Monday, 28 November 2016

Q#110 October – November 2016

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #110 October – November 2016

What a strange couple of months. I managed to go home for a couple of weeks which was nice, squeezed in a few nights in Rome as I’d never been to Italy before, oh and Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the USA… I shouldn’t be surprised by people’s collective stupidity after the Brexit vote in the summer, but still, it does make scratch your head (I’m trying to be polite). Anyway, this was rather hurriedly put together so the notes may seem a bit light, but there should be plenty to enjoy musically.

01) La Sera – Queens: Not content with releasing a full length album and a collaborative covers album, Katy Goodman’s La Sera just released a digital-only EP, also called Queens. This track is a shift from the sound on Music for Listening to Music to, although the EP itself reworks a couple of tracks found on that album (as well as a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, which they had covered on tour).

02) Hurry - Casual Feelings: I used Nothing to Say on the last mix and the trio from Philadelphia just put out a 3-track EP (of which this is the title track) which you can get on bandcamp.
“Maybe this is just one big mistake”

03) The Scientists - Frantic Romantic: Re-issue specialists Numero recently released A Place Called Bad, a collection of the Australian band’s whole discography. I used High Noon on the Oct/Nov 2015 mix so the timing seemed fitting to use them again.

04) Ultimate Painting – Bills: Another band that last appeared a year ago, Ultimate Painting have just released new album, Dusk, at the end of September. They’re probably one of those bands who will never change, and that’s not a bad thing in this case. If you want twee, Velvet-Underground-influenced jangle-pop, then they do it as well as anyone.

05) Nada Surf - Beautiful Beat (live): After releasing You Know Who You Are earlier in the year, New York’s finest released their second live album in recent times, though Peaceful Ghosts isn’t a typical live record as they’re accompanied by an orchestra. This song might articulate better than any other the importance of music as a pick-me-up. “Sometimes all I want is another, Drink or another pill, If I could get anything done, Maybe I'd hold still, I'm trying to levitate I'm, Trying to leave the ground, Tryin' to remember when I could, Fix anything with sound”

06) Aldous Harding - Stop Your Tears: I had a digital copy of Aldous Harding’s eponymous record through a press promo a few months ago but didn’t find the time to give it much thought, but while finding songs for this mix, this tune in particular really stood out. Hailing from New Zealand, her album was put out by Flying Nun, which is always a good sign, although the label is not particularly known for goth-folk releases like this one!

07) Springtime Carnivore - Double Infinity: Second album, Midnight Room, is sure to be one of my favourite albums of the year. Greta Morgan’s voice is much more to the fore (which is very much a good thing) and the record has a good mix of upbeat and sombre tunes, she also plays most of the instruments herself and I think has one of the best ears for a melody I’ve heard in a long time. “After the afterglow, your two faces start to show, I’ve been waiting for the one I know”

08) PJ Harvey - The Wheel: I hadn’t seen PJ Harvey play live since 2009 so despite her playing at Terminal 5, I couldn’t bear to miss it. Despite the venue, it was another great show and she still might be the best live singer I’ve seen. Latest album, The Hope Six Demolition Project, is similar to previous album Let England Shake, but her 10-piece band brought everything to life perfectly.

09) Cut Worms - Don't Want to Say Goodbye: There are some obvious Everly Brothers vibes on this track, indeed there are on many of them on Max Clarke’s songs. I saw Cut Worms open for Luna recently (who played their best album, Penthouse, in full) and it didn’t seem to take long for him to win over the crowd, how could you not with songs like this?

10) Volta Jazz - Air Volta: Another Numero-release, Bobo Yeye concentrates on Burkina Faso between 1970-1979, during which the country was known as the Republic of Upper Volta. I’m still waiting for the box-set to come through the post so I can’t say I know a whole lot about them!

11) Coulibaly Tidiane & Dafra Star - Si Tu Maime: This is another track from the Bobo Yeye box set, so again, I don’t really know anything about this other than the track itself being great. Enjoy!

12) Julian Velard - I Don't Know How to Drive: Whilst hankering for a show after a slow couple of weeks, I went to see Julian Velard on the recommendation of a friend. Going in slightly blind, I certainly came out as a fan of his equal-parts self-depreciative/self-loving style and his New York-centric piano tunes. “My feet on the street I’m alive, I’m at looking you, Stuck sitting in traffic for, an hour or two, The back of a cabbie’s head blocking the view, That’s not what New Yorkers do “

13) Elephant Stone - See the Light: Elephant Stone’s recent album Ship of Fools, has gone a little more, I don’t know how to say it, standard-indie, or at least there is a lot less of their sitar signature-sound. The songs are good, but I can’t help but feel there is something less distinct about the experience.

14) Mark Eitzel - The Last 10 Years: Eitzel’s tenth solo album, Hey Mr Ferryman, will be out on Merge Records in January, and was recorded by Bernard Butler (he also played all the electric guitar/bass/keyboard parts of the album). Eitzel’s delivery is as good as ever and the vividness of his lyrics are always remarkable (maybe I just drink too much…). “I spent the last ten years trying to waste half an hour”

15) Wymond Miles - Stand Before Me: Not that there’s anything wrong with the Fresh & Onlys (indeed, they’re rather splendid), but Wymond Miles is one of those rare examples where the solo work is better than the band they’re in. On his latest album, Call By Night, maybe doesn’t have the immediate appeal of his previous work, but once you get used to the songs they’re just as satisfying.

16) The Appleseed Cast - Cathedral Rings: Of all the “emo” bands I’ve seen in the last few years, The Appleseed Cast are probably my favourite. Having seen them last year and just recently opening for Caspian, they’re one of those bands I’ll try to catch each time. I’m still pretty ignorant about their actual discography, however, they did play this song so I knew what to look for! There’s some really great drumming on this track in particular.

