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Music fan by instinct

New from The Killers

Killers 2019

It has been a while since I featured The Killers on the blog. If I’m being honest, Hot Fuss is the only album I ever really listen to.

But this new standalone track ‘Land Of The Free’ is quite good, and the video directed by the legendary Spike Lee is incredibly pertinent.

Can’t wipe that wind blown smile from across my face
It’s just the old man and me
Washing his truck at the Sinclair station
In the land of the free
His mother Adeline’s family came on a ship
Cut coal and planted a seed
Down in them drift mines of Pennsylvania
In the land of the free
In land of the free
When I go out in my car I don’t think twice,
But if you’re the wrong color skin
You grow up looking over both your shoulders
In the land of the free
And we got more people locked up than the rest of the world
Right here in red white and blue
Incarceration’s become big business
And it’s harvest time out on the avenue
In the land of the free
Move on, there’s nothing to see
So how many daughters?
Tell me how many sons
Do we have to put in the ground
Before we just break down and face it?
We’ve got a problem with guns
In the land of the free
Down at the border
They’re gonna put up a wall
With concrete and rebar steel beams
High enough to keep all those filthy hands off of our hopes and our dreams
People who just want the same thing we do
In the land of the free

Album Review – You Tell Me

You Tell Me

You Tell Me -You Tell Me (Memphis Industries)

You Tell Me is the new project of Field Music’s Peter Brewis and Admiral Fallow’s Sarah Hayes. Their self-titled album has grown out of a meeting at a Kate Bush celebration concert and the discovery of a shared love as music diverse as Tortoise and Rufus Wainwright. On paper, this sounds like an album that has the potential to really be a brilliant album…

Both artists have an impressive track record – Sarah is additionally established as a contemporary folk artist- and this is very much an equal collaboration. When their voices come together it’s gorgeous, and they really meld together well. However, whilst there’s a lot going on here on this album that demonstrates their considerable individual talents, it’s possibly a bit too clever for its own good, with the result that several tracks just leave the listener feeling really rather overwhelmed.

The album really does not get off to a good start. Opener ‘Enough To Notice’ sounds a bit sickly sweet, and the idea of ‘Water Cooler’ – that of an inept office romance- is interesting enough on paper, but in reality has so much going on that it’s really rather distracting. ‘Clarion Call’ aims to sound like Fairport Convention (an aim that no artist should ever be criticised for, admittedly) but doesn’t quite get there.

On the other hand, ‘Springburn’ is a success because it’s shorn of too much cleverness, and the end result is absolutely lovely, pretty much as stripped down as this album gets. Album closer ‘Kabuki’ manages to combine the duo’s experimental tendencies and to produce something as equally gorgeous.

There’s a lot going on here, rather too much to deal with (thankfully, it’s not a long album). Perhaps three or four tracks would hang together well to make up a pretty decent EP. Instead of which, we are presented with a series of ideas that obscure the songs underneath. Yes, it’s well produced, but that really isn’t enough to make a decent album. Frustratingly, even repeated plays do not start to illuminate the album, as if to make it something worth persevering with, but instead, leave it as something that listened to as a whole make it more of an endurance test.

There’s no doubt that Messrs Brewis and Hayes are talented songwriters with a desire to experiment. But on the evidence here, at the risk of sounding harsh, the tendency is to say ‘don’t give up the day jobs.’ Or, alternatively, develop the ideas more carefully next time.


You Tell Me is released on Memphis Industries on January 11.



Interview – George McFall

George McFall meets with 17 Seconds to buy us a coffee, tell us about his new album and why it’s coming out under his own name.

George McFall

Given the somewhat intense look Mr. McFall gives on his fantastic new album XIV: Surrounder, it may come as a surprise to some readers just how very nice and down to earth he is in real life. We met on a dark January night in the bar of Edinburgh’s hallowed Cameo cinema to discuss the forthcoming release of his second album – the follow-up to 2012’s debut God Save The Clean – due out at the end of January. He buys me a cup of coffee, settles himself down with a pot of tea and we get on with a very enjoyable chat.

 So, given the seven years that has passed since the debut (also an excellent record, in case you were wondering) what has he been up to? Quite a lot as it happens.


