Monday, 30 November 2015

Q#104 - October - November 2015

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #104 October - November 2015

Greetings! A busy few weeks to say the least; I became a US citizen; thanksgiving has just come and gone, and I’m looking forward to spending some time at home for the first time since last December (it has been far too long). Many things are driving me crazy but this is the last mix of the year, so I hope everyone ends it well, 2016 can only be better, here’s hoping. In the meantime, music helps, and here are some of the things I’ve been listening to lately.

01) Slonk Donkerson – Sonata: Anyone who follows my writing on Free Williamsburg (and previously My Social List – RIP), or even these mixes, will know of my love of Slonk Donkerson. The band just released their “first” (but really their third) album, The Lunar Martini Motorbike Club and Their Respective Destinies, and it is a refreshing, ambitious rock album, classic in many ways. In the last few years there has been a tendency for rock bands in New York to take a harder, warts-and-all approach, but the band’s keen ear for melody and composition sets them apart from many groups these days.

02) Cold Beat - Broken Lines: I was fortunate enough to catch San Francisco’s Cold Beat at Union Pool this summer, after the band released Into the Air. There isn’t much to say about this apart from loving that joyful jangle!

03) Girls Names – Recitence: Northern Ireland 4-piece Girls Names followed up 2013’s The New Life (which was probably the most overlooked album of that year, though not by me) this year with Arms Around a Vision, which is a little more new wave than the post-punk of the previous album, and it’s a move that the band handle with aplomb. I’m impatiently waiting for another New York show.

04) Lilys - The Hermit Crab: Of all the bands that recently played the CMJ Music Marathon, it was a rare show from Lilys that was my favourite set, celebrating a 21st anniversary re-release of Eccsame the Photon Band. “You need to be alone, In sand that's warm, Naturally, your death at sea, Is obvious, and fascinating to me”

05) Ultimate Painting - The Chain: I saw Ultimate Painting exactly a year ago and it all screamed “too soon” as the band awkwardly fumbled through a pedestrian, seemingly under-rehearsed set. Fast forward 6 months and I caught the band again, supporting the rather excellent Twerps, and the band seemed almost unrecognisable, playing with a confident swagger that does justice to their recorded material. The comparison to The Velvet Underground is undeniable, but it’s not often a band can pull it off without coming across as mere pretenders. “It's alright to tell the truth, If it hurts then what's the use, In keeping on with this game, It's alright to break the chain”

06) Dick Diver - Waste the Alphabet: Aussie band Dick Diver returned this year with another excellent jangle-pop record, Melbourne, Florida, which continues the excellent work of 2013’s Calendar Days. Unfortunately I missed the band passing through New York as they were excellent when I saw them last year.

07) Simon Doom - Punk Problems: I saw Simon Doom supporting Slonk Donkerson at their recent record release show and was instantly impressed with their melodic tunes. The group don’t have much in the way of recorded songs so far, but you can get this song and a couple of others for a pay-what-you-want price on their bandcamp page:’t tell your punk problems to me”

08) Cool Ghouls - The Mile: One of my top recommendations for this year’s CMJ, I will simply re-use what I wrote about them! “If you want west coast, 60s-infused garage-psyche then look no further than San Francisco’s Cool Ghouls. The band’s last album, A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye, was released on Empty Cellar Records, but also check out a brand new tune that is set to be released on Dizzy Bird records later in the month. The group manage to hit all the sunny, poppy notes, without sounding sickly and they know how to turn up the psych dials at just the right moments too.”

09) Ought - Beautiful Blue Sky: Having seen Matt Kivel’s set cut rather criminally short at Elvis Guesthouse at the start of October, I had just enough time to scoot over to Mercury Lounge to see Ought. The influence of The Fall is hard to shake, but considering I’ve never been a fan of Mark E Smith’s rotating band, they obviously manage it! Formed in Montreal, they have just released Sun Coming Down on Constellation Records. “I'm no longer afraid to die, Cause that is all that I have left, Yes! Yes! And I'm no longer afraid to dance tonight, Cause that is all that I have left, Yes! Yes!”

10) Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts – Thunderstorm: Jeffrey Lewis is one of those artists you should see live at least once a year, and he has just released a new album called Manhattan. I managed to catch the record release show at Le Poisson Rouge around Halloween and he is always more than entertaining. One song, which I haven’t heard before and isn’t on the record, was about England and how the food is probably his most favourite thing about the country; as if I wasn’t already homesick for curry and real ale…

11) JJUUJJUU - Ancients Future: Sometimes I like to take a blind punt on records when there is a sale, it helps if you know the label is reliable, as is the case with Beyond Beyond is Beyond records, but there is still that nerve-wracking moment of uncertainty until needle hits vinyl. What I can tell you now is that Phil Pirrone creates the kind of slow, swirly, psychedelic soundscapes that would grace any record in the genre.

12) Sannhet – Revisionist: There are numerous labels to which you can attribute this band; post-rock, shoegaze, noise, metal, but all of those seem a little unfair. The best way to experience the band is in a live setting, however, and thankfully I’ve managed to do that twice this year. This is the title track from their album that was released in March.

13) Unwound – December: I think my most-listened to band of 2015 is probably Unwound, having devoured Numero’s re-issue series on the trio, which has now come to a conclusion with the recently released Empire, which covers the band’s last two albums; Challenge for a Civilized Society and Leaves Turn Inside You. “December night, I'm told I had my obligations. December night, I tried and tried and tried, but…”

14) The Scientists - High Noon: Another Numero re-issue… this time in the shape of Australian band The Scientists’ 1981 self-titled debut album. Filled with plenty of pop-hooks, they would probably have been huge if they were from New York.

15) Dinosaur Jr - The Leper: Dinosaur Jr’s debut album has just reached its 30th anniversary, and the band are celebrating with 7 sold out shows at Bowery Ballroom, in which they will play the album in full; I managed to get a ticket for one of them.

