November’s been a busy month of gigs and work, but the arrival of my new iPhone has kept me company and given my a few new ways and opportunities to listen to music (though it sure as hell takes a chunk out of the battery life). It’s also been a great month for me DJing, so some of the tracks below have even been tested on a live audience, so I hope that you’ll like them too. Oh, and in case you’re wondering what my favourite songs of the past ten years have been, take a look here.
1. Binky Griptite & The Dee Kays – Stoned Soul Christmas New To Me
2. The Who – Christmas New To Me
Quite a bit of this month has been taken up with researching and compiling the new Fishy Fishy Christmas playlist (that’s a restaurant in Brighton that I do the soundtrack for). It’s tricky finding that balance between Christmas and credible, without touching cheese. Only the punters can say if I’ve achieved that, but I hope I’m not far off. Anyway, two of the tracks that I came across were these two – I think they’re pretty cool. Binky Griptite was the guitarist on a lot of tracks by Sharon Jones (she of the Daptones), and I’m sure you all know who The Who are. So hopefully these two will get your Christmas juices flowing as we step into the yule period.
3. Howlin’ Wolf – Spoonful New To Me
October’s The Monthly had an amazing track from Muddy Waters on it, and in the notes for that I referenced an album by Howlin’ Wolf, which I’ve now managed to get hold of, though only on CD as the vinyl still eludes me. To recap, this track is the result of a collaboration in the late 60s between a Blues stalwart and some psych rockers – and the Blues stalwart hated it. The best bit is that the label called his bluff and decided to put in big letters on the front of the sleeve “This is Howlin Wolf’s new album. He doesn’t like it. He didn’t like his electric guitar at first either”. Bet that went down well!
4. Devo – Uncontrollable Urge New To Me
Devo have been on my list of bands to investigate for a long time and a recent cheap CD in HMV was just the excuse for me to finally do that. They’re New York new-wavers from the late 70s and this was produced by Brian Eno. It’s terrifically fun pop music, essentially, and like a lot of the good new wave/post punk music of the late 70s/early 80s, this could be straight out of Hoxton or Brooklyn today. It’s the first track from their album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! which also features a great cover of the Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.
5. Them Crooked Vultures – Mind Eraser, No Chaser Hot Off The Press
You’ve probably read about this lot already, comprising as they do three rock gods of varying ranks. On drums is Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, obvs), on bass is John Paul Jones (of Led Zep) and on vocals and guitar is Josh Homme, of Queens Of The Stone Age (who also produced the last Arctic Monkeys album). It’s a really good rock album, though whether it touches what all three have achieved in previous bands, is questionable. To be fair, few things do. The whole album’s streaming on the blog, fyizzle.
6. Julian Casablancas – Out Of The Blue Hot Off The Press
I wasn’t as affected by The Strokes as much as your average NME reader, but I’d read so many good things about singer Julian Casablancas’ debut solo record that I investigated, and was pleased to find that it is in fact a really good album of spacey, poppy, beaty, indie stuff. And I love the guitar solo just before the two minute mark – pure Brian May! It’s good timing too for him to release a solo record because The Strokes are featuring heavily in a lot of people’s best of the decade lists - #1 in NME!
7. Annie – I Don’t Like Your Band Hot Off The Press
If everyone had Annie’s approach to releasing music, there’d be bugger all in the charts most of the time. She released her first album in 2004, five years after her debut single, and then waited another five years to put out her second record, the recently released Don’t Stop. Hell, it’s worth the wait – she’s cheeky, kooky, sexy and most importantly of all, writes brilliant pop records. This track’s a great example of all those things combined.
8. LCD Soundsystem – Bye Bye Bayou Hot Off The Press
So I put LCD Soundsystem’s All My Friends at the top of the pile in my Top 100 Songs of 2000 – 2009 list. That’s right - #1. And while I wouldn’t claim that this track is up alongside All My Friends, it does share some of the same brilliant LCD qualities. It’s very cool, understated electro and although it’s a taste of the forthcoming LCD album (due early 2010 I believe), it’s actually a cover of a track by a guy from Suicide, a synth-punk duo from the 70s. They’re actually in my top 1 of synth-punk duos.
9. Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson – Relator New To Me
I stalled on getting this album because it wasn’t reviewed massively well, so was pleased to find my low expectations exceeded. Pete Yorn’s a reliable US indie rocker and you all know who Scarlett is. She released a record of Tom Waits covers last year and so it’s good to see her taking the music seriously. Apparently they were after the sort of vibe that some of those great male/female collaborations of the 60s and 70s had, such as Gainsbourg/Birkin and Hazlewood/Sinatra. You can decide if they managed it, but this is a good little track.
10. Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man New To Me
I don’t like the name of this band and for a long time that was all I needed to pass them over. But then this cropped up and I just really liked it. It’s the chorus I think – I like it’s sort of folky-ness and his subtle use of the f word is excellent. It’s done in a way your mum wouldn’t mind too much.
11. Jimmy Webb – If Ships Were Meant To Sail New To Me
I hadn’t heard of Jimmy Webb until a friend got tickets to his show at Union Chapel, and I’m very glad I came across him. He’s primarily a songwriter, penning classics such as Wichita Lineman, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Galveston and MacArthur Park. This track comes from a 1971 album (And So: On) that was an attempt to establish Webb as a star in his own right, but as you can tell, his voice isn’t really up to it, which is probably why he’s best known for writing and not performing. Still good tho.
12. The Magic Numbers – Hurt So Good Hot Off The Press
Remember The Magic Numbers? For a while back in 2005 they were everyone’s favourite credible indie pop band but then their second album saw their fans (both critical and public) fall by the wayside. So I was interested to hear this, a free track from their forthcoming third album, and immediately liked it. Singer Romeo (who incidentally was part of Jimmy Webb’s live band – see above) has got such a great voice and this has that bittersweetness that marked their original success.
13. Taken By Trees – Sweet Child O’ Mine Hot Off The Press
This track is by no means the first cover of Sweet Child… to turn down the rock but it’s had some attention this month because it’s the one featured in the John Lewis Xmas TV ad, the first time GN’R have allowed such a use of one of their songs apparently (though I remember a Harley Davidson ad which used a Chinese Democracy song, but hey, who’s counting). It’s a nice song, but not a patch on the original, needless to say.
14. Sufjan Stevens – Movement II - Sleeping Invader New To Me
Several friends of mine are absolutely evangelical about Sufjan Stevens, and while I’ve always found him more interesting than appealing, I do like him. And he’s clearly a talented bugger. Here we have him on soundtrack form for his own movie, The B.Q.E. (that’s Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) which he released in 2007, but has only just put out the album of, and on vinyl, it’s a stunning package. The music’s all instrumental and the use of brass on this is typical Sufjan. A lovely way to round off November’s The Monthly, and in fact, another track that sits quite well on an alternative Xmas playlist, if you’re doing one.