The Reverse RR: A song about __________ 29/12/2011

With the Guardian elves/trolls snug in their beds/locals for the holidays, there’s no RR this week. So we’ll have a RRR (Reverse Readers Recommend) here. Instead of songs that fit (or, ahem, don’t) a topic, we want topics that fit Nirvana’s In Bloom

Here’s the original plus a cover for people who don’t like loud songs. 

Who is it that sings along to songs he doesn’t understand?  Or is it the gun he doesn’t understand? What’s weather/nature got to do with it? Selling the kids for food?

Extra Spill points for justis which cite other songs. There will NOT be a judges’ ruling at the end.  Consensus rules, baby. Have fun.

The Reverse RR: A song about _________

With the Guardian elves/trolls snug in their beds/locals for the holidays, there’s no RR this week. So we’ll have a RRR (Reverse Readers Recommend) here. Instead of songs that fit (or, ahem, don’t) a topic, we want topics that fit a song. There will be extra Spill points for justis which cite other songs. There will NOT be a judges’ ruling at the end.  Consensus rules, baby.

The song is: ____________ he he, you’ll have to wait for 10 p.m.

‘Spill Challenge #34 – A Song By Any Other Name

Rosa 'Madame Pierre Ogier'

Hi everybody! I thought there was a queue for the next Challenge, but nothing’s appeared. So…I’ve been thinking about the marketing of music, and specifically about those songs where the name of the song doesn’t appear in the lyrics of the song. And it struck me that this is really not sensible in terms of marketing a song – what about the times when you’re in the record shop and you just can’t remember the name of the snigle you want? You’ve been singing it ever since you heard it on the radio, and so you try singing it to the person behind the counter in case they happen to know the name…And it can potentially get very embarrassing. (Less so, of course, with album tracks. But they do count for this challenge – it doesn’t have to be a snigle. It does have to have words though. Obviously.) There’s no point looking for it on iTunes or Spotify either, because you’ll never find it.

So for this week’s challenge I’m asking for songs where that is the case. And I don’t mean songs where the name’s in the lyrics but the words are in a different order. For instance, the phrase Mary Jane’s Last Dance doesn’t occur in the song of that name – but “Last dance with Mary Jane” does. That does NOT count.

For a reason that may already be apparent, we’re going to stick strictly to the rule about each artist/band only appearing once in the blog this week. (Otherwise, someone whose singing several of you don’t like at all is going to be taking up far too much space.) And as a supplementary challenge I’m asking: why? Why did they call it that?

Why? Well, apparently Stephen Stills said to someone “I have this song here, for what it’s worth, if you want it.” It was originally recorded by Stills’ then band, Buffalo Springfield, and is often taken as an anti-war song, though it was actually written about a street demo in LA protesting about a proposed curfew. (I like the TP&TH version a lot too.) I was going to post the Muppets’ take on it but couldn’t resist Neil’s sideburns.

For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield

Jimmy is one

He stands up when he plays the piano

Well, his auntie’s song about him didn’t make it to the MK Christmas Number One slot – but it was the Christmas Number Two! Here it is again on Jim’s first birthday, just to remind you – and thanks very much to those who voted for it.

I won’t be visiting Jimmy in Texas in March this year as I’d expected (I blame Tom Petty and, indeed, it is his fault), so when I finally get there at the end of April Jim will be EVEN bigger, and walking of course and talking a lot more than now. (Dear Zoo is Doo! Doo!) Can’t wait. Hope he likes TP, as we’re all going to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival together.

Jolly Yuletide Quiz

Having found all the Grauniad quizzes and the crossword far too taxing this year, I have devised a little light hearted quiz to take my mind off having to go back to work tomorrow. I hope you are all having an enjoyable time, and are looking forward to the New Year in spite of the doom and gloom pervading the news. Please join in, if you’re in the mood for frivolous distraction. Apologies if we’ve had any of the questions before, but here we jolly well go:

1. Amazon recommends … what is the strangest combined offer you’ve had from Amazon (or anyone else) this year?  Mine is “6 pairs mens thermal socks size 6-11; The Bed of Procrustes – Philosophical & Practical Aphorisms; Ben Ten Galactic Racing and Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diababte.”

