Music Diary 2012 – Thursday

The release of the long awaited My Bloody Valentine remasters was bound to dominate the listening of many people participating in music diary 2012 and it’s a testament to how much of a touchstone they continue to be for so many that this week has basically been one big Valentine’s love fest. I had the remasters on pre-order since they were given a genuine release date a few months ago but decided to cancel my order at the last minute on account of Kevin Shields remarks in a recent Pitchfork interview that he expected vinyl issues to be out within a “couple of months” (though by now I should know better that to trust Shields’ time frames on anything). I listened to ‘Loveless’ in its entirety on Sunday night along with the first few tracks on ‘Isn’t Anything’ and a few off the EP’s. This morning on the journey to work I decided to go back to ‘Isn’t Anything’ and give it a full listen. I must admit that throughout the years I’ve been guilty of neglecting it. Whenever I’ve had the urge to listen to MBV it’s usually been ‘Loveless’ and if not that then the ‘Tremolo’, ‘Glider’ or ‘You Made Me Realise’ EP’s. Listening to ’Isn’t Anything’ this morning I was reminded of just how gobsmacked I was on discovering the band so many years ago. It’s a shame that its destined to forever live in the shadow of ‘Loveless’ because it’s a great album in its own right and it was a joy to rediscover it. So this morning as I made my way through the pouring rain I was reminded of how wonderfully menacing that guitar squall that opens ‘Cupid Comes’ is, that the beginning of ‘No More Sorry’ is one of the most beautiful things ever and that MBV in general used to play things that resembled actual songs, with discernible lyrics an all.

My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything (Spotify) – Headphones

Lost In Translation Soundtrack (lossless) – Hi-Fi

After writing a little about My Bloody Valentine I settled down at home in front of the stereo and flicked through the ‘Lost in Translation’ soundtrack. I was mainly interested in hearing the Kevin Shields tracks after reading today’s illuminating interview with him in The Quietus where he directly addressed his post-Loveless inertia quite frankly. ‘City Girl’ is the most song-like of his contributions and is nice enough and suggests what a modern day MBV might sound like, even if the song itself lacks substance. ‘Goodbye’ is a beautiful slice of brief guitar ambiance that brings to mind early Eluvium. Shields other two tracks are nice enough but merely short mood-setting pieces that function well in the film but feel a bit flat and lifeless when removed from Sofia Coppola’s lush imagery. I didn’t really listen to much of the rest of the soundtrack and skipped the majority though the Death In Vegas track is still pretty great and it was a welcome surprise to hear Jesus and the Mary Chain’s ‘Just Like Honey’ as I haven’t heard it in ages.

Belong – Common Era (Vinyl) – Hi-Fi

Random selection here. I picked this up last year and was entranced by its sound which reminds me of a mixture of My Bloody Valentine fuzz and Faith-era The Cure greyness. Another interesting, and out of the norm, release on the flawless Cranky records.

Four Tet – Pyramid / Locked (Vinyl) – Hi-Fi

Two semi-recent tracks from Four Tet. I really can’t wait for him to drop a new album. Simply one of my favourite modern day musicians. His last full length ‘There is Love In You’ was his most dance oriented release so far and ‘Pyramid / Locked’ picks up nicely where it left off with a similarly organic electro sound.

Monster Magnet – Superjudge (CD) – Hi-Fi

Picked this one out after being drawn to its CD spine. I was a big Monster Magnet fan as a teenager when most of my music taste was dominated by Metal and Hard Rock. There’s not much from that era that I still listen to but Monster Magnet’s early LP’s still get a spin every now and then and whenever I listen to them I find myself impressed by just how well they’ve held up where a lot of their contemporaries now sound dated. Their debut album ‘Spine of God’ is my favourite thing they put out and is easily one of the most deranged and genuinely psychedelic albums I’ve heard. It’s follow up ‘Superjudge’ is a bit more restrained and not as drug addled (though it’s still druggier than 99% of all other music) and a change in lead guitarist which took place between the two LP’s had a subtle but distinct impact on the band’s sound finding them sounding a bit less Stooges and a bit more Heavy Metal. ‘Cage Around the Sun’ is a stoner classic and features typically deranged lyrics from front man Dave Wyndorf. ‘Twin Earth’ is a flanged out fuzz stomper that recalls Spacemen 3 in style if not direct sound. Cult stuff, worth checking out if your unfamiliar.