16) Slothrust – Crockpot: Boston trio Slothrust recently supported Nada Surf at Webster Hall, and while it took them a few songs to get going, it wasn’t too hard to be won over by their slacker-indie demeanour. “I like cats, do you like cats? Of course you do you sassy motherfucker”

17) Velcro Lewis Group - No Dream: As with the JJUUJJUU, I took a blind punt on another Beyond Beyond Is Beyond album, and couldn’t help but love the foot-stomping, soul-tinged rock and roll of this Chicago band. Facebook profiles often come up with some wanky or jokey description but this band definitely get the words right: Funk rock occultists, The Velcro Lewis Group, bring the harmonies of Motown, the groove of Stax, the drugs of Hawkwind, and the drive of Bohannon to their own LSD-laced barbecue of sound.

18) Okkervil River - No Key, No Plan: Black Sheep Boy has just had a 10-year anniversary re-issue, and it is definitely an album worthy of celebration. I remember I was given a burnt-cd copy (remember when people used to do that?) and before the second song had finished I’d ordered the album myself. It’s one of my favourite albums of the last 10 years and I was thrilled to see the band play the whole thing (plus the appendix) recently at Bowery Ballroom. “You float up high and it isn't a sin. And there isn't a hell where we'll be sent. There's only now, and there isn't then. So just breathe it in.”

19) Silversun - Too Much Too Little Too Late: Indecision gets too much sometimes and you just have to give in to the ipod shuffle, but at least that throws up songs that you haven’t heard in a while that might hit you in a different way than when you last heard them. I love Silversun for the high-octane power-pop, possibly the most sugar-doused sound ever put on record… this cover of Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams’ duet was a minor hit for the band in 1998. Well, 2016 will be a new year. Cheers.

I didn’t really even have time to think about this mix too much, but after a couple of plays I’m really happy with the ebb and flow of it. There might not be that much variation but I think it is well paced and is a mix of new songs and other relevant milestones. The next mix will be the usual round-up of my favourite releases of the year. Once again I hope everyone has as good a winter as possible, spend time with loved ones, and try to give a little kindness to someone you think might be struggling. See you on the other side.

Until next time

Peace and love - Q 

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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Q#103 - August - September 2015

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #103 August – September 2015

As I write these notes, summer is officially OVER, and yet it’s still over 20 degrees C, but Autumn is possibly the best time to be in New York, and I’m looking forward to another change of season.

01) Alex G - After Ur Gone: I’m not entirely sure why Alex G’s catchy lo-fi indie-pop tunes generally fly under the radar where someone like Mac DeMarco has become a superstar (don’t get me wrong, I like him just fine). This track opens his album, DSU, released last year, but he’s also fairly prolific, with a slew of releases to date. His next album, Beach Music, will be released in October.

02) Young Guv - Kelly, I'm Not a Creep: Young Guv is Ben Cook, guitarist in Fucked Up, but his solo project has a much sunnier disposition, with hints of Big Star and Cheap Trick. Sometimes you can look into deeper meanings or messages in music, but I just love the sound and pop sensibility here. The album, Ripe 4 Luv, is out on Slumberland Records. “wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back”

03) Expert Alterations - A Bell: I recently saw this band supporting Literature at Cake Shop and thought they stole the show. Their live sound was a big fuller than this recording, but I picked up their self-titled EP, and wasn’t too surprised to find out that it too, is also a Slumberland Records release…

04) Royal Headache – Carolina: Australian bands always seem to attract a crowd in New York, it must be the ex-pat thing. On the surface, the band sound like a fairly standard garage rock band but frontman Shogun has a raspy, soulful vocal that sets them apart from a lot of acts at the moment. With uncertainty over whether the band will continue, there may not be much more of where this came from. I saw the band recently at Saint Vitus and they put a lot of energy into their performance. “She’s been waiting for the train down by the bus”

05) Nada Surf - Whose Authority (live): There’s little I can say about Nada Surf that I haven’t said before, they are one of the most important bands in my life, in many ways they feel like my band, like I have a personal investment in them. They are set to release a live album via pledgemusic called Live at the Neptune. This song is originally from 2008’s Lucky. I’m excited to be seeing the band again in November. “How do you stay where You most want to be? Where'd you get the patience, Did it come easily?”

06) Tenement - Feral Cat Tribe: Of all the great bands who played Don Giovanni Records’ annual showcase back in February (Priests, Brick Mower, Screaming Females, etc), I was most impressed with Wisconsin band Tenement. The band recently released a double LP called Predatory Headlights, and it’s certainly one of my favourites of the year. “I don’t care for the way it was before, anymore”

07) Vuelveteloca – Sharks: Regular readers/listeners should know of my love for Chilean bands in the last few years, and I’ve got a bunch for you on this mix, starting with the latest offering from Vuelveteloca. Pantera is the groups fourth album and sees the band going back to a rockier sound, after the more Stone-Roses-ish Dias de Calor.

08) The Ganjas - Twisted River: Possibly the first band of the recent wave of Chilean psych bands of the last decade is The Ganjas. After Dark is the their first album since 2011’s The Resistance, and was released on BYM Records (their first on the label).

09) Wand - Self Hypnosis in 3 Days: Due to association and a similar sound, the mention of Ty Segall is rarely far from Wand’s name. However, their album, Golem, may just be better than anything Ty has released himself! I’m looking forward to seeing the band again in November, having seen them at Death By Audio this time last year (RIP), though I did see singer Cory Hanson play a solo acoustic set in June. 

10) Survival Knife - Tropic of Chaos: I’ve become pretty enchanted with the band Unwound, thanks to Numero’s incredible reissue efforts, and two members of the band, singer/guitarist Justin Trosper and original drummer Brandt Sandeno (who left Unwound in 1992, replaced by Sara Lundt), formed Survival Knife in 2012. This song is taken from the band’s EP, Suvrivalized.

11) Trementina - Fall Into Your Bed: I used Trementina back in July last year, and the Chilean band go from strength to strength, this tune keeps with their My Bloody Valentine influence but just sounds so pretty. I think it might be my favourite song on the mix.

