Archive for the 'Vanilla Swingers' Category

07
Dec
12

How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Part Two

Here’s part two of my gig-crazy summer trip this year. I left you off where we staggered away from Pulp’s gig at Wireless only two days into our trip.

The next day, after an afternoon at the Tate Britain, we headed off to see Lou Reed at the Hammersmith Apollo. I’m sure there are people out there who will tell us “I told you so.” Yes, Lou Reed is a notorious curmudgeon. Yes, he’s made some very unfavourable career moves. While it was special to see a legend I never thought I’d see in my life, he seemed as though he was just going through the motions, except they were primarily the geriatric motions of needing help out of his jacket. He didn’t play “Walk on the Wild Side,” but he did play “Smalltown.” I don’t think we were the only ones feeling a little deflated; most seemed to leave the theatre in a glassy-eyed daze.

I woke up the next morning to get ready for our day trip to Cardiff, and I knew my immune system had finally caught up with me. There had been a nagging feeling of near illness right before I left for my trip because I had just finished a two-month health-rundown marathon of work before leaving. I managed to stave infection off for three days. I spent the rest of my time in London sucking on Strepsils and taking painkillers.

We didn’t just listen and dance to music whilst in the UK – we purchased it in copious amounts as well. Between Spillers in Cardiff, Music Video Exchange (at both Notting Hill and Camden Town locations), and FOPP at Earl’s Court, we amassed enough vinyl and CDs to fund a return flight to the UK.

Our last evening in London before heading off to Amsterdam was spent in Vauxhall at a delightful curry restaurant to which you can bring your own beer. We met up with Miles, who is in the brilliant band Vanilla Swingers, Anne who is also in Vanilla Swingers and Morton Valence, her partner Mike, and Hacker, who is in Morton Valence. It was a truly fun night and a welcome bit of company, and I have shimmering memories of questions about prairie dogs, why Amsterdam is actually one of the most conservative cities in Europe, a story about Johny Brown from The Band of Holy Joy perhaps losing a shoe, Miles doing a pretty reputable imitation of Jarvis Cocker’s dance moves, and an aside about how Hacker was once in a band that had Pulp opening for them. At least I think this all happened – between the bronchial infection setting in and the massive bloody marys from earlier, it was getting hard to tell. We also owed Miles a particularly big thank you for sending some tips before we arrived in London, including places to eat, places to find music, and other points of interest, including Battersea Power Station, which he ended up taking us to see before drinks and supper.

Throughout Amsterdam, Berlin, and Vienna, my sore throat and fever had blossomed into full-blown consumption. I was pretty much certain that I had bronchitis, and by Amsterdam, Laura was pretty sure she had the same. We coughed, wheezed, and fever-dreamed our way through galleries, parks, museums, baroque palaces, walking tours, and cathedrals. An Irish boy threw up on our bathroom floor in the middle of the night in Amsterdam, and a fellow hosteller in Vienna asked me if I was coughing up blood because if I were, I should see a doctor. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had such terrible sleeps in which I felt like I was drowning in my own fetid air every night. Daytimes were marginally better, and I did discover the joy of Cafe Aroma Ices.

As we took off from Vienna airport, we braced ourselves for what we figured was going to be a more difficult leg of the trip…

Just like lungs sucking on air…

I feel as though there have been several points in my life that were surreal. I’ve done odd whirlwind day trips to other cities, sometimes back-to-back. I’ve had travel mishaps and miscalculations. I just usually don’t have all of these things happen to me at once. I take full responsibility for the ludicrous events that ensued because I was the one with severe Manics tunnel vision – a condition similar to mania in that it makes me believe I can do anything as long as the Manics are involved. The “if they jumped off a bridge…” scenario is probably in bad taste.

At any rate, I knew that the whole “quick” stopover in Finland was always a bit of a stretch for us. In order to accommodate the Manics, we flew all day from Vienna to Berlin to Helsinki, arriving in late afternoon the day before the Wanaja Festival. The thing about the Wanaja Festival, which I knew very little about, is that it’s held in a small vacation town, Hameenlinna, which is one hour north of Helsinki via train. The other thing about the Wanaja Festival is that details regarding set times were only revealed shortly before we left for Europe. The evening that we arrived in Helsinki I discovered that the train from Hameenlinna to Helsinki only runs until 11:30PM…and it doesn’t start running again until 5:00AM. The Manics, as headliners, were due onstage at 10:45PM. We had a flight back to London the morning after the festival at 7:50AM. Our flight home to Canada was the day after that. All of these facts gave us a bit of a panic attack. My heart races a bit thinking about the situation now.

After consultation with the info desk at the Helsinki train station, it became apparent that our only option was to take the only bus back at 3:00AM, pick up our backpacks at the hostel, and catch another bus to the airport, which meant yet another hour of travel. Feeling more than a little queasy about how we were going to accomplish this grand feat while still fiendishly ill, we decided against bringing our bags to the festival, and hoped to Äkräs it would all work out — not because Äkräs is the Finnish god of fertility, but because he is the protector of turnips. And my brain may as well have been a turnip.

The train ride to Hameenlinna went smoothly, but the very vague map I had in my head of the festival site, gleaned from Google maps and the festival website (which was entirely in Finnish) had become beyond hopeless as we stepped off the train platform. Our brains had already been fairly addled with that cognitive disorientation you experience when immersed in a language so alien to you that you start to think you might be hallucinating, and now we were faced with utter loss of direction in the scorching, sunny heat. Luckily, we found one person who spoke English at the train station info desk, and she kindly marked out our route on the town map she gave us. Of course, she told us our easiest route was to follow the edge of the lake until we hit a bridge, and then to cross the bridge and keep following the lakeshore until we came to the castle park (only Finnish I learned: “linna” means “castle” and “puisto” means “park”). The straightest route would have been to swim the entire width of the lake. But since it was already feeling like the worst joke of an Amazing Race, that wasn’t an option.

We tentatively made our way along the lake, marveling at how much Finland’s landscape reminded us of home, and at how much this specific town reminded us of a place like Kenora, a small vacation town in Ontario. As we crossed the bridge, Laura started muttering about how the pavement was soft and moving. I told her she was probably in the middle of a feverish episode. Then I felt the pavement actually buckle underfoot like a giant air pocket being squished out of a rug. Apparently, Laura wasn’t incapacitated by fever, and Finland must have been unseasonably hot that day. Needless to say, we crossed the bridge as quickly as possible.

