Thursday, December 17, 2009

Issue 11: 2009 End Of Term Special

Welcome weary travelers - this week, not so much a best of 2009 but more of an end of term knees-up mixed with some tongue-in-cheek prize giving. It's by no means completist and it's certainly not in any kind of order.

Click here to listen now!

(Oh yeah, and the videos don't correspond to the songs in the podcast, it's more of a bonus-type thing.)

1. Wild Beasts - 'We've Still Got The Taste Dancin' On Our Tongues'

A stunning and swift return for these young men from Cumbria, The Wild Beasts would get a prize simply for being the only UK band deserving of your faith this year.

Their previous album, 'Limbo Panto', was great, but this year's 'Two Dancers' was even better. Intelligent, original and now thoroughly exhilarating - never has not running with the pack sounded so good.

Wild Beasts MySpace

2. Bob Hund - 'Blommor På Brinnande Fartyg'

Bob Hund have been Sweden's best band for more than 15 years now. I love everything about them, even though I don't understand everything about them. Least of all the lyrics, which are sung in the regional Skåne dialect of Southern Sweden. I certainly have no idea where their unique twisted toy town plink-plonk sound comes from, but the Super Furry Animals always strikes me as a good comparison.

Their album 'Folkmusik För Folk Som Inte Kan Bete Sig Som Folk', released this year after a six year break, is arguably their best yet and a great place to begin your brand new new year's resolution: Learning Swedish!

Bob Hund MySpace

3. Telex - 'En Route Vers de Nouvelles Aventures'

One of my favourite re-issues of the year - and a complete oddball from Belgium (though I'm told they're actually quite well known there).

The song popped up randomly on a blog I was reading and I had to find out more. Early '80s innovators, situationist-type pop personalities with tunes that are catchy as hell. They even entered Eurovision once, you can watch the video of their entry above.

Download The 'Ultimate Best Of Telex' From iTunes right here or visit their site for more information.

4. Atlas Sound- 'Quick Canal' (feat. Laetitia Sadier)

I've always preferred Bradford Cox's solo stuff to Deerhunter and this song is, for me, the best thing he's ever done.

He's certainly a fantastic sonic stylist, but with the help of an eminently qualified quest vocalist to really nail the whole thing down, this is 8 minutes of blissful haze that I can't resist.

Bradford Cox's Amazing Blog!

5. Wooden Shjips - 'Contact'

More haze, gaze or whatever you want to call it from San Francisco's Wooden Shjips now. A band that reward both deep listening or just drifting depending on what mood you are in.

This song is culled from a 12" on the amazing Mexican Summer label and I highly recommend you click here and find out more.

Wooden Shjips MySpace

6. Animal Collective - 'Daily Routine'

There's no doubt in my mind that when we look back on the '00s, the Animal Collective will easily stand out as Band of the Decade.

I'm still waiting for them to put out something that isn't worth listening to - and 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' was a predictably heavy rotation winner in my house.

Animal Collective MySpace

7. Lucky Dragons - 'We Made Our Own Government'

Lucky Dragons were my most exciting musical find of the year, but I don't know why I hadn't heard them before. With their tribal/digital punk Steve Reich sound – they make the same noise as the idea of the perfect band that has always lived in my head.

Thanks to Norman Records for turning me onto them and selling me the beautiful white vinyl LP that is currently my Sunday morning record of choice. I advise you head over to the band's website too, where you can try a hell of a lot of free mp3s before you buy.

Lucky Dragons MySpace

8. Bill Callahan - 'All Thoughts Are Prey To Some Beast'

My favourite quote of the 2009 occurred when Bill Callahan was asked at the end of an interview whether he had anything further to add. He simply said "Can I just say that I made a really great album? "

That might sound arrogant - but once you've spent time with 'Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle', you'll know exactly what he means. Sometimes people really should just shut the fuck up and listen. I thoroughly applaud Bill for both his direct approach and one of his best records yet.

Bill Callahan at Drag City

9. Fever Ray - 'Here Before'

Karin Dreijer Andersson's Fever Ray project has hovered over my 2009 like a rich, dark, black cloud and its unflinching relentless reality has proved comforting, somehow. It's been a really difficult year in many respects and I"m extremely glad that I've had such a mature and honest companion.

Critics and fans alike seem to have embraced this record too - so I guess there's nothing more to do than to play this stunning Vashti Bunyan cover and award a well-deserved Album of the Year honour.

Fever Ray Official Website

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Issue 10: End Of Decade Special

This week we take a trawl through a decade's worth of listening to dig up some oldies but goldies that seemed to have slipped through the net of most of the recent End Of Decade lists.