2. Do you have a Christmas tree? If so, what is on the top? As you can see from the photo, we have the Bogeyman – handmade by a ghost of Christmas past. Can you top it?

3. What present are you struggling to be grateful for this year? And does it make you think the giver just doesn’t know you at all, or that they know you too well? Mine is a voluminous pair of ice-cream pink flannelette pyjamas with cats on – my efforts to project my image as a hard-driven career woman / cougar / middle-aged sex symbol have obviously failed, thus far. Perhaps I’d do better with Amazon.

4. What percentage of your Christmas cards includes a portrayal of an animal or bird of some kind? (Warning: this may involve standing up and using brain). Mine is 50%, including a turkey on the mast of a lifeboat. Go figure, Amazon!!

5. What did you have for Christmas dinner, and are you still eating it? In my case, Mr Munday brought us a shepherdless shepherd’s pie (green lentils) – I had some yesterday in a stew and today it’s soup … meanwhile the cat is sulking and out looking for shepherds.

6. Tell us an amusing anecdote about Christmas – any Christmas. Mine is probably the year my brother fell down my other brother’s stairs in the dark, playing hide and seek with us kids, circa 1973. He wasn’t badly hurt but had the pattern of his string vest etched into the bruise. And the banisters were wrecked. Probably our last true family Christmas, for some reason …

Grace Under Pressure – an Elbow Retrospective

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The Little Band That Could; swirling, giddying, disorienting, romantic majesty; near made me cry; great; a teensy bit overrated; a national treasure; turning into Henry VIII; too many songs that rely on suspended fourths; big hooky hooks; Manchester’s Bury’s finest; better than black pudding! 

That’s what YOU said about Elbow!  And now that the Christmas fairy dust has had time to settle, the brussels sprouts are nearly finished up and the trifle is but a distant memory, it’s time to present the final Elbow spillOVER playlist for your edutainment.

I asked for your suggestions and I got more than enough.  As a bonus, there were plenty of instructive comments and some enlightening debate which kept me entertained for much of the day on Christmas Eve.

Trawling the long history of the ‘Spill (well, OK – I shoved the word ‘Elbow’ in the search box) I found sporadic references to Elbow starting as early as July 2008 with a blimpy/snadfrod item, which largely concerned the volume at which The Seldom Seen Kid should best be played, followed soon after by a gem of a shoegazer post requesting our nominations for best album by every artiste ever, which, as far as Elbow were concerned generated one vote for Cast Of Thousands and one for The Seldom Seen Kid.

Then, on 9 September 2008, DarceysDad posted his celebration of Elbow’s Mercury Prize victory – a post which is well worth a revisit:
http://thespillblog.co.uk/2008/09/09/e-is-for-elbow-and-for-eeebahgum-theyve-dunnit/

On 4 January 2009 came the announcement that Seldom Seen Kid had won the far more significant 2008 ‘Spill Album of the Year award and this was followed by snadfrod’s effusive review of Elbow’s 2009 gig at the Bridgwater Hall, Manchester accompanied by the Hallé Orchestra:
http://thespillblog.co.uk/2009/07/09/hallbow/

What I was really searching for (and didn’t find) was a post which I’m sure I haven’t imagined from an unknown ‘Spiller suggesting that Elbow might be the Band That All Spillers Like Or At Least No One In These Parts Actively Dislikes.  Whether Elbow represent this much sought after Eldorado (or should I say Elbow-dorado?) [No. Ed.] (‘Spilldorado?) [Still, no. Ed.] or not, it was perhaps significant that there wasn’t a serious buke to be heard – perhaps (in time-honoured ‘Spill fashion) Those About To Buke kept their collective heads below the parapet.  My hope is that they will now take the time to listen to this playlist and perhaps (like everyone’s favourite Deadhead) re-examine their Elbow-related feelings.  Of course, this list may have the opposite effect and convince Chris and others who hoped to be converted that Elbow are not for them after all.

