Friday, 28 December 2012

2012- End of Year Review

Quite fitting that the 50th blog post is a review of this years best records (in my view anyway!), but firstly thankyou for reading this and for the support!

So below are my favourite 10, chosen because i think they'll stand the test of time and are great records.

Please comment on my choice and let me know what music has inspired you or that you would put in your end of year lists.

Happy 2013 too!

Top albums of 2012 (in no order)

Tame Impala- Lonerism
Psychadelic space rock at it's finest and there other it's also sonically stunning. Lonerism is as complete an album, a piece of art, as you're likely to hear this year, maybe this decade.

Menahan Street Band- The Crossing
After their superb debut 'Make The Road By Walking' Tommy Breneck & co keep standards high with an altogether more wintery record of blues and thought provoking melancholy.

San Fran's Peter Berends, whose two track LP is all dub, jazz, dreamy loops and twinkley keys. The 22 minute duration of each 'tape' would make Tangerine Dream proud as he journeys between delayed electronica, radio crackle and muffled, blurry moments of genius; inviting us to listen to someone else’s cloud 9.

Rodriguez- Searching For Sugarman OST
Anyone who had previously discovered Cold Fact would have enjoyed the documentary on the reclusive singers life, released over the Summer but the soundtrack CD, melded the best of that album as well as follow up Coming From Reality resulting in a superb collection.

Nneka- Soul Is Heavy
If you enjoyed Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation album there’s something in this from the Nigerian singer. It’s Soulpop with some very well written RnB too.

Lee Fields & The Expressions- Faithful Man
This isn't Fields changing his game to make modern Funk, it's more him sticking to his guns as at 61 he's stepping out from behind the shadow of James Brown along with contemporaries such as Charles Bradley & Bobby Womack to keep Funk on it's game. Faithful Man is life, love and politics, without being too preachy or soppy, showing very much that the man still got it.

The Magnetic North- Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North
A concept album telling the tale of the Orkney Isles that is cinematic and folky. A blend that really works, honing the musical talents of Hannah Peel and Erland Cooper of indie act Erland & The Carnival.

DJ Format- Statement of Intent
Cut from the hem of the Endtroducing//Jurassic 5 era, Formats debut album Music For The Mature B-Boy propelled him from bedroom tinkerer to one of the scenes most respected beat junkies. This third outing, the follow up to 2005's if you can't beat em, join 'em, we find him in fine fettle, chopping up crate dug records and partnering with Canadian MC Abdominal. The first half of the album is definitely for the breakers amongst us, whereas the second half takes on a funkier sound as he teams up with Nostalgia 77, Mr Lif & Edan amongst others. Copper Canyons is worth a mention, cinematic, slightly oriental and mysterious, it's a much cooler version of the x-men theme tune. Other highlights include Remember... , Notes In Quotation and the bond-esque Mayor of a Ghost Town

First Aid Kit- The Lions Roar
The Swedish sisters suffer the opposite of second album blues on this fantastic follow up to 'The Big The Black & The Blue' with some compelling country Americana.

Quantic & Alice Russell- Look Around The Corner
Recorded in Cali, Colombia, We were given a pre-release teaser with the title track and it's Rotary Connection/Minnie Riperton influenced sound, a real corker. But it was KCRW (possibly one of the best stations in the US for indie music) , that broke another highlight 'Light In The Window', a cover of Marvin/Diana Ross's original and one of Russells favourites. Delivered with a tonky, slightly off-key piano, it sounds deeply authentic. Travelling Song gives us a taste of the tropics with it's melodic bossa flair whilst the fun Su Suzy sounds like a long lost and sweet R&B record. The mid-tempo I'd Cry meanwhile is just a great track to kick back to whilst enjoying a pina colada. This is the album to kick back to, open the windows to and welcome the summer in.