The Verve – Gravity Grave (lossless) – Hi-Fi

Just the one track here and probably my favourite Verve song, although the EP live from Glastonbury version is the definitive take on it. I was one of those unaware of the Verve until the release of their mega selling ‘Urban Hymns’ album in 1997 and though I picked that album up on CD I never really got into it. A couple of years later I started hanging out with a new bunch of friends and found myself at a party where someone put on ‘A Storm in Heaven’ and I sat there in a chemical induced stupor totally mesmerised by its brilliance. Follow up ‘A Northern Soul’ is great as well and I’d rather just forget everything that came after that thank you.

Beach House – Bloom (lossless) – Hi Fi

Still loving this new Beach House LP. It’s truly great. So good I’m not sure what to say about it.

Jens Lekman – Oh You’re So Silent Jens (lossless) – Hi-Fi

I listened to the first three tracks on the Jens Lekman album as I hadn’t heard him in ages. I wasn’t really feeling it though so turned it off and went back to listening to some My Bloody Valentine.

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (Analogue Remaster) – Hi Fi

I listened to Disc 1 of the ‘Loveless’ remaster in light of discovering that it’s actually the long awaited half inch analogue tape version rather than, as advertised, Disc 2. I definitely heard a difference in the mix with the keyboard parts in particular being given a new lease of life and audibility. I agree with Shield’s interview statements that in the analogue version it sounds more like the album is being played by a band rather than assembled from countless different overdubs. The analogue version also sounds more like what My Bloody Valentine were like live when I saw them a few years ago. The roaring airplane guitar (as I call it) which is present on most tracks had an increased sense of physicality about it on the analogue version and I think it also demonstrates the sheer volume of the band in a way that the previous issue of ‘Loveless’ had obscured. I’m not sure if I necessarily prefer it to the remastered digital version however. While it’s great to hear the album with this level of clarity and (relatively clear) instrument separation the digital version, with its blurred sound where everything kind of meshes together into one big heap of sound seems closer to the albums original aesthetic. Either way it’s been a pleasure to have reason to listen to the band again in such detail.

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Music Diary 2012 – Wednesday

Television – Live at the Old Waldorf (Spotify) – Headphones

No music at all today until I left work. On the way home I listened to Television’s ‘Live at the Waldorf’ release which came out on Record Store Day as a limited issue a few years ago. I’d love to snag a copy of it but unfortunately it sells for silly money online these days, such is the beauty and wonder of RSD. I only heard it for the first time recently when I looked it up on Spotify on account of high praise it was drawing on ILX. I’d previously listened to Television’s sole other official live release, ‘The Blow Out’, as well as a bunch of bootlegs I’ve downloaded over the years. Sadly the poor sound quality of everything I’d heard before ‘Live at the Waldorf’ had managed to somewhat obscure and ultimately deter from so the often proclaimed brilliance of Television live. ‘Live at the Waldorf’ powerfully evidences the force that they could be live. The sound is excellent and the performances simply outstanding. It captures the band in 1978, touring on the back of their seminal debut ‘Marquee Moon’ and just prior to the release of their largely underwhelming follow up ‘Adventure’. Shorter album cuts like ‘Venus’ and ‘Friction’ are played with sparkling intensity but it’s the two longest songs on the album, cult non-album favourite ‘Little Johnny Jewel’ and the bright shining star that is ‘Marquee Moon’ that steal the show. I love when ‘Little Johnny Jewel’ breaks momentum around the 6 minute mark and Tom Verlaine starts picking away at a phrase that sounds like it’s about to burst into ‘House of the Rising Sun’ before cranking out one of his signature lead-as rhythm-riffs as Richard Lloyd summons his guitar to soar above. ‘Marquee Moon’ is treated to a similarly epic arrangement and afforded plenty of room to breath in a performance that to my mind at least equals if not surmounts the majesty of the album version.