A few notes on my selection. I decided to allow each ‘Spiller just one nomination.  I wanted to include one collaboration and one cover and after much deliberation I went for Murder of Birds with Jesca Hoop and Mercy Street (Peter Gabriel) to represent these two categories.  I loved the Elbow version of Independent Woman (which I hadn’t heard before – thanks shoey!) but didn’t feel that it was quite in keeping with the mood of the rest of the selection.  I also wanted to reflect one regularly-mentioned feature of Elbow – namely, their remarkable live performances: I have therefore included a couple of these in the list at the expense of the studio versions.

I think it’s fair to say that Elbow have long been on the ‘Spill radar and an overview such as this is arguably well over due.  I thank everyone for their contributions, hope that the final list meets their expectations (which of course are ‘great’) and, with a promise to spend more time on the ‘Spill in 2012, wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.

(Thanks to maki for making the playlist work and to tfd for offering to do the same.)

Track listing:

From: Asleep In The Back
01. Powder Blue – fredflinstone
02. Newborn (live in Amsterdam) – garethim
03. Scattered Black And Whites – DarceysDad

From: Cast of Thousands
04. Fugitive Motel (live on Jools Holland) – exodus
05. Grace Under Pressure – barbryn

From: Leaders of the Free World
06. Station Approach – saneshane
07. Forget Myself – blimpy
08. The Everthere – shoegazer
09. Great Expectations – ToffeeBoy

10. Murder Of Birds (Jesca Hoop) – barbryn

From: The Seldom Seen Kid
11. An Audience With The Pope – tincanman
12. The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver (live at the Mercury Prize awards) – glasshalfempty

13. Mercy Street (Peter Gabriel) – alimunday
 
From: Build A Rocket Boys
14. The Birds – ShivSidecar
15. Lippy Kids – bishbosh

Earworms – December 26

To sing or not to sing...

“Music is the cup which holds the wine of silence.”
Robert Fripp

Charlie Haden and Carla Bley – Silence
I don’t know if this will divide opinion. It certainly takes a long time to get nowhere in particular but I find it utterly mesmeric, much like the (Haden and Bley arranged) Liberation Music Orchestra take on We Shall Overcome. This is sustained, mournful minimalism and every splinter of emotion is felt all the more like a death knell.
May1366

Horse – Careful
Zalamanda’s “Wichita Lineman” nom reminded me of this late 80s single, the B-side of which was Horse’s take on the song. One of several records from that era that were forever being re-released in the hope of making them a hit (see also “Mary’s Prayer”, “Dignity”, etc). I’ll be interested to hear what people think of this. I veer between loving it and thinking that that bizarrely tremulous foghorn voice is doing battle with the strings (and the lyric) rather than complementing them.
bishbosh

Yoshida Brothers – Storm
From the recently-purchased Best Of Yoshida Brothers – ありがとうございます。Sakura-chan – I give you a shoo-in for the theme to the next Oriental-located Bond/Bourne/Powers/Johnny English film.
DsD

When Saints Go Machine – Fall Forever (Nicolas Jaar Remix)
This track, Fall Forever, from Danish electro-pop band When Saints Go Machine, is too good not to send in. After Efterklang, I’m beginning to think there’s something good in the water in Copenhagen.
glasshalfempty

Davy Spillane Band and Rory Gallagher – One for Phil
Davy Spillane plays the uilleann (Irish) pipes, and Rory Gallagher hums and plays guitar on this much-too-short tribute to Phil Lynott. Rory Gallagher probably needs no introduction, but Davy Spillane may be less well-known. He was a founder member of Moving Hearts with Christy Moore and Donal Lunny in the early ’80s. He has subsequently worked with many other musicians including Rory Gallagher and Andy Irvine. His album “East Wind” (with Andy Irvine) inspired Riverdance in the mid ’90s. I think he is a fantastic musician and I love this track, but if you don’t like the pipes, best move on to the next selection!
Ali Munday

Ella Baila Sola – Amores de Barra
Marta and Marilia were a duo that wrote songs about being young in mid nineties urban Spain. Great observers of the fauna inhabiting the night. This one’s about one night stands or “Bar counter love” as they decided to call them. The lyrics are excellent – right down to the make up quickly applied in the loo to make sure of getting their man.
Mrs Maki

Please send submissions to earworm@tincanland.com – thanks! Hope you’ve all had good Xmases! xx

Christmas Greetings From London’s Groovy Carnaby Street

Hope that the citizens of Spilldom have had a great Christmas Day and for any that are struggling, when you’re lost and most alone, there’s always a song . . .  and here there are always friends to help you out with that and more.

