Friday, February 27, 2015

February Playlist: Pray for the Rain

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I've had a bit of an odd month, musically speaking. Here, for illustrative purposes, is a ten-track digest of what I've been listening to this February...

Click here for January's playlist.

1. A Song for the Dead - Queens of the Stone Age
(from Songs for the Deaf)
If you actually decide to play the Songs for the Deaf drinking game that I devised last week, this is probably the song that will kill you. Kind of appropriate, given the title.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

No Girls Allowed?

Here are two pictures:

The picture on the left shows the current line-up for Reading & Leeds 2015. The picture on the right is what that same line-up would look like if you got rid of every all-male act.

The latter image raised a lot of eyebrows when @crackintheroad posted it on Twitter last night. The notion that the music industry is heavily biased towards male performers is hardly novel, but it's a truth that's easy to forget when you're a white male who doesn't have to worry about this sort of thing.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Make 'Em Laugh, Megadeth

When I first heard Megadeth's seminal 1992 album Countdown to Extinction, I couldn't help but laugh. The record so dearly wanted to be dark and gritty and nightmarish (heck, just look at the cover), but many of its best efforts struck me as being more comical than scary. Take Sweating Bullets, for example:

I'm sorry, but I practically spat with laughter the first time I heard, "Hello me, meet the REAL me!" And this is just the tip of the iceberg; elsewhere on Countdown to Extinction, there are songs about killer robots (Psychotron), OTT orchestral intros (Symphony of Destruction) and, on Captive Honour, this exceptionally hammy spoken word section:

"I hereby sentence you to be incarcerated with no possibility of parole, for life."

"'Life'? Whaddaya mean, 'life'?! I ain't got a life!"

"Boy, your soul better belong to Jesus...'cause your ass belongs to me!"

Friday, February 20, 2015

Songs for the Deaf: The Drinking Game

Presenting SONGS FOR THE DRUNK, the Queens of the Stone Age drinking game! It's great fun for any number of players, and given that 'alcohol' is one of the many, many narcotics mentioned in Feel Good Hit of the Summer, I'd like to think that QOTSA themselves would approve.

You will need:
  • Songs for the Deaf, the seminal 2002 album from Queens of the Stone Age
  • A steady supply of your favourite alcoholic beverage
  • A half-decent soundsystem that will allow everyone to hear the album properly

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Water, Earth, Fire, Air

So I've been watching Avatar (the TV show with the bald child, not the movie with the blue people) a lot recently, and...well, if you've never seen it, here's a quick primer:

Another thing I've been addicted to recently is Okkervil River's second album, Down the River of Golden Dreams (you may remember it as 'that album that took fricking ages to show up'). I could show you another YouTube video at this point, but instead, here's an excerpt from Okkervil River mainman Will Sheff's account of making the album:
"By the end of our stay in that city [San Francisco] from which so many long-haul travelers first cast out onto the water, I felt like nothing so much as a sailor. The last week of mixing I had even slept every night in the back of our 150 Ford, throwing open the back doors every morning to gaze on a deep, wide pool of water left by a week-long series of torrential downpours. 
"I guess that’s part of the reason we decided to call the record Down the River of Golden Dreams. It’s the title of the piece Seth’s octogenarian great aunt Nila plays at the beginning of the record, but it’s also because - to be appropriately California - I think that, if Don’t Fall in Love with Everyone You See [Okkervil River's first album] was an earth record, this is a water record. Sailing away never to return, washing clean to start over, fishing and swimming and drowning and all that stuff is floating around in there somewhere.
"At least, that’s what I hear when I hear these songs." 

Monday, February 16, 2015


Last is the fourth album from Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love (who shall henceforth be referred to simply as L9). As the title hints, it is also the band's final album; this ups the stakes somewhat, because there will be no do-overs if these 13 tracks don't hit the spot.