Best of the rest:
Triptides – Sun Pavilion
Fans of Real Estate need look no further for their next fix. 
Patterson Hood – Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance  
Superb storytelling & campfire songs from the Drive-By Truckers frontman
Substantial – Home Is Where The Art Is  
Rap steeped in life and learning from the Maryland MC
Hollie Cook – Prince Fatty Presents  
Superb Dub Reggae versions of Hollie Cooks debut
Tanya Lacey – Head Chef  
A real talent from Bristol, if you like Kelly Rowland then this will appeal
THEESatisfaction – awE naturalE  
Cool & sassy beat meets RnB, will appeal to fans of Erykah Badu, Georgia Anne Muldrow


Up Pohnpei, Paul Watson
A book that was hard to put down (and caused me to be tired at work for a few mornings!) Watson tells the story of two plucky Brits venturing into the unknown from their comfy couches in West London with the aim to coach an Island team of misfits to international glory. A fantastic book and highly recommended especially if you're into sports and football.

The Life & Times of Sam Cooke, Daniel Wolfe
A compelling read and recommended reading for any fan of Sam, soul or American black politics from the mid fifties into the early sixties. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Crossing

A lonesome figure walks across snowy tundra on the second album from Brooklyns finest.

With a debut album of instrumental funk that contained plenty of refreshing summer grooves, Tommy Breneck & co. follow with an altogether more wintery record of blues and thought provoking melancholy on The Crossing.

I've got to be honest, pretty much everything about this record is likeable. Stop right there i hear you say, 'that means this review will probably be pretty boring and full of compliments'. But it's actually the imperfectness of the record that creates it's beauty.

For instance, there's a sort of wearyness to the sound of most of the bands instruments, the kind of sound a horn would make when it's been on the road alot is apparent here and for that reason it's a little dog eared in places but full of charm.

Opening with the title track, MSB make the most of intricate harp play as it's tempered by a Knightrider-esque bassline and equally as cool, without the kitsch.

Lights Out sounds like a Bill Conti soundtrack, an uplifting call to battle  that Rocky would have been pleased to train to. Later on in the album we're taken to another soundtrack scenario on Seven in The Wind. Three men staring at each other ready to draw weapons. Ennio Morricone could have written this record and with it's slide guitar reverb and slow horn play, it's completely engrossing.

And if this album veers away into melancholy and recession blues, then the only exception is the sunny 'Everyday a Dream' which could have easily fitted onto the bands first album Make The Road By Walking.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Inside My Love- The Decoders

I stumbled upon this cover of Minnie Riperton's classic 'Inside My Love' and felt moved by the spirit to share this with you.

Wax Poetics backed Los Angeles band The Decoders have been lovingly re-interpreting a few Rotary Connection songs recently including I Am The Black Gold of The Sun and Les Fleurs.

It's not that it veers wildly away from the original, it's more the fact that it sticks to it closely but the groove is more reggae than soul and the introduction of a fantastic breakdown at 3.08 onwards sets it apart.

Music has the power to inspire, lift the soul and make us thankful of the work God gives our hands to do so this thanksgiving i'm thankful for many things but music is one of them and this cover is so so good.

Anyway, this is The Decoders::

Also please check out the recent post on the forthcoming single by the super talented NiTasha Jackson, she's going to be a star!

Friday, 16 November 2012

NiTasha Jackson- Start Again

One of the most beautiful songs i've heard this year, a stunning record from Franklin Tennessee singer songwriter NiTasha Jackson. If this was Christmas no1 this year it'd be very deserved! Out on iTunes from December 2nd

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Playlist: Soul Trip 1970-'74

I've been noticing more and more recently how much good soul music came out between 1970 and 1974 , so i put together a playlist. Below i've gone through my track choices, enjoy!

Opening with a new discovery for me, the Impressions 1973 album Preacher Man, recorded after both Curtis Mayfield and Leroy Hutson exited the band, this is a very good album considering. And the song Find The Way just really stood out.

Minnie Riperton – Reasons
Minnie Riperton has a stunning voice, and provided the vocals to the Chess Records group Rotary Connection. 'Reasons' was taken from another album also from '73  , 'Angels'. This is just a great soul rock tune and a marked departure from her better known downtempo records (Loving You, Inside My Love, Les Fleurs). 

Sly Stone – Family Affair I can't say i'm into everything Sly & Family Stone released but Family Affair is by far and away one of their finest records. The sound on this record is very warm too.

