17 Seconds Christmas Posts 2015: part 2


What, another rather ‘anti-Christmas’ song, already?

Well, yes, sorta. The fact is that an email arrived in my warzone of an inbox of Wednesday evening, for a new single from Sparks. So ahead of its release on December 4, on Lil’ Beethoven records, how could I not share it with you?

As you would expect from the Sparks, wonderful high vocals, impressive synths and – and that Mael humour (but of course!). And a musical twist, but in the middle…

And as a bonus, from 1974′s Kimono My House album ‘Thank God It’s Not Christmas’

Presenting…Johnny Sly

Johnny Sly Wall

Manchester seven piece Johnny Sly are a fairly unusual proposition, on paper at least – and that’s before you hear a note of their music.

Described by Manchester Acoustic as being ‘like if Radiohead had a baby with The Beach Boys’ they have a pretty unusual line up of five sets of vocals, trumpet, bass, keys, drums, guitars and harp. That’s harp as in Joanna Newsom not what the Americans call a harmonica.

The band are J?onny Heath (Guitar, Vocals), Jack Davies (Trumpet, Vocals), Aeve Ribbons (Keyboard, Vocals), Rosalie Warner (Harp, Vocals), Oli Fenton (Drums), the alternating bass players Matt Dunnett and Philip K. Marzouk and John Ainsworth (Guitar, Vocals). Shortly to unveil their new EP for when no words are right, due on December 12, the band have unveiled the first single from the EP ‘Love Itself.’ It genuinely manages to mix in a variety of sounds, no surprise considering that Jonny lists Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush and Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange amongst his influences.

More of their music can be heard over at their soundcloud page.

17 Seconds Christmas posts 2015: part 1

Housewives on Prozac

Yup, it’s that time of year again, and with a mere calendar month to go until the day itself, I give you Housewives On Prozac with ‘I Broke My Arm Christmas Shopping At The Mall.’

Housewives On Prozac are Martha Joy Rose, Kyleann Burtt, Donna Kelly, Jane Getter, and Susan Graham. Led by Joy Rose (check out her website here, she’s led a very impressive life) this track ‘I Broke My Arm Christmas Shopping At The Mall’ is one of my favourite Christmas (or should that be ‘anti-’ Christmas?) songs. And the perfect way to start this series of posts.

The track is available to download from iTunes. Go and buy it

Getting ready for 2016 part 3: David Bowie


January 8 will be David Bowie’s 69th birthday, and will also see the release of his 25th solo album *, pronounced Blackstar. The video for the title track, which is now available to download, can be seen below.

The album was produced by Tony Visconti, who has also produced a number of Bowie’s previous albums, including The Man Who Sold The World, Young Americans, The Berlin trilogy and 2013′s comeback album, The Next Day.

According to Wikipedia, the tracklisting is as follows:

1. Blackstar
2. ‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore
3. Lazarus
4. Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)
5. Girl Loves Me
6. Dollar Days
7. I Can’t Give Everything Away

‘Blackstar’ is the title music for the TV series The Last Panthers. Versions of ‘Sue…’ and ‘…Whore’ were released as a single last year to coincide with the Nothing Has Changed compilation, which collected fifty years of Bowie’s recordings.

More can be read in this article over at Rolling Stone

Presenting…Our Girl

Our Girl

Brighton trio Our Girl will shortly release their debut single proper ‘Sleeper’, on December 11. The band are drummer Lauren Wilson, bassist Josh Tyler and are fronted by singer and guitarist Soph Nathan. The latter is clearly a busy person, as her other band is The Big Moon.

Our Girl take the pre-Britpop sound of shoegaze and American alternative bands like Belly, Veruca Salt and the Breeders and bring it right up to the present. Whilst last year’s earliest offering ‘Our girl’ (yes, a self-titled offering still impresses – and you can hear it here, ‘Sleeper’ sees the band take a massive leap forward. It’s dark and dreamy at the same time, music to lose and find yourself in. On the evidence of this track alone, they are a band who have much to offer. If a debut single should serve as a manifesto, then Our Girl clearly have fulfilled that, and produced a song that makes you sit up and listen, and want to play again and again. The track was produced by Andy Savours, who has also worked with like minded acts My Bloody Valentine and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

You can also stream the single and its b-side ‘Level’ via Spotify. The 7″ of the single is released on Cannibal Hymns on November 11.

Gig Review – James Morrison

James Morrison

Edinburgh Queen’s Hall, November 16

James Morrison comes on stage to a packed Queen’s Hall to the sounds of Toots and the Maytals’ ‘Pressure Drop.’ And funnily enough, it gives a sign of what actually musically fires him…

See, I’d had James Morrison down as yet another singer-songwriter in the James Blunt mould, yet another who’d come along in the wake of Coldplay, and music for people who commit the cardinal sin of buying their music at motorway service stations, which is obviously far worse than murder. But listening to his latest album, Higher Than Here, it seemed like I might have been a bit harsh.

It’s actually vintage soul which informs his work. And while his stage patter may seem to be largely talking about how much he loves his daughter (come on, mate, that’s what facebook’s for), when he’s singing he may reflect his record collection, the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.

Live he comes across a bit less polished on record, and much better for it. Perhaps the best example of this is ‘Broken Strings.’ On record, a duet with Nelly Furtado, it’s pleasant enough radio fare. But stripped down to just voice, guitar and piano, it suddenly comes to life and with the audience joining in, surprisingly effective. ‘Wonderful World’ is perhaps still a bit twee but new album opener ‘Demons’ is amongst the best he’s done.