Checking our map every thirty seconds, we managed to find our way up the other side of the lake, and came upon a few people. I’ve never been so happy to see a girl in leopard print and Nicky-Wire-white-framed-sunglasses. It became apparent that there were two other intrepid (insane) fans from Britain waiting for the park to open the gates. And if that wasn’t enough to allay our concerns, we suddenly heard the strains of “Some Kind of Nothingness” coming from beyond the gates. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear that song, especially since it gives me Strictly Come Dancing nightmares. We had a half-hour to sit in the shade and bask in the brief moment of accomplishment of finishing one more leg of the trip. Not long after, the Finnish Manics contingent showed up as if they had just wandered off the set of Times Square, mauve hair, Useless Generation tattoos, Motley Crue t-shirts, ripped jeans, shredded tights, and all. They were wonderful.

It then became a silent film farce as all twelve of us hardcore loonies felt the need to race each other on foot to the front of the stage being headlined by the Manics. The people manning the festival shopping stalls just stood their mouths agape as one by one we whipped by them, leaping over rocks and cables. I likely lost another thirty percent of my lung capacity at that point. We then all settled in on the ground right at the barrier and baked our faces off. Though there were food stalls nearby, they seemed dodgy – spring rolls in 40 degree heat or handfuls of sticky gummy worms. We opted to subsist on the free water even though we hadn’t eaten since noon.

We had periods of leg stretching as a parade of progressively surreal bands performed on this stage, including a mediocre hair metal band with a bare-chested singer in white jeans and waist-length tresses, a band composed only of members with Down Syndrome (they appeared hugely popular, which made Laura and I hope like hell that the enthusiasm was genuine), a relatively folky twee band with a lead singer who bore a significant resemblance to Snufkin from the Moomin books, and a band that almost blew our heads off with screaming Finnish. During one of the breaks, I tried to put my mind into some sort of ease by searching out someone who could tell me how to get to the bus station, now the crucial location on which our entire next three days hinged. I stumbled a little frantically through the crowds, not comprehending anyone around me, yet somehow still had the presence of mind to ask if the merch tent had any Manics t-shirts (they didn’t). Armed with a newly marked map of where the bus station was, I headed back to my post to wait for 10:45.

Manic Street Preachers Wanaja

I then made an agreement with myself to stop panicking and dwelling on the upcoming trip from hell with logistics that defied all logic; it worked, and I put it all out of my mind from the time the Manics hit the stage. I unfurled the Canadian flag we had brought with us like some badge of survival, and hung on for dear life as we took off with “You Love Us.” It felt so satisfying to be crushed by such a loving crowd. The audience gave me the same feeling of starved fans that I had seeing the Manics in Toronto in 2009. “Motorcycle Emptiness” seemed all the more poignant after the last day spent in language isolation; I hung onto their every word like a life line back to my own brain. As expected, they performed the three singles released from Postcards From a Young Man, and Nicky Wire tried to recall whether the band had ever visited Finland when Richey was still with them (a mental exercise he seemed to be running with since the Send Away the Tigers tour). I was especially happy to hear “Slash ‘n Burn” and “Suicide is Painless” since I hadn’t witnessed them live before. It felt a bit odd to have the show end on “If You Tolerate This…” rather than “A Design for Life,” but at least we got the benefit of a false ending and the excitement over further songs. Somewhere along the way, Laura had been squeezed off the barrier and was smushed behind me. Being a festival performance, and thus at least five songs less than a regular gig, it felt like a compressed dose of adrenaline shot through my consumptive, weakened body. As the crowd peeled away and slowly dispersed into the perpetual summer twilight, it was lovely to see a couple of friends falling about each other, one wearing an exact replica of the sailor suit Richey used to wear. On our way out of the festival grounds and into the streets, the bedazzlement lingered in my brain and kept my anxiety over the necessary bus at bay for quite some time after.

Manic Street Preachers Wanaja 2

I started to come down from the high as we sat on a bench at the deserted bus station, but for festival fans queuing up for horrific fast food from a takeaway stand. The weight of the three weeks of travel, the intense day which wouldn’t end until we had been up for over twenty-four hours, and the fourteen hours without food settled on us at this point, and we tried to stay awake and conscious for the next three hours of waiting in the half-light of a sun that never really set. In the meantime, the Finnish Manics fans had also shown up with a box of pizza and seemed to be waiting for the only bus back to Helsinki as well. At that moment, I really envied those girls who didn’t have to care if they got back to Helsinki by 5:00AM. And the fact they could eat a box of pizza at 2:30 in the morning after a whole day in blistering heat.

Eventually the bus showed up, after at least a couple of buses that were heading north instead, and then we had the pleasant discovery that many people had already pre-booked tickets for it. The previous day we had been told that we had to buy tickets on the bus. I was getting prepared either to cry or start kicking people if we didn’t get on when they managed to squeeze us on. We had to sit on the aisle floor of the fully-booked bus with the Finnish contingent of Manics fans and a few stray British fans who seemed to hate us (maybe because we didn’t end up with eyeliner smeared across our faces). The next two hours were a mix of sheer panic and drug-like drowsiness. It nearly killed me when we actually stopped at the airport before returning to Helsinki — though bringing our bags with us would have been horrendous, it would have allowed us to get off at this point rather than sit in further cramped tension. Finally, the bus dropped us at an unfamiliar location, not the expected train station, which had become our only major landmark; however, I think adrenaline may actually sharpen your orientation senses because I still managed to lead us in the right direction to the train station. Of course the usual tram to our hostel wasn’t running that early in the morning, so we ran on foot back to the hostel, where they didn’t let us in right away. Once the front desk realized that we weren’t actually mad homeless people ringing the outside bell, they let us up. We got our bags, ran back to the train station, hopped the next bus, and ended up at the airport with roughly half an hour to spare. As I sunk into my plane seat and choked down the tasteless sandwich provided, I had never felt so relieved in my life.

If there were such a thing as The Amazing Race for Manics fans, I think Laura and I would have won.