17) Kim Gordon - Murdered Out: I was surprised to read that this is the first thing that Kim has released in her own name and features Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint on drums. The repetitive bass line forms the framework of the song and lets the guitars to veer off in any direction they feel like. Hopefully there are more like this!

18) The Body - Shelter is Illusory: The Body’s latest album, No One Deserves Happiness, is a typically intense experience from the duo, who apparently said they wanted to make “the grossest pop album of all time”, which is a tall order! I’m not sure you could ever say anything they do is pop (though this song is probably the closest to that), but they can be delightfully gross on occasion.

19) Swans - Finally, Peace: I saw Swans when I went to San Francisco recently, and seeing them live is akin to being bludgeoned for two hours straight, in a good way, of course! On record, the intensity is dialled down a little bit and they often produce moments of beauty, like this one, which closes out their most recent album, The Glowing Man, which was released this year. The whole record clocks in at an almost typical 2 hours.

And that’s it for me for 2016, the next mix will be in January and feature my favourite releases of the year. Until then, I wish you all a happy rest of the year.

Peace and love - Q 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Q#109 August to September 2016

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #109 August – September 2016

Greetings! Autumn is finally here and since the last mix I had a nice few days in San Francisco, I hadn’t been out to the West Coast before and can see why people like it, the weather is certainly more agreeable there. However, there are fewer feelings better than coming back to New York after being away.

01) Drive Like Jehu - Here Come the Rome Plows: Felt quite lucky to be able to see Drive Like Jehu on this brief run of shows they put together, almost 20 years after their initial break up. Of course they played this song, and pretty much everything else you would want to hear! One could make a good case for them being the best post-hardcore band (I’d probably have to hand it to Fugazi, as would most).

02) Tyvek – Wayne County Roads: As everyone who reads these notes should know, Death By Audio was my favourite music venue and closed almost 2 years ago. Famous Class recently put out a 3LP set of songs from the last month the venue was open called Open Your Own Fucking Showspace. I saw Tyvek at the venue a couple of times (including this recording) and they always put on a good show.

03) Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – Bottled in Cork: Here’s another track from Open Your Own Fucking Showspace, I think it had been some time since Ted Leo & the Pharmacists had played (he often plays solo), and they were one of the surprise guests when Screaming Females played.

04) Hurry – Nothing to Say: I recently saw this trio from Philadelphia trio open for Nada Surf and was pretty quickly won over with their jangle-tinged tunes and the sarcastic between-song banter never hurts. Their album, Guided Meditation, was released in April and is on bandcamp for a mere $5.

05) Katy Goodman & Greta Morgan – Where Eagles Dare: Two of my favourite artists in recent years, Katy Goodman (La Sera) and Greta Morgan (Springtime Carnivore) teamed up and released a covers album called Take It, It’s Yours. Turning 10 punk/new wave songs into slow, sombre but beautiful compositions with gorgeous harmonies. The approach reminds me a little of what Mark Kozelek did with his AC/DC covers record (in spirit moreso than execution). “we walk the streets at night, we go where eagles dare, they pick up every movement, they pick up every loser, with jaded eyes and features, you think they really care?”

06) Amber Arcades – Right Now: Another band I recently saw open for Nada Surf, and after doing some more research, it’s not surprising me to find out that this song was recorded in New York, with a backing band that consists of members from Real Estate, Quilt and Kevin Morby (with Ben Greenberg producing). Amber Arcades is the moniker of Annelotte de Graaf, and her soft but sweet vocal marries perfectly with the production here. “I made my mind up long ago, The road is long and slow, So many things to leave behind, But everyone can live their lie, I’m not even sure that I don’t like mine”

07) The Jigsaw Seen – Your Mind is Like Mine: I have to admit to being slightly embarrassed that I didn’t know Jigsaw Seen have still been a pretty active band in recent years. Considering they have written one of my favourite songs of all time, My Name is Tom, from 1991, you’d think I’d keep on top of things. Regardless, I was thankful to get the chance to see them recently (and of course, they played that song), promoting their most recent album, Old Man Reverb, which has all their signature sounds and I gleefully picked it up after the show, now I just need to fill the gaping holes in my record collection.

08) Robert Forster – Pandanus: This month’s freebie-from-my-friend-Herb entry comes via Go Betweens’ Robert Forster, the album The Evangelist got a lot of plaudits upon its release in 2008, but was one of those albums that passed me by at the time. Most of the album has more of a singer-songwriter vibe, but this certainly evokes his older band. “The candle of the day, Has burnt down to wick, The candle of the night, Has not yet been lit”

09) Dusk – My Own Design: Whilst having somewhat of a meltdown being at yet another show on my own (which is probably a good 60% of the time), I was reminded why I do go to so many shows solo, because every band were fantastic. Headlined by Tenement (more from them soon), Amos Pitsch’s other band, Dusk, also played. They play a soulful take on country and have multiple harmonies while sharing lead vocals on different songs. They don’t have an album yet, but hopefully that won’t be the case for too long. This song was released on bandcamp in March. “I used to love you and I used to know why”

10) Okkervil River – Okkervil River RIP: 3 years ago Okkervil River released The Silver Gymnasium and I met Will Sheff at a record store, trying to give a compliment I said “one day you’ll release a bad album but it hasn’t happened yet!”, to which he laughed and said that sounded ominous. Having just released new album Away, his winning streak is still intact.

11) Teenage Fanclub – Hold On: I haven’t managed to see Teenage Fanclub since they played Oxford Brookes in 2002… so I was overjoyed when they announced a couple of shows here in October in support of new album Here, their first album since 2010’s Shadows. You know what you’re getting with a Fannies album, gorgeous tunes and fragile vocals, which of course they deliver in spades yet again.