I'm not saying these are the best songs of the 2000s. Just sayin' they're good songs. I purposely left out a shedload of songs by bands and albums that have been well represented already.

Click here to listen now!

1. The New Year - 'The End's Not Near' (2004)

Helmed by brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane, The New Year have quietly released three flawless long players this decade.

More accessible and alive than their previous '90s incarnation Bedhead, The Kadane Brothers have nevertheless ramped up the misery and ennui to the point where their songs are left dangling somewhere between the deeply moving and the darkly comic.

The New Year MySpace

2. Ugly Casanova - 'Things I Don't Remember' (2002)

Lord knows - Isaac Brock has been more than adequately represented in the End of Decade praise. Modest Mouse's 'Moon and Antarctica' is a fabulous record, but for me it's this 2002 curio that really represents his decade's best work.

Working with Tim Rutili, John Orth and most importantly producer Brian Deck, Brock crafted a record that was entirely representative of its time. The genre was never given a name, but the sound of indie rock embracing sampling and ideas from the avant garde was certainly a new development and Deck was one of its pre-eminent exponents.

An incredible video accompanied the song too. Click above to watch it in all its childish glory now.

Ugly Casanova @ Subpop

3. Tunng - 'Bullets' (2007)

I could never make it through a whole album by Tunng, but in small doses they write some damn catchy melodies. The dark subject matter tastefully cuts the sweetness of the harmonies too.

Mottled with just the kind of audio experimentalism I alluded too in the Ugly Casanova description, 'Bullets' is for me their finest work to date.

Tunng MySpace

4. Tujiko Noriko - 'Narita Made' (2003)

This song features probably my favourite production of all time, minimal but huge and perfectly pitched to please my ear, this song in headphones is a real brain-tickler.

I remember seeing Tujiko Noriko in Vancouver the year this came out and being utterly amazed. Fennesz and Tim Hecker played at the same festival and in retrospect it was probably the last time laptop music would be so exciting as a movement.

Tujiko Noriko Website

5. Donnacha Costello - 'Orange A' (2004)

An incredibly warm and accessible example of minimal tech house or whatever you care to call it.

Dublin-based Costello released a series of colour-themed 12 inches throughout the decade and they're more than worthy of a little attention. You can purchase the collected Colorseries works right here.

Donnacha Costello MySpace

6. Einstürzende Neubauten - 'Youme & Meyou' (2004)

Stately song craft and pleasing aural arrangements are not what people instantly think of when Einstürzende Neubauten get mentioned. Then again, there's a fair amount of myth and confusion connected to this band.

As perfect a song as you could ever hope to hear, featuring an percussion instrument made of pipes that's captured my imagination ever since. Watch the video and tell me you aren't tempted to build one yourself.

Einstürzende Neubauten Website

7. Sieben - 'Rite For The Unfulfilled' (2007)

Photo credit: Pyhai

I used to work in a cinema and I can confirm that this song resonates with a certain ring of truth.

Sieben is the solo project of Matt Howden and features work he creates with just violin, loop pedal and voice. Completely ignored by anything approaching mainstream attention, he's nevertheless created some excellent work over the years and it more than deserves your ear. So go seek him out.

Sieben MySpace

8. Do Make Say Think - 'White Light Of' (2002)

Post Rock will remain forever the sound of the previous decade but one of its finest moment actually occurred in 2002 with the release of an album called '& Yet & Yet' by Do Make Say Think.

I know they call it Canadian Space Rock themselves, and I'm perfectly okay with that. Especially if they continue to be one of the finest live bands on the planet. A serious must see - and that's not just a clichéd turn of phrase.

Do Make Say Think MySpace

9. Songs: Ohia - 'Peoria Lunch Box Blues' (2003)

Photo credit: Steve Gullick

I've always known that Jason Molina has an army of diehard followers but I've never been one of them. I can't even remember how I found this song.

I think it may have been because of the guest vocalist Scout Niblett. I've always been fond of her ever-so-slightly off kilter vocals and I don't ever think they've ever been deployed as effectively as on this stand-out from Song Ohia's 2003 Magnolia Electric record.

Songs: Ohia MySpace

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Issue 9

Oh god... not more music from Sleephouse Radio....

Click the image to download, or listen using the player to the right. This show can also be subscribed to as a podcast by copying the address of the RSS link in the sidebar into the podcast receiver of your choice. It's all so simple

(40MB, 44 mins. MP3 file)

1. Units - 'High Pressure Days'

Simply stunning - and almost unbelievable - electro punk from 1979. I'd never heard Units until this week when their retrospective album caught my eye while I looking for vinyl finds at my favourite online record shop.