Timeslide place to hide nudge reality…

When we got back to Heathrow in some sick deja vu, we discovered that the two tube lines that took us to our hostel were closed that day for maintenance. This led to over an hour of bus riding and figuring out where exactly we were supposed to get off. With some sort of last superhuman wave of energy, we managed to make it to FOPP for some shopping, to the Tate Modern for some supper, and then on to the Royal Festival Hall at the South Bank Centre to see Big Audio Dynamite, aptly the last big bang of the trip. We hadn’t even been entirely sure we had tickets for this show since they mailed them late to my home in Canada, and through the intermittent Internet access via hostels, I had to arrange for replacement tickets to be held at the venue. Thankfully, our sporadic luck was holding up and the tickets were there. We ended up having a brilliant last night with a dance party cascading into the aisles. We even got to sing happy birthday to Don Letts’s wife.

Big Audio Dynamite South Bank

Laura, whose immune system is always in much ruder shape than mine due to several chronic health concerns, ultimately had to stay in hospital for a few days after we returned home. I ended up with a massive course of antibiotics and a chest x-ray. I wasn’t sure what was more disorienting: my Finnish-addled brain on jetlag or coming back to work only about seven hours after my flight landed to attend a symposium discussing Deleuzian concepts.

I could ramble on about the non-musical highlights of the trip, including Tate Britain, Tate Modern, the British Museum, a lecture at a curiosity shop in Hackney, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, the Dali gallery at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, the Belvedere Gallery and the Secession in Vienna, but they could all use posts of their own. And perhaps one day they will find themselves in a blog.

Speaking of blogs, as I said in the previous post, I’ve started a new one with Laura, who has a passion for music and the ability to write about it in an erudite manner. It’s called From a High Horse. Please follow me there because hanging about here will likely only lead to feelings of abandonment.

Suicide is Painless (Theme from MASH) – Manic Street Preachers

E=MC2 – Big Audio Dynamite

20
Sep
10

The Impossibility of Smiths Covers: Hand in Glove Tribute and First CTRR Giveaway

This post has a back story. And a reason for me to come out of the hiatus once again. I was quite surprisingly contacted by 24 Hour Service Station, a Florida-based record label that released a double-disc New Order Tribute Album earlier this year. They were looking for a decent cover of The Smiths’ Hand in Glove by an indie band for an upcoming Smiths tribute album. I would say I have a fair collection of covers by one of my favourite bands of all time (estimated at around 400), but it seems nearly no one covers Morrissey and Marr’s frenetic masterclass in metaphorical defiance of the Good People. The only version that immediately sprung to mind was of course Sandie Shaw’s, but not only was she not an indie band, her version wasn’t all that good. And then there was This Charming Band, which is essentially straightforward tribute band material, and there was a harmonica-inflected, dragging version from Christian Kjellvander and Lise Westsynthius. And another from someone named Gerard, whose version nearly gives me a panic attack. There was also that live version that Saint Etienne did, but that wouldn’t work either.

However, now I wanted to be helpful, and I was quite drawn to the challenge of finding a decent version of Hand in Glove. I found a couple of other very indie bands that had performed it live, but didn’t appear to have a proper recorded version. And they also weren’t terribly good. Just as I was about to despair and admit defeat, I realized that I actually knew a few indie bands, and perhaps one of them might miraculously have a version of Hand in Glove. It was a long shot. But the lovely Vanilla Swingers answered the call.

Though they didn’t have a version on-hand, Miles and Anne figured they could put one together and record it as quickly as possible, leading to a one-day recording session and a lackadaisical, understated gem of a cover version. Though they took the similar duet route as Kjellvander and Westsynthius, theirs was much more melodic and retained an aloof, knowing attitude without boring a massive hole of ennui through your head. And so it came to pass that one of my most-loved bands of the past few years supplied the title track of this upcoming tribute album for another of my favourite bands.

This tribute’s tracklisting runs thusly:

Hand in Glove – Vanilla Swingers
Paint a Vulgar Picture – True Tone
What Difference Does It Make? – Vampire Slayers
The Boy With the Thorn in His Side – Home
Frankly Mr. Shankly – Questionface
Last Night I Dreamt That Someone Loved Me – Pulse
Death of a Disco Dancer – Loomer
This Night Has Opened My Eyes – Underwater
Handsome Devil – I Buried Paul
Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others – Skinnys 21
There is a Light That Never Goes Out – Edison Shine
Girlfriend in a Coma – Thee Chinadoll
Reel Around the Fountain – Q-Burns Abstract Message
I Know It’s Over – Rosewater Elizabeth

I’ll be honest – I hadn’t heard of most of these bands (except for Vanilla Swingers) outside of the context of Smiths covers. Since this was a reissue of sorts, many of these tracks had been previously released (the only one I don’t remember hearing before is from Skinnys 21). And in listening to this album, I was struck by what I would call the impossibility of the Smiths cover. Cover versions are a tricky business at the best of times, but I’m usually most underwhelmed by the scores of recapitulated pleas for getting what you want and too many lights never going out, spluttering away in mediocrity. Sometimes it’s best if the light goes out – come, come nuclear bomb. Rather than bore me with one of my most cherished songs. On the other equally as maimed, glove-bereft hand, the artists try so hard to blaze a new, albeit often misguided, path that they bury or shred the essence of what Smiths songs are: a perfect balance of incisive wit and brilliant guitar melodies.

Is there something inherently difficult in producing a reputable cover version of a Smiths song? Or is it because we Smiths fans tend to be on the foamier side of rabid about the band? Out of all the Smiths covers I have, I like less than ten. And I would say the majority of them part neatly on the side of twee and subtle, coming from mellow artists like Trash Can Sinatras, Stars, and Tom Rosenthal. An exception to that would be the spikier interpretation of Panic from Carter USM. My issue with Smiths covers seems just as difficult to articulate as the covers themselves.

Does this mean that drastic experimentation dilutes what I love about Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce, namely the apex of jangly guitar rock for outsiders with that ever-present Mancunian drizzle, first numbing my social ineptitude and then comfortably warming me with a renewing fortitude to face another day? Perhaps I really am just too close to The Smiths, and as an entity essential to my flawed personality, they just can’t be effectively improved upon in my ears. Maybe it’s the fact that their mythology along with that of fellow Mancunians, Joy Division, is the closest I get to believing in the incredulous. They’re simply too transcendent.