Wolf Parade – ‘Semi Precious Stone’/’Agents of Love’ (mp3) – Headphones

I polished off my walk home with a couple of Wolf Parade tracks in the form of their final web only double-single ‘Semi Precious Stone’/’Agents of Love’. Despite not being bowled over by it on its initial release their last LP ‘Expo 86’ was an album I seemed to find myself coming back to frequently. Nonetheless I was relatively indifferent to the news that followed that the band were calling it a day as I felt that the various side projects they had maintained throughout the life of the group had become, at that point, equally, if not more, compelling. ‘Semi Precious Stone’/’Agents of Love’ is however a welcoming reminder of just how powerful Wolf Parade were as a unit and made me a little more mournful about their passing. Spencer Krug penned ‘Semi Precious Stone’ ranks amongst the best songs he wrote for Wolf Parade and there’s a moment towards the end, where Krug plays a mean fuzzed up organ phase which leads into a searing guitar line by Dan Boeckner that seems to be ushering the song to a close before exploding back into life; it’s a quite remarkable moment for me, one that really demonstrates how effectively the two compliment each other’s songwriting in a way that’ll be missed. Boeckner ‘Agents of Love’ is punked up rallying call of discontent in the usual style that evokes sort of alternative universe version of Bruce Springsteen. The last Handsome Furs album was great but marked a shift away from the kind of urgent guitar playing that had previously characterised his usual style to a more exclusively electronic sound and for me the guy is best with a guitar strapped around his neck thrashing away with passion. Krug’s Sunset Rubdown seem to be on indefinite hiatus and although his Moonface project is proving to be conceptually inspired the stuff he’s put out been only OK, and usually I’m a sucker for anything he touches. Surely these guys haven’t burned out. I hope not. I hope that in time ‘Semi Precious Stone’/’Agents of Love’ may be considered as a fitting, near high water mark, eulogy to how great Wolf Parade were rather than a  saddening reminder of how good they could be.


Sharon Van Etten – Warsaw (lossless) – Headphones
Sharon Van Etten – Give Out (lossless) – Headphones
Lotus Plaza – Strangers (lossless) – Headphones
Grimes – Infinite Without Fulfillment (intro) (lossless) – Headphones
Grimes – Genesis (lossless) – Headphones
Grimes – Oblivion (lossless) – Headphones

Random playlist of recently released stuff that I listened to while writing most of this. On the Sharon Van Etten LP I absolutely adore the first 3 tracks and struggle with the remainder of it. I find it especially painful when the guy from Beirut appears which is strange as I don’t mind Beirut normally. The Lotus Plaza album I really like although I’ve been holding off it until I get it on vinyl. I have listened to it a fair bit on Spotify whilst out and about though and while it’s actually pretty great I do fully endorse the Coke Machine Review write up of it which bemoans that underneath all that lovely reverb and hazy ambiance there’s not really much at it’s heart. Fair enough though, it’s candy for the ears. The Grimes album I just don’t get whatsoever; I’ve tried listening to it a bit and though I have warmed to it a little I suppose it’s really just not impressing me much. Musically it has an interesting vibe to it but personally I just find her voice grating and really fatiguing to listen to for anything beyond a song and in the end I always find myself feeling a genuine sense of relief in just turning it off.