In a very friendly gesture,  Jane Siberry has gifted two albums to fans and friends this Christmas.  As she says in her email, ‘Help Keep My Holiday Music Out Of Malls!’ –  I don’t want my holiday music to be idle. that’s when the trouble starts!

So if there’s room in your stocking now that you’ve eaten the Satsuma and whittled the lump of coal into a credible representation of a treble clef,  I’d recommend that you let your heart, hips and hard drive loose on:

Child (Live Christmas show with friends)

Shushan The Palace (Hymns of Earth)

Links take you straight to Jane’s zipfile download, all safe and seasonal, so hit that button, no time to lose . . . now where did I leave that glass of Talisker?

Merry Christmas x TY

Some Entertainment For The Wash-up?

Merry Christmas y’All!

By now you will have muzzle-loaded every form of carbohydrate known to man within the space of 24 hours, some of you will have gorged on the charred carcase of poultry past, many of you will have fearlessly guzzled a combination of drinks that you would consider inappropriate on the most lost of weekends, and then to cap it all merrily furred your arteries up with the combined contents of a dairy farm and a sugar plantation.

So there you are, in a stupefied state, knowing only too well that there are only two things which can revive you: the riches of the Spill and the mundanity of tidying up the kitchen by way of tribute to your chef.

Lucky for you to have chosen to log on in this post-prandial fug, for I have something to help you through the dishes and hopefully most of the pots and pans. It is a sublime confection of music, wit, bonhomie and friendship. I posted a fragment of this session on the occasion of tfd’s retirement and had held off posting the rest as I knew it would be a necessary yuletide palliative.

Brendan Croker and Kevin Coyne recorded an album in 2002 – the story of their meeting and how the music came together is explained in their interview segment with Andy Kershaw. The whole thing is pleasantly bonkers, with the interviewer seemingly happy to try and compete with the ludicrous ramblings of his guests.

I used to listen to this every Friday at 5PM to remind me that there was something to life other than work, although I think you will find it works well while taking care of the clear up. I am on a farm for Xmas and while I myself will not be able to join you today, I will be enjoying every bloated gluttonous second of it and the washing up too!

Happy Winter Festivals and See You Next Year ! ! !

Hi Everyone

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and New Year or Winter Festival.

I will be going home tomorrow until  6th January so I will not be around for a little while.

But I want to say a special thank you to everyone. We are quite traditional in my family and so we observe the traditional Shinto rites at this time of year, and so of course I will be remembering you all and your kindness in my thoughts and prayers.

The best thing about Tokyo this time of year are the winter lights and in the comercial, shopping and entertainment districts the streets and buildings and public spaces are lit with beautiful light displays. The photo is of the Meguro river near by my apartment (I did not take it of course!)

This is a nice video of the Winter Lights in  Sagamiko Park  which is a really nice park in the north suburb of Tokyo.

I am looking forward to next year so much ! ! !

Thank you ! ! ! !

Panthersan’s Top 11 of 2011 – Numbers 3 – 1

So here we are at the top three. These three were always going to be in the medals, but i’ve been deliberating over the final placements…not that it matters to anyone but me, I suppose !

So laydeezungennelman, I give you The Top Three…

3. Wild Flag – Wild Flag

To call Wild Flag a ‘Supergroup’ is being a bit generous to be honest, sure, Sleater-Kinney were incredible and deservedly legendary, but the Minders? Helium? W(ho)TF?! – it’s like calling Franz Ferdinand a supergroup ‘cos a couple of them were in The Yummy Fur! However, that they are a super group is indisputable. This debut (and I hope it’s not just a one-off project) is packed full of killer indie-rock tunes and is the sound of a group of friends getting together and having a whole lot of fun. There are none of the politics of Sleater-Kinney and no preachy messages, but when it’s such a huge lot of fun to listen to, this angle is not missed. Most of the band members are in their 40s but play with the hunger and sheer wide-eyed enthusiasm for MUSIC of a bunch of teenagers and shouldn’t that be what we all aspire to?

