2015 music – 8tracks mix

Here’s a mix of my favourite music from 2015. I haven’t tried to come up with any rankings or employ any particular nuance – these are just 23 tracks mostly from my favourite albums, with an EP and a single thrown in, presented in (I think) chronological order. Full tracklisting below the picture (sadly, 8tracks’ code for embeding widgets on WordPress isn’t working any more, so you’ll have to click through – much as I like 8tracks, I suspect it will go the same way as This Is My Jam and that this might be my last mix on it). Enjoy!

20151231 8tracks

1.Sleater-Kinney – No Anthems (No Cities to Love)
2.Desperate Journalist – Cristiana (Desperate Journalist)
3.Rae Morris – Under the Shadows (Unguarded)
4.Tigercats – Wheezer (Mysteries)
5.The Wave Pictures – We Fell Asleep in the Blue Tent (Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon)
6.Laura Groves – Dream Story (Committed Language EP)
7.Evans the Death – Expect Delays (Expect Delays)
8.Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield – Fond Farewell (Sing Elliott Smith)
9.Jane Weaver – The Electric Mountain (The Amber Light / The Silver Globe deluxe edition)
10.Alabama Shakes – Gimme All You Love (Sound and Color)
11.The Lovely Eggs – I Nearly Saw A Stabbing Last Night (This Is Our Nowhere)
12.Eccentronic Research Council – You Ruined My Chippy Thursday (Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan)
13.The Catenary Wires – Things I Love (Red Red Skies)
14.Piney Gir – Keep It Together (Mr Hyde’s Wild Ride)
15.Mammoth Penguins – Propped Up (Hide and Seek)
16.Simon Love feat. Stewart Lee – The Meaning of Love (It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time)
17.Beach House – Beyond Love (Depression Cherry)
18.The School – He’s Gonna Break Your Heart One Day (Wasting Away and Wandering)
19.Martha Ffion – So Long (single)
20.Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts – Sad Screaming Old Man (Manhattan)
21.Frankie Machine – How Great Thou Art (Frankie Machine Has Been Shipwrecked on a Desert Island)
22.The Drink – Roller (Capital)
23.Johnny Marr – There is a Light that Never Goes Out (Adrenalin Baby)

Favourite music of 2014

If anyone had the misfortune to hear my end-of-year radio show on Cam FM (I’m not linking to it, it was a shambles) you’ll know I wasn’t planning to do any end-of-year music lists. But as the radio show turned out such a mess, I thought I’d do a couple of 8tracks mixes, so here they are: one for favourite albums, another of favourite individual tracks.


The album tracks are presented in (more or less) alphabetical order by artist; I couldn’t settle on a favourite single album or a specific top ten, so I’ve just picked the albums I thought were the best as complete records. Turns out there’s 14 of them. If you just want to browse the lists rather than listen, here they are…

Favourite album tracks
Elbow – Real Life (Angel) (The Take Off And Landing Of Everything)
Robert Ellis – Houston (The Lights from the Chemical Plant)
The Hidden Cameras – Carpe Jugular (Age)
James – Curse Curse (Petite Mort)
Dawn Landes – Heel Toe (Bluebird)
Nikki Lane – Sleep with a Stranger (All or Nothin’)
Jenny Lewis – She’s Not Me (The Voyager)
Lydia Loveless – Wine Lips (Somewhere Else)
The New Pornographers – Champions of Red Wine (Brill Bruisers)
Old Crow Medicine Show – 8 Dogs 8 Banjos (Remedy)
St. Vincent – Digital Witness (St. Vincent)
Slow Club – Complete Surrender (Complete Surrender)
The Understudies – Everyone Deserves At Least One Summer Of Love (Let Desire Guide Your Hand)
Withered Hand – Horseshoe (New Gods)

Favourite tracks (NSFW)
Thee Ahs – I’m not Angry Anymore
Night Flowers – Embers
Mega Emotion – B R A I N S
Magoo – A Feel Of Its Own
Mark Morriss – A Flash of Darkness
Elephant – TV Dinner
Jessica Lea Mayfield – Standing in the Sun
Howling Bells – Your Love
Morrissey – Kiss Me a Lot
Steven James Adams – The Volunteer
Hospitality – Rockets and Jets
The Vaselines – Crazy Lady
Steelism – Caught in a Pickle
Gruff Rhys – Walk into the Wilderness
GUMS! and Callum Baird – Something Rotten
Jeffrey Lewis and the Jrams – Outta town
Nat Johnson – Not Now, Horse
TeenCanteen – You’re Still Mine
Half Man Half Biscuit – The Unfortunate Gwatkin

Indietracks 2014

Indietracks 2014 8tracksSo Indietracks has come and gone for another year, and the 2014 edition was certainly my favourite of those I’ve been to. It was my first for a couple of years, the weather was fantastic and the line-up was impressive – it was particularly good to have three such strong, but very different, headline acts.

