Wednesday 27 May 2020

The Lockdown posts: Welsh Wednesday 2020 #2

It's All About The Dolphins by Das Koolies

Super Furry Animals have been in hibernation for some time now. Sure, they peeked out of their burrow briefly during Euro 2016 to sing for the Welsh team, and individually they've been busy with various forays overground. Back in the day though, they often mentioned a mysterious outfit called Das Koolies, a kind of Super Furry Animals from a parallel universe. Well, the thing is, while they are still officially sleeping, four Furries have revealed themselves to be Das Koolies and made some wonderful music together.

Bunf, Cian, Daf and Guto released a bloody superb debut single back in January. It's a throbbing, bass-heavy slab of psychedelic electro-pop about a super not-so-furry species. It's All About The Dolphins melted my brain without additional substances back in the winter, so lord only knows what it could have done this summer if there was a party season. If Ibiza was Welsh, this is what it would be sounding like in 2020, coronavirus or no coronavirus.

No idea if an album is on the way, I really hope so if this is anything to go by. But you know what these guys are like. Maybe if Wales do well again at the rescheduled Euros next year, we might get another few minutes out of them.

Sunday 24 May 2020

The Lockdown posts: Miss World

This might evolve into a mini-series of sorts, it might be just a one off. But, here's a few tunes from around the world by female artists. It's nowhere near the grand scale of my World Tour a few years back, but you know, there's a pandemic and everything...

We start in South America - Argentina to be precise - and the latest album by post-punk duo Las Kellies. 'Suck This Tangerine' is their seventh album, the fifth on legendary British indie label Fire Records.

I first featured Tricot in my It Came From Japan series, and now they're back with their sixth album,'真っ黒' or 'Makkuro' if you prefer. It translates as 'Pitch Black' and continues their trend of complex math-rock, although there's a darker air to this record which I suppose is hinted at by the title.

I've posted about Agnes Obel before too, as part of the World Tour's visit to Denmark. She's just released her fourth album 'Myopia' and it sounds much more like a return to her early sound of piano-led songs as opposed to the gentle electronic moods of her last record. Some gorgeous tracks on this. Here's a live version of one of them recorded pre-lockdown.

More travels soon? We'll see...

Wednesday 20 May 2020

The Lockdown posts: Welsh Wednesday 2020 #1

Madryn by Georgia Ruth
Remember Welsh Wednesday? Of course you don't, it was such a long time ago. To recap, each Wednesday featured a track by a Welsh artist. That was it. Clever, yet simple. There were 100 chapters, all of which you can read here, though most of the songs will have disappeared by now. Still, you can easily find them online if you can be arsed.

Anyway, today I'm bringing it back for as long as I can stay interested in it. I'm going to prepare a few in advance so expect some more in coming weeks.

I'm starting off with someone who I could have sworn I'd featured in the original series, but it turns out she didn't. Instead, she got a fleeting mention in an early post I made about Welsh music which actually inspired the series. I speak, of course, of Aberwystwyth's own Georgia Ruth, harpist, bi-lingual singer-singwriter and winner of the 2013 Welsh Music Prize with her debut album. She recently released her third album 'Mai', which marks a real return to form following her disappointing dalliance with electronic beats on her second record.

Welsh and English take turns on 'Mai' and it's rather lovely. The album was largely inspired by the birth of her first child, and the song Madryn is dedicated to him. Madryn was the name of the estate owned by Liberal polititian Sir Love Jones-Parry, who in 1865 sailed with 150 men and women to Patagonia. They founded Porth Madryn at the port where they landed. Now known as Puerto Madryn, it was the earliest Welsh settlement in South America, and along with other towns in the Chubut province, still celebrates St. David's Day every 1st of March.

History lesson over - here's the music. 

Monday 18 May 2020

The Lockdown posts: Well, actually.... (or Alternative Kitchen Disco #6)

One more. Just the one. Thing is, I genuinely did dry up, I was bored, I ran out of things to say, I just couldn't be arsed. But MrsRobster keeps coming up with these brilliant kitchen/music puns, and I keep hearing equally brill music I want to share.

