Kurt Vile tickets

Calling all Northern England-based slacker rock fans.

My brother has a couple of spare tickets for Kurt Vile and the Violators at Manchester Academy 2 on Saturday December 14th. £15 each (it’s sold out, he doesn’t to make a profit but does want to get his money back if possible). If you’re interested, email me – bb.jeffries(at)gmail.com.

An unlikely barbryn playlist

Since I’ve got a quiet afternoon, I thought I’d resurrect a pair of dormant ‘Spill series.

Way back in the mists of time, ToffeeBoy created the catchily titled Regular ‘Spillers Post Music That You Wouldn’t Really Expect From Them, Knowing Their Musical Tastes A Bit As You Do. And it’s been a while since we had a pick one/ditch one playlist.

So, here are 11 tracks that you probably wouldn’t really expect from me, knowing my musical tastes a bit as you do. There is no alt-country, Swedish indie pop or sensitive singer-songwriters. There is pop, R&B, hip-hop and dance from the 90s, 00s and even 10s.

You may pick a favourite and a least favourite if you wish. You are very welcome to suggest other tunes that would feel at home on this playlist. You may even find something you like.

Stick or kick: short stories

I’m going to ask your indulgence this week. You’re going to need to listen to the lyrics. And there are some long songs.

Following on from bishbosh’s spoken word list last week, here are 11 more stories – though these are sung, not spoken. There’s a vague theme running through them of people who aren’t what they seem – shape-shifters, play-actors, deceivers.

But which did you find unputdownable, and which would you, er, put down?

Artists and titles after the break…

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10 from 11 from 12

Snow business

I never got round to doing a post on my albums of the year last year. I’m sure this was a profound disappointment to everyone, so here are 11 tracks from records I liked which I don’t think featured on the Festive ‘Spill (my own choices apart) or other people’s list.

You know the rules. Pick your favourite, pick your 11th favourite. And please feel free to mention any songs or albums from 2012 to which the Spill’s collective attention should be drawn.

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Live review: Frida Hyvonen, Kings Place, London, 31 October 2012

No artist has got under my skin over the last few years quite like Swedish songstress Frida Hyvonen; I’m forever grateful to Lambretinha and ElDerino (where he?) for introducing me to her. So I wasn’t going to miss her one and only UK date this year, at Kings Place, a really rather wonderful arts centre in the really rather wonderful regeneration area around Kings Cross, yards away from the Guardian’s HQ.

I didn’t know what sort of gig to expect. The last clip I saw of Frida playing live was performing The Sound of Silence for Paul Simon at the Polar Music Prize (kind of like the Brits for Scandinavians), complete with full orchestra. She’s a big star in Sweden, and her new album, To The Soul, is full of big tunes and big production.

Tonight, though, we’re treated to a recital of rare intimacy. It’s just her and a Steinway grand, with a friend adding some understated backing vocals. The stalls of the concert hall are less than half full – there’s probably about 60 people, and half of them are Swedish. Halfway through she asks to have the houselights on so she can take a photo of us for her Instagram.

There’s nothing small about her performance though. She becomes totally consumed by her songs, her voice able to shift from detached Scandinavian coolness to unbridled passion. Some songs respond particularly well to this stripped down treatment. “Farmor”, from her latest album, is a highlight. An elegy for her grandmother, it’s perhaps overproduced on the record, but almost has me in tears tonight, as the huge chorus fades into a poignant coda that perfectly captures the reminiscences and chitchat of an old woman’s wandering mind.

Frida has a gift for taking an experience from her life and spinning it into something profound. So in “Picking Apples”, an impulse stop as she’s passing her late grandparents’ house sends her off into a reverie about families, mortality and writing her own epitaph. “Pony” is a nostalgic hymn to a childhood love of riding horses, with an undercurrent of sexuality (“The stable’s where you learned to be in charge and not take shit / Dressed for the occasion, leather boots and a stiff black whip”).

In between songs, she’s witty and a little shy. After “Dirty Dancing”, we learn that she never got round to putting a net on her chimney to keep the birds off, as her chimney sweep childhood sweetheart advises in the song, and had to call him back to do it a couple of weeks ago. She doesn’t, though, reveal what he thinks of the song – or whether she’s written a new one about this latest encounter.

She plays for a little over an hour, returning for a single encore: “December”, a sad, wry account of a visit to an abortion clinic. Presumably autobiographical, it’s an uncomfortable listen on record – when the singer’s only yards away, it’s painfully compelling.

Five minutes later, she’s sitting on the steps outside in the freezing cold, selling records and T-shirts. Like a besotted fan, I buy a CD I already own to get her autograph and a moment to chat. She’s currently without a label in the UK, and the latest album hasn’t been released here yet. That’s a travesty, and will surely be put to rights before long. In the meantime, I feel privileged to have seen her like this.