This post is a one-stop-shop for photos, videos and music from the weekend, or at least the bits of it I saw. Most is embedded below, but here are the links to go direct:

I’m not writing a big long review, but there’s bits and pieces in the captions on Flickr (go to fullscreen and click ‘show info’), and I’ll jot down a few favourite memories at the end…

Stand-out moments for me were:
  • The Spook School running onstage in capes, and generally being around and active all weekend, including having a hand in organising the football at the campsite (not that I played, but it was nice to see something like that happening); also check out Nye’s performance of Something on the main stage (it’s in the video playlist above) – you could hear a pin drop.
  • Gruff Rhys interrupting his set to announce there was a search on for a missing child… who immediately turned out to be down the front, watching the show.
  • The last post being played on the bugle after the bar closed and the indie disco finished in the shed on Sunday night.
  • Allo Darlin’ and their Just Joans / Emma Kupa guest slots, and their segue into Call Me Al in their last song, and generally all of their set come to think of it.
  • The announcement after the Hidden Cameras that we’d won the quiz! It was a very generous goodie bag of prizes (CDs, vinyl and some other odds and ends… including a stylophone and a unique song by the Thyme Machine written specifically for the winners), and it was a surprise to beat a team containing uber-quizzer Rachael Neiman.
At the indie disco
It’s a semi-serious gripe that every Indietracks disco ends up playing Babies by Pulp (which I don’t mind at all, to be honest), so we decided to keep track of how many times we heard it. This turned out to be… none! Instead, the ubiquitous indie disco numbers seemed to be:
  • The Spook School – I’ll Be Honest (4)
  • Pulp – Do You Remember the First Time? (3)
  • Le Tigre – Deceptacon (3)
  • Kenickie – Come Out 2Nite (3)

It was also good to hear quite a bit of Hefner (Hymn for the Cigarettes twice, plus a few others) and some other Kenickie tracks (Punka and I Would Fix You). Props in particular to Sean Fortuna Pop who DJed at the campsite on Saturday and basically showed everyone else how to do it, and Katie from the Just Joans and her pals, who did a great job of following him on the Sunday.

Inevitably, there were clashes in the schedule, so I was sorry to miss Cosines, the Thyme Machine, Mega Emotion, Sweet Baboo and all sorts of good stuff in the merch tent.For me, Indietracks runs from the build-up (say from when the schedule is published) to the job of sorting out photos and so on afterwards. Looking up the bands I’ve not heard and figuring out who to see is all part of it for me. But as soon as I hit ‘publish’ on this it’s over for another year. Good work team, and bring on 2015!

Top 10 albums

2013 albums mixThis is probably a more conservative list than my top 10 albums of the last few years. Somehow 2013 has seemed to be a year of recent favourites splitting up, new bands releasing enjoyable debuts, and old favourites being the class of the field. So there are only two debuts in here (compared to four in 2012), neither by artists new to me this year; and while last year only three records were by artists I’d known for more than three years, this year most entries are from artists I’ve known and liked for a long time, a decade or more in many cases. Still, conservative list or no, they’re all great records – listen to the 8tracks mix for a taster of each.

1. Laura Cantrell – No Way There From Here
Why do I always seem to plump for a country record as my favourite of the year? This, Laura Cantrell’s first album of original material in eight years, is ostensibly straight-up country music: the songs melodic, her voice as clear and expressive as ever – if anything, more so. But listen closer and it’s clear these are often not conventional country lyrics, bar perhaps the sincere and totally un-feminist portrait of domestic life chez Cantrell, Can’t Wait. Beyond that, as the title might suggest, the record mines a rich seam of melancholy (see the title track, Washday Blues, Someday Sparrow, Letter She Sent) and offers other unexpected curios – surprisingly sensual account, for a country song, of a one-off sexual encounter in Barely Said A Thing. It has a smooth production, certainly, though often based around understated brass and woodwind parts, which complement the six-strings, mandolins and pedal steels surprisingly well, and again showcase an approach that is unexpected without being contrary. It’s certainly as strong an album as Laura has ever produced – one cant help but think John Peel would have enjoyed it greatly.

2. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
This is a really striking record, and I hesitated to put it in second place behind the Laura Cantrell one – they’re both great, but at the moment I’d say this one comes slightly second in my personal preferences, not least because it’s a slightly more challenging listen. A short UK tour in early summer showcased some of Neko’s new material, and they promised to be bold, ferocious songs. There’s less focus on the natural world than on 2009’s Middle Cyclone, more on people and their emotional failings – it’s angry in places; in others frustrated, or simply resigned. Musically the backing is an imaginative and compelling take on American traditions. A great record, and Neko’s best yet – it makes her dark and adventurous albums of the previous decade seem plain and simple by comparison.

3. Edwyn Collins – Understated
For his first album wholly written and recorded after his stroke, Edwyn Collins has honed the musical template of 2010’s Losing Sleep: muscular songwriting, still showing where so much jangly indiepop branched off from his earlier career, allied to a stompy soul sensibility. For my money, Understated presents it much more sharply in every respect. The big pop tunes are more immediate and grabbing, the melancholy more direct and reflective, all expressed through remarkably well-judged and delivered vocals.

4. I Am Kloot – Let It All In
This is one of those albums curiously released early in the year, so at risk of being overlooked in end of year polls, especially as it followed only 18 months from the acclaimed Sky At Night. The rather bland title didn’t help its cause either. Nonetheless, Let It All In shows a similarly considered approach to production, though ultimately maybe a bit more direct in places, and hones the Kloot sound: menace and drama (Hold Back the Night) alternate with warm yet melancholy reflection (Mouth On Me, Some Better Day), finally drifting into wistful sadness (Forgive Me These Reminders). And John Bramwell is surely one of the great vocalists in popular music at the moment.

5. Johnny Marr – The Messenger
For a short while this autumn, I was listening to Johnny Marr’s album while reading Morrissey’s autobiography; my enjoyment of the former surprised me much more than of the latter. Fundamentally this is an album of great tunes, and distinctively Marr: each element on here is fairly simple, but stitched together with verve. They’re not great songs necessarily in terms of lyrics, but certainly work well enough. Overall the effect is very satisfying: it rewards revisiting multiple times, and is a good end-to-end listen

6. Just Handshakes – Say It
With 2013 being a year of indiepop splits, most notably Shrag and Standard Fare, and a year of recording 2014’s albums for other bigger names like Allo Darlin’ and Tigercats, the way was open for some of the newer bands to make a mark with their debuts. Spook School, Joanna Gruesome and Colour Me Wednesday all put out enjoyable first albums, but probably the strongest of the crop came from one of the more established bands, Leeds’s Just Handshakes (no longer specifying “(We’re British)”). The jolting, angular guitar backing is in common with many current bands; Just Handshakes ally it with a well-judged sheen of synths, distinctive, unconventional but highly successful vocals and a dynamic, punchy production, to produce an at times arrestingly dramatic debut.

7. The Leisure Society – Alone Aboard the Ark
It’s not the point, but I love the inter-war style artwork on this record. Musically, this is another album of highly attractive songs, but while maybe in the past they’ve been just a bit too light and pretty for my taste. Here, The Leisure Society experiment with the template a little: there’s a bit more electric guitar and rhythmic variety; overall the effect is a bit more dramatic. Lovely stuff.

8. Victoria and Jacob – Victoria and Jacob
It’s still a bit of a mystery to me how this electro-pop duo have become so closely enmeshed with the indiepop circuit – maybe there’s something of that sensibility subtly pervading the music. Certainly it’s agreeable to my ears, and over the course of the album offers a varied electronic soundscape at times dark and forbidding, at times light and open. The album also has the advantage of being released on Where It’s At Is Where You Are records, which reliably makes a point of doing interesting things with its releases – in this instance, a mini-album’s worth of remixes to accompany the several singles taken from the album, a lovely-looking vinyl release and a striking use of the signature artwork, built around a simple templates of the artists in silhouette. If anything this seemed to make the CD release seem a bit throwaway – picking it up for a mere fiver felt like robbery somehow. I’m not sure whether more hardcore electro fans would find this satisfying, but I’m not the best judge – perhaps it’s the ideal gateway record.