12) Evans the Death – Sledgehammer: Another band that has appeared before on this series, I used Telling Lies in September 2013(Q#91) and the band have since released another album, Expect Delays, which isn’t quite as immediate as the self-titled debut but with a little perseverance the songs are starting to seep in. They’re playing at CMJ this year so I’m looking forward to getting a chance to see them.

13) Adelaida – Holograma: Another Chilean band! This group recently recorded in New York at Rubber Tracks, although I’m not aware of any shows they played. The quartet are from Valparaíso, to the west of Santiago on the coast.

14) Mark Lanegan Band - Harvest Home: I’m a big fan of Mark Lanegan, but despite Phantom Radio being released last year I only just got round to buying it, but it is certainly of his usual high standard. “Happy that I'm made of stone, To grieve that I cause is my cause to a tone”

15) Miss Garrison – Playas: This is a newer tune from the Chilean trio, who album DeAab, was released in 2012. The band did record a couple of tracks at New York’s Rubber Tracks studio in 2013, which is when I managed to catch them live, and have been following keenly since. Hopefully they make a return soon. This song has a bit of a Radiohead vibe to it.

16) Toy - You Won't Be the Same: I managed to see Brighton-band Toy at Glasslands (RIP) last January, their first NYC show, I think I might have reviewed it for My Social List (RIP), but can’t quite remember, maybe I won tickets. I was impressed with the bands driving krautrock rhythms but only just bought the album, Join the Dots, recently in a sale.

17) Surf Rock is Dead – Anymore: This duo, by way of Melbourne and Chicago make very pretty and shiny indie-rock. There is a little C86 in there, of course, and general pop sensibilities, I saw the band play at some kind of free block party where of course, no-one was paying attention, but they played really well.

18) Sharon Van Etten - I Don't Want to Let You Down: Fellow Ditmas Park resident, Sharon Van Etten (I still haven’t bumped into her, though), released I Don’t Want to Let You Down a few months ago, and this is obviously the title track. It doesn’t stray too far from what she’s known for, and I felt the need to play it whilst feeling bad about myself and eating ice cream. It’s that kind of release. “Decompress, Calm your head, Teach you not to rush, Turn them out to see your words”

19) Wilco - Taste the Ceiling: Wilco surprised everyone in August by releasing their ninth album, Star Wars, for free digitally, with a CD release later in the month (vinyl to come in October). It has all the usual Wilco qualities to it, and this song was co-written with Tweedy and Scott McCaughey, who people should recognise from Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows, and of course, an extended member of REM. “I know why you don't really know me, I don't think you can call it home, All alone I couldn't taste another thing”

20) Alfonso Lovo - La Bomba de Neutron: Nicaraguan guitarist Alfonso Lovo got the Numero treatment in 2012 with his record, La Gigantona, to much success. Surviving a plane hijacking, where he was shot in the hand and torso multiple times, Lovo recovered after several surgeries to continue making music.

21) Robbie Fulks - Rock Bottom, Population 1: My friend Brian is a huge fan of Robbie Fulks so I wanted to see what the fuss was about, I’m not usually much of a country guy but Fulks has the knid of inclusive quality that goes beyond a genre. He can mix up sad and funny songs at the drop of a hat which is a rare quality I admire.

22) What Moon Things - Sun, Where's the Fire: New Paltz, upstate New York, is where this trio are from, and I saw them make the trek into the city to open for Viet Cong in January. The groups quiet-loud-quiet template and sound reminded me a little of Cymbals Eat Guitars, and I happily picked up their record after the set.

I’ve rushed the notes a little but that’s par for the course these days, I’m pretty busy at the moment and everything just seems to be hectic beyond control. It’ll be 2016 soon enough I guess! As ever, please do contact me about the mixes, I love to get feedback.

Until next time

Peace and love - Q 

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Monday, 27 July 2015

Q#102 - June - July 2015

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #102 June – July 2015

Summer in New York, it seemed to take a little longer getting here than usual, but now we’re battling torrid heat and humidity whilst trying to pretend we were looking forward to this a few months ago. It’s easier to keep in shape here because of the perpetual sweating. Anyway, here are some tunes!

01) The Bears - None of the Above: I heard of The Bears years ago through the lesser-known band The Psychodots, which is ¾ of The Bears (Rob Fetters, Bob Nyswonger and Chris Arduser. The Bears are the better known group by virtue of Adrian Belew’s presence. They put together XTC-esque jangly indie-pop with an arty angle. It’s hard to find their stuff but I stumbled on a second-hand vinyl copy of their debut album for $3 and could hardly contain my excitement. “Top ten well dressed men, Every hair in place, Author, skier, millionaire. Epitome of taste. Always willing, lways hot, All these things I am not”

02) Gold Bears - Yeah, Tonight: Atlanta’s Gold Bears released Dalliance on Slumberland Records in June 2014 and it’s a punchy break-up record with a sunny sound. The production runs a little in the red but it fits the songs, which barely stay on the tracks at times. “I guess you’re just a mistress, anyway”

03) Bedhead – Haywire: Reissue kings The Numero Group are best known for unearthing lost soul gems but every once in a while they dip into guitar-based indie rock and hardcore, Bedhead got a fantastic boxset treatment in 2014 and as with everything the label puts together, it’s compiled with a lot of love. The Dallas, Texas band were one of the first slowcore bands to come to prominence along with the likes of Codeine and Red House Painters. This song is from the band’s 1994 debut album, What Fun Life Was. “I can't talk about things i don't understand so i leave it here in empty hands and i leave off the ink so i don't have to think or sink that low ever again.

04) Slavve - In Your Dreams: By way of Florida, Brooklyn-based two-piece Slavve make brash, downtuned rock tunes. I caught them play a free set at Rough Trade in August last year so I was a little surprised to find I hadn’t used this track before.