I’ve put together a Spotify playlist of the songs she played, possibly not in quite the right order, for anyone who’s interested:

EOTWQ: the return

Totally Extinct Enormous Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs: would you bring them back?

Anyone want to fill some time before the new topic goes up?

It’s a long time since we’ve had an End of the Week Quintet/Quiz, isn’t it? So long in fact that some of our newer members may not be familiar with the concept. You’ll probably pick it up quickly enough though. Basically, there are some questions, and you can answer them, if you want. One rule: on no account should questions or answers be about music. Unless you really want them to be.

1. Whatever happened to…? Well, who or what’s current whereabouts would you like to discover? (but not quite enough to look it up on Wikipedia)

2. What thing or idea would you like to bring back? (e.g. Top of the Pops, artificial colouring in Smarties, socialism…)

3. You can bring a historical figure back from the dead to help sort out the problems of the world: who and why?

4. Using your powers of resurrection once again, you can give a famous person who died young a full lifetime: who?

5. This time, you can restore an extinct species, lost natural wonder, ancient civilisation… whatever takes your fancy: what?

Hokey Cokey ‘Spill Game: Week 3

You vote one in
You vote one out
In, out, in, out
Shake it all about

You all know the rules by now. Or maybe you don’t. Actually, I’m not sure there are any rules, are there? Maybe. Who knows?

Here are 11 songs. Tell us which you’d save from a burning building and which you’d throw from a deflating hot air balloon. Or something.

It’s surprisingly difficult to choose a playlist with no parameters whatsoever. Tincanman began this game by trying to find the 10 most perfect songs of all time, so here are 11 perfect songs which particularly wanted you to hear them. I’m going to be terribly hurt whichever one you choose to vote off, so please be gentle.

Warning: may contain music of a melancholy and/or romantic nature.

Artists and titles after the break…

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About a year or so ago I did a post on 1991. Ever since, I’ve been wondering how I could possibly do a follow-up post, and have finally come up with the idea of doing one about 1992. Clever, huh?

1991 was a vintage year, bringing classic albums like Screamedelica, Nevermind and Blue Lines. 1992 can’t compare – NME thinks Sugar’s Copper Blue is the album of the year – but even so, whittling this playlist down to just 12 songs was hard.

Because when you’re 13-14 years old and just discovering the wonders of music, 1992 is bursting with amazing records. Melody Maker, NME and Select magazine are fonts of wisdom. Mark Goodier is a musical guru. The Chart Show indie chart is a highlight of the month. All my paper round money goes on cassettes from Our Price (usually around £7.99).

Here are a few of the things I was listening to… more about them after the break.

In the meantime, shall we pretend we’re doing a Festive ‘Spill for 1992? Let’s have your top 3…

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‘Spill Challenge [SUB TO FILL IN NUMBER]: Best of… bands

- “What’s your favourite Beatles album?”
– “Hmm, tough one. I think I’d have to say… the Best of the Beatles.”

I’d hazard a guess that most of us look down on Greatest Hits and Best Ofs. We’re the types who own the original albums, the 12″ singles, the rare bootlegs – not the rushed cash-in aimed at casual fans who buy 3 CDs a year, from Tesco’s.

But Best Ofs can be bloody brilliant. They do exactly what they say on the package: all the best, no filler.

Sometimes they’re a gateway into a band’s other records, or complement an album or two. But sometimes, that one compilation is enough.

So this week’s challenge is to pick a song from a Best Of or Greatest Hits collection that you love, but which is the only thing you own by that artist, and the only thing you need to own.

General views on Best Ofs are welcomed, as are tips for great tracks missing from nominated compilations.

‘Spill Challenge, anyone?

Tuesday night and all that…

All of us have discovered some wonderful music both here and on the mothership. This week’s challenge couldn’t be simpler, or harder:

What’s your favourite RR/’Spill discovery?

This is probably one of those where it’s best to go with the first thing that comes to mind, so here’s mine… I can’t remember the topic, but I’m pretty sure GarethI recommended it, and ToffeeBoy immediately donded it. Their recommendation was enough for me to click on the link, listen, and fall in love:

New Frida!

I discovered Swedish songstress Frida Hyvonen thanks to the Festive ‘Spill in 2009, and have been just-this-side-of-a-restraining-order obsessed since. She’s finally back after a long hiatus with an unlikely 80s-disco sound (wait! come back!). This is disco where hunters are shooting at bears in the forest in the dark depths of a Scandinavian winter. It’s really rather wonderful. Probably not to all tastes, but I defy you not to be singing along by the end.

