Sunday, 21 December 2014

Records of the year for Monorail Music (and a few more!)

Once again Monorail Music asked a bunch of their regular customers for their top 10 lps, their top 2 singles/tracks and their top 2 reissues.  As ever, reviewing the year was a whole heap of haphazard (my memory isn't what it used to be!) fun.

LPs


1. Comet Gain "Paperback Ghosts" (Fortuna Pop)
2. The Hobbes Fanclub "Up At Lagrange" (Shelflife)
3. The Muffs "Whoop Dee Doo" (Burger / Cherry Red)
4. Literature "Chorus" (Slumberland)
5. The Luxembourg Signal "s/t" (Shelflife)
6. Dean Blunt "Black Metal" (Rough Trade)
7. Weed Hounds "s/t" (Katorga Works)
8. Ex Hex "Rips" (Merge)
9. Mad Nanna "In Glasgow" (Golden Lab)
10. The Bug "Angels and Demons" (Ninja Tune)

A combination of going out more than is healthy or, as I like to call it, supporting the vibrant local music scene (ha!) and buying more records than is decent or even manageable meant that there wasn't really a record that took residence on the Not Unloved turntable.  The mp3 version of Comet Gain's record, however, soundtracked many a splash through puddles on the way to and from whichever gig venue was hosting that night's entertainment.  Its bruised romanticism never failed to make me feel.  "Up At Lagrange" is such a pure record.  It's a neat, perfectly realised and beautifully sung collection of heartfelt songs that yielded my favourite lyric of the year:

"I made a collage of our favourite bands
 To say I love you
 I knew you'd understand"

A one hour commute by car and The Muffs' latest album on cd combined to make it my most listened to record of the year.  Kim Shattuck's full-throated scream was one of the most thrilling sounds of 2014 - prime Courtney Love would've struggled to outdo her.  Literature's pristine guitars served their softly sung melodies beautifully in a way that made me ache for the days when the Parasol Mailorder dropped onto the mat stuffed with little label American pop.  Likewise, The Luxembourg Signal sounded timeless but fresh and provided further evidence that Shelflife was having the year of its life.  It's certain that it would have been in higher in my list had I got it earlier, too. "Black Metal" found its way into my consciousness through its clever deployment of a Pastels sample but proved attractive on so many levels.  With each successive listen it earned a bigger place in my heart.  It wouldn't sound out of place in the Les Disques du Crepuscule catalogue.  Weed Hounds were a brilliant tip from the Did Not Chart blog.  2 minutes and 30 seconds into the record's opener, "Harbor", I was scrambling, all fingers and thumbs, to login to my Paypal account.  Mary Timony and her Ex Hex bandmates made an irresistibly stomping lp that, along with the aforementioned Muffs record and The Vaselines' "V For Vaselines", proved that you don't need to be a teenager to make fizzing, melodic power pop/punk.  The memory of Mad Nanna's appearance at the much missed Volcanic Tongue shop still makes me smile.  I worried that when Golden Lab released the straight-to-TDK document of that night on vinyl, it might tarnish the memory.  I needn't have worried!  The Bug had the good sense to collaborate with Liz Harris and Warrior Queen.  In truth, I enjoyed Andy Stott's "Faith In Strangers" - especially the sparse, sublime "Violence" - just as much but I could only pick 10 records.

7"s / singles 


1. The Youth "I'll Call Your Bluff" (State)
2. The Luxembourg Signal "Distant Drive" (Shelflife)
3. The Clientele / Birdie "The Third Hangover Lounge Picture Disc" (Hangover Lounge)
4. CRUISING "You Made Me Do That" (Soft Power)
5. Golden Teacher "Love / Party People" (Optimo)
6. Curtis Harding "Keep On Shining" (Anti)
7. Gingerlys "Jumprope" (Shelflife)
8. PANG "Young Professionals" (Grazer)
9. Deers "Demo" (Lucky Number)
10. LAPS feat. Golden Teacher, S Young & D Young "Mojo" (Clan Destine)

"I'll Call Your Bluff" sidesteps accusations of being simply an nth generation retread by having the catchiest guitar line this side of 60s Carnaby Street and an emotional directness that feels entirely honest.

