Tuesday 28 July 2020

Birds of Pandaemonium

Earlier today I was listening to Lauren Laverne's fantastic 6 Music show when I was stopped in my tracks by a song, Days Go By, the debut single by Birds of Pandaemonium, released by Our Starry Universe.

The duo, based in Brooklyn, are Millennium Culkin and Hazy James (born in Inverness). With Days Go By they produce a beautiful shimmering majestic quality, set over New Order-esque beats, while the vocals are reminiscent of Ian McCulloch, the guitar solo certainly tips a nod to Will Sergeant.

One other blogger has described the song; 'if Air invited Bowie along to their Moon Safari sessions then it might have sounded a little something like this.'

Hazey James from the band had this to say about their debut single; 

It's new chapter and pure emotion. It's an inner call to love without expectation. It's a conscious choice to move forward the positive regardless of the obstacle one may face. It's a mantra to truly make each day better, for yourself and for everyone in your orbit.

The ten minute Bryan Mette remix is something to check out as well!

You can find out more about the band from this excellent interview.

Download / stream / order the limited 12-inch single from Birds of Pandaemonium Bandcamp page

Monday 20 July 2020

10 from Hope Sandoval

The first time I heard Hope Sandoval's voice may well have been her gorgeous dreamy swoon on Fade Into You from 1993's So Tonight That I Might See album.

I would have been 17 and religiously reading the NME and Melody Maker every week, listening to the Evening Session and John Peel when I could. Hope Sandoval captivated me, with her voice, her looks and her style.

Around this time I was always writing lyrics and playing around with my guitars. I actually wrote a song with the working title Mazzy Star (Song For Hope Sandoval), imagining her lush whispery voice over acoustic guitars and strings. I still have the lyrics in an old folder that I found up in my Mums loft a couple of years ago. Maybe I should send them to her!

Mazzy Star always seemed pretty mysterious. I don't recall them touring often, indeed I can only find a record of them playing in Scotland once - at King Tuts in Glasgow back in 1993. So I've never seen her play live. Something I'd love to rectify at some point in the future.

Sadly it won't be as Mazzy Star. David Roback passed away in February 2020. Roback left a celebrated body of work from his time with The Rain Parade, Opal and Mazzy Star.

Mazzy Star released 4 albums; She Hangs Brightly (1990), So Tonight That I Might See (1993), Among My Swan (1996) and then following their reformation; Seasons Of Your Day (2013)

Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions were the post Mazzy Star outfit that Sandoval formed. To date, they have released 3 albums; Bavarian Fruit Bread (2001), Through The Devil Softly (2009) and Until The Hunter (2016).

So many have fallen for Sandoval's sublime voice. The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack and Death In Vegas have all invited Hope to sprinkle some magic on their songs.

I think the opportunity to work with a singer like Hope really inspires them to create some really beautiful, atmospheric, magical music. Check this spellbinding version of Cherry Blossom Girl with Air.

I've enjoyed digging back through Sandoval's back catalogue to choose ten of my favourites.

You can check this Spotify playlist and my musings and videos of my choices below.

Let Me Get There
It's all in the groove, let me get there sings Sandoval on this truly sensational duet with Kurt Vile. Stretching beyond 7-minutes, the band and singers are in no rush, there is plenty of space for everyone.

And it is all in the groove. Sandoval and Vile trade lines over a country blues vibe with a slight tinge of psychedelia coming from the reverb on their vocals. Some of the guitar playing is exquisite.

Vile sounds beautifully stoned while there is a chilled determination in the way Sandoval sings let me get there. Echoes of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra.

A gem of a song.

Look On Down From The Bridge
Get ready to have your heart melted.

Sandoval's voice is fragile and beautiful as she sings How could I say goodbye? over a beat so gentle is is barely there, as Roback conjures stunning sounds from his guitar. The church organ creates an incredible atmosphere, listening to this with headphones brings tears to my eyes.