You'll recognise the song which gave MrsRobster the inspiration for the above grafitti on our cooker splash plate. She'd just made two exquisite and delicious cheesecakes - chocolate with Mint Aero pieces, and white chocolate (made with Milky Bars) which is particularly good with a handful of fresh raspberries and a small drizzle of coulis! Yum!

During our kitchen exploits this week, we've both been really taken by the debut album from Manchester's Ist Ist. I've missed these guys up to now and have rightly kicked myself quite hard for that. I reckon some of you might already be aware of them, not least because they are exactly the sort of band that Swiss Adam and Walter would feature, so apologies if they already have. But if Ist Ist have eluded you as well, then within the first few seconds of this track you'll know immediately who they model themselves on, what with their Ian Curtis-style vocals and the Hooky-esque bass sound. Flippin' good though.

Ron and Russel Mael have been in the industry for 52 years. 52! As Sparks they've created some of the wittiest, catchiest and most intelligent pop music you'll have heard in those five decades. They've just released their 24th studio album - they've clearly still got it and totally deserve the resurgence of commercial success they're currently enjoying. The guitars have been brought a bit more to the fore on this one, and even if the record is perhaps a couple of tracks too long, there's plenty of gems to enjoy. And they still sound quintessentially Sparks!

The homemade playlist of the week comes from Ride. No need to write about them, the dilemma is what track to post. I puzzled over it for a while - an old classic? One of the really good new ones? An obscure lost gem? But in the end, there's only one track that really rises to the occasion every time, one of my 50 songs to take to my grave, the gargantuan beast that is Leave Them All Behind. I found this superb live performance at the KEXP studios a couple of years back. Andy Bell's guitar sounds enormous, even though he never looks like he can be arsed.

I shan't promise there'll be more as I honestly don't know if there will. But I'm not saying there won't be either...

Friday 8 May 2020

The Lockdown posts: ¡Hasta mañana!

I knew this would happen. The lockdown continues but my interest in the blog doesn't. Another indefinite hiatus beckons. It's been pretty quiet around here to be fair. So as a parting gift to the small handful of you who bothered to drop by, I'm going to leave you with a few new songs to enjoy.

There's a new album by The Beths on the way. Hurrah! I already have my coloured vinyl on order. The New Zealand combo released one of the best debut albums of the past few years in 2018 so I'm really looking forward to this one. A good, fun video accomanying the new single too.

Woodkid was the first act featured in my epic World Tour series a few years back, when we crossed the channel into France. He's been doing all sorts of work since his debut album in 2013, including (but not limited to) composing movie scores, making music for Louis Vuitton and directing videos for the likes of Taylor Swift, Harry Styles and Lana Del Rey! There's some names I never expected to write on these pages. Anyway, he's finally got around to recording a new album and here's the first single from it.

You may already know how much I adore Nadine Shah, one of the most intense and riveting live performers I've ever seen. She's about to unleash her fourth album 'Kitchen Sink' (another one I have on pre-order), and there are already three tracks released from it. I think the title track is my favourite of them.

Arguably the most eagerly-anticipated record of 2020 so far is the new one from Fontaines D.C. The follow-up to last year's extraordinary debut, 'A Hero's Death' was recorded in California as they felt the songs are more influenced by the Beach Boys! The thick Dublin accents are still intact, but there are a couple of "ooooohhh"s in there. The title track was released to much fanfare on Tuesday, and here is the rather odd video.

And finally, something new from something old. I can't say I was ever a big fan of the Psychedelic Furs, although obviously they made a few classic singles in the 80s I'm always more than happy to hear. But they've now released three excellent songs to prelude their new album 'Made Of Rain' their first album of new material for - get this - 29 years! It would have been out last Friday, but it's been delayed until the end of July. I reckon it could be a very decent comeback.

Farewell once more dear friends. I hope we meet under better circumstances next time.

Tuesday 5 May 2020

The Lockdown posts: Alternative Kitchen Disco #5

I think MrsRobster may have just peaked, because I don't think even she can top this one! Mind, I'm not sure if it translates as well overseas. Do you get Cadbury's Heroes outside the UK? Whatever, a day free of cooking and just eating chocolate is not a bad idea, particularly in the current climate. Anyway, it provoked a proper bellylaugh from me which made her happy.