New Order – Lowlife (Deluxe Edition) (CD) – Hi-Fi

I fancied some New Order. I’ve overheard people talking about them a lot recently with them playing live again. I chucked this one on mainly to listen to the 12” version of ‘The Perfect Kiss’ which is probably my single favourite New Order song and it really benefits from a couple of extra minutes playing time. I listened to another two or three tracks; remixes and extended versions of ‘Shellshock’ and ‘Sub-Culture’. I switched it off when ‘Shame of the Nation’ came on.

Spiritualized – Laser Guided Melodies (CD) – Hi-Fi

Randomly pulled this one out. I have 3 or 4 Spiritualized albums although there not a band I’ve ever really loved. I like the idea of them and I love Spacemen 3 but there’s something that puts me off them a bit, maybe the vocals. I keep on meaning to listen to them more and I put something on by them every now and again but it never really sticks.

I then left the world of sound for the evening and watched the football before finising writing this. Off to bed now with some mellow tunes and off to sleep.

Bedtime music

Stars of the Lid – Avec Laudenum

The crem-de-la-crem of modern ambient drones.

Music Diary 2012 – Tuesday

Although I did listen to ‘Check Your Head’ in its entirety on Saturday night I didn’t feel like I’d properly paid my respects to MCA and the overwhelming influence that the Beastie Boys had on both me and pretty much everyone I called a friend in the 90’s. Heading out of the door for work this morning I resolved that I’d try to make up for that a little and jam some of my favourite Beasties songs on route. It’s tragic that it often takes the death of someone we admire to make us evaluate their importance to us personally and to be honest, before this weekend I hadn’t listened to the Beastie Boys in years. If you had asked me last week to name the 10 bands that have influenced my listening most over the years I would have reeled off 10 (probably pretentious) names with ease without giving them a passing thought, which is pretty ludicrous and quite shameful. Skipping through my favourite cuts from ‘Check Your Head’, ‘Ill Communication’ and ‘Pauls Boutique’ this morning I felt elevated and amazed by just how brilliant, thoughtful, funny and groundbreaking the Beasties were in their prime. The sad news of MCA’s untimely passing on Friday and the unanimous outpouring of tributes that followed on twitter and message boards was testament enough of the lasting impact the Beasties had on recent popular culture. It was with deep regret that I took my headphones off upon arriving work, I’d have happily walked all morning long and listened to their entire back catalogue from front to back.

 

Beastie Boys Playlist (Spotify) – Headphones

Pass the Mic, Gratitude, Lighten Up, In 3’s – Check Your Head

Root Down, Sabotage, Get It Together,Bodhisattva Vow – Ill Communication

Shake Your Rump, Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun – Paul’s Boutique

After the buzz of the Beasties I was then subjected to a couple of hours in the office with our station select, Radio 2, on in the background. Much as I try to drown out the musical content of Radio 2 I find that I’m just too impulsively drawn towards music to ever truly switch off and completely ignore it. Worst of all I’m particularly prone to ear worms and often find myself mentally traumatised for hours upon hours by some of the pop trite on mainstream radio. This morning we had Bananarama, ‘Manic’ by Michael Sembello and Spandu Ballet. Painful stuff.

A break in the weather and a little bit of sunshine and I grasped the opportunity to walk home rather than take the bus and finish off my Beastie Boy’s listening with a spin of ‘Paul’s Boutique’ in full. No need to extol the greatness of that album here, it’s almost a sui generis social fact by now and with good reason.

Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (Spotify) – Headphones

Daniel Rossen – Silent Hour / Golden Mile (Vinyl) – Hi-Fi

I noticed this in Fopp the other day after having no idea that it existed. I am familiar with Rossen’s side project of Department of Eagles whom I have a couple of LP’s by. Anyway, I’ve only listened to the EP a couple of times and it sounds too much like Grizzly Bear’s ‘Veckatimest’ for me not to like it. Final track ‘Golden Mile’ is a standout.

Upon settling myself down in front of the stereo I pick out a couple of tracks at random to listen to while I figured out which LP to play. I hadn’t heard Dif Juz’s ‘No Motion’, a compilation exclusive song and probably the finest example of their potential, for a while and Burial and Four Tet’s recent collaboration ‘Nova’ has been a regular listen of mines since its March release and is easily one of the most beautiful and captivating things I’ve heard this year.