05) Girl Band - De Bom Bom: This 4-piece from Dublin are one of the more inventive rock bands of recent years, I missed them when they played in NYC earlier in the year but made up for that last month at the Northside Festival when they opened for Viet Cong. If anything they come across better as a live act.

06) Microwaves – Goonraker: Pittsburgh’s Microwaves have been crafting “sub-mainstream” music for the best part of 15 years, and I’m possibly doing them a disservice but putting one of their more concise tunes on a mix. I saw the band for the first time in January this year at Saint Vitus and they’re a mesmerising and complex trio.

07) SQÜRL - Pink Dust: I saw SQÜRL supporting Follakzoid ( in May and there were more than a few curious faces in the crowd who seemingly only turned up to see Jim Jarmusch (who fronts the band). They have a Codeine / Low slowcore sound and while I went in blind not knowing anything about them, I definitely came out a fan.

08) Sun Kil Moon - AliSpinks2: Universal Themes is Mark Kozelek’s most “don’t-give-a-fuck” album in his discography, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, he is just doing whatever he wants. The record is a little all over the map in terms of production and style, with Kozelek stream-of-consciousness lyrics amped up to 11. This song is probably the most concise on the album and I think is his closest to showing his love of Modest Mouse (aside from his acoustic covers album), he even sounds a bit like Isaac Brock a little. “But I'm a songwriter, I write songs in my car until the day I die
I write songs that make people laugh, cry, happy And songs that make grown man shit their pants like little fucking babies”

09) Aka - Do What You Like: On a bit of a whim, I picked up a compilation called Those Shocking Shaking Days, which chronicles the psych/prog/kraut music scene from the underground Indonesian scene in the 70s. Emperor Suharto censored and cracked down on music at the time, so all of these acts were rebelling and putting themselves at risk for their art. I can’t wait to find the time and delve into the history of this period to know more as the music is great.

10) Ex Hex – Waterfall: Mary Timony has been doing the power-trio thing for the last few years, first with Sleater Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein in Wild Flag and now with Ex Hex. Their debut album, Rips, is a fun-filled rocker where every song sounds like it should be released as a single. I saw the band live in June and they sounded great, with all the cliché rock high kicks and poses to match. Catch them if you can.

11) Mac McCaughan - Only Do: Superchunk frontman and Merge Records found Mac McCaughan released his first solo album this year (ignoring his other “solo” venture, Portastatic) with the early 80s post-punk-tinged Non-Believers. I caught Mac’s show in New York recently:

12) The Holydrug Couple – Dreamy: It has been another good year for Chilean psych rock, with perhaps the two flagship bands from Santiago, Follakzoid and The Holydrug Couple, releasing new albums. With Moonlust, The Holydrug Couple have incorporated synths and even gone more poppy at times but they’ve done so in a natural sounding way. I saw the band at Austin Psych Fest they were easily one of the highlights of the weekend. The title of this song is all you need to know about how it sounds.

13) Luna – Chinatown: There are countless bands who simply pass you by for a variety of reasons, and thankfully you get a second chance with some of them. After a decade in hiatus, Luna reformed this year and recently played a free show in New York for the Northside Festival. After seeing people genuinely excited about the prospect of seeing them, I went to see what the fuss was about more than anything, the group put on a fantastic show in the oppressive humidity and I certainly consider myself a fan now. This tune is from possibly the band’s most acclaimed album, Penthouse. “In the tiny tiny hours, ‘tween the evening and the day, We have placed our final bets, We have come out to play, Fancy drinks a lucky toasts, I like this time the most”

14) Lambchop - You Masculine You: I was given a Lambchop album by a friend probably 10 years ago, to be frank I never really listened to it all that much, but when I saw Nixon on sale on vinyl I thought it was worth a punt to see if I just hadn’t given them a fair shot, turns out I hadn’t. Nixon has a richness to it that is hard to put into words, and this tune has a soul shuffle that is hard to not get swept along with.

15) Rush - Losing It: I suspect I may well have used this song on one of the early Q-comps, but who is keeping track… the reason for its inclusion here is that Rush are on what is quite probably their last ever tour and they have trotted out this rarity on a few occasions, two of which I had the pleasure of seeing, in New Jersey and New York. The Madison Square Garden show may just be the best concert I have ever been to, and if the band do call it a day, at least they’re going out on a real high. The reason it had never been performed before this tour is due to Ben Mink’s electric violin performance, he performed with the band in Toronto and Vancouver while Jonathan Dinklage (brother of Game of Thrones’ Peter) performed with them in NJ and NY. From 1982’s Signals, the song also features some of Neil Peart’s best lyrics. “Some are born to move the world, To live their fantasies. But most of us just dream about, The things we'd like to be. Sadder still to watch it die, Than never to have known it. For you, the blind who once could see, The bell tolls for thee...”

16) A Winged Victory for the Sullen - Atomos VII: I had the pleasure of seeing AWVftS again a few months ago (reviewed here - at Le Poisson Rouge. I had seen them last year and they were great, but the performance seemed to be on another level this time around.

17) Girls Names - Zero Triptych: I caught Girls Names’ first ever US show in 2012 in support of their surprisingly overlooked record The New Life. The Belfast band were due to play in New York again earlier in the year but had to postpone due to illness, and are due to release their third album, Arms Around a Vision, in October. This track was a 12” single that will not make the new album so I made sure I snapped it up on import, it’s a bit of an epic, clocking in at over 10 minutes, but showcases what the band does well.

And there you have it, I feel as though this mix is a little disjointed, but those can be satisfying too. Hopefully things will be a bit more calm by the time the next mix is released…

Until next time

Peace and love - Q 

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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Q#101 - April - May 2015

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #101 April – May 2015

I guess this is the first “normal” mix since September, as I’ve had my Death By Audio mix, best of 2014 and then #100’s favourite songs of all time. That means there has been a bit of a backlog, songs I have wanted to use for months, and others that have fallen by the wayside. I went to Austin in May for Levitation (fka Austin Psych Fest) and had a great time, obviously I had to visit the Daniel Johnston mural that is on the front cover of this mix. I also won all my fantasy football (aka soccer to the great unwashed) which makes me ridiculously happy. Maybe, just maybe, I can enjoy this summer.

