- Twin Shadow – Slow
- The Decemberists – January Hymn
- Ellie Goulding – Your Song
- Clare Maguire – Hope there’s someone there (Antony & the Johnsons cover)
- There will be Fireworks – Says Aye
- Biffy Clyro – Many of Horror (When we Collide)
- Funeral Party – Youth & Poverty
- Perfume Genius – Mr. Peterson
- The Veils – Grey Lynn Park
- Lykke Li – I Follow Rivers
- Jessie J – Do it like a Dude (Acoustic)
- Tennis – Waterbirds
- Peter Bjorn & John – May seem Macabre
- Elbow – Lippy Kids
- John Grant – Where Dreams go to Die
- Sleigh Bells – Rill Rill
- James Blake – Limit to your Love
- Chase & Status feat Plan B – End Credits
It’s January 2011 and the Atlantic rain is driving in on the unlimited causeway of my mind as I sit in one of the quieter moments of another new start, new year. As always at these times, I have the music. Unceasing, unquenched, always new, it moves in from the sea, like the damp mists of Telscombe Cliffs to where I have returned, in the lee of the great South Downs. I have donned the sharp clothes of an ad man again, writing bespoke words and opening doorways to bright new futures for people who are passing through the same door in the opposite direction.
The music is pregnant with bright shiney new musicians singing about life and loss like babies with age lines. Incongruous but oddly moving. One such, George Lewis Jnr calls himself Twin Shadow, and hails from the Dominican Republic by way of Florida and recruits his muse from British electronic music of the 80s, reminding me of a defunct band called White Door. The languid, dangerous menace of ‘Slow’ suits my mood.
The Decemberists are a five-piece indie/folk rock band that formed in 2000 in Portland, Oregon, United States. The band currently consists of Colin Meloy (vocals, guitar), Chris Funk (guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, pedal steel), Jenny Conlee (organ, piano, accordion), Nate Query (electric/acoustic bass, cello) and John Moen (drums). This track is from ‘The King is Dead’ and is about the month in which I am writing. They sound English, more homegrown than me even. For this I am impressed and slightly intimidated, like someone who catches himself in a mirror by accident.
Ellie Goulding re-released her huge album of last year ‘Lights’ with five additional tracks including this one. Your Song by Elton John was a bedroom cornerpiece of my youth and her version is melancholic – in a prim kind of way, but wonderful, and like someone has left her world. I find it oddly reassuring.
Clare Maguire is a singer songwriter signed to Polydor Records. Maguire comes from a large musical Irish family and started singing and writing music from the age of 7. She was announced on the 3 January 2011 as 5th place in the BBC Sound of 2011 list of the top 15 most promising new artists. Clare was also singled out as one of MTV’s Brand New: For 2011 Acts. This version of the Antony & the Johnsons song is haunting with her voice a-quiver over the imminent prospect of illness and death. Beautifully, spectrally gloomy.
There will be Fireworks are Scottish and are proud of it. This song is complex, fragile, moving, singing about the fragility of love, life and the start of whatever the adventure may be. They were probably disgusted about Biffy Clyro’s song being hijacked by a Saturday night reality show. Just say yes, or Aye in the vernacular. Speaking of Biffy Clyro, let’s remind ourselves of how good Many of Horror was before a decorator from Essex got hold of it.
Funeral Party hail from East Los Angeles but sound like they hang out in Clacton fun arcades. They wail about the frailty of youth and its poverty. But the noise they make is a mighty one and they will adorn a million bedroom walls before the year is out.
The plaintive piano of Perfume Genius aka Mike Hadreas seduces you into this song about Mr Peterson. He made Mike a tape about Joy Division when he was 16 before jumping off a building. I can feel the walls of my room wobble a little at this point. But let’s continue.
Mike Hadreas comes from Seattle, Washington. Perfume Genius began when he moved from New York to his mother’s home in Everett, WA. His story is subversively tragic enough, and beautiful in its own way.
Finn Andrews has the utlimate pre-narcoleptic voice. ‘You are born and then you die.’ The Veils (formed in 2002) are a NZ band based in London, fronted by Finn Andrews. Their live shows have become famed for their emotional intensity and Finn’s often scarily possessed stage presence.
They released their debut album, The Runaway Found, in Spain late in 2003. The first single from the album, Lavinia, was released through Rough Trade on November 24, 2003. They released the album globally in January 2004 with a different track listing. It went gold worldwide the following year.
The original lineup of The Veils (which included Oli Drake, Ben Woollacott and Adam Kinsella) disbanded in late 2004, and Andrews returned to New Zealand in order to find a new lineup. He spent the New Zealand summer rehearsing with high school classmates Liam Gerrard (keyboards) and Sophia Burn (bass), and the trio returned to London early 2005. There they got connected to Dan Raishbrook (Guitar) and Henning Dietz (drums). However Liam Gerrard left the band half way into their American tour in 2007.