  

Dif Juz – No Motion (lossless) – Hi-Fi
Burial/Four Tet – Nova (lossless) – Hi-Fi

I’ve been on a big Deerhunter trip recently. I felt like I’d never given their last LP ‘Halycyon Digest’ enough time and it’s been on regular rotation over the past few weeks, during which I’ve become obsessed with its final track ‘He Would Have Laughed’ and in particular a live radio session version of it which is just massive and epic in scope. Although Deerhunter have shown remarkable progression with each release since ‘Cryptograms’, to the point where they’ve probably now assumed the role of my favourite current band, I still love the Ambient-Kraut-Punk of their Kranky debut. The bass lines on the album are great and propel most tracks rhythmically and melodically allowing the reverb drenched guitars to drone away blissfully above. ‘Strange Lights’ and ’ Heatherwood’ are probably most typical of the sound Deerhunter have evolved into with their following releases but its the almost formless drone tracks, like ‘White Ink’ and ‘Providence’, that I find most appealing now. At this point it just made so much sense that Deerhunter would find themselves on Kranky records and I really felt that they took a lot of what I love about the label’s house sound and integrated it into a ‘rock band’ setting.

Deerhunter – Cryptograms (Vinyl) – Hi-Fi

I always listen to music in bed while I drift off to sleep, usually something ambient/modern classical/downtempo electronica. Last night it was Biosphere’s seminal ‘Substrata’ an album that’s eased me into sleep many times. I’ve heard a lot of people make some pretty massive claims about ‘Substrata’ calling it the “greatest ambient LP ever” and “beyond Eno’s vision”. ‘Substrata’ is an album that conjures up images of glacial open spaces and whistling wind. Essential ambient.

Biosphere – Substrata (Lossless) – Sonos

Music Diary 2012 – Monday

I started off this morning reading about the eventual long overdue release of the My Bloody Valentine remasters. I pre-ordered the set from amazon a month back but decided to cancel my order at the last minute (too late it seems, they’ve now been shipped) and hold out for a vinyl release, though I’ll probably pick up the CD’s in the long run, such are the absurdities of petty fandom. Despite having ‘Loveless’ on my mind I kicked off the day listening to another touchstone of early 90’s shoegaze Slowdive – Just For A Day. Although my introduction to the band was their often favoured second album ‘Souvlaki’ and it was their third and final LP ‘Pygmalion’, with its proto-Post-Rock ambiance, sounding like a British take on Labradford, that made me mildly obsessed with them. Nonetheless it’s their debut and the visionary EP’s that frame it that I find myself returning to most often thse days. Avalyn in particular. 

Slowdive – Just For A Day (Spotify) – Headphones

Seeing their name next to Slowdive in the related artist section of Spotify resulted in me listening to a batch of my favourite songs from 4AD slowcore stalwarts the Red House Painters and their forever twinned sophomore releases Bridge and Rollercoaster. I’d guess I’ve spend the vast majority of my time listening to Red House Painters lying in bed and this morning was no different as I closed my eyes and ran through ‘Katy Song’, both versions of ‘New Jersey’ and ‘Mistress’, ‘I Am A Rock’ and ‘Helicopter’. As much as I love the rest of Red House Painters discography and Sun Kil Moon’s first releases it’s those two sepia toned pinnacles of gloom I love the best.

Red House Painters (Spotify) – Headphones

After going out to play badminton I came home and soaked my tired bones in the bath with the abstract experimental electronica of Actress’ latest album ‘R.I.P’ playing in the background. I picked it up on vinyl on Sunday on account of the all  positive press its had and after a couple of spins I’m still entirely unsure how I feel about it. I’m don’t know how much I actually like it but I do find it strangely compelling, similar to the way I felt about Oneohtrix Point Never’s last album. I enjoyed ‘R.I.P’ more after I turned it down a few notches on the volume dial, a la Eno’s Ambient 1 recommended levels. As the album blended in with the creaks of the boiler and the crows cawing outside it had a stronger effect. From that perspective ‘Shadows from Tartarus’ sounded like a car radio blasting out Dizzy Rascal’s ‘Bonkers’ somewhere in the distance while I listened to Board of Canada real low.

