Does there have to be a reason?

Well, yes, it’s the 1st of October, so two songs with the title, erm ‘October.’

First up, A-ha. Their Scoundrel Days was one of the first albums I ever owned, given to me as tenth birthday present, on cassette. Rather like The Bangles’ Different Light, it’s an album that reminds me of being ten and getting into music and buying it. Both are albums I eventually bought on vinyl.

Next: U2. It’s so easy to slag U2 off, but they made some great records. I’ve always had a soft spot for October the album, even though it seems to be way down on the list of most people’s favourite U2 albums. This, the title track is a beautiful piece of music – and it should come as no surprise on hearing this that they went on to work with Brian Eno many times.

Meanwhile, my review of the Alt-J album can be found over at God Is In The TV

New single and video from The Last Battle

Long time favourites The Last Battle release the latest single from their stunning sophomore album Lay your Burden Down. It’s the album’s opener ‘None Of That’ which is backed with another version and a cover of Joe Esposito’s ‘You’re The Best’ from The Karate Kid. It’s out tomorrow and you can stream the tracks above and buy it from tomorrow.

There’s also a rather fine video for the song, featuring Scott and Caroline:

Album Review – Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull -’Give My Love To London.’ (Dramatico)

This year marks fifty years since the 17-year old Marianne Faithfull was spotted at a party by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham and a mere three months later found herself having a hit with a cover of the Stones’ ‘As Tears Go By.’ The ups and downs and fictionalisations of the following fifty years have been well-documented, but it’s not just the fact that she’s had an impressive biography, she’s released some damn fine records, too.

Unless you’re one of those cynics constantly snarling ‘so what?’ at absolutely bloody everything, the list of collaborators involved with the making of her twentieth studio album is nothing less than staggering, even before you’ve heard a note of the music. Lyrical collaborators include Nick Cave, Roger Waters, Steve Earle, and Anna Calvi, while musical contributors include Portishead’s Adrian Utley, Brian Eno, Ed Harcourt, and the Bad Seeds’ Warren Ellis and Jim Sclavunos.

Of course, the best ingredients in the world won’t necessarily add up to make a fine meal if it’s done badly. The good news is that the main star here is Ms Faithfull herself and this is a fine, fine album. If you’ve ever heard ‘Why D’Ya Do It?’ from her undisputed masterpiece, 1979′s Broken English, you know that she can do anger – and that’s shown here again on ‘Sparrows Will Sing’ and ‘Mother Wolf’ with her railing against the state of the world. The title track is ambiguous – ‘paradise to hell’ with a love of the city and yet it’s a city lit by the light of the moon and riot fire.

The involvement of no less than three of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds here casts a spell over the album, and to these ears, the finest tracks are the beautiful ‘Deep Water’ which they co-wrote and Cave’s song ‘Late Victorian Holocaust’ which he wrote for her. And the final, closing cover of ‘I Get Along Without you Very Well’ is simply heartbreaking (I can’t find any record of her having recorded ‘If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’ but I’d love to hear her do it).

And the mark of any fine album is the fact that a) I started to listen to it again as soon as I had finished playing it and b) even though I was sent this, I’d be happy to spend my own money on this album.

****

Give My Love To London is released by Dramatico on September 29.

Album Review – Aphex Twin

Aphex

Aphex Twin – ‘Syro’ (Warp)

This record has been a long time coming, to say the least. Apart from a series of 12″ singles nearly ten years ago, the last album from Richard D. James was 2001′s Drukqs. Such is the mystique and legend surrounding the man, that there has been much excitement over the past few months with every little tease across the internet picked up and analysed by fans. The fact that as I write this album is heading for the the album top three should come as no surprise, rather a reflection of the quality and the legend.

Album opener ‘minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix]‘was the first track to do the rounds. It was unmistakeably Aphex Twin, not as mental as ‘Come To Daddy’ or as draw-dropping as ‘Windowlicker’ but a) reassuring to have him back and b) a sign that his muse hadn’t deserted him. It wasn’t particularly groundbreaking either – but looking at the work he has done over the last few decades, he’s in the fortunate position of being able to do whatever he likes and know that people will pick up on it.

What strikes me on listening to the album is that how James has always worked in so many fields of dance. He’s more than dipped his toe into ambient, but also experimented with acid house, techno and drum’n'bass. What makes Syro such an exciting listen is the way that he takes on board what appears to be almost forty years of dance, often working in a pretty leftfield milieu – yet at the same time , for the most part, a balanced mix of sunsettling and listenable. Hell, I’m sure there’s even a hint of disco at times.

And yet, album closer evokes Drukqs‘ ‘Avril 14′ with its Satie meets Eno soundscape. It’s a sign that one of the few things we can expect from him is the unexpected. While this album may not be as much of a OhmyGodwhatthebloodyfuckwasthat as Drukqs was, it’s still a welcome return and for those who have not encountered his work before (tut tut), perhaps a good place to start.

****

Syro is out now on Warp.

New video from Ariel Pink

the video above for Ariel Pink’s new single ‘Put Your Number In My ‘Phone’ is entertaining and quirky and I think it’s going to take a few goes to get my head round, to be honest!

I’ll just let the video and music speak for itself, but you may be interested to know that Ariel Pink’s new album, pom pom, will be released on 4AD on November 17.