The group recorded their second album Nux Vomica at Underbelly Studios in Los Angeles, with producer Nick Launay, and the album was released September 18, 2006. This song is like a penumbral passer-by in the fog glancing up into your eyes for a second before disappearing into the mist. Away right in the ocean a foghorn blows a muffled cry, no-one hears.
Lykke Li released her debut album, Youth Novels, on LL Recordings in the Nordic region on 30 January 2008, prior to a wider European release in June of the same year. The album was produced by Bjorn Yittling (of Peter Bjorn & John) and Lasse Mårtén. Her voice is effortlessly melancholic, like a ghost caught between walls. There is distant puffs of smoke warning of activity in the Scandinavian department, and there is more from Peter Bjorn & John coming.
Jessie J (born Jessica Ellen Cornish in Essex – a beautiful and picturesque part of Olde England), is a singer-songwriter. First jutting above the parapet as a songwriter for artists including Christina Aguilera and Miley Cyrus, 2010 saw her doing it for herself. Jessie J released her debut single ‘Do It Like A Dude’ in January 2011. Her debut studio album tentatively titled ‘Who You Are’ is scheduled for release In February.
In Dec 2010, Jessie won the Brit Awards’ Critics Choice prize as the artist most likely to break into mainstream music within the next year. This track strips the pop waste from her current single and shows off her voice which is endlessly versatile and sounds like a tributary of the Delta Blues.
Tennis is Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, a husband-wife duo. The idea for the project began one day a couple of years ago when Alaina made fun of Patrick for playing Tennis in college, apparantly because it is a blueblooded plaything of a hobby. A year later the two fled their hometown Denver to spend eight months sailing and exploring the North Atlantic coast. During their adventures they began writing music together documenting their experiences. They remind me of a lighter, more colourful Pacific version of Everything But the Girl, and all the better for it.
Peter Bjorn and John were formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1999. Made up of members Peter Morén on vocals, guitar, and harmonica; Björn Yttling on vocals, bass, and keyboards; and John Eriksson on drums, percussion, and vocals. Their new album ‘Gimme Some’ is tougher, more attitudinal and nothing like their best known song, ‘Young Folks’ . They sing: ‘It may seem macabre, but it’s beautiful’ – their finger on the softly beating pulse of contemporary culture as usual.
Elbow is named after a line in the BBC TV mini-series ‘The Singing Detective’ which posits that the word “elbow” is the most sensuous word in the English language. Try it. ‘Elbow’ – you see, it is. This track is from the forthcoming album, ‘Let’s Build a Rocket Boys!’ The smokey, grimey back streets of Manchester collide with wistful nursery rhymes and matchstalk men. Perfect.
John Grant is the lost cousin on the Bella Union label which gave us Midlake and The Low Anthem. Grant’s album ‘Queen of Denmark’ was voted by Mojo magazine as their album of 2010. The duck has turned into a swan. This is my favourite track. The delightfully morose ‘Where Dreams go to die’ moves through your consciousness like a stately hearst. There’s a lot of death about. Fortunately, the funeral is beautiful with a gorgeous soundtrack.
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Sleigh Bells is the musical collaboration of Derek E. Miller (songwriter, guitarist, producer) and Alexis Krauss (vocalist, lyricist). The two met and formed in 2008, when Miller was waiting tables on Alexis and her mother at a neighborhood Brazilian restaurant. When Miller mentioned that he was looking for a female vocalist for a new musical project, Krauss’s mother immediately volunteered her daughter. Their album featured in everyone’s Top ten albums of 2010. The future’s happening. ‘Pick up the phone then’, they murmur. ‘Have a heart’, they suggest. Then break it.
James Blake is a young British electronic composer wunderkind who graduated from Goldsmiths College as recently as 2009. Pioneering the new slow Dubstep movement, he exhibits his haunting tenor voice on the cover of Feist’s (‘Indecision’) ‘There’s a limit to your love’. ‘Like a waterfall, it’s slow’ he avers. However, sometimes slow is good, slow is beautiful and slow can take as long as it wants.
Plan B has become a multi-platinum recording artist, yet back in 2008, when Chase and Status asked him to sing on this club anthem, everyone thought he was a grime-soaked street rapper. This changed all that.
So here it is, the sinuous movement of raindrops caterpillaring down the windowpane set to music. It’s January and I’d like you to share it with me.
The soundtrack starts here: http://www.mediafire.com/file/xr88vi8ebf731kr/January%202011.zip
Roy, you know I’m not a music fanatic, but I love the beauty of this blog. The way you grasp language, add meaning, and draw richness into the reader from your poetic descriptions is delicious, feeding mind and spirit.
I felt I should fulfil my calling as your guide in good music – and have produced the January list as a crash course in the artists who will help define this year. I like to have a selection of really good music to accompany me on my journeys in the car – and this was too good to keep to myself. Of course you could, if you wanted to, read all sorts of other things into it!
I appreciate your comments though – very much written as a flow of consciousness.