9. The Wave Pictures – City Forgiveness
My first instinct towards double albums is always: really? But there’s no need for scepticism here. I’ve become a convert to the Wave Pictures principally through their live shows, and this album comes the closest so far to capturing their compelling, muscular live sound. There’s tons of guitar solos, all the songs are high quality, and the album presents some more nuanced moments too, not least fast-established live favourite Red Cloud Road.

10. Iron and Wine – Ghost on Ghost
Another extremely good album from one of the best songwriters in the world. That’s about it, really – either you already know Iron and Wine or you’re missing out.

For reference, here’s the tracklist for the 8tracks mix:

  1. Iron Wine – Winter Prayers (Ghost On Ghost)
  2. The Wave Pictures – Before This Day (City Forgiveness)
  3. Victoria and Jacob – Believe the Boy (Victoria and Jacob)
  4. The Leisure Society – Everyone Understands (Alone Aboard the Ark)
  5. Just Handshakes – November (Say It)
  6. Johnny Marr – New Town Velocity (The Messenger)
  7. I Am Kloot – Hold Back the Night (Let It All In)
  8. Edwyn Collins – Dilemma (Understated)
  9. Neko Case – City Swans (The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You)
  10. Laura Cantrell – No Way There from Here (No Way There from Here)

Favourite tracks 2013 (2) – NSFW

As promised yesterday, here’s the second part of my mix of favourite tracks of the year. It’s the 13th track that’s NSFW, if you were wondering.

Tomorrow I’ll be doing a post on the highlights from among the live music I’ve seen this year, with the top 10 albums post to follow on the 31st.

  1. Arctic Monkeys – No. 1 Party Anthem (AM)
  2. Cate Le Bon – Are You With Me Now (Mug Museum)
  3. Sweet Baboo – The Morse Code for Love (Ships)
  4. Grandmaster Gareth – Watch Your Step (Magical Sound Shower)
  5. Camera Obscura – William’s Heart (Desire Lines)
  6. Caitlin Rose – Everywhere I Go (Noisetrade Eastside Manor session)
  7. Adrian Roye and the Exiles – Seven Hours (Reclaimed)
  8. Eleanor Friedberger – I’ll Never Be Happy Again (Personal Record)
  9. Laura Groves – Pale Shadows (Thinking About Thinking EP)
  10. Hacia Dos Veranos – Limay (Limay)
  11. Lightning Dust – Diamond (Fantasy)
  12. Anna Calvi – Eliza (One Breath)
  13. Hard Skin – We’re Gonna Do Them (Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear)
  14. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Despair (Mosquito)

Favourite tracks 2013 (1)

Here’s an 8tracks mix of singles, cuts from EPs and tracks from albums that didn’t make my top 10 (which I’ll be putting up here on the 31st, with another mix). I’ve split it into two, so there’s a second part to follow tomorrow – this one focuses pretty resolutely on indiepop, while the second one ranges a bit further. Enjoy!

  1. Gums – Function Suite (Antipathy EP)
  2. Darren Hayman – Old Man Don’t Waste Your Time
  3. Sparrow and the Workshop – Shock Shock (Murderopolis)
  4. The Crimea – Mid Air Collisions (Square Moon)
  5. The Beautiful Word – May Not Be Love (Particles)
  6. The Just Joans – Another Song About The Rain (6.9 Love Songs)
  7. MJ Hibbett and the Validators – I Want To Find Out How It Ends
  8. Colour Me Wednesday – I Thought It Was Morning (I Thought It Was Morning)
  9. The Tuts – Dump Your Boyfriend
  10. The Spook School – I’ll Be Honest (Dress Up)
  11. Fakebit Polytechnic – Hey Hey 16K (It Only Works Because You’re Hibbett)
  12. Art Brut – We Make Pop Music (Top of the Pops Disc)
  13. Future of the Left – Singing Of The Bonesaws (How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident)

Ghosts of dead indie bands

2013 has started with a wave of bands splitting up, most notably Shrag announcing their imminent demise live on 6Music, and Standard Fare confirming their long-touted hiatus is to be permanent (there have been some other odds and ends of news, though mercifully not for bands I’m notably fond of).