‘I’ve been trying to hold down jobs, maintain relationships and working on the new album,’ he says. He also did a degree in History at Birkbeck College in London, where he lives for much of the time.  With the exception of drums from Edinburgh drum legend Murray Briggs (of Oi Polloi and Aberfeldy), everything else on the record has been played by George himself. ‘Being able to do a record like this one in a mere six years is quite impressive when you’re having to do everything yourself,’ he says. Really, it’s hard to argue.
george mcfall xiv surrounder spotify art
Not only that but checking the shelves back home later reveals he also contributed to the two albums released in that time by Dominic Waxing Lyrical, Woodland Casual and Rural Tonic. He’s also written and recorded a forthcoming album with Murray’sbrother, Aberfeldy frontman Riley. They set up the Edinburgh record company, Tenement Records, with friends back in 2010 ‘None of us are doing it thinking that we’re going to sell lots of records,’ he says, though the quality – which also includes Aberfeldy’s last album to date, Somewhere To Jump From – pretty much speaks for itself.
Whereas previous records, going back to his debut single, 2007’s ‘First Blast Of The Trumpet Against The Monstrous Regiment Of Women’ were under the name Clean George IV, the arrival of the first track from the album ‘Autumn’ towards the end of last year was the first time he had put out a record under his own name. ‘There comes a time in life when giving yourself a cartoon name seems trite and embarrassing,‘ he says.
The original name was nothing to do with George IV Bridge in Edinburgh – the city where he grew up – but was,he says cryptically, ‘somewhat ironic . Of that debut single, he jokes about having an idea about writing protestant pop music (believe me, in parts of the Celtic Fringe there are still those who wouldn’t get the joke about that, regardless of churches being places they go for hatching, matching and despatching). The A-side references a notorious pamphlet by the Scottish religious reformer John Knox, while the B-side ‘The Great Highland Crack Epidemic’ was inspired by nights out. ‘I was writing songs from the title backwards in those days,’ he reflects.

Given the distinct sound that he has fashioned, I ask what his influences are. His father is a classical musician, and growing up he was surrounded by the 1980s pop music of the time, followed by a ‘classic rock phase’ and then a period of what may now be regarded as classic leftfield rock, the likes of Captain Beefheart, The Birthday Party and The Fall. The latter particularly sound like an influence on his two albums.

He also enjoys the German progressive rock sound of the 1970s – I tell him that I hear a connection between his music and that of the legendary Faust. This seems to please him and he recalls an encounter with the drummer of the band some years ago who told him that in the future we’d all smoke electric cigarettes. The time has now come, we agree. He played keyboards for a while in the fondly remembered Kling Klang, who drew on the German music of the period, but were eventually forced to split up after a cease and desist notice from Kraftwerk (it’s the name of their Dusseldorf studio).

We also end up discussing the minimalist music of the late twentieth century, he gives the thumbs up to the likes of Americans Steve Reich and John Adams, but he’s rather less than enthusiastic about Philip Glass, perhaps being rather unimpressed when I tell him it was David Bowie and Siouxsie Sioux who got me to rethink my own views on him.
Perhaps given our surroundings on this wet January evening, we discuss the film influence on his work – he describes both his albums as ‘quite cinematic sounding.’ He tells me that he has deliberately courted a hi-fidelity sound on his records. While he is sympathetic to previous generations indie shambling, he tells me quite firmly that ‘in this day and age there’s no excuse! [for low fidelity]’ In his defence, he doesn’t name names. Many of these bands come from north of the border, and in Scotland, the six degrees of separation is usually reduced to two.
Surrounder was finished last summer, and over the next few months he intends to finish not one but two albums under his own name. In addition to that, he has radio sessions and a few ‘little shows’ as he describes them, lined up.  Certainly his new album may have been a while coming, but once my broadband finally lets me, it’s a treat for the ears. He ploughs his own furrow, and your record collection should be better for that.

XIV: Surrounder is released on Tenement Records on February 1.

Presenting…Katie Doherty

Katie-Doherty-And-The-Navigators-136Katie Doherty released her first album, Bridges, back in 2007. A number of projects have meant that 2019 will see its follow-up, And Then.

Credited to Katie Doherty and The Navigators, it’s a beautiful album (already played twice in one sitting today), that will be released on January 25. A full review will follow shortly.