Look on down from the bridge
There's still fountains down there
Look on down from the bridge
It's still raining up here
Everybody seems so far away from me
Everybody just wants to be free

This is the closing track from 1996 album Among My Swan. It's almost impossible to describe how delicate and beautiful it is. Just listen ... with your headphones on and your eyes closed.

How f**king gorgeous is this song? One of Sandoval's dreamiest vocals. I could listen to her voice for days. Roback's fingers dance over his guitar, there is a gentle tambourine being tapped and all kinds of gorgeous reverb-y echo effects.

Close your eyes and look at me
I can't believe what I cannot see

A cover of a Jesus and Mary Chain song, Drop is the song that Hope chose to open her debut album with the Warm Inventions. I love the opening lines of the first verse quoted below.

The way you drop
Is like a stone
Make out you're flying
But you've just been thrown

Into Dust
This song feels and sounds special. At their very best Mazzy Star capture magic on record. Into Dust is exceptionally atmospheric, I hang on every word and sound.

Paradise Circus (with Massive Attack)
Sandoval's voice is set against very different soundscape. Rumbling dub like bass and little flickers of piano. Listening back to this song made me appreciate how little bass there is in a lot of Sandoval's song. Of course, it's Massive Attack, the bass is heavier than most acts, but it does rumble delightfully and the contrast with Sandoval's voice is stunning.

Love is like a sin, my love
For the one that feels it the most
Look at her with a smile like a flame
She will love you like a fly will never love you again

Asleep From Day (with The Chemical Brothers)
The Chems totally get Hope Sandoval and create a magical comedown track

The chilled build up and then the drop at 2 minutes 41 seconds is beautiful, for those of us who have lay on floors at friends houses after a night of clubbing, you'll know that feeling; you've had a great night dancing and talking with friends, now your energy has gone and you're lying dozing, dreaming, listening to music to help you unwind ... if something like this came on you would drift off blissfully into a psychedelic dream.

I've got a lot of friends
And they've got beautiful eyes
That make my heart feel surprised

Sometimes Always (w/ The Jesus and Mary Chain)
This duet with the Mary Chain never fails to bring a smile to my face. The chiming guitars, Hope's sweet voice against Jim Reid's cracked pleas for one more chance.

Hope stands firm but in the end gives in and lets Jim back. It's all over in 2 and a half glorious minutes. Guitar pop perfection.

Killing Smile (w/ Death In Vegas)
This song absolutely floors me with its majestic beauty. The strings ushering in an acoustic guitar and then the most gorgeous vocal.

You can spend your life behind my falling star
This life will meet you with a long and killing smile

Don't have a feeling but I wanna waste my time

By the time we get to the line And you know I want to the follow up with you is so hushed and whispered that you can hardly hear it.

This is my favourite song featuring Hope Sandoval, everything about it is just perfect.

All the while I spent my time making schemes
Now I know when things are always what they seem

The strings are heart achingly beautiful, the melody being plucked on a banjo (?) just tweaks the heart strings and I could listen to Hope Sandoval singing like this for days on end.

Fade Into You
Another absolutely sublime song. Another perfect song.

There is a reason it is is Mazzy Star's most famous sand celebrated song. From the off, there is a little extra urgency in Fade Into You, with the acoustic strum, with the dreamy slide guitar and even the beat. Sandoval, of course, sounds incredible.

I look to you and I see nothing
I look to you to see the truth

Everything is perfect. This is dream music, dream pop.

You live your life, you go in shadows
You'll come apart and you'll go black
Some kind of night into your darkness
Colours your eyes with what's not there

There is reflection and then the realisation that her love never knew.

Fade into you
Strange you never knew

It's easy to get lost in this song, so go on, lose yourself for 5-minutes. Marvel at its beauty.

Thursday 16 July 2020

Never Knew You

Set your phasers to be stunned.