It’s sad, but it’s also how these things go. I’ve known plenty of my favourite bands split up… so it has got me to thinking about a few other notable splits. Inevitably, it added up to an 8tracks mix.

I set a few rules:

  • They had to be bands I was into at the time, and saw live (so not McLusky, more fool me)
  • I had to have heard about their split at (or reasonably close to) when it happened / was announced (so not Angelica, who I only heard about ages after the event)
  • Long periods of radio silence with no actual announcement don’t count (so not The Hot Puppies)
  • Britpop-era bands*, or bands who split long before I got into them like the Smiths or the Pixies also don’t count.

Here’s the tracklisting I came up with.

  1. The Broken Family Band – It’s All Over
  2. Shrag – When We Go Courting
  3. Standard Fare – At The Lake
  4. The Bluetones – Heard You Were Dead
  5. Grandaddy – The Crystal Lake
  6. Rosita – Santa Poca’s Dream
  7. Alfie – Your Own Religio
  8. Immaculate Machine – No Such Thing as the Future
  9. Sleater-Kinney – Entertain
  10. Colonel Bastard – Phone Box
  11. Yokoko – Sally Doesn’t Care
  12. The Loves – XS and Os
  13. Help Stamp Out Loneliness – Record shop
  14. The Long Blondes – Once and Never Again
  15. Kenickie – Psychic Defence

Bonus points to anyone who can spot the one major exception to my own rules!

* … and I realise the Bluetones and Kenickie are both Britpop-era, but I hadn’t even really clocked them as exceptions – the Bluetones because they split so recently, and Kenickie because they were the first band I saw live, in the last week of their career, and therefore the first band I saw live to split up – so it seems more recent than ‘Britpop’ to me!

2012 – the Very Rest Of (2)

Here’s the second round-up of my favourite tracks from 2012, ahead of the top ten albums countdown…

  1. The Cribs – Come On, Be a No-One
  2. Tally Ho! featuring Rose Melberg – 02 Kid
  3. Cornshed Sisters – Dance at my Wedding
  4. Grimes – Oblivion
  5. Singing Adams – Black Cloud
  6. John Hiatt – I Know How to Lose You
  7. Noisettes – That Girl
  8. The Lovely Eggs – I Just Want Someone To Fall In Love With
  9. Ultrasound – Beautiful Sadness
  10. Alistair The Optimist – In The Wake
  11. Waco Brothers & Paul Burch – Flight to Spain
  12. Metric – The Wanderlust
  13. Iris DeMent – There’s a Whole Lotta Heaven
  14. Mary Epworth – Long Gone

2012 – the Very Rest Of (1)

I’ve done a few 8tracks mixes of music from 2012. There’s a run down of tracks from my top 10 albums, but before that there are two mixes of various other tracks I heard over the year. Some, but not all, come from albums outside the top 10 (and a round-up of those is to follow). Here’s the first one.

  1. Future of the Left – Failed Olympic Bid
  2. Withered Hand – Heart Heart
  3. Tigercats – Cats Run Free
  4. Emmy the Great – Fade Into You
  5. Sea of Bees – Gone
  6. Young Romance – Follow On Your Own
  7. Pris – A-Bomb in White Heat
  8. Laura J Martin – Spy
  9. MJ Hibbett – The Stores of Not to Be
  10. Mark Knopfler – Go, Love
  11. Major Lazer feat. Amber Coffman – Get Free
  12. Jesca Hoop – When I’m Asleep
  13. Caitlin Rose – Lately I’ve Let Things Slide
  14. Field Mouse – You Guys Are Gonna Wake My Mom
  15. Ambrosia Parsley – The Answer (Tim & Becky’s Wedding)

I’ll also share here probably my favourite video of the year, from The School.~


Christmas mixes – round-up

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Christmas mixes I’ve been putting up over the last week. There will be more mixes soon, as I’m working on my albums of the year list…

As an aside, full marks to 8tracks for making their mixes embeddable on WordPress.com, which they weren’t this time last year. Their uploader still isn’t totally reliable, but I’d definitely recommend the service if you want to share music online.

Anyway, this post is a one-stop-shop for all the festive mixes.