2. Josh T. Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen

As fromtman for the much revered (by me especially!) Lift To Experience, Josh T. Pearson is somewhat of a mysterious cult figure. After giving the world just one album in the form of Lift To Experience’s “The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads” in 2001, a sprawling, psychedelic masterpiece of a concept album, he withdrew from the spotlight. So, us fans had been waiting a good 10 years for a follow-up and here it finally is.
“Last of the Country Gentlemen” is extremely sparse and almost unnervingly intimate. Looonnnng (8 songs on a double LP that comes in at over at hour), s-l-o-w-w-w-w, drawn out songs of breathtaking honesty; love, lament, self-deprecation, self-loathing, and perhaps a touch of self-pity. Like it’s creation, it demands a lot of investment from the listener, but with a bit of patience and an empathetic ear, this is one very very special album.

1. Peaking Lights – 936

I first got a glimpse of the Lights from a track on a NNF singles club 7″ in 2010. I was bowled over and got the album as soon as it came out. I earwormed them back in June as my favourite album of the year at that point, and as the long Japanese summer wore on, the woozy dubbiness of “936” became a constant presence on my turntable and has remained so even in these chilled winter months. Peaking Lights are a husband and wife duo with an amazing record collection (cheers to GHE for the heads up on the incredible PL mixtapes) who live deep in the Wisconsin woods and build their own analogue synthesisers. They have no boundaries to what they chuck into the cauldron and mix up psychedelic noise and washed out dreampop with proper dub beats and real melody to create instantly hummable and completely original pop music.

So, there you go and it looks like 2011 has been another bumper year for for my beloved Not Not Fun records. My loyalty to the NNF cause was never in question of course, but they did seem to be treading water for a while back in 2010. Thanks in no small part to the influence of Amanda’s amazing new dance label 100% Silk, NNF have reinvented themselves this year to excellent and eclectic effect. Roll on 2012 !

Festive ‘Spill, 2011 – The Ones

Merry Christmas

I haven’t been around here much over the last month. We’ve had another couple of weeks of ventilators, feeding tubes and worry as Matilda has been in hospital in London with bronchiolitis. But she’s home now, much better, and asleep on my lap as I type. She’s not yet 7 pounds, and should be a month old tomorrow, instead of nearly 4. But she’s doing well, and we’re looking forward to Christmas together as a family.

Anyway, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all for the music and the company over the last year, and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Here’s a song with a winter-y, celestial choir-y feel (hoping I’m not gazzumping anyone’s Festive ‘Spill no.1):

Elbow – the spillOVER!

This is almost certainly the wrong time to be doing this.  I’m sure most of us are otherwise engaged with pre-festive period activities such as shopping, cooking, visiting aged relatives or getting slaughtered at the office party and thus ensuring that the New Year’s resolution has a ‘never again’ theme to it.

But I’ve chosen to ignore all that as this is about the only free time I have all year and if I don’t do it now, I probably never will. 

Here’s the idea, as promulgated by saneshane, of this parish…

Everyone who wants to play puts forward a track by Elbow, by way of a YouTube clip or a Spotify link or whatever means you have for sharing such things with the ‘Spill class.  I then, as Spillmaster, select the best ten (or 15 or 20?) to put together the ultimate Elbow playlist for the edification of those who wish to learn the finer points of Manchester’s Bury’s finest!

There are five albums to choose from plus numerous singles with interesting B-sides and a handful of pre-major label EPs.  Any live recordings?  Obscure collaborations?  Let’s make this the Elbow compilation to die for!

I’ll start the ball rolling by throwing out my current favourite taken from their breakthrough album, The Seldom Seen Kid. 

Readers Recommend: Songs That Should Have Made The A List

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It’s Thursday, it’s after 10pm, there’s something missing …so as no one else seems to have jumped in here’s a special Reader’s Recommend.