Never Knew You is the second single from my wee sis Carla J Easton from her forthcoming album Weirdo that comes out on Olive Grove Records at the end of August. It's available on all the usual digital channels including her own Bandcamp page.

Get Lost, its predecessor was all dreamy, escapism pop, getting away from it all and turning the radio off. Super catchy with a punch the sky euphoric chorus.

Never Knew You is like its grown up sister. Still pop, still playful, but packed with heartbreak, heartache, reflection, realisation and defiance.

I think I said something along the lines of 'you should send this to Taylor Swift' to Carla when she first sent it through to me. I try (but largely fail) to refrain from blogging about my sisters music and leave that to others, but this feels like a bit of a landmark single. The video (below) is pretty incredible as well, especially as it was shot during lockdown.

Opening with a crazily playful melody, the lyrics capture the hope of potential new love, followed by the realisation that there were lies from the off.

I was like 'oh my good he's perfect'
Took a chance if it was worth it
Struck fools good, lit a match
Hoped a fire would catch
And it did for a while
I believed the lies you hid beneath that smile

The second verse follows on before an absolutely huge chorus with synths zooming, squelching and making all kinds of delightful noises.

I don't think I ever really knew you
Knew you, ooh, ooh, at all
And finally I think I see right through you
For who ooh ooh you are
And all I know is that I wasted time, being naive as a child
And I never knew you, ooh ooh
Well never mind

The third and fourth verses are full on therapeutic realisation before another burst of the chorus.

The break at 2 minutes 24 seconds is one of my favourite moments that my sister has ever recorded. So simple and catchy, yet so deep, meaningful and clever. Listen on headphones to get the full effect of the backing vocals.

When I was up, i was up
But when I was down you were never around
And that was not good enough, for me

Another blast of the chorus with a few extra lines thrown in for good measure and we're done and Carla has moved on, through the heartbreak with help from pop.

Weirdo is out at the end of August. You can pre-order the Raspberry and Cream vinyl from her Bandcamp page (only 35/200 left at the time of writing).

Or you can pre-order the ice-cream with sprinkles version from the good people at Monorail or Assai Records. Both have 50 copies each.

Could be a quick sell-out!

Carla also has a virtual zoom tour with dates on 24/07 w/ Lemon Drink, 25/07 w/ Malka and on 31/07 with Broken Chanter. More info and tickets via her website

Monday 13 July 2020

When My Boy Walks Down The Street

Trust me #13
When My Boy Walks Down The Street by The Magnetic Fields

The Magnetic Fields is a band led by Stephen Merrit.

In 1999 the band released the incredible 69 Love Songs album, glorious lofi guitar pop music with cool titles, lyrics, guitars and synths. All 69 songs were written by Merrit, some lasting 27 seconds, others lasting a full 5-minutes.

When My Boy Walks Down The Street always stood out for me. In under 3-minutes, Merrit paints a clear poetic, hopelessly romantic picture of how head over heels in love he is. This is a lo-fi love song masterpiece.

Looking back, it may well have been the first openly male gay song that I was aware of. I love the vibe, the distorted guitar chords are so simple, Merrit's voice is captured beautifully, there is a kind of Velvets-y feel to it.

The opening line is incredible; Grand pianos crash together when my boy walks down the street and I love how Perrit is so openly captivated and targeted in the chorus;

Amazing, he's a whole new form of life
Blue eyes blazing and he's going to be my wife

 And in the second verse he ponders Maybe he should be illegal, he just makes life too complete

Enjoy this live performance and also the recorded version. The lyrics and links to all the previous blogs in the Trust Me series are below.

There is also (for the first time) a Spotify playlist with all the songs featured. Search for Everything Flows - Trust Me on Spotify or click the embedded playlist.

