Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 20 – Nick Drake

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

1. **Hazey Jane II** from Bryter Later – the only thing I knew about Nick Drake was that he committed suicide by overdosing on antidepressants at the age of 26, so I was expecting something incredibly dark and brooding. Imagine my surprise when presented with this song, which sounds exactly like Belle and Sebastian, which is not a band that I associate with moodiness. It must have something to do with the jangly guitars, trumpet and skippity drums.

2. **Poor Boy** from Bryter Later – it wasn’t until I looked up the lyrics that I realised that the female vocalists weren’t singing “a bubble” but actually “oh, poor boy.” How can those two phrases sound anything like each other? Having got that very important message out of the way, this is a fairly pleasant bossa nova song with a sax solo. I like the way that Mr Drake’s voice fits this song.

3. **Cello Song** from Five Leaves Left – found this fairly dull actually, it doesn’t seem to reflect Nick Drake’s status as a renowned songwriter.

4. **At The Chime Of A City Clock** from Bryter Later – another song with a latin feel to it. Especially nice chorus, I like the bass and the violin in it. Another thing you notice when listening to this song is how dynamic Nick Drake’s songs are – he was evidently strongly opposed to excessive use of compression – the quiet bits are actually quiet. It’s something of a shame that this is worthy of remark.

5. **Sunday** from Bryter Later – this one’s the instrumental. It’s got lots of flute in it. Apparently my son is going to be a flautist, according to Karen’s mum. Something to do with the way he purses his lips. For this same reason, I think he’s going to be a professional raspberry-blower. His raspberries used to be quite subtle, but these days they’re very wet and very in-your-face. That’s not the way you play a flute, boy.

6. **Way To Blue** from Five Leaves Left – big strings. I have to confess, I found the lyrics to this song to be painfully hackneyed.

7. **I Was Made To Love Magic** from Time Of No Reply – conversely, I found the lyrics to this one to be quite interesting. Nick Drake confesses (not that he really needed to) that he can’t cope with people, but finds love in music. Are all the best songwriters depressed? Discuss.

8. **Strange Meeting II** from Time Of No Reply – a fairly miserable song that doesn’t do much for me. That said, I’ve barely listened to the lyrics, so I feel like I’m only reviewing half a song, if that. But, you know, that’s just the way that my brain works. If a song sounds interesting, I listen to the lyrics. If it doesn’t, then I allow my mind to wander. I could change, if I really wanted to.

9. **One Of These Things First** from Bryter Later – another song that shows me exactly how unoriginal Belle & Sebastian are. My whole world has been turned on its end. I can’t possibly review this song.

10. **Northern Sky** from Bryter Later – I’m very keen on this song, especially the way that the crescendo rises out of the instrumental. It’s a really nice love song, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the only love song that he ever wrote.

So, in conclusion: a mixed bag, but I’m glad that the playlist was selected by the Randomonominator, as Nick Drake is one of those artists that I probably should have exposed myself to sooner.

The next week’s playlist

We’ve decided that for the next few weeks, we’re going to change the format slightly. There’s a very good reason for this – we’ve got our tickets for the Green Man festival at the end of August, and so we’re going to use the stunt as a way of researching the various acts that will be playing. We’ll be using this Spotify playlist for material, but for the first week, we’re going to be listening to, and critiquing, Jarvis Cocker’s new album, *Further Complications*.

Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 19 – The Band

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

Didn’t think much of this playlist first time through, until I got to the final track, which really woke me up. I’ve listened to it quite a few times since, and am really getting a lot out of it.

1. **Caledonia Mission** from Music From Big Pink – I love the slight brokenness to the vocalist’s delivery, and the verse to this song reminds me of *One With The Birds* by Bonnie Prince Billy. The chorus is much more jaunty though. Piano and guitar really fit together nicely. And I like the way that in the bridge, the organ and backing vocals sort of merge together and become whole. Great bassline. Reminds me of the sort of basslines that I write.

2. **Up On Cripple Creek** from The Band – I love songs that tell a story like this. But who is Bessie? Is she the narrator’s mistress? A prostitute? Or a metaphor for alcohol? Quality singalong chorus. And it’s got yodelling. I’m considering suggesting this as a cover version for my band’s set list. Great bassline. Reminds me of the sort of basslines that I write.

3. **Whispering Pines** from The Band – not the most infectious song on the playlist, but undeniably a fine demonstration of songwriting, with a very restrained performance by all of the musicians which leaves the song with the right feeling of spaciousness.

4. **W. S. Walcott Medicine Show** from Stage Fright – it’s a good, fun song, but doesn’t strike me as exceptional in any way. Another very groovy bassline.