You know how it is – none of us are here to get A Listers, we’re just sharing and discovering music, engaging in banter, swapping recipes…but of course we know that somewhere deep down we do want A Listers , preferably lots of them, and it can get just a tad frustrating. That’s why as the year draws to a close I’m proposing we all deal with those festering asfaeries with some  A List Therapy! The idea is simple – compile your own personal A List of songs you nominated that should have made the A List. These can be the ones that would surely have been obvious shoe-ins,  donded by all and sundry, only to be inexplicably left out of the list. Or (more often in my case) they can be obscure personal favourites that, just for a moment, you thought, just maybe, the Guru will listen and realise what  a brilliant song it is.

The can be from any time in the history of RR, and in keeping with recent developments , The A List can be pretty much any length.

My non-A Listed A List to follow shortly..

Blimpy’s Best Albums of 2011

Okey Pokey lovely ‘Spillers, I’m going to keep this short and sweet, just to fill in a wee gap before the awesome ‘Festive ‘Spill Number Ones appear tomorrow. Music was a funny beast in 2011, what with being kept busy with baby Kit and getting my video production company off the ground there really wasn’t much time to even listen to music, let alone scour the more obscure recesses of the interweb. Consequently I seem to have been listening to:

A – Safe comforting noisy indie that reminds me of being seventeen (4 albums of 11, yes I am taking a lead from Mr Panther on this – 11 for 2011? Okay then!)

B – Cosy alt folk from Scotland (5 albums)

C – Mildly skewed but really quite poppy stuff (2 albums)

D – Laura Marling, of course!!

Here’s my list!

1. “Belong” – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

Going from twee indie roots to basically 1992 Smashing Pumpkins in the space of one album was always gonna be music to my ears. I played this to death, had a wee break, then played it to death again. My favourite song on it keeps changing too, which is a sure sign of classic status.

2. “A Creature I Don’t Know” – Laura Marling

This was inevitably also going to rank highly due to the ongoing obsession. This album was harder  work than her previous two, but paid off in droves. A modern folk record with guts, depth, beauty, truth, and playfulness too.

3. “Colour Trip” – Ringo Deathstarr

Basically if you took My Bloody Valentine, JAMC, and every other early 1990s shoegaze band, and threw them in a blender – this would be the result. Short record, immensely fun and noisy and melodic. One song sounds like it’s made out of springs. Any record that has the line “Hit me with your tambourine, there’s no such thing as much too loud” has to be ace.

4. “Black Rainbows” – Brett Anderson

This album really has dominated the last month of the year for me – Brett has his mojo back, and it’s passionate and grand and basically a rock record from start to finish. Had Suede released this instead of ‘Head Music’ in 1999, they would have put themselves in an unassailable position forever. Oh, and don’t forget that voice. That voice….man! That voice!

(This album may have been higher up the list, if it had come out earlier in the year, and didn’t rely so much on various fire-based metaphors :-)

5. “Past Life Martyred Saints”  – EMA 

Uneasy listening from EMA, raw lyrics match raw sounds, lo-fi grungey cathartic harshness punctuated with moments of beauty. Absorbing.

6. “Yuck” – Yuck

Yep, more grunge-nouveau on my list. Sigh. I bloody love it. Played damn loud. A lot.

7. “Melodies” – Reverieme

Cute, literary Scots pop folk. I can’t listen to EMA all the time…Reverieme did a cool interview for The ‘Spill, and made it into the Festive ‘Spill 3s too.

8. “Master Of None” – Jonnie Common

McBeck. You can’t help but smile to hear this. Plus has “Summer Is For Going Places” on it, which is maybe one of the best songs of the last five years.

9. “Only In Dreams”  – Dum Dum Girls

Super catchy sing-a-long surf pop like the best Bangles/Pretenders record you ever heard, but way, way better.

10. “That Might Be It, Darling” – King Creosote 

KC’s other release may have got more attention, but I’m an indie snob and you can only get this on vinyl from his gigs. So there!

10a. “Diamond Mine” – King Creosote & John Hopkins

But was an amazing album though…..