The tracks I tended to favour on this collection weren’t far from the original feel of The Smiths’ creations. Vampire Slayers’ loose, shambolic cover with some jazzy trumpet is a fun romp; the haunting, tremulous version of I Know It’s Over by Rosewater Elizabeth is a delicate, reverent interpretation. Home’s version of The Boy With the Thorn in His Side seems promising with its woozy, off-balance musical backdrop, but somehow the vocals veer just a wee bit too much into incoherent, distracting wonkiness. And while Q-Burns Abstract Message’s instrumental rendering of Reel Around the Fountain is undoubtedly dreamy and beautiful, I wouldn’t necessarily notice that it was the song it purported to be.

Because I feel an attachment to this album and its eponymous track, I have decided to run my first contest/giveaway. 24 Hour Service Station has printed up a limited number of CD versions of Hand in Glove: The Smiths Tribute, and are kind enough to let me run this contest. To enter to win one of three CD copies, please email me with your favourite Smiths cover version by midnight September 27, 2010 – please use subject line “Hand in Glove Giveaway.” Once the contest closes, I will draw three winners and contact them for mailing information.

**UPDATE** The contest deadline has been extended to midnight October 4, 2010. **UPDATE**

If you don’t manage to win a CD copy, you can purchase the digital one at iTunes or Amazon. And of course you can download the excellent Vanilla Swingers track below for free.

Hand in Glove – Vanilla Swingers

To give you a few more Smiths covers that I enjoy…

Handsome Devil – Parenthetical Girls

Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want – Tom Rosenthal

The Boy With the Thorn in His Side (Live at the 1995 Meltdown Festival) – Jeff Buckley

26
Dec
08

My Top 40 Albums of 2008: Numbers 8 Through 1

And so we’ve reached the end of this year’s journey through my top albums. Before we get into the top eight, I’ll try to sum up which albums released in the last few months of 2008. September brought offerings from Jenny Lewis, Mercury Rev, People in Planes, Butch Walker, No and the Maybes, Glasvegas, Santogold, Jon Ryman, Metallica, Chairlift, Kings of Leon, and a sophomore record from former Suede frontman, Brett Anderson. There were also a few that have already made this countdown, including TV on the Radio, Ladyhawke, and Okkervil River.

October’s albums were jam-packed with records from Empire of the Sun, Department of Eagles, The Sea and Cake, Eugene McGuinness, Of Montreal, Kaiser Chiefs, Keane, Euros Childs, Bloc Party (the physical version), Los Campesinos!, and AC/DC with their long-awaited return. There were also a couple of disappointments from The Cure and Cold War Kids. Snow Patrol demonstrated that they couldn’t compete with Chasing Cars while Oasis produced another unneccessary album. And there were several antlered mammals afoot with releases from Deerhoof, Deerhunter, and The Dears. Again, there were several released in October that you’ve already seen in this series, namely, from Simon Bookish, Maps of Norway, Polarkreis 18, and Twig.

November saw records from We Are Standard, Glass Candy, Razorlight, Threatmantics, Max Tundra, Thieves Like Us, Kanye West, and The Killers. Of course November was also the momentous occasion of Guns ‘n Roses’ Chinese Democracy. I apologize, but as the year wound down, I didn’t note any albums released in December except for an inexplicably successful comeback from Britney Spears.

To recap, the countdown thus far is:

40. The Penguin League – Antarctica Takes All!
39. This Gift – Sons & Daughters
38. Apocalypso – The Presets
37. Sea From Shore – School of Language
36. The Colour of Snow – Polarkreis 18
35. L’anthologie des 3 perchoirs – Duchess Says
34. Everything That Happens Will Happen Today – David Byrne and Brian Eno
33. For Emma Forever – Bon Iver
32. Seventh Tree – Goldfrapp
31. Die Off Songbird – Maps of Norway
30. Hercules & Love Affair – Hercules & Love Affair
29. The Devil, You + Me – The Notwist
28. The Jade Motel – Zeigeist
27. The Stand-Ins – Okkervil River
26. Evolutionary Sunset Call – stanleylucasrevolution
25. Oracular Spectacular – MGMT
24. Life After Ridge – Twig
23. V – Van She
22. Cut the World – Moscow Olympics
21. O My Heart – Mother Mother
20. Hold On Now Youngster – Los Campesinos!
19. Dear Science – TV on the Radio
18. Saturdays = Youth – M83
17. Aurora – The Deer Tracks
16. We Just Are – The Japanese Popstars
15. Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
14. Do You Like Rock Music? – British Sea Power
13. Limbo, Panto – Wild Beasts
12. Surreal Auteur – Allegories
11. Everything/Everything – Simon Bookish
10. Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke
9. Velocifero – Ladytron

Drumroll please…


8. Lust Lust Lust – The Raveonettes

The Danish duo are on fire this year with both this brilliant album released at the start of the year and then four outstanding EPs spread throughout the rest of 2008. Kicking off with the distorted, brain-shredding wall of sound and dirge-like guitars in Aly, Walk With Me, Lust Lust Lust is a triumph from beginning to end, and after so many successful releases, it is even more of a victory. The reverb effects applied to their dissonant, clanging guitars produce some haunting, slightly Western film-tinged soundscapes; songs like Aly, Walk With Me, Lust, and Expelled From Love give you the feeling of trekking through a wind-sculpted desert of volcanic ash during a peach-hued sunset. These darker songs share space with peppier, sweeter songs like Dead Sound, Blush, You Want the Candy and Blitzed. This record achieves a perfect balance between JAMC/Sonic Youth fuzzy noise and chirpy melody. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo have every right to sound aloof and cooler-than-thou – they are the kids with black lollipops in their mouths at the prom.

Aly, Walk With Me – The Raveonettes

Dead Sound – The Raveonettes


7. A Certain Feeling – Bodies of Water

This Californian band was so impressive live when I saw them early this year in Toronto that I bought their debut album, Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink, on the spot. Then they released their sophomore album this summer and I continued to be enthralled with their rich harmonies and inventive song structures. The epic album opener Gold, Tan, Peach, and Grey still plays my vertebrae like a xylophone, and the choral gusto of Under the Pines that strips the breath from my lungs. Throughout the album, there’s a fragility juxtaposed to a straining intensity and a keening mourning abutting an unbridled celebration. Styles are hard to pin down in this record as they swirl and eddy around your knees, threatening to drag you under and stir you into the sand. It’s a baptism worth experiencing.

