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Friday, 28 August 2009

The Monthly - August 09

August has passed in a blur of nearly summer-ness, and that lack of sunshine seems to have unconsciously filtrated the latest issue of The Monthly because there aren’t many tracks that you could put on a summer anthem playlist. No matter though, they’re all highly recommended. The collection here focuses on the diversity of rock and indie music, with little room for other genres this month, but fear not, that’s just the way the dice have tumbled this month and I’m sure it’ll be different story next month. As ever, there’s the usual mix of new and old, obscure, and not so hard to find and hopefully there’s something for everyone. As ever, all feedback welcome. Enjoy.

1. The Ramones – Surfin’ Bird New To Me
How amazing would it have been to see these guys in their prime, in some dingy club in New York (CBGB’s ideally of course)? I downloaded the 57(!) tracks of their anthology after being unable to find it in the flat, despite being 100% positive that I own it. That’s getting old for you I suppose. There’re dozens of brilliant short-burst punk rockers on there, all of them being at the accessible end of a genre that can be intimidating to get into sometimes. Surfin’ Bird is pretty one-dimensional but with the humorous scat-singing at the 1m40s mark, it’s been a favourite this month.

2. Rod Stewart – Street Fighting Man New To Me
Despite my diverse tastes and devotion to an anti-music snobbery stance, I’m still surprised at putting a Rod Stewart track on here, as you may also be. But what a track! This Rolling Stones cover is full of 60s bluesy arrogance (it’s from ’69), and goes some way to showing why Rod was so successful in the first place. The brilliant bass solo (it’s good, promise!) towards the end was also a deciding factor in it making this month’s picks.

3. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? New To Me
I was convinced I knew the majority of Hendrix’s catalogue, but this tasty live version slipped through the cracks, and shows that All Along The Watchtower wasn’t the only Bob Dylan cover that he recorded. It comes from a BBC radio session and hangs together really well, avoiding any of that sprawling noodling that his live shows often indulged in. That’s right, I said Hendrix noodled.

4. The Walkmen – The Rat New To Me
Let’s let The Walkmen storm us right back into the 21st century with this furious attack of a song. Hailing from the east coast of the US, The Walkmen put this track out on their 2004 album Bows + Arrows, but it only recently came to my attention when US website (think NME, but better), put together their best tracks of the decade list, and this song came in at #20 – instant investigation was needed and it didn’t disappoint. It’s the most intense, angry, pissed off and emotional song I’ve heard in a long time. Now, excuse me while I go and start planning my songs of the decade list.

5. Miike Snow – Animal (Peter, Bjorn & John remix) Hot Off The Press
Miike Snow have been getting a healthy chunk of column inches, and that’s probably largely due to two of their three members normally going by the name Bloodshy & Avant. Now, if you haven’t heard of them by name, you will have heard the songs they’ve produced. Britney’s Toxic is their most famous track to date but they can count Madonna, Kylie, Maroon 5, J Lo, Kelis and Jordin Sparks among their former clients. So it’s a surprise that these three Swedes have come up with such a slice of frothy indie popness, given their top 40 credentials. Fellow Swedes P, B & J provide the remix.

6. Modest Mouse – Float On New To Me
Are you ever convinced that you definitely already know a song, despite all the evidence pointing to the fact that you don’t? Well that happened with me and this track. It’s sooo familiar. I only came across this because of the Pitchfork list (see track 4 – this one came in at #39), but the second I heard it I was positive I already had it, or someone else had covered it, or something! But no, apparently not. Maybe they just ripped someone else off. Either way, I love this.

7. Wilco – I’ll Fight Hot Off The Press
American alt.rock stalwarts Wilco released their eighth album recently and it’s taken me this long to take a proper look at them. By all accounts, the new record (called Wilco (The Album)) stands up very well against their previous work, and this kind of track is indicative of their style, with singer Jeff Tweedy’s lyrics initially having an air of indie fey-ness, but listen closer and they have a cutting edge that’s been the backbone of the band’s longevity.

8. Paul Westerberg – It’s A Wonderful Lie New To Me
File under Heartbreaking Lyrics. Westerberg was the singer in The Replacements (who also provided the bassist in the most recent incarnation of Guns N’ Roses, fact fans), an influential US rock/punk band. I’ve just dipped a toe into his solo material recently after finally finishing the Nick Hornby book, 31 Songs, whose easy narrative inspired me to dig out pretty much all of the songs that he talks about. This was a highlight, and the album that it’s taken from, 1999’s Suicaine Gratification, should have seen Westerberg launched to much wider acclaim.

9. Volcano Choir – Island, IS Hot Off The Press
If the floating, haunting vocals of Volcano Choir appear familiar, then your ears aren’t deceiving you, because on vocals here is none other than Justin Vernon, known to most of the world as Bon Iver. He’s got together with fellow Wisconsinites A Collection Of Colonies Of Bees and recorded an album, Unmap, from which this is lifted. The collaboration pre-dates Bon Iver’s meteoric rise to fame from last year but the recordings are all new.

10. Port O’Brien – My Will Is Good Hot Off The Press
Port O’Brien featured in June 08’s The Monthly, one which pre-dates many of you newer subscribers, and now the west coast Americans are following up with their third album, the forthcoming Threadbare. This track is a good showcase of their earthy songwriting that sees them put in the so-called bracket of Cabin Rock, which kind of makes sense to me.

11. Monsters Of Folk – Say Please Hot Off The Press
If you’re into your indie rock (and I hope you are, otherwise this Monthly may well leave you disappointed), then Monsters Of Folk should excite you. Try not to be put off by their slightly self-aggrandising band name, and relish the fact that the band comprises four titans of the past generation of American alt.rock – Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), M. Ward (solo artist and collaborator with Zooey Deschanel in She & Him) and Mike Mogis (in-house producer for Saddle Creek records). This is a taste of the forthcoming album, and interviews with the band suggest that they’re having a lot of fun with this project.

12. The xx – VCR Hot Off The Press
Let’s come back to this side of the Atlantic and take a listen to London’s hottest new band, bar none. The xx have been getting bloggers and music journos in a hell of an excited mess for a few weeks now and fever pitch was reached with the arrival of their debut album this month. Whether they’ve got what it takes to cross over into the mainstream remains to be seen (would they even want to?), but I’m in agreement with the girl at Rough Trade who assured me when I saw them play live there that this was going to be one of the best albums of the year. They look uber-trendy but play modest, uncomplicated, and dare I say it, beautifully subtle music that puts all thoughts of trendy flash-in-the-pans firmly out of mind.

13. Fink – Sort Of Revolution (The Cinematic Orchestra remix) Hot Off The Press
You know a song’s good when it nearly brings a tear to your eye, and this track, with its ambient sense of longing, is a slow emotional ride. And that’s all I have to say about that. Hope you like it.

Thanks to anyone who passed on tips this month – you know who you are

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