The Staple Singers – If You're Ready (Come Go With Me) - Single Version
Staple Singers were counted as a reference point on Phantom Limbs newest record 'The Pines' (check it out if you get a chance). If You're Ready was a bit of a hit for the country soul singers back in '73. What i like about this is it actually links in quite well to some of the music James Brown was backing around that time, the likes of Marva Whitney and Lyn Collins 1972 song 'Think About It'. Lots of sunshine soul.

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass Jr. – Wake Up Everybody - Single Version
I cheated a bit on this song. It was released in 1975, but recorded the year earlier. A good song of unity, and who doesn't like Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes?

O'JAYS – Back Stabbers
Seminal, funky hit this for the O'Jays via the thriving Philadelphia International label and sampled and re-recorded numerous times, notably by Ronnie Foster, Angie Stone and more recently B.O.B. 

Curtis Mayfield – Give Me Your Love (Love Song)
Curtis Mayfields Superfly album was thanfully released (of course) within this period so it's only right I list my favourite track from the album, Give Me Your Love. All instrumental at the start it's bumpy groove with good percussion, harp play and wah guitar give way to a string orchestra. Very very accomplished and that's before Curtis' fine vocals comes in.

Bobby Bland – Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City
A good song for my cities playlist, Bland laments the lack of love in the city and raises a challenge for us urban dwellers. Soul certainly meets rock again in this song though he never quite rocks out, relying instead on his well weathered voice to lift the song.

Gwen McCrae – 90% of Me Is You
As with a few other artists i discovered Gwen McRae via a sample, which in this case was Cassius' 'Feeling For You' from the album '1999'. Other than the hit that spawned that 'All of This Love That I'm Giving', 90% of You is a fine languid journey into soul and a perfect example of what makes this period of time so fruitful. Excellent instrumentation and no corners cut. Some of her other records were a bit more Rnb and discofied such as Funky Sensation so this felt like a good fit.

Stevie Wonder – Look Around
I nearly didn't add Stevie but then I took myself to one side and had a good stern chat with myself. This one's from his 1971 album Where I'm Coming From.

Esther Phillips – Alone Again (Naturally)
Esther Phillips, a troubled genius of a singer, her album Alone Again, Naturally should be more popular so no surprise she forms a big part of this playlist.

Marvin Gaye – God Is Love
Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
Marvin marvin marvin.. These two tracks are highlights amongst many from his seminal and political 'What's Going On' (as i write this Obama has just been re-elected!). An artist who gave us a great deal.

Bill Withers – Who Is He (And What Is He To You)?
Even though I own a Greatest Hits collection, I didn't feel it was an authentic appreciation of the legend that is Bill Withers so i bought his debut Still Bill, when i was last in Bristol. Who Is He &What Is He To You is standout.

Roy Ayers – Hummin' In The Sun
8 albums by Roy Ayers sit in my music racks here in London so I couldn't really omit him from this playlist. Hummin' In The Sun was a bit of precursor to Everybody Loves The Sunshine, Ayers laying a big ol kick back groove in '71

Black Sugar – Too Late
Black Sugar aren't that well known but i discovered them recently so i thought it'd only be fair to include some upbeat peruvian funk here.

Kool & The Gang – Summer Madness
What's to be said about this tune that hasn't already been said. If i could discard songs like Ladies Night and Hollywood Swinging i probably would in favour of this slice of instrumental mastery.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


The second album from Aussie group Tame Impala is one of the finest albums i've heard in a long while. It's space rock, very psychadelic and sonically brilliant.

The breathless big beat intro of Be Above It sets the scene, as amongst the rough synth sounds Kevin Parker sings 'I know i've got to be above it now' with plenty of reverb applied. The spaceage stuff really gets underway with Endors Toi, a trippy instrumental before the more poppy Apocalypse Dreams ' which has a basstastic bridge, reminiscent of John Lennon. The filter heavy swirl during Mind Mischief reveals Parkers higher range in which he confirms 'she remembers my name', a small victory for any boy wishing to court a girl.  Keep On Lying is my choice on this album and sounds a little bit like Serge Gainborough, with the punctuating laughs evoking his song 'En Melody' . A nice guitar solo, heavily distorted as many instruments are on this album, is propped up a sweet organ similar to the one the Doors used in their classic Light My Fire. 