5. **Chest Fever** from Music From Big Pink – this song is massive. Immense organ intro, earth-shaking drums, soaring vocals. Hey, remember how I used to complain about hard-panning? Yeah, I’m going back there again. Bass and lead guitar both panned hard-right. It’s fucking awful through headphones. The chorus should have been more climactic too. It’s a bit of a shame, because I want this song to be perfect.

6. **King Harvest** from The Band – there’s not much wrong with this song at all. Oodles of different ideas all mixed together nicely, and with great coherence. Jazzy rhythms that make you funk along in your chair. Guitar solo is short, ending is a bit damp.

7. **It Makes No Difference** from Southern Cross – it’s a fine ballad, but it’s still just a ballad. I’ve heard so many ballads in my life, and this one just blends into the crowd. It’s drawn out to 6 and a half minutes by dint of lengthy guitar and saxophone solos. Why?

8. **The Shape I’m In** from Stage Fright – this one’s a sort of country ditty, fairly simple but singalongable. It can’t be denied that it achieves what it sets out for, though I’m not sure that it necessarily needed this many guitar and organ solos. Maybe they had a contractual obligation to make it 4 minutes long.

9. **Don’t Do It** from The Last Waltz – I’m not sure that I have the words to describe how much I like this version of this song. Great bass, piano, brass. Superbly co-ordinated. Exquisitely paced. It’s not a complex song, exactly, but it’s so well formed. It’s like the perfect omelette. It’s just eggs and milk and stuff, but when they are put together in exactly the right proportions, it’s a whole new experience. It’s originally by Marvin Gaye but there are also versions by The Who and The Small Faces. This one could beat all three in a fight, simultaneously.

10. **All La Glory** from Stage Fright – the first time I listened to this playlist I was barely listening, because I was so immersed in the book I was reading. But this song wrenched me out of it. It’s utterly beautiful, and the frailties in Levon Helm’s voice just make it all the more endearing. The last time that I was this overwhelmed by a song’s beauty was *When You Dream* by Barenaked Ladies. It’s quite a rare occurrence for me.

So, in conclusion: here’s the Spotify playlist because I really think there’s too many great songs in there to not share it. The last two songs, especially, are, in my opinion, unmissable. And The Last Waltz is now on my FILMS TO WATCH: URGENT pile.

The next week’s playlist

Random number: 102
Only one playlist on this page – Nick Drake. The book says:

> The ultimate cult singer-songwriter, Nick Drake’s idiosyncratic brand of reserved British folk-rock melancholy went virtually unheard in his brief lifetime – but that cult just grows and grows.

Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 18 – Flying Nun

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

Sometimes, on a playlist, there are one or two songs that are just playlist-filler. It turns out that this phenomenon propagates to the next level up, too. This entire playlist is book-filler.

1. **Nothing’s Going To Happen** Tall Dwarfs – perhaps I’m just very suggestible, but I felt like nothing happened in this song.
2. **Point That Thing Somewhere Else** The Clean – guitars playing the same thing over and over and over again. I feel like it’s playing fast and loose with the definition of the word “song”.
3. **Pink Frost** The Chills – cheery, upbeat lyrics about rabbits and kittens and no, not really, it’s about death. Start to finish, uninterrupted death. Not in a profound, inspiring or humourous way. Just in a really 6th-form, “hey isn’t death depressing” kind of way. The first 20 seconds seems to be a different song entirely. I wonder what happened there.
4. **Death & The Maiden** The Verlaines – it seems strangely ironic that a punk band from New Zealand, who can’t sing or play their instruments, would write a song that references a 19th Century French poet, a Munch painting, and a Schubert composition. It’s like putting a pile of gravel onto a plate and then christening it Raymond Blanc. If you called it gravel, no-one would be disappointed. “Yes, that’s gravel” they would say, and they could appreciate it for the gravel that it is. But if you try to dress it up as something higher, they’ll say “no, that’s not Raymond Blanc, now leave me alone, you lunatic.”
5. **Not Given Lightly** Chris Knox – the highlight of the playlist, for me. It’s friendly and light, clearly written with the intention of being excessively sappy (the author confirms it) but I’d rather listen to cheesy lyrics about love than four minutes of miserabling about death, and so to me this is more than just a novelty. It’s actually a very complete song.
6. **Nude Star** Garageland – very loud wall of guitars and ignorability in spades. I’ve been finding that I tend to tune it out until the last few seconds, at which point I notice that it’s finishing.

There were 10 songs on the playlist, but I have a certain “effort threshold” for obtaining the songs for this stunt, and obtaining the other 4 would have caused a violation of said threshold.