Now, I haven't heard any of L9's previous work, so I can't say whether or not Last delivers on the promise of the three albums that preceded it. It is a hell of a last album, though - it's rife with profound thoughts about killing your band and why you'd want to do it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tips for Making a Romantic Mixtape

Today is the 13th of February - the day before Valentine's Day, and presumably a very busy one for those few shops who still sell blank cassette tapes.

When you're on a budget, there's no greater expression of love than a compilation of romantically meaningful songs. Nowadays, of course, it's equally acceptable to give the object of your affection a mix CD or a Spotify playlist, but scientifically speaking, tapes are more romantic because they take so much longer to make.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Crack in Everything: The Beginning Stages of...

It's A Crack in Everything, where classic albums get picked apart like roast chicken carcasses. Previous ACiE blogs have needled everyone from John Grant to Bruce Springsteen; today, it's The Polyphonic Spree's turn...

Section 10 (A Long Day) freaks the crap out of me, man. I just want to get that off my chest before going any further. Ending this beautiful, lush-sounding LP with two minutes of weird avant-garde droning was kind of a dick move on The Polyphonic Spree's part, and even if it didn't give me nightmares, A Long Day would still be one of the least satisfying album closers of all time.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Belle and Sebastian Hit the Dancefloor

I'll confess that Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, the latest LP from Belle and Sebastian, is not an album that I've been salivating at the prospect of. I love If You're Feeling Sinister, but that album came out almost a decade TWO DECADES ago, and my limited experience of the band's more recent output had made me apprehensive - the only other B&S album I own is 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress, and while that disc has its moments, its decidedly patchier and a lot less amazing overall than Sinister.

As it turns out, though, my doubts concerning Girls in Peacetime were entirely unfounded. It's a big surprise, certainly - I may not be completely familiar with the Belle and Sebastian back catalogue, but I'm reasonably positive that they've never sounded like this before. The twee, semi-orchestral indiefolk with which I tend to associate B&S spends most of this album in the backseat; meanwhile, there's a bigger, synthier, and altogether dancier driver at the wheel.

(I suppose the clue is in the title, isn't it?)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Assorted Thoughts on Milky Wimpshake

One band I've been listening to quite a bit recently is Milky Wimpshake, a three-piece from Newcastle. After a prolonged spell in the purgatory that is my wishlist, Milky Wimpshake finally found their way onto The Album Wall last month when I stumbled across two of their albums - Popshaped and My Funny Social Crime - for £3 each in Fopp Bristol.

Since that day (January 19th; I remember because it was Sarah's birthday), I've listened to both of those albums quite a bit, and it's high time I noted down some of the thoughts that Popshaped and My Funny Social Crime have been making me think...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

One at a Time

A few years ago - back before I got myself an iPod and grudgingly switched over to iTunes - I had a WMP playlist called 'Recent Stuff'. I listened to it loads. It consisted, at all times, of ten songs: one from each of the last ten albums I had purchased. Every time I bought a new album, I would change all ten songs, which meant that, by the time an album had been pushed to the bottom of the list, almost all of its tracks had had a turn in the limelight.

This was a great way of getting to know the CDs I bought - even if I didn't like an album enough to listen to the whole thing over and over again, its presence in the 'Recent Stuff' playlist ensured that I didn't completely forget about it.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Yesterday, I took a step I never expected to take.

That's right: I purchased a Barry Manilow CD. I had it on in the car this morning, in fact, and it was certainly one of my more memorable commutes. From the majestic I Write the Songs to the slightly too forward I Wanna Do It With You, there's seldom a dull moment on this disc.

But why, you ask, did I decide to buy Music & Passion in the first place? Well, reader, I've got two words for you: Bermuda Triangle.

I heard this song on Simon Mayo's Radio 2 show a couple of weeks ago, and since then, I've been all over it. I even attempted a somewhat abortive cover version. Eventually, this obsession reached the point where I simply had to add Bermuda Triangle to my library, even if it meant adding 19 other Barry Manilow tracks along with it.