12) Tenement – The Strangest Couple in Love: Tenement’s headlining set at Saint Vitus was what I imagine getting a dose of oxytocin is like. This track is from the self-titled album (which is actually more of an EP) from last year, and few bands can deliver so many great hooks in such a short space of time. “And it’s no mystery how it goes, and how it ends everyone knows”

13) American Football – You Know I Should Be Leaving Soon: Illionois trio American Football released a critically loved self-titled album in 1999, and that was that, until 17 years later when the band they will be releasing another self-titled album (due in October). I have a ticket to see them in January.

14) Preoccupations – Degraded: Preoccupations used to be called Vietcong, and despite a name change I suspect they will always be known as “Preoccupations fka Vietcong”, so changing names seems a little silly anyway. I can understand why they did it, because people look for any conceivable moment to be offended these days, but how many bands would have to change their names? Anyway, they have a new album out and it’s rather good, as you would imagine because Vietcong’s albums were good and this is the same band. “Some good ideas split in two, So solemn and melancholy, Another thing that you can do, Unwillingly for some money”

15) Explosions in the Sky – Tangle Formations: I probably hadn’t listened to Explosions in the Sky in over a decade (like most, I adored The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place), but when they announced a show at the beautiful Kings Theatre, I picked up tickets without even thinking about it. Thankfully, new album The Wilderness (their first in five years), while not exactly breaking their formula, is a breath of fresh air mostly given my distance from the band’s output. Anyway, the show was spectacular.

16) Russian Circles – Vorel: I saw Russian Circles at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco while on holiday, mostly because I wanted to go to the venue as I didn’t exactly know their music intimately. The venue is deserving of its lofty reputation, and thankfully the band were great too!

17) Cloakroom – Deep Sea Station: Opening the previously mentioned Russian Circles show were Northwest Indiana trio Cloakroom, who couldn’t help make me think we’ve finally ran out of band names. However, with elements of slowcore and heavy-shoegaze, I was a happy listener

18) Fur Helmet – Ether: Another mood saving band I’ve seen live solo was Fur Helmet, who have that reverb drenched desert psych sound down to a tee. You can get their EP for just $2 on bandcamp.

19) The Men – Lion’s Den: The Men’s latest album will be self-released (as opposed to on Sacred Bones like most of their records). The band have been playing new material for the last 18 months which has had a distinct classic rock vibe, but this track is a cross between Iggy and the Stooges and Mudhoney, which is certainly a pretty great combo. It’ll be interesting to see what direction the final product hones in on.

See you when winter hits most likely! Until next time

Peace and love - Q 

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Sunday, 31 July 2016

Q#108 June – July 2016

Please note that the zip file has a password: QCOMPS.BLOGSPOT

Q’s Compilations
Volume #108 June – July 2016

Happy excruciating summer, everyone! Here is another hastily thrown together mix. I managed to survive another orbit around the sun with a birthday in June, managed to fit in a long weekend in Montreal, and am somehow still alive just in general. Onwards and upwards!

01) Royal Headache – My Own Fantasy: Australia’s Royal Headache released one of my favourite records of 2015 with High, and I saw them this month at Music Hall Williamsburg. It took them a few songs to get going but once they hit their stride they reached heights many bands can’t these days, and most of that is down to frontman Shogun, who barely stops moving and his Otis Redding-ish soulful croak really sets them apart from most other garage-rock bands these days. “I used to dream of love but I never dreamed I’d be all alone in my own fantasy”

02) Honey – Monk: NYC psyche trio Honey released their debut album, Love is Hard, via Wharf Cat Records in May. I’ve seen the band numerous times in the last couple of years and the album captures their sound very well, as I write this, the weather is featuring 90% humidity and this song sounds like how I feel.

03) Girl Band – Paul: I was surprised to find out I’ve only used a track by Dublin’s Girl Band once, and that was the June/July mix of 2015. Since then the band have released their rather excellent debut full length, Holding Hands With Jamie, via Rough Trade Records. Some bands end up reigning in the sound of their early Eps by the time they release a full length, but thankfully Girl Band have kept that abrasive quality, it’s a fearless record.

04) Del Amitri – Hammering Heart: Del Amitri’s self-titled debut album from 1985 is the sound of a completely different band, one obsessed with Orange Juice and The Smiths (Morrissey loved this album and the band opened for The Smiths), there is so much melody on this record it’s hard to keep track. Alas, after early promising press, Chrysalis delayed the release and no-one cared by the time it came out. Anyway, I suppose if they had blown up they probably wouldn’t have turned into the band that changed my life, but there’s always that “what if…” feeling when I listen to this wonderful, wonderful album. If a band came out with this today they’d be adored. “I suppose love lives in a dustbin behind the garden wall, You have to grovel on the ground and be pretty disgusting to find it at all”

05) Guided By Voices – Please Be Honest: Calling Robert Pollard prolific is one of the most understated things one can say, and having broken up Guided By Voices (again…) in 2014, it almost seemed inevitable that they’d get back together, though few would have thought it would only take 18 months. After reforming with a completely new lineup and releasing Please Be Honest, Pollard has since recalled former GBV and all round indie-legend Doug Gillard into the lineup. The future of GBV is hopefully bright…

06) The Nils – Daylight: My friend Herb frequently gives me bargain CDs, the most recent of which is 80s Montreal act The Nils. The band only recorded one full length LP, but Green Fields In Daylight includes that and connects the dots in the discography of a few Eps and live tracks. It’s a fine collection of pop-punk tunes and you can see why they’re heralded in cult circles (as well as some of my favourite bands, Superchunk, Meat Puppets, Bob Mould, etc). It seems like the band had a pretty raw deal during their active years to say the least, but actually released their 2nd album (after 28 years) last year.

07) Lush – Untogether: I have to confess that Lush were a band that I always heard of but barely listened to when they were active first time around. The band reunited this year and I have tickets to see them in September, having given their best of, Ciao, regular spins in the last 6 months (which feels about how long I’ve had tickets for), the show can’t come around soon enough. “I'm sorry it's come to this but why are we here, bothering?