On Sunday night, MrsRobster made one of her famous vegetable casseroles, so I was tasked with cooking up the accompaniments. This was done to the latest album by ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. Their tenth album 'X: The Godless Void and Other Stories' was one of the earliest releases of 2020 and is one of my most-played records of the year. If you know Trail Of Dead's music, you kind of know what to expect, suffice to say they have really picked up their form again with the last couple of albums. This one is pretty intense in places, and repeated listens are rewarding. My favourite song on it is Blaze Of Wind, but that doesn't have a video, so here's the excellent title track instead.

Torres (aka MacKenzie Scott) has been a little hit and miss for me over the years. Her last album in particular left me cold, though I think I was swayed by her insistence on making videos that strayed into soft porn territory. I'm not into anyone who has to try and shock people to that extent and I kind of switch off. This time around though, she's nailed it. 'Silver Tongue' is a fantastic album. Often understated but heartfelt - and some really good songs as well. Dressing America is one of my favourites of 2020.

My homemade playlist today comes from our beloved Lush. On 30th May 1994, Lush took the then unusual step of releasing two singles on the same day to precede their third album 'Split'. Desire Lines and Hypocrite couldn't have been more different to each other - the former is slow, brooding and lasting in excess of seven minutes, the latter an acerbic three-minute blast of pop punk which hinted at the band's future direction. For me, 'Split' is Lush at their pinnacle, a soaring ride of emotion. I couldn't decide which of the two videos to post as I love them both, so what the hell, I'm feeling generous. And a double dose of Miki Berenyi at her finest is as good as it gets. *sigh*

(The "thwack" noise you may have just heard is from MrsRobster's open hand making contact with my head...)

Lush broke through, finally, to the mainstream with their next album before tragedy struck and it all came screeching to a halt. Imagine how big they might have been.

More kitchen capers at the weekend.

Saturday 2 May 2020

The Lockdown posts: Alternative Kitchen Disco #4

...and the puns just keep on coming. MrsRobster's latest attempt at humour surprised me to say the least. The words, as you may know, come from Hello, Goodbye by The Beatles. Now MrsRobster is one of those strange people who doesn't get the Beatles. I put it down to being too young to appreciate them. So a Beatles lyric was unexpected, even moreso when you consider it's one of Paul's. Macca is MrsRobster's nemesis. She has this irrational hatred of the man. Yes, he's irritating; yes, he was only the third-best Beatle. But he did write Hey Jude and Band On The Run, so not all bad. Mind, he also gave us the Frog Chorus, so maybe she has a point...

Anyway, here's the latest instalment in my kitchen soundtrack this week. First up is 'Walking Like We Do', the new album by The Big Moon who we saw supporting Pixies last autumn. Now, it's not as good as their debut as they've gone all pop with lots of keyboards 'n' all. It's a bit hit and miss, often lacking the energy of their earlier work. But there is enough about it to make me play it a few times. A couple of tracks are actually very good, like this one which would be one of my singles of the year so far if it wasn't actually released last September. They missed the boat I reckon, this is a summer tune if ever I've heard one.

'Viscerals', the new album by the band with my most favourite name ever - Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs - sees them expand their sonic range to new levels. The songs may be getting shorter (five of its eight songs come in at less than five minutes) but the ideas are bigger than ever. The ominous drones and slow, heavy riffs are still in abundance, but there's some thrash, punk, psych - think Sabbath meets Rollins and then some. Throw in lyrics containing social comment with a heavy dose of wit and you get this beast of a motherfucker! And I bought it on 'blood & guts' coloured vinyl too.

Another of my homemade playlists to finish off with. I have an evolving Best Of The Wedding Present, which initially contained 40 songs, and currently stands at 70. It has all the singles, plus various album tracks, b-sides, covers, radio sessions... all sorts of things. One of the most recent updates I made was to add this wonderful version of Bewitched to it. It follows the release of the Marc Riley Sessions Volume 4, featuring two performances they did on Riley's 6 Music show in 2017. On this occasion, they brought a full string section with them - and it sounds amazing!

At least another week or two of lockdown to go, so I suppose I'll be back next week. Maybe.