As the album reaches its final quarter, the stomp of Elephant is about as far as these Aussies ventue towards 70's glam rock territory, but it sounds authentic and they're not wearing star rimmed glasses either (yet). Before the albums out we're treated to another highlight with the more electronic 'Nothing Has Happened So Far..' then the finale 'Sun Comes Up' in which they tell us the sun has come up and it's over, followed by some nice end sounds courtesy of guitar pedals and plenty of reverb where it sounds a little like Sun Araw's latest effort.

Lonerism is as complete an album, a piece of art, as you're likely to hear this year, maybe this decade. So make sure whatever music you're into you have a listen.

No surprise that it's been added to my approved albums of the year so far, check it out and subscribe to receive new album updates below :)

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


Recently I visited Totnes, a small Devon town that has a railway station,  one high street, lots of independent shops, at least 3 churches, more bars and plenty of tea rooms and coffee shops. It's also on the river Dart which makes for some picturesque scenery. There's a kooky-ness to it and in a Napoleon dynamite way they have a shop that just sells 'crystals', reminding me of the line in the film when Napoleons uncle buys a 'time machine' off the internet and Napoleon quips "have you put crystals in it yet?" .

No sooner had I arrived by train that i set out on my mission to visit the only indie record store within ten square miles - Drift. The store itself has also meandered up from it's previous location of left of the high street, to more left of the high street and across the road on the right.

As you walk up the high street there's a Morrisons, Holland & Barratt, whs and a Spar, 'nothing unusual there' you might say, but that's as far as locals will allow the big brands to invade as recently they have protested against a Costa opening there. Morrisons, whs, Spar and the other chains must be chuffed they got in when they did. 

Inside the shop everything is neatly laid out and categorised by genre including plenty of new release titles and there was a good selection of vinyl and dvds. There are write ups next to releases both old and new- good for discovery- and local artists such as Metronomy were afforded decent displays.

I had a good time chatting with Jenny who was behind the counter and a local called Jez who walked in. We had discussion about the Tame Impala listening party that night, van dyke parks, dylan and local musical luminary Ben Howard involving a little bit of controversy over selling his record a couple of days early because he signed the copies and people wanted to buy it. (Apparently EMI rang them up to tell them off for selling a handful of copies a couple of days early, prompting Howard to ring his label to plead their cause). They also played the Seapony album over the speakers which was a bonus point.

Heading back for the album playback that evening the counter doubled up as a bar with the options of hot drinks (tea or coffee, or coffee with a dash of whisky) or bottled beers. I arrived halfway through the Metz album (via Sub Pop) and stayed all the way through the excellent Tame Impala. I had a good chat with the store owner, Rupert, and we exchanged stories across all manor of subjects from the state of the music industry to fantasy football, writing for music press and where the nearest chip shop might be. Rupert has a big passion for music and for the record business so no surprise that the shop is as good as it is. He spoke about the constant tinkering including questions like 'are those blue lights right for the shop?' and all the changes he'd brought in plus the challenges of running a small business on a tight P&L basis, plus the visits to SXSW to promote new artists and running his own label too.

All in all a very worthwhile visit and a shop well worth checking out if you're in the South West.

Check out their website here (and buy something you like!):

Flyer for the Listening Party

Bag for CDs to go in

Friday, 28 September 2012

Until The Quiet Comes

Flying Lotus- Until The Quiet Comes

One thing i like about Flying Lotus, is give a month he's the same age as me (a spritely 29 at the time of writing, hack, cough, splutter).

>walks away to get some cough syrup and returns to keyboard.. <

The less good thing i've found about 'FlyLo' as he's known in some circles, is that I have trouble listening to his albums more than twice. They've been great, taken groundbreaking strides in production and pushed the boundaries of the sonic experience, but sometimes they've just been too experimental in places to play them again (or to launch him into the mainstream). Beyond the cool gazettes that now devote half issues to his latest release, he's struggled to cross over.