A few days ago, I got an email about this gig I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. And I’m glad I did. Here’s hoping that he makes a soul record, gritty, gutsy and with the feel of his live act.

The houselights come up and we traipse out to the sounds of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Move On Up.’ It starts to make sense, now…

Eagles Of Death Metal Campaign

Eagles of Death Metal

There are some moments in time, particularly in this age of 24/7 information at our fingertips, where just to fall asleep for a moment is to miss out on a whole lot. I came home from work on Friday evening, fed the cat and went to straight to bed with a headache. I woke up four hours later to a horrific news story about attacks in Paris (just one of many attacks that have happened in the world in recent weeks – that’s a discussion for another time) that put things into extremely sharp perspective.

As has been explained in many places on line, one of the shootings took place at an Eagles Of Death Metal gig at the famed Bataclan venue in Paris. There is now a campaign to get the band’s cover of Duran Duran’s Save A Prayer, taken from EoDM’s recent album, Zipper Down, to no.1, in solidarity with the victims of the attacks:

Eagles of Death Metal campaign

You can stream it below. I would hope Duran Duran will donate royalties to a charity that looks after the victims of atrocities across the world. Here, as they say, is hoping…

Album Review – Madness

Madness madstock

Madness – ‘Madstock!’ (Salvo)

This document brings together the reunion shows from a weekend in 1992 when Madness played live for the first time in six years…Yawn? Absolutely not!

Look: It’s easy to mock reunion tours as bands selling out, or simply being in it for the money – though it’s tempting to wonder as you get older whether the people who make these sorts of judgments aren’t responsible for keeping roofs over the heads of dependents. While this could be a naff document, the reality is that it shows Madness as being a band who meant – and mean – a helluva lot to many people, and who amassed a pretty damn amazing back catalogue. They may have seemed like they were just b
playing it for laughs, but they were a band with social commentary, and writers of one of the greatest bittersweet love songs ever in ‘My Girl.’

It’s not just a trawl through the hits – though they had many, and many are featured here. There’s also other tracks like ‘Bed and Breakfast Man’ and some of the smaller hits like ‘The Sun And The Rain’ and ‘Driving In My Car.’ Sure, the run through Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’ falls a bit flat, though they thankfully didn’t bring out their cover of Scritti Politti’s The ‘Sweetest Girl” [yes, that punctuation is meant to be like that!). Of course, they made Labi Siffre’s ‘It Must Be Love’ their own – and that’s here, too.

Above all, what this is – and this is not something to be sniffed at – is that this is a band who came back together to headline their own festival, and absolutely nailed it. It could have been a tired rehash, a pointless exercise in nostalgia, and yet it was a band who demonstrated that they could not only work but hold a crowd. It helps that the sound quality is excellent – with a crowd who are clearly having a great time, and demonstrating just how much they should be considered one of the important bands who evolved out of the post-punk era.

With so many Madness compilations out there, there may be those who wonder whether there’s any point in a bringing together of the songs again. Undoubtedly, this is a worthwhile album. The thrill of band and audience as the feed off of each other crosses over to the record, ‘Shut Up’ being one of those moments where the audience are utterly as spellbinding as the band.


Madstock is out now on Salvo

Getting ready for 2016 part 2: Tortoise


Tortoise will release their first album in nearly seven years on January 22, 2015.

Their seventh album is entitled The Catastrophist. Amongst the songs on the album are a cover of David Essex’s 1973 hit song “Rock On” with vocals by U.S. Maple’s Todd Rittmann. Additionally, for the first time a Tortoise album will feature a guest vocalist singing original lyrics – Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley adds her vocals to the track ‘Yonder Blue,’ described as a ‘bittersweet classic soul/R&B vibe ballad.’

The first track to be heard from the album is ‘Gesceap’ which can be streamed below.

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. The Catastrophist
2. Ox Duke
3. Rock On
4. Gopher Island
5. Shake Hands With Danger
6. The Clearing Fills
7. Gesceap
8. Hot Coffee
9. Yonder Blue
10. Tesseract
11. At Odds With Logic

Additionally, January 22 will also see the re-issuing of their previous six albums – Tortoise, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, TNT, Standards, It’s All Around You and Beacons Of Ancestorship on limited edition vinyl. These can be pre-ordered from the Thrill Jockey store here

Getting ready for 2016 part 1: Bloc Party

Bloc Party 2015 01 - credit Rachael Wright - LOW

Photo Rachael Wright

Bloc Party will release their fifth album Hymns on January 29, 2016. They have released the video for the album’s opening track and first single ‘The Love Within’ today. The track is available to stream and download now.

The album artwork and tracklisting can be seen below:

Bloc Party - HYMNS art

1. The Love Within
2. Only He Can Heal Me
3. So Real
4. The Good News
5. Fortress
6. Different Drugs
7. Into The Earth
8. My True Name
9. Virtue
10. Exes
11. Living Lux

Additionally, deluxe versions of the album will feature the following tracks
12. Eden
13. Paradiso
14. New Blood
15. Evening Song

Hymns sees the two founding members of Bloc Party, Kele Okereke (vocals, guitar) and Russell Lissack (guitar), joined by new members Justin Harris (bass) and Louise Bartle (drums). Below you can watch the video of the band performing album track ‘Exes’ live for Lauren Laverne at 6Music in October.

‘Exes’ – Live at Maida Vale October 2015