Actress – R.I.P (lossless) – Sonos

I then had a wee nap and listed to Pan American – White Bird Release. A go-to drift album for me.

Pan American – White Bird Release (lossless) – Sonos

Moving through to the main listening system in the living room I finally listened to some My Bloody Valentine. First up the first half-dozen tracks from ‘Isn’t Anything’ (remember when the used to be a normal band?) then a few tracks from the EPs (‘You Made Me Realise’ I find both therapeutic and traumatic after seeing them roar out the middle section for a what-seemed-like-forever 20 minutes when I saw them live a few years ago) before listening to that eternal touchstone of bliss that is ‘Loveless’ in its entirety. I opted for disc 2, the analogue half speed remaster, and it sounded incredible. The sound stage is wider than the original CD and vinyl releases and I genuinely felt I heard parts that had been otherwise obscured on pretty much every song. Vocals seemed more defined and I actually think I caught a few words for the first time.

My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything (lossless) – Hi-Fi

My Bloody Valentine – EP’s 1988 – 1991 (lossless) – Hi-Fi

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (lossless) – Hi-Fi

A pleasant surprise this morning was the out-of-nowhere release of two new Animal Collective songs. Unfortunately seeing the band headline a night of the Primavera festival in Barcelona last year with a set comprised almost entirely of new material had left a bitter taste in my mouth about Animal Collective. Although the new stuff sounded good that night it managed to alienate the majority of the crowd, myself included, who had turned up expecting to hear at least a few more familiar songs. Whether  ‘Honeycomb’ and ‘Gotham’ were part of that set I don’t know but either way I’m willing to forgive and forget and re-ignite my love for the band in light of the potential of new material this year. ‘Honeycomb’ is a fairly typical Avery circus style and in being that it sounded a bit of a mess on first listen (as is often the case for me with Animal Collective). ‘Gotham’ with it’s moody down tempo vibe grabbed me more although I’ll have to listen to both tracks a few more times to get a grip on them.

Animal Collective – Honeycomb / Gotham (lossless) – Hi-Fi

I then listened to Beach House – Bloom for the third time through. I’ll restrain myself from saying too much now as I guarantee that this album will show up again this week but as of now it is fulfilling my expectations and more. It’s perhaps not as immediate as ‘Teen Dream’ and a bit samey on first play but it’s rewarding repeat listening immensely. It really takes off from the 6th track in and finishes strong. Can’t wait to see them live.

Beach House – Bloom (lossless) – Hi-Fi

John Talabot – Fin

John TalabotfIN (2012) Permanent Vacation

I finished my first listen to the much discussed John Talabot’s recently released ‘fIN’ moments ago. Talabot is one of many contemporary electronic musicians, The Field and Blondes come to mind as other examples, who’s music is perhaps better experienced during the stale repetitiveness of the all too familiar bus journey home after a day at work than in a club. Opener ‘Depak Ine’ is the longest song on the album and throughout the course of its seven minutes Talabot builds from a minimalist sound collage of rain forest noises into a dark electro dirge which gently blossoms into flute laden choir song bliss with apparent ease. Talabot’s use of a wide range of different vocal contributions and samples throughout the album result in ‘fIN’ achieving a sense of fresh variety while maintaining a relative cohesiveness in terms of overall sound. Daydream music it may be but nonetheless a striving for euphoria unique to the dancefloor abounds and ‘When The Past Was Present’ in particular evokes images of a packed club with hands in the air in a way that will inspire sentimentality in many.

Spotify