08) Eagulls – Velvet: Leeds has a decent reputation for goth/post-punk bands with the likes of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Sisters of Mercy, etc, and Eagulls are the latest, formed in 2010 the quintet have two albums under the belt, the latest of which, Ullages, came out in May. The record should appeal to any fan of The Cure!

09) The Cure – Prayers for Rain: Speaking of The Cure… I felt like I couldn’t not follow up Eagulls with anything else. I also just saw The Cure at Madison Square Garden (the third time I’ve seen the band), where they played almost all of Disintegration, so this seemed appropriate.

10) Fear of Men – Trauma: Brighton trio Fear of Men just released their second album, Fall Forever, and it sounds like a band really pushing themselves. Rather than rehashing their rather excellent debut, Loom, the group have crafted a record that demands attention, there are barely any chords on the record for a start, while singer Jess Weiss’ seemingly ultra-personal lyrics can strike a few chords of their own. “Just my words repeat I don't need you to see I'm beyond good and evil today I'm a force to fear, you're a void to be killed Now there's nothing to keep me here”

11) Codeine – Tom: I feel like I’ve talked about Codeine a lot recently but I’ve never actually used any of their tracks before, which may be my biggest oversight in this series. While most fans might gravitate towards Frigid Stars, there’s something that makes me gravitate to the follow-up album, The White Birch. One of the pioneers of the slowcore genre! “I'll throw sand in your eye, You need a reason to cry, I'll throw sand in your eye, I need a reason to smile”

12) Yowler – Bedroom Wall: I saw Maryn Jones fronting her indie band, All Dogs, opening for Superchunk last year, who I liked but her solo project, Yowler, seems to hit more buttons for me. There’s a definite sad/singer songwriter vibe on the album, which seemed a little at odds when I saw her live in the blistering heat outside during the Northside festival, but I enjoyed it all same!

13) Smog – Dress Sexy at my Funeral: Sadly, all good things in New York have an end, and my favourite record store, Other Music, closed recently. They went out with a bang by hosting a show at Bowery Ballroom with 12 acts playing including Bill Callahan, he played this song and I was instantly won over by the cheekiness of it. “And when it comes your turn to speak, Before the crowd, Tell them about the time we did it, On the beach with fireworks above us”

14) Red House Painters – Mistress: Since I’m in the sad part of the compilation, I was listening to Red House Painters recently, and I’ve always preferred the piano version Mistress but something really resonated the last time I listened to Rollercoaster (as it always does) and I just felt like putting this onto a mix. “I've had enough of the, Brutal beatings and name callings, To lose me to this bed, Bruised internally, eternally”

15) Black Hearted Brother – (I Don’t Mean to) Wonder: Neil Halstead will probably always be best known as the singer in Slowdive, but as well as Mojave 3 and a blossoming solo career, he formed Black Hearted Brother in 2013 and released Stars Are Our Home on Slumberland Records. It’s a fairly indulgent album which twists and turns all over the place, but all the better for it.

16) Sleep – Holy Mountain: I saw stoner/doom le`gends Sleep at House of Vans recently and it was inevitably an incredible show. Since I couldn’t exactly put Dopesmoker on a mix (itself clocking in at an hour), I’ve used the title track from the classic Holy Mountain. While the band broke up in 1998, they reformed to play sporadic shows since 2009, and may well release a new album at some point.

17) White Zombie – Pig Heaven: The best re-issue label in the business, Numero Group, gave White Zombie their customary excellent treatment this year, compiling their long out of print early Eps and LPs in a package called It Came From NYC. This track is originally from their 1987 EP of the same name.  

18) Menehan Street Band – The Contender: I mentioned the Other Music farewell show at Bowery Ballroom earlier, and it was the first time I’d seen Menehan Street Band play. The instrumental soul/funk band tap into an old school sound, as anyone on Daptone records does, it was pretty easy to convert me. The bass playing in particular is on point.

19) Future Islands – A Dream of You and Me: To continue the Other Music theme, I went the day before it closed, and inevitably left with a few things, one of which was Future Islands’ Singles album. It’s a record I should probably have owned for years but always just listened to it on Spotify. Anyway, it seemed to be an appropriate record to be my last purchase for some reason, this song resonates pretty strongly these days. “All that glitters is gold, Don't believe what you've been told, People lie, people love, people go, But beauty lies, in every soul”

Yeah, I guess there are some sad and angry songs on this one…

Until next time

Peace and love - Q 

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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Q#107 April – May 2016

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #107 April - May 2016

It seemed like summer was never going to arrive, but as I sit here suffering the worst sunburn I’ve ever had trying to get this out before the end of the month, I’m thinking it could have stayed away! Other things got the better of me for a while but I’m starting and finishing this off in about a week, so forgive me if it seems a little rushed, there are some great things on here though!

01) Ought - Men for Miles: If I could revise the “best of 2015” mix I made, Ought would be on it. I’d go so far as to say that Sun Coming Down may now be my single favourite album of 2015. I saw the band last year and thought they were great, but for some reason never listened to the album as much as I should have, but with some time and catching another show, I was just blown away. The band don’t do a whole lot on stage and most of the songs are mid-paced but it’s somehow incredibly intense and engaging. If you have a chance to see them, don’t pass it up, and in the meantime be sure to get Sun Coming Down.

02) Pants Exploder – Nerve: Sometimes you just want no-frills riffs and sludgy, down-tuned guitars. In a particularly susceptible mood, I saw Pants Exploder at The Acheron and they ticked every box and the band’s self-titled debut is a true delight for fans of the genre.