01) Pop Zeus & Wyatt Blair - I've Never Been More Alive: My Death By Audio mix of #Q98 opened with Pop Zeus’ Dead in the Water, Mikey Hodges tragically died shortly after I uploaded that mix after being hit by a car. Mikey was one of the first musicians in NYC I plucked up the courage to talk to and he was an incredibly nice guy, it’s such a shame I can barely articulate. Another nice guy is Wyatt Blair and the pair were beginning to record songs together, this is sadly the only finished song we’ll hear.

02) Mercury Girls - Golden (demo): Sometimes bands wear their influences on their sleeves and it just does not matter one iota. That’s certainly the case for the C86-infused Mercury Girls, who feature two members of the band Literature (guitarist Kevin Attics & drummer Chris Schackerman). Mercury Girls only have two demos uploaded at the time of writing, but I caught their second ever show recently and they played a great set, I am eagerly waiting more.

03) Mikal Cronin - Turn Around: Although he has been mostly known as a touring guitarist in Ty Segall’s band, Mikal Cronin has now released three utterly delectable garage-rock records, that might just be better than Ty anyway. His third record, helpfully titled MCIII, just came out on Merge Records. I caught his recent show at Bowery Ballroom which I reviewed here:

04) Twerps - Back to You: Australia’s Twerps released their second album, Range Anxiety, recently and it is a rather lovely collection of jangle-pop tunes that the Aussies (and neighbouring Kiwis) seem to excel at. I caught the band live and reviewed here: “Somebody out there is doin’ better than me”

05) Courtney Barnett - Nobody Really Cares if you Don't Go to the Party: Speaking of Aussies, here is another one! Courtney Barnett has had a somewhat meteoric rise this year which saw her sell out three nights at the Bowery. Her album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit, is filled with rockers and singer-songwriter ballads, filing somewhere between The Lemonheads and The Breeders. Yet another artist I had the pleasure of seeing and reviewing:

06) The Proper Ornaments - Now I Understand: Slumberland records had a bit of a fire sale recently, with some releases so cheap I just bought many on a whim, one of which was The Proper Ornaments’ record, Wooden Head, which is a lovely jangly and catchy release.

07) Gateway Drugs - Fridays are for Suckers: Gateway Drugs rolled in from the west coast supporting my hometown boys, Swervedriver, recently and I enjoyed their neo-psych, which sometimes hit hard, and other times had some bubblegum pop going on. This song is one of the latter examples.

08) Swervedriver – Autodidact: As mentioned above, I saw Oxford legends Swervedriver recently, who just released their first album since 1997! I Wasn’t Born to Lose You proves that not all reunions are just cash cows, sometimes bands get together and still release great music! Here’s my show review from their Music Hall of Williamsburg performance: “you make me lose my head, dream of what might be”

09) Screaming Females – Triumph: Screaming Females released their latest album, Rose Mountain, in February on the ever reliable Don Giovanni records. The record is a bit more streamlined, I’m hesitant to say radio friendly because it’s still full of chunky riffs like this song and Marissa Paternoster’s fantastic guitar solos.

10) Multicult – Jaws: I saw this Baltimore band at the unfortunately soon to be closed Brooklyn Night Bazaar, and their unabashed 90s grunge sound went down so well I picked up both of their records at the merch table.  

11) Unwound - New Energy: Everyone finds out about bands they love long after they’ve disbanded and it seems like Unwound is another one of those bands for me. Reissue specialists The Numero Group have been doing a great job repackaging their discography in lavish vinyl box sets and I’ve been devouring them. “desperate kicks, faster still, what about the future of what it is?”

12) The Marbles - Fire and Smoke: I heard this tune at a Highland Park tasting event, The Marbles were a “lost” band from the early CBGBs scene. That guitar solo is absolutely from that time and you wonder why they didn’t blow up like Television. “I’ve been watching bombs exploding, between you and me”

13) Föllakzoid - Electric: Regular readers/listeners will know I’m a huge fan of the Chilean psych rock scene down in Santiago, and Follakzoid are one of the big hitters. They just released their third album (imaginatively titled III), which is a little more trance-influenced than the more krautrock-led previous album, and it’s great to see the band leaning in different directions. Just let yourself fall into the groove with this one. The band just played my favourite show of the year so far by some distance and I’ll be amazed if anyone beats it!

14) Lower Dens – Brains: I’m probably a bit late to the party on this band but I picked up Nootropics on vinyl in a sale and like it a lot. I actually played half the album at the wrong speed and it still sounded good. I think they have a new one out now which I’ll have to check out.

15) Sufjan Stevens - The Only Thing: I recently went to see Sufjan Stevens at the recently renovated Kings Theatre, which was incredibly exciting for me because it was the first time in my life I could walk to and from a concert! It’s a stunning venue and they have done an amazing job on it, the venue upstaged the event itself. Carrie and Lowell sees Sufjan go back to his folk roots and it’s a nice return to form. “Should I tear my eyes out now, before I see too much? Should I tear my arms out now, I wanna feel your touch”

16) Notations - A New Day: Chicago’s The Notations are just another in a long line of brilliant-but-forgotten smoother soul groups from the 60s and 70s. There’s not really much else I can say about this, I just love it.

17) Syl Johnson - I Can Take Care of Business: Taken from Syl’s debut album, Dresses Too Short, released in 1969, why he wasn’t as huge and long-lasting as someone like Al Green I’m just not sure. Syl has that perfect blend of optimism and heartache in his voice.

18) Jacobites - Only Children Sleeping: This might be one of the saddest songs I’ve heard, and I guess that’s why I plumped for it as I’m always drawn to sad songs, and this one is strangely prescient. Nikki Sudden formed Jacobites alongside his solo career after Swell Maps broke up. He died from a heart attack performing at The Knitting Factory in 2006. 