Gold, Tan, Peach, and Grey – Bodies of Water

Water Here – Bodies of Water


6. The Midnight Organ Flight – Frightened Rabbit

This sophomore effort from Scottish band Frightened Rabbit is a continuation of their brand of painful, almost self-flagellating, honesty over shambolic folk and taut, whip-snap percussion. Singer, Scott Hutchison, sings in a ragged, broken wail that can sometimes remind me of Conor Oberst and sometimes of Gary Lightbody back when he was in Polar Bear not Snow Patrol. They may have grown more accessible, but they are no less stingingly accusatory or violently truthful. Like the modern leper in the album opener, the band sounds like it’s going down kicking and screaming against a senseless world full of heartbreak and internal conflict. But like a slight brightening at the edge of the horizon during a thunderstorm, The Midnight Organ Flight tempers the gloom and harsh proclamations of the human condition with a sliver of salvation in the gloaming.

The Modern Leper – Frightened Rabbit

Keep Yourself Warm – Frightened Rabbit


5. In Ghost Colours – Cut Copy

And so the last of the Modular artists on this countdown makes their appearance. When I first heard So Haunted, the first song released prior to the album, I wasn’t convinced that Cut Copy was heading in a direction I could follow them into. I had been so immersed in their first album, Bright Like Neon Love, and its cooler, airy genre of electro, that it took awhile for me to adjust to the higher energy, brighter style. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that In Ghost Colours is actually an unexpected, but massive leap forward in the Cut Copy sound. I would even go so far as to elevate them to the same innate feel for melodic dance music as that of New Order in the 80s. There’s a shimmer and twinkle to the album that ranges from the twee sprays of baby’s breath of Feel the Love, Unforgettable Season, and Midnight Runner to the pumping, technicolour electro-disco of Out There On the Ice, Lights & Music, Hearts on Fire, Far Away, and Nobody Lost, Nobody Found. At least two thirds of the album have been or should have been hit singles, and I never tire of listening to it. It’s like listening to a rainbow so dazzling that you hope you never find the pot of gold.

Feel the Love – Cut Copy

Far Away – Cut Copy


4. Intimacy – Bloc Party

While all their Brit Invasion of 2004 contemporaries have either produced disappointing second and third albums or faded away all together, Bloc Party has forged onwards with a respectable second album, and this year, a genius third. Their Gang of Fouresque minimalist post-punk has exploded into a razor-sharp hybrid of stark, crisp guitars and electronic acrobatics with interludes of vulnerable candor. The album begins with the brain-searing volley of Ares, Mercury, and Halo as the band wields their guitars like machine guns before dipping into the delicate melancholy of Biko, Signs and Zepherus. The bonus tracks, Letter to My Son and Your Visits Are Getting Shorter, included on the physical copy of the album that released well after the digital copy are equally gorgeous; in the latter track, the overlapping samples of Kele Okereke’s voice emulate a scattered and conflicted stream of consciousness perfectly. And of course, Okereke’s lyrics over the whole album are as beautifully poetic and insightful as always, creating deft allegories and intelligent commentary on human behaviour and relationships; the words are sung with such urgent passion that you can feel the desperate searching of another’s eyes, the aching need of the mouths depicted in the album’s cover art, and the turmoil over recoiling from closeness with another.

Mercury – Bloc Party

Biko – Bloc Party


3. Skeletal Lamping – Of Montreal

It would have been difficult to top Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer?, but Kevin Barnes manages at the very least to equal it in boundless imagination and myriad stylistic turns. If anything, Skeletal Lamping is labyrinthine in its construction as it blazes through glam, funk, psychedelia, twee rock, and electro, often all in one track. This unpredictable mixture was deliberate as Barnes created the most experimental and ambitious album of his career and attempted to flit through musical and lyrical ideas which seem to last about thirty seconds each. The genius comes in the composition because despite the seemingly capricious insanity, the album hangs together as a coherent, intricate whole without disintegrating into self-indulgent proggy wanking. You also get the feeling that Barnes isn’t taking himself so seriously and is there to entertain, a flair that extends to his famously flamboyant live shows and his alter ego, the black she-male, Georgie Fruit. Barnes has the ability to innovate and the panache of the legends he channels on this record, including David Bowie and Prince, but he takes these attributes and stretches them into the farthest reaches of his psyche and libido, daring to tread beyond his heroes.

Nonpareil of Favor – Of Montreal

Beware Our Nubile Miscreants – Of Montreal


2. American Demo – The Indelicates

This highly literate, arch English duo have gotten nowhere near the amount of attention they should have from music fans and critics. This debut album made me believe in brilliantly witty lyrics again, and what’s more, the music lives up to the words with its melodic sensibilities and propensity for gushingly expansive anthems. I like artists who make me think about things from a different angle, and The Indelicates do that more than the majority of new bands I’ve come across in the past few years. Their lyrics are definitely on par with anything Morrissey or Luke Haines created, and they make American Demo a piece of zeitgeist literature, a document of a mass media fatigue and disgust at a bloated, meaningless popular culture. They lambaste everything within reach, including feminism, sacred cow idols like Jeff Buckley, the rotting music industry, and youth itself. Perhaps the most surprising and startling track is Unity Mitford, an extraordinary song from the point of view of Mitford and her sympathetic love for Hitler – the concept and the lines “the indescribable beauty/Of a million hands raised to salute you/Like poppies lean when winds caress them/Cut flowers pressed to solemn duty” are enough to forgive the Gallagheresque guitar solo. Unity Mitford is a far cry from the trendy use of communism and fascism mocked in the song Sixteen while stand-out track New Art For the People, which acts as the theme for the album, is a bittersweet epic of a pathetic couple with all the romance of tragedy drained from them. These anthems make you believe in ideas like you did when you were young – they’re like an adrenaline shot in the heart. I get chills every time I listen to the song Heroin and its rushing merge into We Hate the Kids, the culmination of a generation frustrated by promises of inspiration in art, but which rather ironically provides the inspiration it violently mourns.