The first track to be released from the album ‘Heartbeat Ballroom,’ is a lovely track, which is accompanied by a video which is quite moving (lump in the throat moments) directed by Ian Fenton and mostly featuring members of the Walsall community. You can read more about it here.


You can hear more tracks from the album here

Presenting…Oceans Over Alderaan

Oceans Over Alderaan

Hello, and a happy new year to you all.

Shortly before Christmas I received an email from a Blackpool band named Oceans Over Alderaan. The band are Alice Deacon, Steve Trenell, Joe Wylie and Barry Parkinson. Amongst their influences are the likes of The Cure, Cocteau Twins, and Mogwai.

January 11 will see them release their debut single ‘Sevenfour’ which is absolutely fantastic and you can stream below. It combines the best of shoegaze, doomrock, post-rock…call it what you will, it’s really very good indeed. It’s released on The Recording Industry Is Dead Records, which seems to be pretty accurate, but here’s hoping this reignites it.

The only other track on their soundcloud page is ‘Falters’ …which sounds equally good and will be released later on this year. As far as I can see there are no gigs lined up at the moment, but what’s on display here is fantastic.

Albums of the year 2018

OK, last year’s list disappeared, but the album of the year was Deerhoof’s Mountain Moves, with honourable mentions to Bjork’s Utopia and Stormzy’s Gang Signs And Prayers. Without further ado, onto 2018…

Dead Can Dance top this year’s best of list. Lisa Gerrard’s Twilight Kingdom album topped the list in 2014, making her the first person to have topped the chart on more than one occasion! 😉

  1. Dead Can Dance Dionysus
  2. Janelle Monae Dirty Computer
  3. Richard Thompson 13 Rivers
  4. Young Fathers Cocoa Sugar
  5. Adam Stafford Fire Behind The Curtain
  6. Angelique Kidjo Remain In Light
  7. Miles Hunt The Custodian
  8. Broken Records What We Might Know
  9. Solareye These People Are Me
  10. Mogwai Kin
  11. Anna Calvi Hunter
  12. Breeders All Nerve
  13. Idles Joy As An Act Of Resistance
  14. Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
  15. Gretchen Peters Dancing With The Beast
  16. Kim Richey Edgeland
  17. Low Double Negative
  18. Spare Snare Sounds Recorded By Steve Albini
  19. Tracey Thorn Dancefloor
  20. Trials Of Cato Hide and Hair

So, I’ve heard way more albums than this, but this were the twenty that stood out for me. An interview with the winners, Dead Can Dance, will be published very shortly

Lest we forget…

2017 Deerhoof Mountain Moves

 2016 David Bowie Blackstar

2015 Bjork Vulnicura

2014 Lisa Gerrard Twilight Kingdom

2013 Dead Flowers Midnight At The Wheel Club

2012 Grimes Genesis

2011 PJ Harvey Let England Shake

2010 DeLorean Subiza

2009 Broken Records Until The Earth Begins To Part

2008 Cave Singers Invitation Songs

2007 Burial Untrue

2006 Camera Obscura Let’s Get Out Of This Country

Christmas Posts 2018 #10

It’s thirty years since soul legend Alexander O’Neal released his Christmas album, My Gift To You. This year I not only got to see him live (finally! I’d liked his music since childhood) but I got to interview him as well.

In 1988 this was a UK hit, reminiscent of the Nat King Cole version but good enough to stand on its own terms.

And as a bonus, possibly the finest song from My Gift To You.