The next week’s playlist

Random number: 17
Only one playlist on this page – The Band. The book says:

> Psychedelic songsmith Robyn Hitchcock has been called the human jukebox for his ability to play any song, any style. For this book, he sent in an entry for The Band: “In Levon Helm, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson had three great character actors to sing his songs. Garth Hudson was the alchemist who found melodies on keyboards and horn that hadn’t ever been found before. Though Levon contends that the songs were not Robertson’s as much as Robbie claims, no one could accuse Robbie of overplaying.”

Doesn’t give much away, does it?

Music Stunt 2009

Stunt 2009: Week 17 – Tindersticks

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

It’s been quite a busy week, with fewer listening opportunities than usual. So far, with these stunt posts, I’ve reached the end of the week and been happy to move on to the next playlist, but with the Tindersticks playlist I actually want to listen to it some more! So I’m going to keep it on my MP3 player, I think.

1. **A Marriage Made In Heaven** from Donkeys – a nice song, but not the best on the playlist. We can get an idea very early on what to expect – nothing flashy, lots of strings, crooning male singer whose vocal technique is not the most tuneful, but definitely effective. I love the brass that comes in half way through the song – surprises me every time.

2. **Rented Rooms (Swing Version)** – the transition from the non-swing first half to the swing second half feels a little clumsy and really reinforces the fact that this is a song that has been swingified as a bit of a joke, really. I can understand where the desire to do this came from, but it still feels like a silly drunken gag that got taken too far.

3. **Kathleen** from Live In Amsterdam – this is great, very moody, very minor key, very Nick Cave. The urgency ramps up as the song progresses, and your pulse rate rises alongside. Nice execution.

4. **Her** from Tindersticks (The First Album) – lulls you in with some Spanish guitar and then goes all Misirlou on you. Very intense.

5. **Tiny Tears** from Tindersticks (The Second Album) – it’s got a chorus that has hooked itself onto my train quite tightly. It’s at about this point in the playlist that I realise that the vocalist is more or less incomprehensible. If you listen to this song with the lyrics in front of you, it’s actually hard to stifle a chuckle.

6. **She’s Gone** from Tindersticks (The Second Album) – I once wrote a song with the same title, but I don’t think it was as good as this. It was more of a “Hooray! She’s gone!” than a song which is, as far as I can see, about the sadness you feel when your child grows up and leaves home. Musically, this song doesn’t really stand out as anything special.

7. **Patchwork** from Tindersticks (The First Album) – pleasant, but by the standards of this playlist, it feels like 4:40 of filler.

8. **Can We Start Again** from Simple Pleasure – quite a bit bouncier than the preceding songs, this song pulls me along nicely. It doesn’t have a chorus, as such, just a great hook that occupies the last third of the song. It all feels like it’s over very quickly.

9. **People Keep Comin’ Around** from Can Our Love – a fairly groovy soul song, but fairly dull too. Check out the repetitive bass line. It’s not too bad as background music, but that’s like saying “it’s okay if you’re not listening to it”.

10. **Travelling Light** from Tindersticks (The First Album) – hmmm, it seems that if you take a man with a semi-tuneless vocal style, and pair him with a similarly-equipped female, you get a pretty rough end result. The chorus on this song annoys me fairly effectively too. But I love the sentiment behind the lyrics, with the male part trying to portray himself as someone who lives in the now, and isn’t weighed down by nostalgia, and the female part saying “sorry, fella, you’re full of shit, and you know it.” At least, that’s how I interpret it.

So, in conclusion: there are a couple of nothingy songs that don’t really have anything to make them stand out, but all things considered, this is probably one of my favourite playlists so far. It seems to have roughly the right balance of factors which is required the kind of music that I like to enjoy. It’s funny, I never realised that I had such fussy taste in music, but this stunt seems to be highlighting my criticalosity.

The next week’s playlist

Random number: 133
Two playlists on this book – Flying Nun and “Folk-rock (1): English & Irish”. Coin toss favours the airborne Sister. The book says:

> Famously feted by the late John Peel as a model independent record label, Flying Nun took punk’s DIY ethic (also a defining feature of New Zealand culture) and nurtured the “pop primitive” sound that defined Kiwi music from the early 1980s.

I’ve managed to find 6 songs online, but the other 4 only appear to be available by buying the albums, and they probably wouldn’t arrive within a week anyway, so FTFAGOD.

Blogging TITGIG

Malware removal

Google notified me that my site has apparently contained malware for a few days. And indeed it has – at some point after publishing Summer Calendar some miscreant apparently gained access to the WordPress admin account and inserted an iframe to some dodgy site hosted on

I have now deleted the admin account and removed the iframe (obviously) and requested that Google reindex my site to check that everything is good now.

Might be worth checking your own WordPress site for unexpected iframes.