03) Music Band - Green Lights: I saw Music Band supporting Diarrhea Planet last year and they threatened to steal the show, which is no mean feat given that Diarrhea Planet are one of the best live bands on earth right now. I’m not sure the band’s record collection contains anything after 1976, and that’s no bad thing when you’re in the mood for some classic rock. Their debut album, Wake Up Laughing, will appeal to anyone looking for more of the same here.

04) Arrogance - Peace of Mind: Part of the Numero 12 series, Arrogance’s Knights of Dreams is a lost classic rock gem if ever there was one. Formed in North Carolina, the band cut this record before turning in a more acoustic direction. “Life’s a joke I’ve come to find”

05) Ryley Walker - Primrose Green: I saw Ryley Walker at Austin Psych Fest last year and was impressed without being wowed (my overriding feeling was that if I wanted to listen to Tim Buckley I would listen to Tim Buckley), but after multiple recommendations from a work colleague and other friends I decided to buy Primrose Green and it really is a lovely folk record. While his influences are worn firmly on his sleeve, there is more than enough spirit pushing through and the playing is exemplary.

06) Radiohead - Decks Dark: Usually when a hugely important band in your life releases a new record there is an uncontrollable excitement when you can’t wait to listen to it, but after 2011’s rather limp King of Limbs, I was fairly nervous about what they would come up with. I was prepared for a 6/10 album and probably would have been happy with that, but A Moon Shaped Pool gets an 8/10 in my book and while perhaps a bit one-paced, is a fine addition to the discography of Oxford’s greatest export.

07) Gaz Coombes – Detroit: Speaking of Oxford, Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes released his second solo album, Matador, in January 2015, and it’s an understated delight. I caught one of his shows at Rockwood Music Hall recently and maintain that Supergrass were always loved yet always underappreciated.

08) Holy Fuck - Xed Eyes: Toronto’s Holy Fuck just released Congrats, their first album in 5 years (Q#75 was their last inclusion!), and their fourth in total. The album is a fine addition to their real-drums-and-bass blend of dance-elecronica, and I’m hoping to catch one of their shows in July.

09) Wimps – Dump: This Seattle trio make incredibly catchy, endearing tunes, and their album, Suitcase, is a no-brainer if you want some lo-fo-ish indie. I write this as my apartment is looking particularly like a dump right now…

10) Field Music – Disappointed: There probably hasn’t been a whole lot of good music (or anything) from Sunderland, but Field Music are an exception. While the XTC and Talking Heads influences seem pretty obvious, if anything it just makes you miss those bands and thankful that a band this can pull it off so well. I saw the band at Rough Trade recently and it was one of the more enjoyable shows of the year, with brothers David and Peter Brewis swapping between guitars/vocals and drums. “This has been going on, So long I can't believe it, I made mistakes at the start, And it seems you can't forgive them”

11) Wall - Cuban Cigars: This Brooklyn quartet veer more to the wire-y guitar sound that seems to have been underused in the last few years, I was impressed with their set opening for Fear of Men recently and the band’s debut EP is well worth a listen for anyone else that misses this kind of guitar tone.

12) Summer Twins – Demons: There is no shortage of sunny sounding garage rock bands from the west coast and sisters Chelsea and Justine Brown aren’t rocking the boat in that sense, and it won’t be surprising to hear that they’re signed to Burger Records either. With that information alone you can probably tell if you’ll like it or not before listening. Obviously I’m all in favour.

13) Dick Diver - Hammock Days: Australia’s Dick Diver just had their first two albums re-issued in the US, and this is taken from their debut, 2011’s New Start Again. Australia has a good reputation for producing jangly indie-pop bands and Dick Diver may just be the best.

14) The Posies - We R Power!: The Posies are one of my favourite bands of all time, and it seemed surprising to realise that it had been six years since Blood/Candy was released. Unfortunately the band have suffered some hardships recently, including the sudden death of drummer Darius Minwalla (who once called me out at a Posies show for wearing a Rush shirt, his favourite band) and former bassist Joe Skyward. Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer ventured forth, however, and have just released Solid States, and if you know the Posies at all then you know they are one of the best songwriting duos of all time. I managed to catch the band play a show in someone’s apartment recently, which was a surreal, yet great experience.

15) Bambara - An Ill Son: Brooklyn based trio Bambara have been together since 2009 and bludgeoned their way through almost impenetrable Birthday Party-esque tunes all the while. However, the band’s latest album, Swarm, managed to rein things in just enough to let the songs and vocals shine through.

16) Texas is the Reason - A Jack with One Eye: Having never previously heard of the band, I felt a little guilty to end up at one of their shows recently (which is a rarity, the show sold out in no time). They only had one album, Do You Know Who You Are? from 1996, and while it seemed like I was gate-crashing a private fan club, I came out with a new-found appreciation.  

17) The Montgomery Express – Who: This Florida-based funk band only cut one record in 1974 called The Montgomery Movement. The effortlessly cool shuffle of this tune can make you get lost and suddenly 3 minutes have sailed by. Singers Paul Montgomery and Charles Atkins were both blind and self-taught musicians.

18) Britta Phillips - Luck or Magic: Perhaps best known as the bassist in Luna, Britta has just released her debut album of which this is the title track. It’s a lovely album with 5 originals and 5 covers (of which, The Cars’ Drive is the best-known tune), with analog synths ruling the day for the most part, but everything serves as a platform for Britta’s vocals, which just have enough (unjustified) lack of confidence to really draw you in. “There is no other feeling like the one in the beginning

19) Jimmy Carter and Dallas County Green - A Night of Love: A lost 70s country rock classic, Summer Brings the Sunshine is a true delight. We’ve all lost count the number of times one thinks “this should have been huge” and you could probably slot this record alongside a bunch of Neil Young’s efforts.

20) Robbie Fulks - Try Leaving: You can know nothing about Robbie Fulks, or even country and folk music, and have a great time at one of his concerts. He played this tune the last time I saw him which actually comes from a collection of throwaway recordings, but the song hits home a bit too hard not to include it. I picked up a couple of his albums so expect further inclusion at some point. “There’s only one thing that you haven’t done. Try leaving, try not to come back this evening, try to stay gone”.