The tracklisting is as follows:

P1. Plastic Raincoats In The Pig Parade
P2. White Freckles
P3. Four Shadows
P4. Lipstick
P5. Not Enough Violence
I1. Put Your Number In My Phone
I2. One Summer Night
I3. Nude Beach A Go-Go
I4. Goth Bomb
I5. Dinosaur Carebears
N1. Negativ Ed
N2. Sexual Athletics
N3. Jell-O
N4. Black Ballerina
K1. Picture Me Gone
K2. Exile On Frog Street
K3. Dayzed Inn Daydreams

The return of the Twilight Sad

Perennial 17 Seconds favourites The Twilight Sad are due to return with their fourth album next month.

Entitled Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave, the first two tracks to do the rounds suggest this is classic Twilight Sad. And as a longtime supporter of the band, I’m hopeful that this will be the one that takes them to the success now enjoyed by the likes of former labelmates Frightened Rabbit.

The album is released on October 27 on FatCat. The tracklisting for the album is as follows:

1. There’s A Girl In The Corner (stream at the top of the page)
2. Last January (stream at the bottom of the page)
3. I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want
4. It Never Was The Same
5. Drown So I Can Watch
6. In Nowheres
7. Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave
8. Pills I Swallow
9. Leave The House
10. Sometimes I Wished I Could Fall Asleep

Album Review – The Drums

the-drums-encyclopedia

The Drums – ‘Encyclopedia.’ (Minor Records)

Their third album, and first music for almost three years, Encyclopedia now sees The Drums reduced to just the founding duo of Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham. Hotly tipped when they emerged five years ago, this American wore their love for the British eighties scene on their hearts.

And while they still have that love, it’s clear that they’ve become ever more aware of the darker elements of their influences. Sure there were songs like ‘Down By The Water’ on their debut which showed that it wasn’t all effervescent indie pop, but right from the way the albums slowly fades in on ‘Magic Mountain’, this is not simply a re-run of their debut and nor is it an easy place to be at times. If it’s a magic mountain, that’s magic with dark possibilities as well as good.

If their last album Portamento saw a downturn in their fortunes (was I the only one who found that cover off-putting, rather than funny?), then I hope Encyclopedia will go some way to restoring it. While it’s still not the amazing album that I would still like to think they hinted at was a possibility five years ago, it’s a sign that they shouldn’t be written off yet.

***

Encyclopedia is released by Minor Records on September 22.

A song for the day of the Scottish Referendum

At the time of writing I have still never been sent any tunes calling for a ‘no’ vote in the Scottish Referendum.

One tune I have been sent is from White Heath (who I have featured on the blog many times in the past) and their interpretation of Dougie MacLean’s ‘Caledonia’. You can stream it below:

In their own words ‘We proudly present our version of a modern classic of Scottish song; Caledonia. In response to the Referendum we wanted to add our voices to the outpouring of support for the Yes campaign, not only from artists and musicians, but from the grassroots. Caledonia is a song which captures where we are personally as a group of musicians; it is familiar to us, part of a shared recent history, but it also captures the mood of a people, and the spirit of their convictions. The sentiments and the musical landscape at play are part of the national character. We wanted to shine light on the bent of some of the Dougie MacLean’s gorgeously dark words, often skipped over by the rousing chorus and capture the raw and spontaneous energy that is manifesting itself in Scotland right now as people wake up to the incredible opportunity that lies before them. A people discovering politics again. Four nations and an island separately and together finding voice. A timely and honest self-examination, in which we find our body politic rotting, reminding us of the transience of our limbs, and therefore the importance of the legacy we leave etched before us; the vitality of seizing moments to realise seismic change. Our faults, our strengths, our possibilities. ‘Our multiform’ as Hugh MacDiarmid put it. Caledonia is not Scotland. It is an imagined time, an imagined place. It is a longing and love for someone and something that could be, given time, graft and will.’

Album Review – Ally Kerr

Ally Kerr -’Viva Melodia.’ (Much Obliged/Shellshock)

As a reviewer, I get sent more music than I can possibly listen to. Not least because when an album as lovely and beautiful as this, it tends to get many listens. And deservedly so.

While Ally Kerr was a new name to me, this is something that I am rectifying. It’s his third album, and his first for six years, during which time he has been building up his profile, particularly in Asia. There’s something magical and mysterious at work here, and his gorgeous songwriting deserves comparisons to the likes of the classic Scots indie pop which he is predictably compared to.

Right from the off, album opener ‘Everything I’ve Learned I Have Forgotten’ sets the tone for a collection of well-crafted and lovingly arranged album. Other highlights include ‘Safe From You’ and ’5am’ – and the magnificent melancholy deserves to be the soundtrack of your autumn.

****

Viva Melodia is out now on Much Obliged/Shellshock

The return of BMX Bandits

BMX Bandits

Yup! They’re back with their first music in a couple of years.

In the words of the great [I have met him, he is a lovely bloke] Duglas T. Stewart ‘My Girl Midge was recorded by David Scott [The Pearlfishers] and me on August 27th on David’s home studio. It is a song about loss and heartbreak but I wanted it to be more than just another sad song. I wanted the song to be filled with the light of love and for it not to be maudlin. There are too many maudlin, self pitying songs out there and often I can’t hear very much love in them. There is sadness in this song but I hope people can have a little dance to it or at least a smile.’

When I contacted him to ask if there was a new BMX Bandits album on the way, Duglas said it was just this for now – but this free download is a welcome addition to their catalogue, particularly on what is a very wet and foggy day here in Scotland.

To download the single go to Elefant Records’ website and simply enter the code 028ENHYJYV61

Here is also a link to one of the earliest interviews I ever did for the website, with Duglas himself