Coincidentally, one of my favourite online magazines ran a great interview with the lead singer the very next day. I could tell you about the hitherto unknown history of the early days of synth punk in San Francisco - but you'd be far better off getting it from the horse's mouth by reading John Doran's excellent interview here.

Units MySpace

2. Major Lazer - 'Hold The Line'

2009 listmania has everyone foaming at the mouth right now. And to be honest, I'm wondering whether it's worth adding my voice to the hue and cry - but I will use the occasion to play what is, hands down, my favourite pop single of the year.

I so wanted 'Hold The Line' to be an authentic exotic artefact, but now I'm quite happy knowing that it's the hyperactive product of arguably the world's best production team (Diplo and Switch), a Jamaican Dancehall legend (Mr Lexx) and a fairly atypical US pop star (Santogold).

I'm making no claims to its intellectual worth - all I know is that it makes me smile, dance and, most importantly, get damn excited about how even the craziest of sounds can be sculpted into something as additively listenable as this.

Major Lazor MySpace

3. Early B - 'Deaf Ears'

While we're making lists and handing out accolades - Simon Reynolds is by far the best music in the world ever. The contest is over, people. I've recently been reading his 'Bring The Noise' compilation and the chapter on Dancehall got me so excited that I had to check out this completely unfamiliar genre.

This, in turn, lead me to Soul Jazz's The Rise Of Jamaican Dancehall compilation from last year and this excellent track here from the now sadly deceased Early B.

There's something so refreshing about discovering a genre of music so alien and I'm still a bit lost in the rush and haze of discovery to have anything meaningful to say.

The Soul Jazz compilation is well worth your time though, especially as it comes as the partner to a book of pictures from the period taken by Beth Lesser. Peep some right here.

Buy At Soul Jazz Records

4. Small Black - 'Despicable Dogs'

Pleasingly distorted keyboards and synths seem to be one of the things we'll remember about 2009 - I know they've called it hypnagogic pop - and I'm certain that Small Black will be included together with the breaking Chillwave.

I'm sure you've heard them all talking about it - and I'm sure it's pretty unfair on Small Black to mention in conjunction with them. Bands have feelings too, you know?

This is simply a good song, like they used to make with guitars before all these kids muscled out the grandpas and took over.

Small Black MySpace

5. Apollo Ghosts - 'Dobermanns'

Vancouver is always a good stop-off if you’re looking for a decent band. Apollo Ghosts are just another great hidden gem from a city that really has a lot to recommend it.

Local radio station CiTR is always worth a listen and be sure to check out Apollo Ghosts and buy all their lovely records.

Apollo Ghosts MySpace

6. Real Estate – 'Suburban Dogs'

There’s been something in the water of the garden state of New Jersey this year – something psychedelic from the sound of the great musical output that’s been flowing from the place in recent months.

Real Estate are certainly the best of the bunch in my estimation and they totally sound like a band that’s going places with their music… they’re just going quite slowly that’s all. No need to rush. No need at all. Beautiful relaxed stuff.

Real Estate MySpace

7. Ducktails – 'Parasailing'

Matt Mondale is Ducktails. He’s also a member of Real Estate. And his releases have been yet another reason why this small nexus of bands and musicians have been getting wider attention.

Pleasingly knockabout punkish-prog ambience from a fella who clearly knows where it’s at.

Ducktails MySpace

8. Bjørn Torske - 'Møljekalas'

I recently set up a new home in the socialist winter paradise of Norway and I've been doing my bit to learn the lingo and get with the local colour, habits, and lifestyle.

I'm a big fan of most stuff here, but the music scene still eludes my grasp somewhat. This is the first in what will probably prove to be a casual series charting my exploration of Norwegian music over the last few years.

I'm reliably informed that Bjørn Torske's 'Feil Knapp' is one of the finest examples of the cosmic disco that's been beaming live out of Oslo's Smalltown Supersound scene in recent years. Damn good it is too.

Plus, it seems to be named after a Christmas food, so it's also kinda topical.

Bjørn Torske MySpace

9. Beach House - 'Norway'

I'm still not entirely sure about the woozy keyboard pitch shifting - and I'm even less sure about it's connection to my new home of Norway - but if you needed proof that sometimes the majority does get it right - then look no further than this song.

Massively popular over the last few weeks, this new nugget from Beach House has set expectation ablaze for their forthcoming album 'Teen Dream'. And, indeed, only a true cynic would deny them or the greatness of this song.

Beach House MySpace

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