Grand pianos crash together, when my boy walks down the street
There are whole new kinds of weather, when he walks with his new beat
Everyone sings hallelujah, when my boy walks down the street
Life just kind of dances through ya, from your smile down to your feet

Amazing, he's a whole new form of life
Blue eyes blazing and he's going to be my wife

The world does the hula-hula, when my boy walks down the street
Everyone thinks he's Petula, so big and yet so petite
Butterflies turn into people, when my boy walks down the street
Maybe he should be illegal, he just makes life too complete

Amazing he's a whole new form of life
Blue eyes blazing and he's going to be my wife

Oh, shadows of echoes of memories
Oh. things that he brings he found in the sea
Oh, shadows of echoes of memories of songs
Oh, how could he know that it won't be long

Grand pianos crash together, when my boy walks down the street
There are whole new kinds of weather, when he walks with his new beat
Everyone sings hallelujah, when my boy walks down the street
Life just kind of dances through ya, from your smile down to your feet

Previous Trust Me blogs

1. Something On Your Mind by Karen Dalton
1A. Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells
2. I Am, I Said  by Neil Diamond
3. Where's The Playground Susie?   by Glen Campbell
4. If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lighfoot
5. Gimme Some Truth by John Lennon
6. Gone With The Wind Is My Love by Rita and the Tiaras
7. In The Year 2525 by Zager and Evans
8. The Music Box by Ruth Copeland
9. The Ship Song by Nick Cave
10. Sometimes by James
11. I Walk The Earth by King Biscuit Time
12. Didn't Know What I Was In For by Better Oblivion Community Centre

Sunday 5 July 2020

Hey Jude

Cover version of the month #56 - Wilson Pickett covers The Beatles

Hey Jude b/w Revolution by The Beatles was released as a single in August 1968. After the psychedelic high of Sgt Peppers, following on from trips on Yellow Submarine's and taking people on Magical Mystery Tour's, this McCartney song had a much more melancholy feel to it, even the rousing sing-a-long chorus.

The Beatles had had the whole world singing through the 60's. From yeah, yeah, yeah to na, na, na, na, na, na, na. The transformation of mop top scallys to the four young men crammed on to a stage for the BBC's David Frost performance of Hey Jude is remarkable. Many, many books have been written on this period; the songs, the albums, the fashion, the artwork, the performances, Beatle-mania, relationships, drugs, love ...

Maybe I have read too many of them, or maybe I have watched The Beatles Anthology too many times, but every time I watch this particular performance of Hey Jude by the greatest tea room orchestra in the world, I do agree with many who say it marked the start of the end of the 60's. A year on from the summer of love, the drugs were wearing off or changing, things weren't quite as bright and McCartney's song is tinged with sadness, with that beautiful melancholy I mentioned earlier.

McCartney wrote Hey Jude for Julian Lennon, improvising the song on a drive to visit Cynthia Lennon and her son following her separation from John. Originally Hey Jules, McCartney thought Jude sounded better. Beatles books all point to Paul realising he had written something special and testing it out on anyone who would listen.

Paul McCartney with Julian Lennon

I love the section in the Anthology where Paul says he wasn't sure about the line the movement you need is on your shoulder and mentioned to John that he would change it. Lennon, straight away, says you won't you know, that's the best line.

Recorded over a few days at the end of July and start of August 1968, it didn't take long for the single to hit the charts and 2-weeks after that they performed on the David Frost Show.

This remarkable performance showcases the bands humour before McCartney settles himself, just singing a little melody to himself before starting the song.

Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

McCartney looks totally on it. His mop top is now perfectly (scruffily) tailored, his eyes look all beautiful, stoned and serious. Lennon is chewing gum and making his guitar sound glorious as he plays the big chords, Harrison looks like he has come from Shea Stadium via India (super cool) while Starr wears a huge smile.

The song builds and builds to an epic 4-minute na, na, na, na, na, na, na refrain coda with McCartney improvising and letting out Little Richard style yelps of delight. People are practically on top of him by the end.