17 Seconds Festive Fifty 2018

  1. Janelle Monae ‘Make Me Feel.’
  2. Childish Gambino ‘This Is America.’
  3. Grand Champ 1990 ‘Photocopies.’
  4. Young Fathers ‘In My View.’
  5. George McFall ‘Autumn.’
  6. Richard Thmpson ‘The Storm Won’t Come.’
  7. Angelique Kidjo ‘Once In A Lifetime.’
  8. Miles Hunt ‘On The Ropes.’
  9. Tracey Thorn ‘Queen’
  10. Broken Records ‘They Won’t Ever Leave Us Alone.’
  11. Chvrches ‘Get Out.’
  12. Christine and the Queens featuring Dam-Funk ‘Girlfriend.’
  13. Mazzy Star ‘Quiet, The Winter Harbour.’
  14. Mogwai ‘Donuts.’
  15. St. Vincent ‘Fast Slow Disco.’
  16. Lana Del Rey ‘Mariner’s Apartment Complex.’
  17. Superorganism ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous.’
  18. Frontperson ‘Tick Tock (frontrunner).’
  19. Ezra Furman ‘Suck The Blood From My Wound.’
  20. Deva Mahal ‘It’s Down To You.’
  21. Pale Waves ‘Eighteen.’
  22. Grand Champ 1990 ‘Look For Me.’
  23. Ride ‘Catch You Dreaming.’
  24. Justin Levinson ‘I’ll Make It In Hollywood.’
  25. Suede ‘Don’t Be Afraid If Nobody Loves You.’
  26. Trials Of Cato ‘Tom Paine’s Bones.’
  27. Arctic Monkeys ‘Four Out Of Five.’
  28. Breeders ‘All Nerve.’
  29. John Grant ‘Love Is Magic.’
  30. Idles ‘Samaritans.’
  31. Floirence and the Machine ‘Hunger.’
  32. Gang Of Four ‘Lucky.’
  33. Twilight Sad ‘I/m Not Here [Missing Face].’ (sic!)
  34. Wolf Alice ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses (Charli XCX x Post Precious remix).’
  35. Young Fathers ‘Toy.’
  36. U.S. Girls ‘Pearly Gates.’
  37. We Were Promised Jetpacks ‘Hanging In.’
  38. Spiritualized ‘Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go.’
  39. Field Music ‘Time In Joy.’
  40. Cat Power and Lana Del Rey ‘Woman.’
  41. Belly ‘Shiny One.’
  42. Courtney Barnett ‘Namless, Faces.’
  43. David Byrne ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House.’
  44. Mogwai ‘We’re Not Done (End Theme).’
  45. Breeders ‘Nervous Mary.’
  46. Kendrick Lamar ‘All The Stars.’
  47. Soccer Mommy ‘Your Dog.’
  48. Pale Waves ‘The Tide.’
  49. Jack White ‘Connected By Love.’
  50. Manic Street Preachers ‘International Blue.’

To hear the top ten tracks head here

Lest we forget…

2017 Young Fathers ‘Only God Knows’

2016 Christine and the Queens ‘Tilted.’

2015 Courtney Barnett ‘Pedestrian At Best.’

2014 St. Vincent ‘Digital Witness.’

2013 Daft Punk ‘Get Lucky.’

2012 Grimes ‘Genesis.’

2011 Hiatus featuring Linton Kwesi Johnson ‘Insurrection.’

2010 eagleowl ‘No Conjunction.’

2009 Peter Parker ‘Swallow The Rocket.’

2008 Wedding Present ‘The Trouble With Men.’

2007 Emma Pollock ‘Adrenaline.’

2006 Long Blondes ‘Weekend Without Makeup.’

Christmas Posts 2018 #9

A few weeks ago I wrote about a creepy video from Low, but the reality is ten years ago they made a rather creepy video for their Christmas single ‘Santa’s Coming Over.’

Now ten years ago I found this more spooky than I do now, possibly due to the arrival of my own child and assorted nieces and nephews, but this is still unsettling. Then again, Christmas is traditionally a time for ghost stories, so goodness only knows what these kids are going to do…

Low’s 1999 Christmas album has become a classic over the years. ‘Just Like Christmas’ is the lead track, and there have been various covers of tracks from the album, including Jimmy Eat World, Snow Patrol and Tracey Thorn & Green Gartside. As far as I can find there wasn’t an official video but this is always lovely to hear.

I’d almost forgotten about this, but this was their 2016 Christmas single ‘Some Hearts (at Christmas Time)’ which is really, rather lovely. As next year is the twentieth (how?!?) anniversary of that Christmas album, who knows what festive specialities may come our way.

Christmas Posts 2018 #8

Belle and Sebastian first recorded ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ for the 2000 XFM (now Radio X) compilation It’s A Cool, Cool Christmas. They later recorded it for a Christmas session for John Peel in 2002.

I post these for interest, too…

I’m not entirely sure about B&S doing jazz, but why not? From the Peel session

I have to confess that this had been forgotten by me…but it is rather sweet. Their 2007 Christmas single ‘Are You Coming Over For Christmas?’

Finally another track from the Peel session

You can listen to the entire 16 (!) song session here