However that all changed for me when I heard this album.

The opening 7 minutes are glistening and beautiful as off kilter beats merge with glacial soundscapes, ideas and foley room sounds. The makes way somewhat as the album reaches it's midway base camp and increasing elements of jazz emerge, such as on All The Secrets, which see's Lotus pull out a few of his trademark glitches. This is immediately followed by the darker 'Sultans Request', punctuated by a heavy Moog synth, on a half dubstep beat.

Erykah Badu makes a welcome entrance on See Thru To You, with the drums getting a little bit more tribal amongst a the mesh of tamborine shakers. The last 20 seconds contain a very enjoyable reveal into the title track, Flying Lotus acting as the director whilst we sit in the cinema seat.

Thom Yorke joins in the fun (sort of) as he lends some pretty far out, spooky vocals to Electric Candyman, which proceeded after a quieter moment in 'Only if You Wanna', jazzy underlays punctuating just audible vocal melodies. Another collaborator who again helps out is Laura Darlington (wife of Ninja Tune signed artist Daedelus) who featured on the table tennis song in Cosmogramma and Los Angeles on AuntiesLock.

The low-definition moments are more frequent on this album compared to others and there's a breathing space here that previous LPs have lacked resulting in a richer listening experience. The frequent chops and changes, and general metaphysicality are enough for this to be much more than a coffee table album though.

An accomplished, accessible album from Steven Ellison, who raises the bar ever higher for his contemporaries. ****

Friday, 14 September 2012

Home Is Where The Art Is

Substantial- Home Is Where The Art Is

Produced primarily by Oddisee whose album 'People Hear What They See' was released just 3 months ago , the new album from Maryland MC Substantial, 'Home Is Where The Art Is' makes all the right sounds. In the usual Oddisee way, we have some great crate digging yet again with soulful samples galore.

Lyrically on point this is a grounded album concerned with community and its state of affairs whilst eschewing the materialism that seems prevalent in some rap circles. Perfect for the Autumn and changing seasons, you get the impression that he's appreciating life more too, with the album ending with the sung lyric 'i'm so grateful'.

"1990s boom-bap, soulful instrumentals, and furious record scratches" - The Washington City Paper

Listen to the album here:  BristolFunk- Approved Albums of 2012

Friday, 17 August 2012

Film: Searching For Sugar Man

London underground tube poster
One of life's worries can often be the questions 'will people remember me when i'm gone?', will people know i'm here when i'm here. Will there be a lasting legacy from my life?

From a Christian perspective, watching recently released film Searching For Sugarman threw up some interesting answers, amongst lots of questions.

So last weekend I went down to Cineworld Fulham for the first time ever and parted with £11 to see this film.
Before you read further, please note this article contains some spoilers >>

Mottled with beautiful shots of the city, amazing music, poignant interviews and archive scenes, this music expose documents the life of Detroit born singer Sixto Rodriguez.

Sounding a bit like Bob Dylan, Rodriguez' lyrics are steeped in love, politics and telling it how it is.

His debut album Cold Fact was produced by Motown's Dennis Coffey and released in 1971. The album was a commercial flop in his native US, but a single copy of record made it into South Africa, where it went on to shift 'half a million copies' either via bootleg or sold. The word of mouth was incredible and sold the record, even with todays media machine this is one of the ultimate examples of a recommendation from a friend being worth more than any advert.

By the mid nineties Rodriguez was still none the wiser to this, in the 20 years since he'd released an excellent follow up which also didn't move in any great volume in the US and had consequently continued to raise his family and work on building sites as a tradesman.

He simply had no idea how famous he was in South Africa. Luckily he had some super fans who tracked him down to let him know that he was a star out there. And in 1998 sold out shows ensued as he played in front of 20,000+ people. All those record sales, which he was never paid for, started to earn him some money which he promptly shared amongst friends. It was great to see him get the recognition so many people thought his album deserved, a real good moment in the film.

There is so much more to this story, but it's well worth watching. And Rodriguez's music? Timeless.