11. “Factorycraft” – Found

Weird guitar pop from Edinburgh. “You’re No Vincent Gallo” is a cool song.

I’ve been incredibly lazy and only made a Spotify playlist of ten songs (it’s not all on Spotify y’know) which you can access by clicking here. If anyone doesn’t have Spotify and wants to listen to some music, let me know in the comments. Also, if you have a top 10, a top 5 or a three or even a top 1 and can’t be arsed doing a whole post about it, why not put them in the comments? Cheers, and a merry Christmas to all you lovely, lovely ‘Spillers! X x X

 

Panthersan’s Top 11 of 2011 – Numbers 7 – 4

OK, now where were we? Oh yes, number 7….

7. Bonnie Prince Billy – Wolfroy Goes to Town

The impressively bearded one (AKA Will Oldham, AKA Philippe from Guess Who?) returns with his best album since his masterpiece “Master and Everyone” in 2003. Stripped back and sublime stories of love, god and fucking as boys, all delivered in that disarmingly rich and unmistakable voice that could surely be used to stop wars and unite nations and faiths.

6. Burzum – Fallen

XXWarning!XX Those with a stronger moral compass than I may want to skip this review altogether. The artist under discussion is a seemingly remorseless convicted murderer who has just served 15 years in prison for killing his former friend and bandmate, Euronymous, in 1994. He has also expressed extremely dodgy nationalist tendencies and is basically Not A Very Nice Man. Separation of artist and music is a difficult one that I don’t want to get into at Christmas (Hello, Phil Spector!), I just thought i’d give you the option of staying well away.

Black Metals’ most infamous bogeyman Varg Vikernes proves one again that he is incapable of making a bad record. This is his second album since his release from prison. (On a side note, he also made two albums when he was in chokey that are totally instrumental and kind of organey and ambient, as that was all the equipment he was allowed, and even they are great in my book – although not many other peoples!) and is his best since the seminal “Filosofeum” in 1996. The deliberately lo-fi sound is still retained, but this time it is shot through with memorable melodies and glimpses of light. Perfect for ironing to and evidence that Burzum still totally owns the genre he helped create 20 years ago.

5. The Horrors – Skying

The Horrors’ last album “Primary Colours” was my #1 album of 2009, so I was pretty excited at the prospect of some new material, but I have to admit that it took me a while to come around to this album. It wasn’t the fact that it sounds like Simple Minds – which it does a bit – I just missed the dark grandeur of the previous album. Repeated listens on the old iPod (gotta love the vinyl with free download code combo.) made me realise that what it lacked in gloomily epic indieness, it more than made up for in pure pop genius. “Skying” is packed full of glorious synth-swathed modern indie-pop classics. I also love the fact that they are changing and experimenting with each record and honing their craft as a band, to the point where they just might be the best band in the UK at the moment?

4. Noveller – Glacial Glow

As previewed in Amylee’s ‘chill out’ ‘Spill challenge, Noveller is one young woman (Sarah Lipstate), one guitar, a shitload of effects pedals, a looping machine and one hell of an imagination. This is an extremely fragile and beautiful album that works as a complete set but also has individual highlights. Unlike other similar artists and albums, it has real depth of character and emotion and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Perfect late-night listening.

Festive ‘Spill, 2011 – The Twos

Went to see the Captain, strangest I could find

I was contemplating doing another Festive Crossword when Sakura’s recent post put the opening line from Ship Of Fools in my head. Several hours of head-scratching later, I came up with this. If it ain’t exactly a Festive Crossword, it’ll do until the real one gets here, to paraphrase Sherriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country For Old Men.

Hopefully, this grid is usable if you open it in a new window. If not, let me know and I’ll drop it somewhere.

Answers next week.

OOPS: There’s a mistake in 1 down! Due to my imperfect memory, the answer is missing an ‘N’ (so should be an 8-letter clue, not a 7-letter one).

Please follow my mistake and omit the ‘N’. The clue doesn’t work otherwise. (A mistake in 1 down? Bloody amateur! – Ed.)

Oh, and tfd points out, quite correctly, that 27 across is (3,3), not (6)!