21) David Kauffman - Kiss Another Day Goodbye: I’m closing out this mix, as I often do, on a bit of a downer. I maintain that the saddest songs are often the most beautiful, and this is definitely one of the saddest songs I have ever heard! Details on Kauffman are a little scarce, but his struggles of life and creativity are pretty vivid in this offering, and thankfully though his collaborative album with Eric Caboor is titled Songs from Suicide Bridge, neither succumbed to taking their own lives. “I went out to grab a cup of coffee and left my dreams behind. The California sun was all I had for breakfast, and it burns.”
Well there you go!

Until next time

Peace and love - Q 

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Monday, 28 March 2016

Q#106 February – March 2016

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #106 February – March 2016

A slow start to the year is starting to pick up a little bit now, spring is here officially! This mix is a combination of songs I couldn’t fit onto the “best of 2015” mix, new songs and older material that I wanted to use for some reason or another. A bit of a mish mash as usual, hopefully there is something for you to enjoy.

01) Dimnas III - I Won't Love You Again: Kicking things off with a soul number, courtesy of Numero’s Royal Jesters release. I love the grit in the vocals but have to confess to knowing nothing about the group. Just enjoy it!

02) Boogarins - 6000 Dias: Brazilian band Boogarins followed up 2013’s As Plantas Que Curam last year with the rather excellent Manual on Other Music. They seem more focused and confident with their songwriting and is one of my favourite albums of the year so far. Having not seen them since 2014 I’m hoping to catch their show at Baby’s All Right on the 14th of April.

03) Pete Astor - Really Something: Pete Astor formed The Loft in 1983 and was one of the earliest signings on Creation Records, fast forward many years and Astor’s sporadic discography is a treasure. This particular album, Spilt Milk, was record by James Hoare of Veronica Falls, The Proper Ornaments and Ultimate Painting (all 3 of which have featured on these compilations).

04) Nada Surf - Believe You're Mine: I really can’t say anything new about Nada Surf, they might just be the most important band to me. 4 years after the release of The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy, the band have just released their 8th album, You Know Who You Are. Lyrically it certainly seems like Matthew has gone through a bit of a hard time in the last few years, with many lyrics in particular hitting close to home, I think he’s one of the best songwriters of all time and should get more credit. The album is filled with all their signature power pop, they just do what they do better than anyone else.

05) Crow Bait – 83: Long Island Trio Crow Bait produce the kind of unadulterated songwriters indie-rock the likes of Buffalo Tom were knocking out in the 90s. Signed to Don Giovanni records, they have one album to date, 2014’s Sliding Through The Halls Of Fate.

06) Robyn Hitchcock - I'm Only You: Deserving of “National Treasure” status, I hadn’t seen Robyn Hitchcock since 2010 in Oxford, and due to the genrousity of a friend, managed to put that right last November when he played at City Winery. He played this song (from 1985’s Fegmania! Album) and while I could have chosen from a few dozen tracks, I was reminded just how much I liked it. “Said I'm a pattern on a china bowl, I'm a memory engraved upon your soul, I'm a prison cell without a door, I'm a finger drawing, On a frosty window pane”

07) Advaeta - Church Cult: I saw Brooklyn-trio Advaeta just over a year ago supporting Moon Duo and while I was deeply impressed with their set, I just didn’t get round to seeing them again and they flew off my radar for a little bit. Thankfully that changed when I saw their record for sale at Other Music, and it’s as varied and intricate as I remember.

08) Big Ups - National Parks: Second albums are notoriously difficult, but Big Ups have gone up at least a couple of levels with the release of Before a Million Universes, which sees them slow things down a little from their hardcore origins and adopt a more Slint-like approach.

09) PINKWASH - Longer Now: Philadelphia duo PINKWASH released the incredible Your Cure Your Soul EP in 2014 and are set to unleash their debut full length in May called Collective Sigh. This is the first song to be released from it and doesn’t stray from the sound of their debut EP, all the better for it.

10) Jesu & Sun Kil Moon - Good Morning My Love: Just when you think Kozelek simply can’t possibly write any more lyrics, he takes his stream-of-consciousness style to yet another level on a collaborative album with Jesu. Musically the record is pretty diverse, with crunching slowcore electric guitars on some songs and electronic drums and keyboards on others.

11) Vaadat Charigim - Imperia Achrona: Israeli band Vaadat Charigim, whose name roughly translates as committee of the abnormal, released their second album, Sinking As A Stone, on Burger Records last year. They sing in Hebrew but to see these it gives the songs an otherworldly quality that befits the genre. I caught the band on their first tour of the US in 2014 but missed their last New York show (though I did see them in Austin last year), I’ll be putting that right when they play at Palisades on the 30th of March.

12) Hilly Eye - Jersey City: Brooklyn two-piece Hilly Eye consist of guitarist/vocalist Amy Klein and drummer/vocalist Catherine Tung, they formed in 2009 and have one album to date, 2013’s Reasons to Live. I hadn’t heard of the band before but received it in a random assortment of vinyl I purchased from Don Giovanni’s moving sale and was won over instantly with their slowcore quiet/loud anthems.

13) Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - Melt Your Heart: Rabbit Fur Coat is 10 years old this year and Jenny Lewis played a few special shows in celebration of the landmark. I caught one of the shows at the Beacon Theatre and despite being almost the farthest from the stage that you can get there, she made the setting still seem intimate. “Are we killing time? Are we killing each other?”