19) Viet Cong – Death: This was/is first song to really blow me away in 2015, and I was delighted to catch them at the Mercury Lounge earlier in the year (and of course, they played this song, I reviewed the show here: The whole 12 minutes is just an aural workout, those glistening guitars, the sounds-like-but-isn’t-odd-timing, the pained vocals, it’s all rather marvellous. Everything about this song just rips out my heart, chews it up, and puts it back in. Staggering.

And there you have it! It’s officially summer now, which at least here means outdoor shows, outdoor films, outdoor drinking, all while it’s too hot!

Until next time

Peace and love - Q 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Q#100 - February - March 2015

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #100 February – March 2015

Well this is number 100… the first in this series was September 2002, and the first 50-or-so mixes were monthly rather than once every two months! Not quite sure how I managed to keep that up so long, but here we are. I guess I wanted to do something commemorative for it, and this is basically a collection of my very favourite songs, things that make me tick and get to the very essence of my passion for music. Of course, no amount of tinkering could actually make me happy with the end result because you worry about things left off, but as a snapshot, this is probably as good as I could have done.

01) Rush - Bastille Day (live): In an ideal world I’d just throw on 2112, but real estate is limited to 80-minutes on these mixes and time constraints do play a major part. This version is taken from the third disc of Different Stages: Live, recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1978 (my Dad was actually at this show). While it’s not Geddy’s strongest vocal, there’s something about the performance and the amps seem turned up a notch from previous years. Is there a better way to open a gig than with this riff?

02) The Posies - Definite Door: Frosting on the Beater is quite possibly the best power-pop album ever made, and that’s a bold statement, but almost every song is hit after hit (not commercially speaking!). I first heard this song on a mix a friend made for me, which really just goes to show the worth of doing these things. I can only hope I’ve introduced one band to someone who went on the love them as much as I love The Posies. Thanks Andy. “Better cross your heart, make it people proof”

03) TV On the Radio - The Wrong Way: I remember reading about Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes from a magazine called Plan B (I bought it because Stephin Merrit was on the front cover), and the description was such that I just had to hear it. TV On the Radio were probably the first band of the new millennium that I got incredibly excited about… and they opened the door to a passion for new music in general. I became a fan just before the record came out but somehow missed them in Oxford by about a week. I actually spoke to Kyp Malone in New York shortly after I moved here and he thanked me for not being at that show as they almost broke up as a result of it, he said it was that bad! I doubt that, I’d have still wanted to be there!

04) The Flirtations - Nothing But a Heartache: The question of “what is my favourite song of all time?” has had an easy answer for the last few years, it’s this one. It’s just absolutely perfect, from the lead and vocal harmonies, the horns and don’t forget the incredible bass! They never bettered this song, or even really came close, but that’s ok when you give something this fantastic to the world.

05) Otis Redding - Security: Thinking of an Otis song to use was one of the hardest tasks for this mix. In the end I went with the classic Security, it swings and Otis’ vocals have that clear emotion that few could rival. Overall, I prefer the intensity of the live material, with In Person at the Whisky a must for any home in my opinion, but one of my most treasured possessions is my Definitive Otis Redding 4-CD box set.

06) Big Star - September Gurls: I’d probably put this forward as the most beautiful sounding song of all time, those guitars alone make my bleary-eyed every time I hear them, I’m struggling to even write about this because I just want to put this on repeat. In fact, stop doing what you’re doing and buy Radio City, assuming you’ve been leading an empty existence to this point and down have it already. That wooo-ooohhh at 2:20 kills me every time. “I loved you, well, never mind, I've been crying all the time”

07) Nada Surf - Always Love: I tend to think or Del Amitri and Rush as my default favourite/most important band but that order should probably go to Nada Surf. They were the first band I felt like I had discovered on my own, hearing Popular in the UK when it came out, where it wasn’t the hit it was in the US, going out and buying the record with what little money I had as a teenager and just pouring all over it. They’ve always felt like my band more than any other. I also think Matthew Caws is a criminally underrated lyricist. “To make a mountain of your life, Is just a choice, But I never learned enough, To listen to the voice that told me, Always love, Hate will get you every time, Always love. Don't wait til the finish line”

08) XTC - The Mayor of Simpleton: As an Oxford boy it’s hard to admit that anything from Swindon is of worth to humanity. However, XTC have contributed some of the finest pop-rock songs, this song appeals to my pathetic, hopelessly romantic side. “Well I don't know how to tell the weight of the sun, And of mathematics well I want none, And I may be the Mayor of Simpleton, But I know one thing, And that's I love you.”

09) REM - Fall On Me: The first song I ever liked was Man on the Moon, you could say I was a bit of a latecomer to music, I’d have been 10 I think when that song came out, but I put that down to pop-music in the 80s being a bit naff. REM are probably the only band I find it hard to be objective about, I just love everything (apart from Around the Sun, which is really a damp squib). If I had to pick a favourite album it may well be Life’s Rich Pageant, and this song just has all the ingredients that made them a fantastic band.  

10) Radiohead - Let Down: Oxford’s greatest export, the one-two punch they delivered with The Bends and OK Computer is surely up there with the best. I remember the weeks leading up to the release of OK Computer there was such incredible excitement, it seemed like an event that certainly no-one has come close to since (at least not locally). Picking Let Down for this mix probably just shows how much of a miserably bugger I am, but I do often find the saddest songs to be the most beautiful.  “Let down and hanging around. Crushed like a bug in the ground”

11) Red House Painters - Summer Dress: My first exposure to Mark Kozelek was hearing Have You Forgotten on the Vanilla Sky soundtrack, and I might have put that version on if I had the time, but I swiftly picked up the 2-cd Retrospective that 4-AD put out, it actually took a few listens for it to get under my skin, but now I’m firmly one of those ugly dude obsessives that Koz writes about so often!