Unity Mitford – The Indelicates

We Hate the Kids – The Indelicates


1. Vanilla Swingers – Vanilla Swingers

Many months ago I stated that this album was my frontrunner for album of the year, and lo and behold, Vanilla Swingers managed to fight off all the other bands snapping at their heels. This self-titled debut is a concept album about two people who fall in love in the present, run away to the past (specifically, the 1980s), lose each other on their return to the present and then meet again in the future. It’s a fluid work of art that takes John Gray’s philosophical book Straw Dogs, which denies the progress myth of the human race, and weaves it into a narrative that defies progress by its convoluted, non-linear use of time. The London duo, comprised of Miles Jackson and Anne Gilpin, spin their tale over a backdrop of bittersweet, hushed melodies, which showcase the interplay between their diaphanous vocals and the intelligent beauty of their lyrics. This album makes me think about the innate human capacity to tell stories and to create myths in order to understand the world and humans themselves. Without our stories we are nothing. And these myths include one of the most perpetuated ones alongside progress: romantic love.

Vanilla Swingers deconstructs and plays with this myth as history erodes it from all sides and dimensions. At the same time, this album makes me understand why we cling to the myth of romantic love: romantic love provides us with an escape from reality, but in its bittersweet tragedies, it also gives us just as much pleasure from pain and heartbreak. Songs like I’ll Stay Next to You and Back to the Present are romantic precisely because they present the transience of love and speak to our fetishization of the fleeting. The music complements the theme elegantly as it flows like quicksilver in an hourglass and period details of the 80s creep in with bubbles of electro and washes of Pet Shop Boys synths. In the world of this album, there is no golden past, there is no improved future, and there is no true escape from the present. But human salvation and self-preservation comes in the form of storytelling. In the track Goodbye Lennon, which is set to the sound of a heartbeat and a ticking clock, a graceful fusion of different measures of time, the following lyrics appear: “I didn’t find myself back there/But I lost myself in you/And it felt so…/It doesn’t have to end this way/Cos you can always start again/It’s just a possible world.” And that is how Vanilla Swingers transcends the rest of the albums this year; Vanilla Swingers have shown how humans can make an ellipsis pregnant with meaning and how our survival is bound up in the creation of possible worlds.

I’ll Stay Next To You – Vanilla Swingers

The Hive – Vanilla Swingers


The honourable mention for this final installment is Brett Anderson’s Wilderness, a rather welcome surprise after what he has produced post-Suede. While I didn’t find too much exciting about his debut solo album and his not-so-impressive reunion with Bernard Butler as The Tears, Wilderness is an acoustic guitar-led, intimate album that made me believe that there is some talent left in Anderson after all. There is an almost dark medieval tone to the record as Anderson sheds his former self-assured preening for an unguarded glimpse of his exquisite fraility.

Funeral Mantra – Brett Anderson

And so ends the countdown and a crazy year of New Kids on the Block reunions (an event that I was convinced was a practical joke for months) and of RIAA reassessments; of Chinese Democracy and of threats to Blogger MP3 blog democracy; of Russell Brand’s fall from grace and of Noel Gallagher’s tumble into the monitors at the Toronto Virgin Festival. Thank you for coming along for the ride down my rather bumpy lane of musical memories. This weekend brings the final part of my weekly mix round-up, and as an extra special gift for the end of 2008, there will be a New Year’s Eve mix waiting for you on Tuesday.

22
Jul
08

Has the World Changed Or Have I Changed?: Musings on the New Musical Express Train to Nowhere

I’ve been meaning to write something about my general feeling of malaise with new music, and now that I’ve read two very eloquent posts about this same feeling at To Die By Your Side and The Vinyl Villain, I very likely don’t need to now because I don’t know if I have that much more to add, to be honest. But since I must write something to keep this blog alive, I’ll do it anyway. It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.

I’m twenty-five, so why I feel so jaded about music already is something I would like to try to understand. I agree with what the bloggers above have said about how maturity and acquired knowledge does eventually make music sound less “new” and “innovative”; the more you know about music and music history, the more connections you can make between new and old music. And if there’s one thing I had to learn over the years, it’s that art of any kind must always use what’s come before it in some way. Originality is a flawed concept, and it’s a concept that has dogged me for many years as I shied away from writing creatively for long periods of time, believing that I had nothing “original” to say. In fact, I wrote a short story called Life is Art is Life all about that particular conundrum. I realized that it’s how you build on what’s come before you that makes you special and memorable; no one reinvents the wheel, instead, you get fantastic variations like cars, ferris wheels, and my personal favourite, the pennyfarthing.

As others already noted as well, the music of your youth or the music tied to “new” experiences in your life will always be special to you. It’s why there’s such a thing as nostalgia. I like to think that there will continue to be new bands that will impress me in the future as I grow old, but at the same time, I don’t think they could ever make me feel the way the Manic Street Preachers, The Smiths, The Clash, and New Order do. These artists/bands got to me first and changed my life in their respective ways; for the most part, they ushered me into adulthood. Sadly, only one of them is still around, and through unfortunate circumstances, have had to change from their first, truly brilliant incarnation.

So, have I changed? And is that at the crux of my lack of excitement over most new bands? Likely, that’s a big part of it, but at the same time, the music industry and its attendant press has changed rather drastically in recent years. Technology and the Internet have expanded access for both artists and fans, and they’ve sped up the process of production and promotion. While these developments can be hailed as the next stage of a truly DIY music scene, in a lot of ways, to borrow from Dick Hebdige, they’ve defused and diffused it. It’s become increasingly harder to pick through the sheer masses of artists/bands out there (for my thesis, I made some rough calculations and figured there are at least 450 000 artists/bands with profiles on MySpace). Add to this overwhelming number the erosion of interest via media bombardment, and the situation gets sadder – the more information people are exposed to, the more apathy there is. The brain can only handle so much before needing to defer to others’ opinions to make decisions, and in some cases, the brain just shuts out information wholesale in an act of self-defence.

