Thursday, December 17, 2009

Withered Hand's Christmas Gift For You

After the Bible-bashing of Good News – my favourite album of the year and no mistake – there’s no chance that Withered Hand’s Christmas song will make the sleigh bells go ring-ting-ting-a-ling. It's A Wonderful Lie – “this phony bonhomie makes me feel uneasy” – will warm the cold heart of every cynic sick of the authorised seasonal farrago of It’s A Wonderful Life: “Of all of the days I think this could be the worst day/It’s not even the real thing, it’s not Jesus birthday”.

Typically with Dan Willson, religion and sex are uncomfortable if inseparable bedfellows, and the bitter lyrical bent is leavened by whip-smart lines and an unholy marriage of Christianity and the horizontal hokey cokey.

It's A Wonderful Lie, Withered Hand’s Christmas gift to sceptics, misanthropes and pessimists everywhere, can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Box Elders live

The two best gigs of the year were Box Elders and Box Elders. Twice in the past 10 days they thrilled two London venues with ringing guitars, bubblegum psych organ, songs kept short‘n’snappy, and showmanship – a stand up drummer keeping the teenage beat and playing keyboard at the same time! maracas thrown for crowd participation! long hair flailing! shit-eating grins! – of the highest order.

Third on the bill at the tiny Ryan’s Bar on Saturday – and only getting that gig due to a cancellation – they played with so much energy and fizz that all newcomers were instantly captivated. There was no let up between songs, save from the occasional pause for breath to say “we’re Box Elders”.

Someone in the crowd did say “you’re the best band in the world”. He was right. He was also the drummer from the headline act. I didn’t stay to watch them. No disrespect, but there are maybe only five bands in the world who could have followed Box Elders. This time next year they’ll probably be playing to five times as many people; the year after that even more.

At both gigs, I checked the faces (all completely fucking happy) to see who was there because one day loads of people who weren’t there are going to say they were. If you weren’t, you should’ve been.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hacia Dos Veranos

“We're timeless; we follow in a tradition of brilliant bands. In 10 years' time people will reel us off as one of the greats.” Lawrence
If Lawrence’s, uh, crystal ball had been a little clearer, it would’ve suggested that ‘in 20 years' time great bands will reel Felt off as their main influence’. More specifically, the cascading Spanish guitars and pulse-quickening rhythms of The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories have echoed through 2009, most recently in Argentina’s Hacia Dos Veranos, who have a bewitching instrumental charm and rare melodic craft.

Like The Clientele, Hacia Dos Veranos explore Maurice Deebank-era Felt via West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s sleepy pyschedelia and Galaxie 500’s enigmatic atmospherics. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Alasdair Maclean from The Clientele plays on two songs from their forthcoming second album.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Warning: May Contain Indie

Symptoms include: whingeing, low production values, involuntary celibacy, minimal career prospects, second-hand clothes and an inescapable feeling that things will never be as good as they used to be.

Each year, I compile a CD of my favourite new songs and give copies to friends who just don’t buy that many new records. Their reasons for straying from the only true path vary – they may have kids who take up all their time and money; they may be captains of industry too stressed after the working day to seek out new sounds; or they may have decided that, actually, all the best records were made between 1966 and 1968, so why bother with what are bound to be pale imitations.

Responses to these compilations are similarly varied to the point of delusional:
“I can see why you like it…”
“Has music really not changed in the past 25 years?”
“I am now cool.”

Essentially, this mix is just a collection of suggestions and jumping-off points: some friends will find new bands to love; others may find their ennui justified. 2009 has been a particularly strong year for music – just like last year, in fact, and the year before that; people who describe certain years as being low in great musical output are people who simply don’t look hard enough. This year's gems are:

1. Cold Game – Myron & E and the Soul Investigators
2. In June – Summer Cats
3. Stay – Box Elders
4. Tell It In My Ear – Fergus & Geronimo
5. Record Shop - Help Stamp Out Loneliness
6. This Girl – Cookin’ on 3 Burners feat Kylie Auldist
7. Something’s Happening – Scotland Yard Gospel Choir
8. The Ills (instr) – Mayer Hawthorne
9. Miss Tierney – Wake The President
10. Dancing – Standard Fare
11. Hey Boy – Magic Kids
12. Meet You In The Rain – The Cavalcade
13. Heart Collector – Stolen Hearts
14. Nobody Makes My Girl Cry But Me – First Base
15. I Can’t Feel So Happy Now – Personal and the Pizzas
16. Old Folks – Real Estate
17. No Idea – Member of the Wedding
18. Broken Arm – The Shackles
19. Lust For Life – Girls
20. Chord – David Kilgour and Sam Hunt
21. I Am Nothing – Withered Hand
22. Contour and Context – Brown Recluse
23. Plots Are For Cemeteries – Bricolage
24. The Devil Gives Me Everything Except What I Want –
Willie West and the High Society Brothers

That mix represents 24 of the best songs of the year. There are many of equal quality that didn’t make the cut, either because I thought most recipients of the compilation would already have them or because I didn’t spend that much time compiling it. It’s just a bit of fun.