12) Tim Buckley - Song to the Siren (Live - Monkees TV Show): This song, and this version in particular, might be the most significant of my life, it captured a certain time so perfectly and painfully. A love that seemed unobtainable. I haven’t listened to it in a while and now it just makes me feel sad. I really should have also found the time to fit Jeff Buckley on this mix as well… “Did I dream you dreamed about me?Were you hare when I was fox? Now my foolish boat is leaning, Broken lovelorn on your rocks”

13) Del Amitri - Nothing Ever Happens: My love of Del Amitri is completely unapologetic, and they are probably the least cool band to have ever existed. They were my first absolute and complete obsession. I’m still slightly amazed I got to interview Justin Currie last year: and I’ll just copy and paste something I wrote from that piece: “There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Justin Currie’s ability to write moving lyrics for the lonely, heartbroken, misanthropic and disenfranchised; sprinkled with just enough hope for us all to carry on.” This song also features the greatest lyric ever written “Computer terminals report some gains in the values of copper and tin, While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs for the price of a hospital wing”

14) The Flaming Lips - Do You Realise?: I think this song captures mortality better than any other, with an unbridled realism and beauty. The Oklahomans also put on some of the best shows I have ever seen as well, but their studio output doesn’t really get the credit it deserves IMO.

15) Guided By Voices - Glad Girls: Bob Pollard is one of the most prolific artists around, to the point where he has released a lot of average material, but when Guided By Voices get it right, and they frequently do, the results are spectacular. This song shouldn’t really seem that special, but it never fails to get my pulse racing and want to jump around. While it probably isn’t a shared opinion, if I really had to pick a favourite GBV album it probably is Isolation Drills.  

16) The Church - The Unguarded Moment: In a 35-year career, have these Aussies ever released a bad album? I’m not sure (I can’t claim to have all 17), but they also lay claim to this song, which I first heard on the Children of Nuggets boxset, and I think as a result, I do prefer this single-edit as opposed to the album version.

17) Porcupine Tree – Synesthesia: I very, very rarely listen to PT these days, whose run from Up the Downstair until In Absentia (6 albums between 1993-2002) is amongst my most loved of any band. This version is from the original 1993 release, with electronic drums, which I much prefer. The album got a re-issue a few years ago with real drums but it just doesn’t work for me.

18) Ann Peebles - Trouble, Heartache & Sadness: As I was making this mix I was starting to realise how little soul I had on here, which is definitely a mistake… fortunately after a bit of fine-tuning I managed to squeeze on this lovely Ann Peebles tune. Straight from the Heart is my favourite soul record, despite the annoying trait to fade out every single song before the 3-minute mark. I never understood why Quentin Tarantino never used this in a film. “Heartache, stop knockin' at my window, I don't wanna hear what you have to say, You can go down your list of trouble, And be on your merry way”

19) Max Richter - On the Nature of Daylight: I’ll end this mix with a couple of classical pieces, the first is by Max Richter, which is fairly well known and has been used in at least a couple of movies (Stranger than Fiction and Shutter Island spring to mind), but The Blue Notebooks is a lovely collection as it is.

20) Arvo Pärt - Spiegel Im Spiegel: You might need to turn the volume up a little on this one, but I couldn’t not include my favourite piece of music of all time, and it seemed like the right thing to end with. There are many versions of this piece but by far and away the best are on Alina. I can barely get through this without feeling overwhelmed, it’s just the very best of the best. Spiegel Im Spiegel means Mirror in the Mirror in German, and the music is in the tintinnabular style, that Part basically created.

This mix probably describes me as a person better than I can with words. I love every track dearly, and I hope at least one person discovers a new favourite, or at least makes them think about a song they love to the very core of their being. Sometimes it feels like the only thing we have.

Until next time, probably not another 100, but who knows…
Peace and love - Q 

Monday, 19 January 2015

Q#99 - December 2014 - January 2015

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #99 December 2014 – January 2015

2014 was a pretty shitty year by just about any measure of which I can think. New York lost its best music venue (Death By Audio) amongst others, not to mention various record shops, restaurants, dive bars, etc. The year ended with the tragic death of Mikey Hodges aka Pop Zeus, who opened the previous mix I made. Mikey was I think the first musician I plucked up the courage to talk to after moving to New York and he was excited and appreciative to see me at shows (I saw the band a bunch of times). I didn’t know him well, but enough to know he was a genuinely sweet human being. 2015 just can’t be as miserable… I hope!

Mercifully, however, there was still enough good music to pull me through the year. I feel like melody came back in 2014, trebly guitars and finely crafted tunes were on my radar again.

01) Curtis Harding - Next Time: My favourite record of the year was Curtis’ debut, Soul Power. I nominated it for Free Williamsburg’s album of the year list and wrote the following: “The seemingly impossible was made possible this year: a contemporary artist creates a classic soul record without sounding derivative. Whilst listening to most soul music of the last couple of decades you would think “this is the Marvin song… there’s Otis… obviously Curtis Mayfield here…”, etc. Soul Power has a confident swagger and pushes all the right buttons, from the reflective “Next Time” to the foot-stomping “Keep On Shining,” aficionados will love how Harding can straddle both smoother and gritty soul whilst also not being afraid to rock things up, handing out an understated vocal masterclass throughout.”

02) Tweens - Bored in the City: My second favourite album of the year was Tweens’ self-titled debut, with a brash attitude but infectious power-pop hooks. Bored in the City opens the record which doesn’t let up from start to finish.

03) Half Japanese - In Its Pull: Comeback kings of the year go to Half Japanese with their Overjoyed album, their first in 13 years. Jad and David Fair formed Half Japanese in 1975. There’s something about that chugging bass and out of tune distorted guitar that just sounds perfect.

04) Ty Segall - It's Over: Did Ty Segall really only release one album in 2014? Ignoring the fact that Manipulator is more of a double album anyway, it usually seems like the man never stops. While Manipulator doesn’t shift from his garage-rock template, it does seem a bit more focused than other releases and may be his best work to date.

05) Goat – Goatslaves: Swedish psyche-rockers Goat released Commune in September, and continues the good work laid down by 2012’s World Music, albeit with a slightly more reined in production. The band excel as a live unit especially and I was lucky to catch them in the summer, don’t miss them if they play near you.