The new album was out in Scandinavia last week, but doesn’t seem to have a UK release date yet, even digitally. Grrr. So I’ll just post one old song instead:

Out of Order

I recently stumbled across Lotte Kestner’s wonderful covers album from last year, Stolen. Lotte Kestner is the solo project of Anna-Lynne Williams, lead singer of Seattle dream-folk-shoegazers Trespassers William, and the album is a collection of understatedly gorgeous versions of songs by the likes of Bon Iver, The National and Vic Chestnut. It also has this version of New Order’s “True Faith”, which made me realise I own more New Order covers than originals:

I do love “Blue Monday”, but I’d never really realised there was a proper song underneath it until I heard Hannah Peel’s version:

Nouvelle Vague do that one too, but they also do an utterly loveable “Bizarre Love Triangle”:

Anyone got any more?

New Order (possibly incorporating Joy Division and side projects) would be another good subject for a ‘SpillOVERview… Anyone?

‘Spill Challenge Vol.2 No.1

It’s hard to remember what day it is at this time of year, but Tuesday night seems to have come and gone without a ‘Spill Challenge, so here goes…

We have a gloriously diverse range of music here. The complete absence of cooler-than-thou bragging and slagging off other people’s tastes is one of the main reasons I love RR and The ‘Spill.

Nevertheless, let’s not pretend that everyone likes everything everyone else likes. Christ, some of you don’t even like The Beatles… So this week’s challenge is to find a song we all love.

I’m not looking for something we can all tolerate, or understand the attraction of even if we don’t share it, or admire the technical ability of. Let’s try to find some music that everybody here would genuinely want in their collection.

Please don’t be contrary for the sake of it, or rude – but do be honest. Precious ‘Spill points for the most popular tracks…

Here’s my pick. You love this. Surely…

2011 leftovers

My favourite records of the year were pretty well covered by the collective wisdom of the Festive ‘Spill and others’ albums of the year lists. But there were a few notable omissions, so I thought I’d post them here.

Best Guitar Album:
Girls – Father, Son and Holy Ghost

I’m not sure there’s a single original musical or lyrical idea on the San Francisco band’s second album. This really doesn’t matter in the slightest when they steal so well, as exemplified here: hooky guitar riffs + plaintive vocals x slow build + hammond organ + Gospel-y backing vocal freak-out = timeless classic.

Best Americana:
Gillian Welch – The Harrow and the Harvest

There’s a reference to the year “nineteen hundred and ninety nine” in one song on this album. It takes you aback, since Gillian Welch seems to belong to another era, some American South netherworld of cornbread, sin and dusty farms. I first fell in love with her yodelling on “My Morphine” and she pulls off a similar trick on this track, somehow managing to melt your heart just by singing “Fa la la lee”:

Best Difficult Second Album With Bizarre 80s Inflections:
Bon Iver – Bon Iver

The story of Bon Iver’s first album is well-known: Boy loses girl. Boy holes up in log cabin in the backwoods of Wisconsin, lives on a diet of freshly shot deer to create a near-perfect album.

The sequel? Boy’s album becomes success. Boy records with Kanye West and gets covered by Ellie Goulding. Boy apparently lives on diet of 80s MOR to create another critically acclaimed album which somehow doesn’t grab me in the way the first one did. It’s not just the Bruce Hornsby keyboard – fair play to him for experimenting with the singer-songwriter sound palette – more that too many of the songs seem to float past without leaving any impression. Nevertheless, there are moments of crystalline beauty – like this one:

Best Album By A Favourite Band That Isn’t As Good As Some Of Their Other Albums But Is Still Very Good:
Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
(beating off competition from REM and The Decemberists)

Okkervil River records are usually growers, but the latest one is growing more slowly than usual. There’s a new depth to much of the music, but sadly the songs – so far – haven’t grabbed me. Still, an average OR record is still head and shoulders above most of the competition.

Actual Album of the Year
PJ Harvey, but you don’t need me to tell you that.

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):


So, REM decided to call it a day a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t exactly unexpected, and I can’t say I’m that upset. Even the most vociferous advocates of their later work – of whom I’m one – would admit that it’s been a case of diminishing returns for the last few years (I haven’t actually got round to buying the latest album yet, although that perhaps says as much about my music buying habits these days as the record itself, which sounds pretty fine).

All the same, they’re probably the greatest band to have bestrode the Earth in my lifetime, and I wanted to do something here to mark their passing. I didn’t discover REM till 1991 – my musical Year Zero – when Out of Time came out. My big brother quickly proclaimed them the best band in the universe, and, as in most things musical around then, I followed his lead. We acquired the IRS albums on cassette (mostly from French hypermarkets) while waiting with almost religious fervour for the follow-up – luckily Automatic for the People turned out to be one of the greatest albums we’d ever heard.