I've been fortunate to see Paul McCartney play live on 3 occasions; Earls Court, Hampden and the Hydro. Every time he plays Hey Jude it brings the audience together as one. Now Paul has a number of songs that can do that, but not in the way Hey Jude does. Everyone can sing na, na, na, na, na, na, na and it means something. In the same way it made Ringo smile in the TV performance, it makes people smile, sing, punch the air and hug their friends.

Of course the song is much more than the glorious sing-a-long extended mantra. There is beautiful simplistic contradiction; let it out and let it in and you have found her now go and get her, advice don't carry the world upon your shoulders, don't make it bad, ... it is a beautiful song that McCartney takes to another level by getting everyone to sing-a-long.

Wilson Pickett takes on Hey Jude and he lets it build in his own way. You can hear and feel that he is opening himself to the song more and more as it builds; with his voice, with the introduction of horns, with extra little drum fills and because you know the song, you are just waiting to see what he does at the end.

At 2 minutes 44 seconds you find out. Pickett explodes!!!! Letting out primal screams as his lead guitarist goes off on one, Pickett really does let it out for the remainder of his version.

The guitarist is Duane Allman, who would later go on to form The Allman Brothers Band. His guitar work on this song would lead Eric Clapton to invite Allman to join Derek and the Dominoes. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section back Pickett on this song and on the album, the playing is sublime

But back to Pickett, listen to those screams, those yelps, the pure adrenaline shooting through his body and out through his voice. I wonder if there is an extended version lurking in the vaults somewhere.

This is a stunning cover version.

Previous covers of the month
13. Hurt

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Never Ending Mixtape part 50

My Never Ending Mixtape smashes through the 1,500 song mark with ease. My Spotify playlist is up to 1,515 songs, coming in at 100 hours and 52 minutes of music.

Thanks if you have taken the time to dive in for a listen. I hope you have discovered or rediscovered something you love. And special thanks if you are one of the 142 people who follow the playlist.

The latest additions include;

Just out - new songs from Phoebe Bridgers, Neil Young, The Orielles, Kestrel, Fiona Apple,

Recent discoveries - Some gems from Moloko after I tuned into a #timstwitterlisteningparty; I have totally fallen for Phoebe Bridgers and her projects with Better Oblivion Community Centre and boygenius; Bernard Sumner singing with 808 State

Rediscoveries - Les Fleurs is just perfection, what a song! Jumbo by Underworld after watching their Glastonbury set. And what about Bowie opening his 2000 set with Wild Is The Wind, his voice soaring with ease?!

Search for Everything Flows Never Ending Mixtape on Spotify or click below. Read on for a full list of the latest additions.

My Weakness Is You - Edwin Starr
I'll Never Fall In Love Again - Bobby Freeman
In My Hour Of Darkness - Gram Parsons
Charley's Girl - Lou Reed
Did I Say - Teenage Fanclub
Blackmail - Candi Staton
Les Fleurs - Minnie Riperton
Grey and Blue - Kestrels with J Mascis
Forever More - Moloko
The Only Ones - Moloko
How Can I Tell You - Yusuf / Cat Stevens
We Don't Smoke It No More - Neil Young
For Her - Fiona Apple
Didn't Know What I Was In For - Better Oblivion Community Centre
Walking On A Strong - Matt Berninger and Phoebe Bridgers
Scott Street - Phoebe Bridgers
Spanish Heart - 808 State with Bernard Sumner
Bobbi's Second World (Confidence Man Remix) - The Orielles
Me and My Dog - boygenius
Kyoto - Phoebe Bridgers
Disillusion - Badly Drawn Boy
Pissing In The Wind - Badly Drawn Boy
Jumbo - Underworld
Nylon Strung - Underworld
8 Ball - Underworld
Halycon and On and On - Orbital
Star Guitar - Chemical Brothers
Chime - Orbital
Garden Song - Phoebe Bridgers
Little Trouble - Better Oblivion Community Centre
Way Down Now - World Party
Think! - The Jasmine Minks
Wild Is The Wind - David Bowie
Absolute Beginners - David Bowie