Reissue


1. Milk'n'Cookies "Not Enough Girls In The World" 7" (Captured Tracks)
2. The Moles "Flashbacks & Dream Sequences" 3*lp (Fire)

Maybe the 7" I played most this calendar year was Milk'n'Cookies kinda wrong/totally great slice of weedy-voiced, Big Star-esque glam pop.  I sang it in the kitchen at work when nobody was listening.  I sang it when I walked home from gigs in the rain.  I sang it at the top of my lungs on many a seemingly endless commute.  By now, a lot of people are scunnered with Record Store Day but this year's will live long in my memory thanks to that 45 and its ludicrously lascivious refrain: "Ten girls, twenty girls, I want more! Forty girls, fifty girls just because there's not enough girls in the world".

Monorail Music's full top 50 list (along with my photo of the Aphex Twin blimp above Mono/Monorail Music - *beam*) can be pored over on their facebook page.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Live music: Hausfrau, Apostille & Pennycress

2014 has been a dazzling year for live music in Glasgow.  A lot of the truly outstanding sets I've witnessed have been by Glasgow-based artists such as party band extraordinaire Golden Teacher, their jazzier chums Whilst (their set supporting ESG at Broadcast was like being run over by a monster truck) and Richard Youngs.  Three acts, however, have tempted me from my couch more often than any others.  If I could have bought a season ticket to their shows, I would have.  They are about as far removed from the legion of plodding, guitar-wielding dullards as is possible and they are:

Hausfrau


In the first half of 2014 Claudia Nova's (previously of the brilliant Aggi Doom) Hausfrau played a succession of icily atmospheric shows that peaked with an untouchable performance to just a few initiates at Roxy 171 on Great Western Road (the YouTube clip above was filmed that night).  Against sparse backing, Claudia sang the bulk of what would become her first record.  That night's rendition of the title track, 'Night Tides', was one of the unquestionable highlights in a year of phenomenal live music.  Hausfrau's debut cd came out on French label Unknown Pleasures to little fanfare on the day that Scotland voted No to independence from the rest of the United Kingdom; there wasn't even a launch show or party for it which was a real shame.  Glaswegians can buy 'Night Tides' from the upstanding citizens at Monorail Music.

Hausfrau will be appearing at The Poetry Club on the 20th of December as part of The Green Door Studio's 7th birthday celebrations.

Apostille


Over the past few months it has been thrilling to watch Night School Records boss Michael Kasparis as Apostille ratcheting up the level of his performances to an almost insane level over a succession of increasingly incredible gigs.  Few can match Apostille for sheer commitment and physicality.  Few would even try!  One particularly exhilarating performance in support of Alex Neilson's Death Shanties at The Old Hairdressers saw Kasparis starting seated, determined to do something different, but by the end he was climbing over the wooden chairs screaming in the faces of the faithful.  It was nothing short of breathtaking.  Live, songs like 'Wrong', above, take on a heft and a momentum that impels you to move.  Dark electronic music has seldom sounded less po-faced and more danceable.

Apostille appears at Audio on the 19th December as part of the Status Choke / Broadcast Beach Christmas bash.  Don't miss it!

Pennycress


The name Pennycress (originally just Cress) started appearing at the bottom of bills in the summer.  From their first show in Glasgow School of Art's Vic Bar it was clear, however, that they had both ferocity and texture in equal measure.  Since then they've blasted their way through a number of show-stealing sets to the point where they really should be the main draw.  Theirs is a tight, cohesive take on Olympia, Washington riot grrrl/hardcore.  Fired-up teenagers the world over should be tearing down whatever posters they have on their walls to make way for their Pennycress clippings.  Fingers crossed they can capture their spark when recording.  If they can, their records will be  uncompromising treats.

Pennycress play tonight (Thursday, 4th December) at The 13th Note.  Quick!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Sari and The Shalimars "It's So Lonely (Being Together)"

"It's so lonely being together
 Knowing in our hearts
 We're two worlds apart"

Sigh. So many of us have experienced the oxymoron of the title/chorus.  The great thing about so much up tempo 60s soul music, of course, is that it gives you a cheery melody to sing while you're sweating out your woes on the dancefloor:


By Northern Soul standards, copies that aren't too battle-scarred can be snapped-up for buttons.  About a tenner for a song with such a pleasingly punchy arrangement, a heart-swelling key change and lashings of great backing vocals doesn't sound like the worst value for money to me.  

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Moon City Boys "Rockets"

Stockholm's Moon City Boys do a nice line in late-70s New York-style lip curling.  Their debut 7", "Rockets"is the first Swedish guitar pop record I've loved for a wee while (probably since Alpaca Sports released this) and has me wistfully looking back on the days when The Legends, The Radio Dept., Nixon etc. released dizzying records at a rate that decimated bank balances in no time flat.  


As is the way of things in 2014, only 250 copies of "Rockets" have been pressed-up so if primal beats and song structures that don't adhere to any verse-chorus-verse orthodoxy are your thing, better jump to it!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Deverons "She Is My Life"

"She Is My Life" by Winnipeg, Canada's The Deverons is one of the most endearingly romantic wimp-garage singles of the 60s.  Derek Blake's lyrics are pure tongue-tied, love-struck teen:

"When she's with me my knees feel weak
 When she's near me I cannot speak"
 ...
 She has my heart
 She has my soul
 Eveyone knows she has me"



The killer keyboard break expresses beautifully the protagonist's rush of boyish adrenalin at the mere sight of the object of his love.  Not many singles are perfect but, for me, this is one of the few.  It is the most instantly lovable track on "Turn To Stone 2 - Long Lost Sixties Garage USA" (Astray Records).  I got mine from Cornucopia Records - a pop-up shop in the basement of Offshore on Gibson Street, Glasgow.  Unfortunately, tomorrow is the last day it's open but the smitten can buy it from their website.

(As ever, original 45s are pricey.)

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Black Emeralds - Bed Bug/The Keeper

This 7" dropped into my lap via the established method of scrolling through an online seller's items with YouTube on standby like an eager to please shop assistant.  Reggae isn't one of the musical forms I've made even a token effort to keep up with purely because I can't even manage to keep up with the goings on in all the other spheres of music I love, but if reggae as beautiful as this is being made in 2014, I may have to start.  (Sorry Bank Manager!)  Both songs are credited to J (Jason) Bonner and make clear that he has a great ear for a melody.  There's a neatness in the languid arrangements and a crispness in the recordings that makes them incredibly easy on the ear and the rinky dink little keyboard line on "The Keeper" has been the soothing hold music in my head for days now.  Jandisc have themselves a real winner.  Time, I think, to see if they have any more.



Thursday, 23 October 2014

Tommy Rodgers "I'll Tell It To The Wind"

Ebay itself must have laughed when I speculatively bid 15.25 GBP (note that extra 25p just in case somebody was stoopid enough to bid 15 quid on the nose!) for a near mint copy of Tommy Rodgers' incredible "I'll Tell It To The Wind" as it usually fetches something in the region of 200 quid.  I crossed my fingers all day that nobody else had noticed it.  As if that was ever going to happen in 2014!  Now this it's at 63 quid I've stopped looking.  At least I can still blast it on repeat via good ole dependable YouTube:



There's something about the way Tommys sings "There's something about you that makes me weak" that makes me weak.  That little fragment of melody is the hook that elevates it above hundreds of other similar songs, for me.  Tonight I'll no doubt dream that I 'won' the auction and wake up a little deflated that I didn't.  Human brains are cruel like that.

Update: The seller pocketed 88 GBP for the 7" - a long way short of the 200+ of previous sales.