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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Monthly - July 09

So here's July’s The Monthly and the selection here reflects a stupid-busy month for me. No surprise that some of the events that’ve made the past few weeks so hectic have infiltrated the choices here. Scotland’s premier music and moron festival, T In The Park, was especially great for not only throwing lots of new music my way, but with Global Cool backstage at the festival, I also got to meet a few bands too – so it’s with no hyperbole that I can attest that Dinosaur Pile-Up and Young Fathers are both bands full of “good guys”. Ditto for Stagecoach, though that’s nothing to do with T. As for the rest of them, I offer no personal assurances – they could be wankers for all I know, so shake their hand at your own peril. Enjoy the music.

1. The Knife – We Share Our Mother’s Health New To Me
We kick off with the most out-there of tracks on this Monthly, so I hope you’ll give it a few listens if it doesn’t grab you first time. The Knife (Swedish bro/sis Olof and Karin Dreijer) are known mainly as the original performers of Heartbeats, the Jose Gonzalez cover of which made its way on to a Sony TV ad (The Knife used their fee for that ad to set up a record label). Singer Karin has recently been making waves under the name of Fever Ray, but this track comes from The Knife’s 2006 album Silent Shout and it’s indicative of their stunning production and ability to warp pop to its very outer limits. iTunes tells me I’ve played this 26 times this month, which still doesn’t seem like enough.

2. Blitz The Ambassador – Something To Believe Hot Off The Press
‘New York MC Makes Great Hip Hop Track’ isn’t exactly front-page news, but I’m a massive sucker for big chunky beats, strong flows and stabbing horn sections (here played by his live band), so as far as I’m concerned this is all good. Blitz is originally from Ghana and vocally he sounds a lot like Pharaoh Monch, with a few nods to The Roots, Common and Kanye – like I said, all good. Interesting vocal swipe at AutoTune in here too, the same target as Jay-Z’s recent DOA.

3. Simian Mobile Disco – Audacity Of Huge Hot Off The Press
SMD are the UK’s answer to the mighty French and US electroclach producers, and a fine answer they are too. James Ford joins Jas Shaw in the duo and the former is also known as the Arctic Monkeys’ producer. This track, apart from the cheeky title (a play on Obama’s book title) appeals to me for the simple reason that I like lists. Vocals come from Chris Keating of NY psych band Yeasayer.

4. Snoop Dogg - Cool New To Me
Speaking of AutoTune (see track 2), this track is firmly backing the case for the defence. Snoop’s not meant to be doing tracks this good anymore, but while Prince isn’t creating anything of note, this is a pretty good substitute. This track comes from last year’s appropriately titled album Ego Trippin’ and as you’d expect, the lyrics have got more ego than…errr..a Latin grammar book? Sorry.

5. Young Fathers – Straight Back On It Hot Off The Press
The first of two T In The Park bands and these guys are notable not just for their decent addition to the nu-skool rap cannon (they sound a lot like Cool Kids, as featured in The Monthly July 08), but also because they’re from Scotland and have very strong accents, something which they manage to hide somewhat on this track, taken from what I presume will be their forthcoming album.

6. Dinosaur Pile-Up – My Rock ‘n’ Roll New To Me
Like Weezer much, DPU? This track also reminds me of The Wannadies, for some reason. It’s a fun song and there’s no grander reason than that for including it here, though some are claiming the Leeds band are at the forefront of a grunge revival.

7. Stagecoach – We Got Tazers! Hot Off The Press
And to complete a trio of Bands That I Have Met, we have my favourite of the three. Stagecoach hail from the Surrey wilderness and have just signed to Alcopop records. Their album will be out in October (the 12th, I believe) and this lead track from it is a fricking corker. Check out the blog for more and bask in the fuzzy glow of listening to music that’s just tons and tons of fun.

8. The dB’s – Black And White New To Me
The Word magazine recently did a great feature on bands that their writers think only they like, and an obscure bunch of lost musicians it was, but this band, picked by editor Mark Ellen, stood our for me from his descritopn. Based in New York, this track was on their 1981 debut Stands For Decibels and could have come out of any number of powerpop indie scenesters in the past few years, showing that good music never goes out of fashion, even if individual bands, like The dB’s, fall by the wayside.

9. Let’s Wrestle – We Are The Men You’ll Grow To Love Soon Hot Off The Press
From The dB’s in New York, to Let’s Wrestle in London, the sound of jinglejangle guitar pop frivolity is the same the world over. This trio have got some great lyrics and a nicely slack approach to playing and recording, which probably means this will be the last you hear of them, but I’m glad you’ll have heard of them once at least.

10. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Ridin’ With James Dean New To Me
I always thought Joan Jett was a joke, and she may well be, ‘officially’ speaking, but that doesn’t change the fact that I quite like this number from 1988. It’s flimsy, insubstantial faux-metal, but that’s never put me off before. It’s perfect for late at night when you can’t be bothered to listen to anything too challenging. Good for karaoke too I should imagine.

11. The J. Geils Band – First I Look At The Purse New To Me
After Ms. Jett, The J. Geils Band brings us back to a more credible footing, especially in the case of this brilliant cover of The Contours controversy-baiting 1965 hit. Purse could be taken as the sister song of Barrett Strong’s classic Money (That’s What I Want), and the lyrics even doff their cap to that track, but here this 1970 version’s dirty bar-rock combines with the hilariously despicable lyrics to produce a song that really feels like a gloriously guilty pleasure.

12. The Fiery Furnaces – The End Is Near Hot Off The Press
Déjà vu – another brother and sister act (see track 1) and another NYC band (see lots of songs on here). This pretty number revolves around an organ refrain that definitely gets stuck in the head and reminds me of a cleaner and less whisky-soaked version of The Felice Brothers. Speaking of which…

13. The Duke & The King – If You Ever Get Famous Hot Off The Press
The Duke in this band is Simone Felice, who recently left The Felice Brothers, and he’s joined on this achingly lovely song by The King, who is George Clinton-collaborator Robert “Chicken” Burke. More odd still is that this (and their forthcoming new album) was mixed by Grammy Award-winning hip-hop maestro Bassy Bob Brockmann, who normally works with the likes of D’Angelo, Mary J. Blige.

14. Girls – Hellhole Ratrace Hot Off The Press
I’ve been chomping at the bit to get hold of this track since I saw a video exclusive of it on the Guardian’s website about six weeks ago, and now I have it. Girls are an odd couple of guys (raised by a cult I think) and they reside in San Francisco, where the accompanying (and equally great) video for this was shot (it’s on the blog now). It’s a slow burn of a track but it’s so beguiling I can find myself having it on repeat for a long time without realising the time’s passing.

15. Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve – Winter In June New To Me
And so we come to the end with one of the most magical songs I’ve heard in, well, ever. BYTWS appeared on last August’s The Monthly and this track was further down the running order of their album 3rdmynd than the one featured a year ago and it must have passed me by at the time. But after recently cropping up it completely stopped me in my tracks. It’s an interview with Blue Peter gardener Percy Thrower set to a brilliantly joyful late-60s sounding track (I don’t know who by). But it’s Percy who’s the star here – his soothing voice instantly takes me back to the early 80s and a time when everything really was much more simple. BYTWS have created a masterpiece here if you ask me.

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