’m a big fan of frontmen who retain their accents when they sing. Plus there’s a strong youthful vibe. Songs of Praise can’t drop sooner enough.

Starcrawler – Self-titled

This LA band have been releasing a stream of strong glam rock influenced singles. The debut is produced by Ryan Adams and I’ve got high hopes. 2017 was a good year for guitar based indie rock and I think this will cement that.

Tune-yards – I Can Feel You Creep into my Private Life.

I think that Tune-yards creates super playful, intelligent and fun music. She’s back and thankfully the music is still playful, intelligent and fun.

Porches – The House.

Another indie band going electronic! what a track!!

Django Django – Marble Skies.

Django Django never fail to surprise listeners and it seems that they have gone in a more electronic direction but considering how no two Django Django tracks are similar, I could be wrong.

Dream Wife – Self-titled.

How could you not like Dream Wife?? They create prefect guitar pop songs.

Hookworms – Microshift

Hookworms have embraced krautrock –  you just know that this will be awesome.

Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending.

To be honest I sort of lost interest in Franz Ferdinand but after their collaboration with Sparks, called FFS, which I thought was amazing, I became interested in the group again. Plus they have also gone through a bit of a line up change AND they roped in Cassius’ Philipp Zdar to produce the new album. I like the new single so I’ve got positive vibes.

Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus

After wowing me with 2015’s Perpetual Motion People, Ezra Furman is back, and with a vengeance. Love You So Bad is more orchestral but it still has his trademark barbed lyrics and it is a cracking tune. Welcome back!

 

Belle and Sebastian – How to Solve our Human Problems.

As such this is not an album proper but a collection of three ep’s the band have released. Saying that it’s still new music and it is still Belle and Sebastian and any new offering from them is something I look forward to.

 

Superorganism – Something for your M.I.N.D.

Super excited for Superorganism

 

oh and a HMLTD album seems imminent. Hurrah!