Anyway, I thought of putting together a playlist of my favourite songs, but abandoned that idea when it got above 50 tracks. So I’ve picked one track off each album – sometimes obvious, sometimes less so – in chronological order in the playlist below.

REM fans, enjoy. Lost REM disciples, hope you enjoy the later ones. REM doubters, please give it a try.

And why not post your favourite REM songs in the comments?


Meet Matilda… She was born on the morning of September 1, rather sooner than she was supposed to be: at just 28 weeks, weighing 2lb 9oz.

Everything is going as well as it possibly could be in the circumstances. She’s breathing on her own, and can cry, yawn, stretch, poo and grip your finger in her unimaginably tiny hands. One of the neo-natal nurses has described her as “verging on the obscenely feisty”, which bodes well for the next few weeks (the next 20 years, maybe not so much…).

She’s in an incubator on the special care unit in Brighton, and will be in hospital for many weeks. It’s not going to be an easy time, but after a rollercoaster few days, we’re looking ahead with hope.

This is the most moving song in the world:

Ikea, Volvo, Steig Larsson, etc.

I’m off on holiday tomorrow – catching a ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg in Denmark, then driving up to a cabin on a lake about an hour east of Gothenburg. So just wanted to say goodbye, and I’ll be back here in a couple of weeks. Unless our cabin has broadband, in which case I’ll see you in a few days.

I thought I’d leave you with some more Swedish music, much of it courtesy of the wonderful Labrador Records – “Sweden’s and the world’s finest purveryor of pop music”. (You can download a huge number of free mp3s here – thanks to Shane for the introduction).

Amy Winehouse RIP

Don’t know what to say really.

I was listening to Back to Black a few days ago for the first time in a while. It was as good as I’d remembered it. I said I hoped she’d get things together to record a new record – and for her own sake.

I’m shocked, sad, unamused that fate should snuff out yet another star at 27, and angry that a media that hounded, mocked, pilloried and generally did a troubled young person no favours will now inevitably be weeping crocodile tears (with a few morality lectures thrown in).

I hope history will judge her on the merits of her music. Half a dozen tracks on Back to Black are right up there with the greats – off the top of my head, I can’t think of many albums with a stronger opening 3 songs than “Rehab”, “You Know That I’m No Good” and “Me and Mr Jones”.

Here’s a fitting epitaph – a song that sounds like it was written for Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald:

AOTW: Joni Mitchell – Blue

I was expecting more fuss to be made over the 40th anniversary of Blue, which was a couple of weeks ago.

It is, after all, the definitive singer-songwriter record. Never before or since has someone distilled their joy and heartbreak, memories and dreams into such raw, beautiful songs. It’s intensely personal, full of characters and real settings and telling details, but all the more universal for that. It’s much more than a break-up album, or an album about depression, or travelling, or the end of the 60s and the death of hippy dreams, though it’s all those things.

The word that keeps coming into my head when I try to describe it is “yearning”. There’s an underlying sadness to the happy songs, and a tantalising hope in the sad ones: only a dull cocoon until I get my gorgeous wings and fly away.

If you put a gun to my head and told me to choose one record I could have in my life, it would more often than not be this one.

So, what does anyone else think?

Listen on we7

‘Spill challenge?

It’s gone 10pm on Tuesday evening, and I don’t think anyone volunteered to set a Spill challenge. If someone’s about to post, apologies – I’ll delete this, as I had my turn a couple of weeks ago. But if not, here’s one:

A song you’ve heard of, but never knowingly heard. I reckon you should post it first, then listen and give us your reactions.

Here’s mine. It’s embarrassing really. I know it’s a modern classic. It’s been A-listed twice, I think. I can even quote some of the lyrics. I reckon I’m going to love it. But I’ve never actually heard it:

The Nearly-New ‘Spill Weekly Song Challenge – Week 7

This picture has no relation to the rest of the post, but made me laugh uncontrollably

Evenin’ all. You know the rules by now (check here if you need a refresher)

One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that you can find almost any music you care to think of. That one-hit wonder from the ’80s that still comes into your head from time to time? It’s on YouTube. That album your housemate borrowed and never gave back? You can Spotify it. That ultra-obscure track you heard once on John Peel many moons again? Someone’s posted it on a blog.

That’s what this week’s challenge is about. Your mission is to track down a song you haven’t heard for years but would like to hear again.

‘Spill points/pints will be awarded for the longest passage of time elapsed, and the best stories. Happy hunting.