14) La Sera - Take My Heart: Katy Goodman’s once side-project La Sera is now very much a full time gig, and a duo at that, with now husband Todd Wisenbaker an official member. Music for Listening to Music to just came out via Polyvinyl Records and was produced by Ryan Adams. The album is a perfect continuation of the discography, with some country influences coming to the fore, but it’s the confidence in Goodman’s voice that is the star of the show. “Pick up the pieces, they've flown away, Lift them up gently in your arms and say, Do you believe in me? Do you believe in me?“

15) Sheer Agony – Debonaires: I featured I Have a Dream on the last mix but mostly due to time constraints as it is a short but sweet song. If I had more time I’d have used this track, which is probably my favourite on Masterpiece, there is a real Television-esque guitar wigout that more people deserve to hear!

16) Dead Tenants - Dead Tenants: The rare trinity of band/album/song name come to the fore with this offering as Queens-based trio. There’s more than a little hint of Fugazi on this track, and I caught the end of the band’s set a couple of months ago after going bowling, and those are two things I’d like to repeat!

17) Protomartyr - Why Does It Shake?: Protomartyr might just be everyone’s favourite post-punk band these days, and The Agent Intellect deservedly made many end-of-year-lists and having seen them a few times live now, they might just be hitting the top of their game in all aspects. Some aren’t taken with Joe Casey’s sometimes mumbling delivery but it works for me.

18) Slint - Good Morning, Captain: After using a Big Ups song earlier, I couldn’t help but put something from Slint’s influential 1991 release, Spiderland. That might not have been a great idea though because it just made me sad that I didn’t get to see their last set of reunion shows in 2014.

I’m feeling a little burned out already but have a few days holiday in DC to look forward to, no particular reason, I just wanted to see somewhere new. Hopefully you’ve all heard something new on this mix.

Until next time

Peace and love - Q 

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Monday, 18 January 2016

Q#105 - December 2015 to January 2016

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Q’s Compilations
Volume #105 December 2015 – January 2016

Newsflash – survived 2015. I hope everyone had a nice time over the “holidays”, speaking of which I actually managed to have one and went back to the UK for three weeks (with a short jaunt to Amsterdam for a change of scenery). 2015 might have been fairly barren of joy but it was relatively fertile when it came to music I enjoyed, so I’ll get right to it and give you some of my favourites.

01) Young Guv - Crawling Back to You: Keen listeners may remember Kelly, I’m Not a Creep from Q#103, one of the most infectious songs of 2015. I almost used the Ripe 4 Luv, the title track of the record, but plumped for this anthemic power-pop gem. The record was released on Slumberland Records back in March and is the project of Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook.

02) Slonk Donkerson - Watching Every Channel at Once: At this stage I’m not sure what else I can say about Slonk Donkerson that I haven’t said already. However, I’ll just copy/paste what I wrote for Free Williamsburg’s Top 25 albums of 2015 post: What’s in a name? Slonk Donkerson go against the grain where most guitar bands around New York in recent years have concentrated on punk/hardcore/garage rock, the now four-piece align to a more classic rock sound, with hints of Moving Pictures-era Rush sprinkled on top of their initial early-REM/Husker Du/Meat Puppets influence. The band’s keen sense of melody and thoughtful compositions really stand out in today’s climate. These songs would sound equally at home played to a crowd of 50 or 50,000 people. We’re clearly fans of the band, having featured them frequently throughout the year.

03) Tenement - I'm Your Super Glue: Another entry from Free Willy’s to 25 albums post: If “punk” means doing whatever you want, then Tenement are the punks of 2015. Releasing an epic 23-song, 74-minute double LP; the band deserves a medal for the sheer number of hooks on this album alone. It’s not all about fist-pumping anthems, however, the Wisconsin trio have crafted a flowing album that also includes piano ballads, a little folk interlude and the downright bizarre 9-minute instrumental “A Frightening Place For Normal People.” Ultimately, Predatory Headlights is an album to just hit play, sit back, and be taken on a ride. If there is a better example of a record showing off pop-songwriting with a fuck-you attitude I have yet to hear it this year. “And the things you never say to me are so sweet”

04) Screaming Females - Criminal Image: And another Free Willy entry! After 2014’s Live at the Hideout, the New Brunswick trio returned with their 6th studio album; their first in three years with Rose Mountain. Upon release, remarks were made about how this was a more “commercial” Screaming Females record, with Wishing Well leading the album’s promotion, and while that one track (and perhaps the second single, “Hopeless”) might possibly have some mainstream appeal, it doesn’t smack of a band trying to sound popular, they are just good songs. Regardless, the album itself is choc-full of the band’s signature riffs and guitar solos. As an aside, they remain the best live band you can see at the moment, in my opinion.

05) Swervedriver - Deep Wound: I Wasn’t Born to Lose You is the band’s first album since 1997, and the Oxford legends have not lost any magic at all. As I wrote for Q#101, not all reunions are just cash cows. Deep Wound was actually released as a single in 2012, but it fits on the album perfectly.

06) Royal Headache - Wouldn't You Know: Another copy/paste from FW - Melbourne’s Royal Headache have not hidden from the fact that following up 2012’s self-titled album was hard. The number of times the band have broken up, or claimed to have broken up, is numerous. Indeed, they have even said this will probably be their last (although they sounded much more positive in a recent interview in The Big Takeover), all that can be done is see every album or show as a gift. What elevates Royal Headache from just being another good garage-punk band is Shogun’s soulful vocal masterclass, which at times croons, and often punches with a hurt that can’t be faked. While the band are known for their high-energy songs and particularly their hurricane-like live shows, it’s the mournful, “Wouldn’t You Know” and downright infectious, anthemic “Carolina,” that captures the heart of the album. “So what would you know, what a little love can do?”