And of course the advent of MP3 blogs and their aggregators have made it quite easy and speedy to hype a new artist based on very little. Of course, if a band is ultimately worthy of praise, they will weather the hype and continue to make interesting music. But this mad rush for the “new thing” has accelerated to such speeds, I can’t bother to keep up, and instead, have found refuge in filling out my collection with older bands’ back catalogues. Often I end up discovering an old band that I had never heard of before (some blogs can be thanked for this). For example, I only just found out about the post-punk band The Sound this year, and I now consider them one of my favourites. I’m also very aware that the bulk of new music I end up paying attention to is created by artists/bands that have been around for awhile – though, I can often also be disappointed in new output by old artists as stated in my post about The Cure. That’s a different discussion for a different time, mind.

At this stage, my modest patch of cyberspace has by no means garnered too much attention by promotional people, but out of the emails of this nature that I have received, I’ve only been interested in two or three, and only really and truly loved one. As Coxon from To Die By Your Side stated, most bands are just too samey to be worth listening to, let alone worthy of a blog post. I require more than just a new Libertines or Arctic Monkeys, and I am too often disappointed by the comparisons of these new bands to older bands that I love, comparisons which never pan out.

Not only do I have to be critical of the promotional hype I get in my inbox, but I have to be just as critical of the information I get from “professionals.” I know I’ll sound like some whiny curmudgeon when I say that the music press isn’t what it used to be. Sure, in the past, editorial and journalistic styles have displaced that which preceded them, but the recent shifts really don’t speak to me. I like to believe that I would have been far more impressed with the work of Lester Bangs and Nick Kent had I been alive at the time they were prominent. I may also have romantic notions of the more politicized, intelligent NME of the early to mid-eighties, considering I was a small child then, but I do long for those times. I read less and less music magazines these days because either their information is out-of-date, or they’re too busy chasing the next Libertines/Strokes to care about what really matters in music and the discourse that surrounds it. You will never see as brave a cover as that nearly all-black 1986 issue of NME that discussed youth suicide, nor content as brave. As much as I love The Mighty Boosh, they are merely a sales figure booster for the NME with comedic links to music and Noel Fielding’s rather pathetic public antics. I can’t imagine the bands being championed in the recent press as being as iconic and meaningful even ten years down the line as bands like Joy Division and The Smiths were/are. And though I don’t expect all artists/bands to carve “4REAL” into their arms in order to prove a point to the NME, I do long for those who are willing to stand out and stand by their beliefs and opinions, or frankly, willing to have an opinion at all.

Having said all of this, I will say there have been rare instances when the white noise of bands clamouring for attention has cleared for a moment, allowing me to hear new music that I believe has that capacity to change my life. I believe in these bands and what they stand for; not only do their music and lyrics affect me, but so do their ideologies and philosophies, aspects which make art meaningful. They take the brilliant elements of previous artists, musical and otherwise, and multiply them into something more than the sum of their parts. They are “4REAL” in the same way Richey Edwards once was. And these bands aren’t even at their peak yet; there’s no reason they should be, and that very fact makes them exciting. These bands are Vanilla Swingers, Stroszek and Black Umbrella, and you can read about them in more detail when you follow the links below.

Post #1 on Vanilla Swingers

Post #2 on Vanilla Swingers

Post on Stroszek

Post on Black Umbrella

These are the bands that will mean something to me in ten years time. These are the bands I would feature on the cover of a magazine purporting to be about “new” music. These are the bands that continue to give me hope that not all good music was in the past.

Goodbye Lennon – Vanilla Swingers

Railway of Bones – Stroszek

Secret Kiss – Black Umbrella

20
May
08

Fall For Them: Vanilla Swingers Album Out This Summer

I raved about Vanilla Swingers in an earlier post having heard five of the tracks off their eponymous debut album, and now that I’ve heard the full nine tracks, I’m going to have to say that this is a frontrunner for my favourite album of 2008. The official release date for the LP (both as downloads and a physical album) is now July 14, so mark your calendars. Since I already made rather detailed descriptions of the five tracks I was initially sent, I will focus on the remaining four tracks for this post.

For those who didn’t read my earlier post (and for those who would rather not bother with clicking the above link to do so), I’m going to quickly explain the premise for this spectacular concept album. Influenced by the John Gray book Straw Dogs, a piece of philosophy which discredits the progress myth of humanity, Vanilla Swingers follows the story of “two people who meet, run away, go back in time, lose each other, and meet again in 2015.” Featuring some of the best lyrics of the year and a tender interplay between male and female voices in a similar vein to Stars, this album deconstructs the myth of human superiority, but rebuilds by using what truly makes humans human: myth creation, especially that of romantic love. It’s our capacity to invent and create who we are, flaws and all, that truly defines humanity, and Vanilla Swingers plays on all the bittersweet emotions that result from this capacity.

The Town, which I briefly commented on in my earlier post based strictly on lyrical content, is a lovely album opener, setting the scene and mood for the rest of the record. Miles opens the song, backed by lazy strums of the acoustic guitar and piano, and Anne comes in for the second verse as they describe the sterile boredom of living in a suburban wasteland, where people keep reassuring themselves that they are, in fact, “ok.” The characters in this album do manage to find each other amongst the dreary “pre-postmodern” structures and vapid fun bars, and so a tenuous, but tender, romance ensues. Though the lovers attempt to run away from everything in the song I’ll Stay Next to You, The Hive finds them in the realization that no matter where you flee in time and space, you cannot escape the same negative aspects of humanity. The Hive, within its eight minutes, shifts between styles and rhythms like the fluid time it represents, beginning with a more subdued hushed vocal accompanied by lightly pulsing guitars and hi-hat, but then ending with a bouncier, twee melody worthy of Belle and Sebastian or Camera Obscura. Accompanying the restless music is the incredible lyric of: “Screensave faces, Chinese walls divide/Monitors flicker but I only saw the light behind your eyes/We’re part of a problem with no solution/Everywhere you go, everything so cheap/Someone’s gonna pay/From the daily rail to the NME, sing the same old song/’They build you up they knock you down. Fifteen minutes counting down. Changes like the weather. You built me up you won’t knock me down – I’m keeping both feet on the ground. And it’s getting better!'” The wasteful commericalism combined with the climate of false progress (most famously and most recently endorsed by “New” Labour) ends up being ubiquitous and inescapable.