06) La Hell Gang - Inside My Fall: Chilean psychedelic music has flourished in the last decade or so (see my Chilean special mix of Q#89), and La Hell Gang finally followed up 2009’s Just What Is Real with Thru Me Again, signing to the Brooklyn-based Mexican Summer label in the US.

07) Peter Matthew Bauer - Latin American Ficciones: Former Walkmen Peter Matthew Bauer released one of the best albums in the truest sense in 2014 with Liberation! Another Mexican Summer artist, the record really works as a whole and is one of those albums you just want to actually sit down and listen to without doing anything else. I also interviewed Peter for Free Williamsburg. “A bad dream is so good”

08) Withered Hand – Horseshoe: Another record that deserves attention from start-to-finish is New Gods, with pop-hooks and plenty of folk-tinged sadness. Sometimes you just need perfectly constructed songs and Dan Wilson knows just how to knock them up. “I've been drinking, when I drink it's like I just cannot see, that you were waiting up for me”

09) Matt Kivel – Insignificance: Speaking of singer-songwriters, Matt Kivel followed up 2013’s sombre acoustic Double Exposure with the more electric, but still sombre Days of Being Wild. Listening to both records back-to-back shows them to be great compliments to the other.

10) Springtime Carnivore - Other Side of the Boundary: I first saw Springtime Carnivore opening for La Sera (Greta Morgan was also in the live band for La Sera at the time) and I remember her playing this song which completely floored me. The self-titled record didn’t come out until the end of the year but was worth the wait. For full disclosure, this song in particular is not representative of the record, which features lush pop tunes more akin to Phil Spector-produced arrangements, but there’s something about this song that really got me. “I’m the answer to your strange equation, that you haven’t figured out yet. You may never solve it”

11) Beck - Heart is a Drum: I dig Beck, and like many, fell in love with Sea Change from 2002, he finally released another record of that ilk with Morning Phase. The record might not hit those heady heights, but if it doesn’t, it comes pretty close, it’s just an immaculately crafted and lovely record. “Everyone, if they drown from the undertow. Need to find someone to show me how to play it slow. And just let it go”

12) Steve Gunn - Milly's Garden: Way Out Weather seems like a bit of a breakthrough record for Steve Gunn, who has been quietly releasing top notch folk records since 2007. Way Out Weather is more band-oriented and Steve seems more comfortable as a vocalist, the record should make its way onto many best-of 2014 list, if they’ve managed to hear it at least.

13) Sharon Van Etten - You Know Me Well: Fellow Ditmas Park resident Sharon Van Etten followed up 2012’s much-loved Tramp with Are We There and it seems like she can do little wrong. There were some great lyrical records this year, but I think the actual line of 2014 must come from Every Time the Sun Comes Up (which I used on Q#96) with the fantastic “I washed your dishses but I shit in your bathroom”, the rest of the record is just as good. “We're as empty as a brick house that we
Built without the sides”

14) La Sera - Fall In Place: Vivian Girls broke up in February of 2014, which was a shame (though they hadn’t released a record in three years), but if it means bass-player and seemingly all-round superhuman Katy Goodman gets to do more La Sera records then that’s fine with me. I’m a sucker for Peter Buck-esque guitar arpeggios and Fall In Place must be the best example in a long time. Hour of the Dawn was truly one of my favourite records of the year.

15) Fear of Men – Luna: The UK only represent three entries in this mix, which is a shame, but I guess we didn’t really do so well this year musically. Although having said that, it’s probably been the case for a while. Regardless, Brighton’s Fear Of Men really did release an album worthy of any best-of list with Loom.

16) Allo Darlin' - Kings and Queens: I had no idea who Allo Darlin’ were until they popped up as a “suggested page” on Facebook, so I guess those things do work from time to time! I heard a couple of songs and noticed they were playing Glasslands (RIP) that week, so I went along and they were great, I also bought their three records. It’s usually a good sign when you turn up to a gig and you see people from The Big Takeover there. Sure, this is probably a bit twee for some, but if you like twee, this is the band for you.

17) Doug Gillard - Parade On: I suspect the most under-appreciated record of the year is Doug Gillard’s Parade On album, which is chock-full of power-pop melodies that shows exactly why he ends up in so many great bands (Guided By Voices, Nada Surf, etc).

18) Black Wine – Rime: I’m lining up three bands on the Don Giovanni record label in a row now, it wouldn’t be a best-of-the-year list without their representation. First up is New Jersey’s Black Wine, who release Yell Boss in August, a little more aggressive than their previous records, this is almost Fugazi-like in places.

19) Brick Mower - Shitty Parade: One of the best album titles of the year has to be Teenage Graceland, which sees Brick Mower go a bit more gritty and lo-fi than previous album My Hateable Face. “And I had the greatest summer, so I’m told”

20) Priests - Right Wing: Bodies and Control and Money and Power was unfairly left off many a year-end-list due to it being an EP, their live set at Death By Audio in November was one of the best of the year as well. I’ll be seeing the band again in February for Screaming Females’ record release show at the Knitting Factory.

21) Roomrunner - Ms. DNA: Ideal Cities was my favourite album of 2013 and the band kept their momentum going with their Separate EP, which is a bit more melody-driven than the record, but with the same bone-crunching riffs.

22) King Tuff - Eddie's Song: I can’t help but think of Thin Lizzy when I hear this song, but I mean that in the best way. Black Moon Spell is another fine album in the King Tuff cannon, I’m not sure the guy can write a band song. I usually end mixes on downer songs (I’m sure that says something about me) but this seemed like the perfect closing track.

And there you have it! There are some notable absentees, mostly for time constraints, Sun Kil Moon’s Benji being the most obvious casualty, yes it is a better record than most that made this mix, but I just couldn’t place a track from it, nothing seemed to fit.

Until next time, and here’s hoping everyone has a wonderful 2015.

Peace and love - Q 

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