07) Courtney Barnett – Depreston: Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit is the quintessential indie (in the all-encompassing sense of the word) album of the year. The record is a literate success, taking you to places you haven’t been or experiences you haven’t had and yet feeling like you have, made even more personable with a masterful take on various universal themes; a line like “I don’t know quite who I am, oh but man I am trying. I make mistakes until I get it right” could sound all a bit too emo in lesser hands. The music itself is no slouch either, with driving rockers like “Pedestrian at Best” and “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party” mixed up with the slow folk-jangle of “Depreston” and the epic blues of “Small Poppies.” I was enthralled the power-trio live show at Bowery, and I’d make an argument that you only come away with a deeper appreciation for the record after seeing her perform.

08) Jim O'Rourke - Friends with Benefits: Rather embarrassingly I didn’t even know Jim O’Rourke had a solo career outside of his production/mixing duties, but all it took was hearing this song (which opens Simple Songs) to get hooked on the record. I’ve read that it’s not as strong as some of his other albums, and if that’s the case then bring it on. “It's been quite a long, long time, But not enough to find a line, To get me going once again. Just one word I could respect, But then what do I expect? You missed that boat a long time ago”

09) Sufjan Stevens - All of Me Wants All of You: One of the highlights of the year was the re-opening of Kings Theatre, possibly the most beautiful concert venue I have been to, and it’s a short walk from my apartment. I mention this because Sufjan was the first person I saw play there. Carrie and Lowell is certainly one of the darlings choice this year, but it’s an album that deserves the heady praise.

10) Earl Sweatshirt - DNA (feat. Nakel): It’s fair to say that an album called I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside is not going to get your pulses racing, but I often find the saddest, depressing albums have more beauty. Sparse arrangements are the key to this album, which is also lyrically pretty bleak.

11) Follakzoid – Earth: Another FW entry - Chile, and in particular, Santiago’s blossoming psyche scene has spawned numerous bands that are producing some of the best music of the last decade. Along with The Holydrug Couple, the other premier-league band is the krautrock-influenced Föllakzoid, they wowed me at Rough Trade earlier in the year, and the band’s third album (helpfully titled III) is my personal #1 release of 2015. If you just want to get into an involuntary groove, III will do that; most the songs are long and repetitive pieces that have a pulse. While previous material has had more of a straight-up krautrock 4/4 snare-driven rhythm, III concentrates on the bass drum and toms to create a deeper trance, the bass guitar is like a lullaby that plunges you in deeper, while the guitars and keyboards float in and out, delivering the odd jab. You don’t listen to Föllakzoid, you are a slave to them.

12) Viet Cong - Bunker Buster: Too much has been said about the band’s name, which is a pretty boring topic if you ask me (the band are set to change it at some point), as Salman Rushdie said “'Nobody has the right to not be offended”. The unfortunate side issue has taken away discussion about what is one of the strongest albums of the year, which also has one of the best songs I have heard in years, Death, which featured on Q#101. Bunker Buster is one for people to nerd out to a little bit with its 6/4 beat.

13) Deerhunter – Breaker: Fading Frontier seems like a bit more of a low-key album after 2013’s glam-tinged Monomania, but it does get under your skin just like any Deerhunter album can. Breaker is just a downright beautiful song. “I'm alive, I don't credit the source, I just drive, And then the fog rolls in And then they're blind. My enemies, They're just trying, Trying to kill me”

14) Mac McCaughan - Lost Again: Superchunk frontman Mac McCAughan released his first “solo” album (discounting his Portastatic albums…) and Non-Believers veers more towards the melodic side of early 80s post-punk rather than the darker, more angular sounds that the genre seems exclusively wedded to these days. “All these houses are split in two, I'm driving down your street, I'm kind of looking for you, But I'm kind of looking for me”

15) The Holydrug Couple – Concorde: Plagiarising myself again - Chile’s grip as psych-rock leaders strengthened this year with a slew of releases, mostly from Blow Your Mind records and their two flagship bands, The Holydrug Couple and Follakzoid, both put out stellar records. Moonlust is the duo’s third album, and their second via New York label, Sacred Bones. There is more focus on texture and keyboards than Pink-Floyd-esque guitars of earlier material, but it’s a move they take in their stride. If you want to relax and bliss out for 40-minutes I can’t recommend a better option than Moonlust.

16) Sheer Agony - I Have a Dream: These Canadians (they are from Montreal) might win an award for most inappropriate name, because Sheer Agony are anything but to hear. Sticking to a somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach, their record is called Masterpiece. The band identify as Soft Boys Worship, and it’s as good a reference as any. I Have a Dream is one of the singles from the album (whatever that means these days), and while I would have used a different track but for time constraints, it’s a short jab of delightful jangle-pop.

17) Twerps – Stranger: There does seem to be an almost quintessential sound to Aussie (and Kiwi) indie-rock, and Twerps nail it. Range Anxiety seems to have been somewhat unfairly left off many end of year lists, which might be due to it being released so early in the year that people forget, or maybe they just don’t have great taste, who knows.

18) Mikal Cronin - Made My Mind Up: I think Mikal Cronin should be a bit of a superstar, with three fantastic albums in his discography, his live shows are also consistently impressive. Released on Merge, the helpfully titled III, continues to show off his songwriting hooks.

19) John Carpenter – Vortex: Yes, horror director John Carpenter released one of the most compelling records of 2015, via New York’s Sacred Bones label. Very much a cult icon for his soundtrack work as much as his direction, Lost Themes is strictly speaking his debut “album”.

20) Jessica Pratt - On Your Own Love Again: This is the title-track to Jessica’s second album, released on Drag City. If you want a folky/finger-picked record of 2015, most people will steer you towards Sufjan Stevens, but Jessica’s album is a real hidden gem. “I guess I'll try to keep on believing, You're just someone out there in chains, You're just here on your own love again”

And there you have it. My gig-going was down a little bit, I made it to 125 shows (down from 147 and 155 of the two previous years), but still a pretty respectable score! Anyway, here is hoping 2016 is a good year for everyone, it hasn’t started terribly well with the tragic loss of David Bowie!

Until next time

Peace and love - Q 

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