In Back to the Present, which logically follows Danger in the Past, the lovers flee the 1980’s for the amorphous present. The dreamy melody is propelled by twinkling piano lines and punchy chords while Miles’ mournful, but thoughtful, vocals muse over the loss of his lover, who didn’t appear to accompany him back to his present. The narrator must comfort himself with the dreams of what if’s and potential futures while never actually achieving them in his reality. Album closer, If You Fall, comes after the lovers reunite in the future and realize that they could still believe in the bond between them, and that even though they were lost, they were lost together. If You Fall’s bittersweet, delicate melody suits the fragility of the lyrics. The last lines of the song and album are: “On your way to work remember/If you fall for this you’ll fall for anything that passes by you/If you fall for this you’ll fall for anything.” These words leave you wondering if you shouldn’t fall for the Humanistic myth or if you shouldn’t fall for the myth of romantic love. Or that perhaps they’re inextricably connected, and thus, inescapable anyway.

If you’re in the London area, or are going to be on May 27, go to see Vanilla Swingers’ first live gig at the 12 Bar. And as I mentioned earlier, their album, which is produced in a limited run of 1000, is out in a couple of months. Run away with Vanilla Swingers. You just might find yourself back where you started with the ground beneath your feet feeling strangely new.

The Hive – Vanilla Swingers

If You Fall – Vanilla Swingers

18
Mar
08

Telling Stories, Feeling Human: Vanilla Swingers

Just over a week ago, I received an email in my inbox from Vanilla Swingers. To be honest, being new to the world of music blogs and not getting many artists contacting me, I almost deleted the message, thinking it was some sex organization for caucasian people. Thankfully, I looked at the subject line a little closer and realized that it wasn’t spam, but a message from a UK musical duo called Vanilla Swingers in which they offered me five sample tracks from their self-titled debut album which will come out this May. I was going to wait until I got the album proper before writing anything, but I liked these tracks so much, I figured I’d write about them now. I can always elaborate later when I receive the full album.
Consisting of Anne and Miles, Vanilla Swingers produce delicate, bittersweet music in a style similar to both Stars and Black Box Recorder with undertones of Pet Shop Boys. Their album was recorded with Ian Catt (Saint Etienne, Stars) and mastered by Kramer (Galaxie 500, Low) and it is a concept album that tells “the story of two people who meet, run away, go back in time, lose each other, and meet again in 2015.” I can’t say I hear too many concept albums these days, and I think this particular idea is an intriguing one for me. And I’ll tell you why.
Vanilla Swingers is largely based on John Gray’s book Straw Dogs, a piece of philosophy which questions the myth of Humanism and asks why humans believe themselves to be so much more superior to animals when they rarely achieve what they’re believed to be capable of. In essence, he turns the myth of human progress on its head. According to an interview done by Rock Sellout, Miles says: “lyrically, besides the story, you might say it’s about the differences between what people actually achieve, what they could achieve and what they believe ‘humanity’ can achieve. The idea of humans being the authors of their own destiny is a powerful myth, probably one that would be difficult to live without. Then there’s a bit of romantic love in there – another myth, if you like, and another one without which things would be pretty bleak. It’s a cliche but I hope it comes across that there’s redemption in beauty and in the whole mess of what it is to be alive and reacting to all the contradictory impulses that make us what we are.” So, it appears that Vanilla Swingers sets out to achieve quite a lot while knowing that their very achievement will be another myth. Heady, but brilliant stuff.
I’m hugely impressed by the lyrics of all of the songs, which you can peruse on their Web site. The first song, The Town, of which I only have the lyrics, already grabs my attention and my emotions with its bleak urban/suburban imagery. Echoing Morrissey’s apocalyptic seaside town, The Town reads: “There’s a cone in the river and a Safeways trolley overturned/By the pre-postmodern business centre someone forgot to burn down.” Thankfully, the music lives up to the promise of the lyrics as I listened to the next song, Like Straw Dogs. It obviously namechecks John Gray and Miles’ heartbreaking vocals begin the musical dialogue with “All I have is words, words that don’t obtain/And I feel I’m a stain on your horizon/So I stay away – it’s easier that way/And there won’t be no-one I need to rely on” before Anne comes in with “Is it him, is it me/Or is there something only I can see.” The strains of a relationship wrought out of myths about identity are felt in every strain of the music and turn of vocal, and hesitant piano blossoms into hard guitars. In a reponse to and as a relief for these tensions, I’ll Stay Next To You begins with a crash of thunder, and then drives along to a bassline that mimicks the restless spirit of running away from the terrors and mundanity of reality, which could very well be the same thing. The end of the song echoes that deadpan observational rapping Neil Tennant does in West End Girls before it enters a jamming outro.
A couple of songs later, Danger in the Past begins with a sample from Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love and a host from Top of the Pops – a contrast to the gloom of the present, but also a reminder of the artificiality of romantic love mythmaking and the shiny false promises of the ’80’s themselves. Then the song kicks in with beautiful hushed vocals by Anne, who is soon joined by Miles in mourning infected hearts and careless memories in a hypnotic, lush melody. For the moody, swaying The Way She Walked Out the Door, Johnny Brown of The Band of Holy Joy steps in with vocals, words and melody, providing an interesting interlude between the lover characters from the other songs and almost acting like a narrator. In the second last song, Goodbye Lennon, against the ticking of a clock and a heartbeat, Anne sings, “It’s thirty years since ’85/Robbie’s dead but Pete’s alive/Or so the weblogs say/But no-one’s reading them.” The mechanics of humanity’s progress provide a counterpoint for its very heart as the world continues to lose itself in celebrity myths until it can’t be bothered to know anymore. And although everyone’s lost in this future, the lovers have lost themselves in each other amidst surging synths and chiming chords. Ultimately, we tell each other and ourselves stories in order to survive as a species.
I’m quite excited about hearing the full album. In the end, somehow Vanilla Swingers still make me believe in love. Even after they’ve dissected the myth and torn down what it means to be human, I feel more human than ever listening to it.

I’ll Stay Next to You – Vanilla Swingers

Danger in the Past – Vanilla Swingers

The Way She Walked Out the Door – Vanilla Swingers




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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

Photobucket

So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

Photobucket

Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

Photobucket

Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

Photobucket

Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

Photobucket

You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

Photobucket

I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

Photobucket

Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

Photobucket

Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

Photobucket

Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome