New Sinead!

I know I’m a diehard fan, but good God this is good. After an opening, rather urgent declaration of intent, it just EXPLODES into, ooh, probably one of the choruses of her career.

I particularly like what NPR had to say about it:

O’Connor may conclude that “I’m the only one I should adore,” but “Take Me to Church” isn’t a mere celebration of self. It’s a celebration of self-actualization; of making yourself happier by striving to make yourself better.

Love it. Love her (even if she does seem to have decided recently to model her look on Jessie J).

New The Heartbreaks!

Spillers with foolishly good memories may recall that I named “Delay, Delay” by The Heartbreaks as one of my top three tunes of 2012 (I think) in our annual round-up. Or, more likely, you’ll occasionally have stumbled across it on your iPod in the last 18 months and wondered how it got there.

Anyway, I’ve been keeping an ear out for them ever since, but nothing they’ve released has excited me as much… until now. Their new single, “Absolved”, is a spangly pop belter. Like a modern-day rewrite of The Love Affair’s “Everlasting Love”. With styling by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Fun video too. Anyway, see what you think. If you fancy it.

They may well find their way onto my 2014 list at this rate…

New (old!) Antony, his Johnsons and someone I’d never heard of

While browsing around on youtube last night, I came across this version of “You Are My Sister”, taken from a live album recorded with Italian singer Franco Battiato and released at the end of last year. It’s not strictly essential in the Antony canon, what with the original Boy George duet version from “I Am A Bird Now” and the (gorgeous) solo live version from “Cut The World”, but I think Signor Battiato adds a rather touching, fragile dignity to the track, so I thought I’d share.

And Happy New Year – you’re all my sisters!

11 Songs That Shouldn’t Be On My iPod (But Are)


Well, seeing as barbryn set the ball (re-)rolling… I thought I’d do one of these lists. I found it surprisingly hard to come up with songs I like that (I think) might surprise people. Perhaps because, rather arrogantly and doubtless inaccurately, I think of myself as having pretty catholic tastes. And because I’ve been around here and the Mothership long enough to have mentioned most of my favourite songs. And because most of the stuff on my iPod that isn’t very “me” has come via the Dropbox from you lot!

Anyway, here are 11 tracks, at least most of which are my own purchases. But that I think are more likely to have come from the record collections of DsD or chinny or Amy or Panth or tinny or… oh, anyone but me really! Some are ‘classics'; other less so.

Feel free to jettison one. Or all. Or suggest others that could have fitted better. Or tell me they’re all totally obvious bishpicks. Or ignore the whole business.

New Allman Brown!

“Who?”, I hear you cry. Oh fair enough, confession time: He’s a mate of mine. But he’s super-talented and has a beautiful voice (as does his duetting partner, Liz Lawrence). And if you like post-Damien Rice, post-Aqualung, post-The Cinematic Orchestra* sorts of things, this might be up your street. And it’s available from all good iTunes stores now for the bargain price of 79p (or £1.79 if you want a couple of B-sides besides)!

*Well, it reminds me of “To Build A Home” – no idea what their other stuff sounds like!

New Kitchens Of Distinction!

Oh. My. God. Oh my God. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me when I spied the band’s name on Stereogum this morning as I sat sleepily on the DLR, scrolling through bookmarked Safari sites on my smartphone…

One of my favourite bands of the early 90s? Back back back?! First impressions are of a rather prosaic, over-articulated lyric, but the sound of it is (for me) a cosy, long-familiar aural duvet that I’m loving being wrapped up in again.

Welcome back, boys. It’s been too long.

Spill Challenge – Everybody’s Talkin’


Yes, this is a playlist of (predominantly) spoken-word songs. I love a spoken-word song, especially a storytelling song, as the vast majority of these are.

Song titles after the jump…

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‘Spill Game – Week # As If I Ruddy Know: “POP!” goes the worst one…


So last time I went all crowd-pleasey (or as crowd-pleasey as I can manage) with tasteful eclecticism. And this time… well, this time I’ve probably swung too far in the opposite direction and won’t be pleasing anyone whatsoever. Yes, folks, I’ve gone pop. Mainstream, well-known, pure and simple every time. Forgive me my synths, I know exactly what I do. Sadly…

Track and artist names (and a few short attempts at justification) after the jump…

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New Phosphorescent!

A fair few of us ‘Spillers were rather in love with the last album from Phosphorescent, aka Matthew Houck (wasn’t “The Mermaid Parade” in someone’s top three tunes of the year this time two years ago?). And if this track is anything to go by, the new one looks set to be its equal (if not its better). Nice Johnny Cash reference to hook you in, gorgeous vocal, sumptuous synths (yes, synths!), an unhurried melody, a lyric to return to over and over again…

First great song of 2013, anyone? It’s already on my list of potentials for next year’s Top Three.

‘Spill Game Week 8: Save one, bin one

Oh you all know the rules (such as they are) by now. Which of these poor defenceless ickle kittens songs are you going to break my heart by putting up against a wall and shooting? And are there any you might consider giving a good home to?

Track and artist names after the jump (as I believe they call it)…

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Bring on the Silver Lining

So 2012 has so far been the year of disappointing comebacks from my 80s heroes: the much-vaunted return of Dexys was great fun as a live experience but the album is, for the most part, too ‘musical theatre’ even for me; Sinead’s “How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?” album has its moments but fails to coalesce as a cohesive whole, IMHO – plus, it includes an utterly redundant John Grant cover.

But the worst of the lot is Pro Patria Mori, the new album from Ian McCulloch. It’s been released via PledgeMusic, and I was sufficiently intrigued by the concept of donating to get an album recorded and released – and by the pre-release hype Mac the Mouth was spouting (I should have known, shouldn’t I?) – to pledge my 15 squid for a download and a signed CD.

A month or so back, I received an email saying that the download was ready but that the physical album wasn’t quite. I downloaded it… and it’s rubbish. Really, really disappointing. (And this from a man who loved Mac’s first solo album, “Candleland”, and enjoyed a fair chunk of the follow-up, “Mysterio”.) You know an album’s not gonna be great when it starts with the line: “Babies come and babies go…” (Or at least I do.) And from there on in, it just gets worse: pedestrian, plodding, prosaic. The title track opens with an Aled Jones-style choirboy descant, FFS.

Anyway, I wasn’t too fussed about receiving the hard copy after that. But even so, after a month of waiting, I was starting to feel a little peeved that it hadn’t been sent to me. After all, it’s always nice to get some post. And then last week, I got another email – this time an apology for the delay. And, by way of compensation, a link to another mp3. This time, a live version of the Bunnymen classic, “Bring on the Dancing Horses”. And whaddaya know? It’s really rather lovely.

The original was derided by hardcore Bunnyfans for its glossy, shimmering Laurie Latham production. Of course, being a true child of the 80s, I loved it despite (or perhaps because of) that. Unlike Mac’s new material, it was exotic in its allusiveness and poeticism (ie, who knows what the words meant but they sounded good). And now, 27 years later, I’ve been gifted a version that sounds like a lost outtake from the “Ocean Rain” sessions: a big, string-laden ballady take on the song. It doesn’t entirely work, but I think it has sufficient merit to share it with you Spillers. Hopefully some of you may enjoy…

New Lykke Li!

Now I forget who the Lykke Li fan was – glasshalfempty, perhaps? I think so. Somebody certainly submitted the wondrous “I Follow Rivers” as an earworm a year or so back. Anyway, a few people may find this an interesting listen, so I thought I’d post it… It’s a cover of the Stevie Nicks song “Silver Springs”, recorded for an upcoming Fleetwood Mac tribute album. I must confess to not having known the original (although I’ve just had a listen – it’s pleasant enough), but I am finding this version hypnotically addictive. If I were 15, I’m sure I’d be listening to this lying sprawled out on my bed (bedroom door firmly shut), REALLY LOUD and on repeat. And enjoying a good old wallow, natch.

Really ramps up a notch at the 2min mark so don’t give up before then!

Happy (big) birthday, Maki!

If I’m not mistaken, today is not only your birthday, Maki m’dear, but a big and important one. So here’s some (rather hastily cobbled-together) birthday songs from those of your ‘Spill friends who read my shamefully last-minute email in time!

Mitch thought his chosen track was appropriate now that you have “turned the corner into ‘old codgerdom'”. Tinny writes: “Spain gave us Las Ketchup and we’ve been waited 10 years to give ‘em back. Viene Maki rumbeando!” Carole “knows you like some great plank spanking, so is wishing you a happy birthday with Davy Graham playing the incomparable Anji”. Severin says: “Here’s a peaceful and (I think) beautiful song for a chap’s 50th birthday. Nitin Sawhney – Koyal (Songbird). Happy birthday to Maki and, hey, I think I’ve just used up a potential earworm.” Glasshalfempty sends you something Manana-ish from Radio Tarifa. Ali claims that “50 years young is not so bad when you get used to it!” Honest! DaddyPig sends you “a groovy African-Hispanic thing to say Happy Birthday”. Sakura chan has sent something called “Sakura Sakura”, which she maintains is not about her but about cherry flowers. Hmmm. Beth’s not sure you’ll like Pentangle but wishes you a very happy birthday anyway. Bluepeter sent a humorous videoclip that I tried to upload but failed – sorry Peter and Maki, my technical skills have let you down… T’other Chris says: “I suppose Spain is more in need of wads of cash than sunshine but I hope you like this version of ‘Here Comes Sunshine’ that Jerry & co delivered back in 1973. The voices aren’t perfect but the music is suitably sweet and warm. May your next 50 years be filled with little joys like these.” And Amy brings us back to old codgerdom, saying: “Happy Birthday to Mr. Maki, and many more!”

And, quite frankly, SO SAY ALL OF US! Have a good one, my lovely friend.

UPDATE: Now with added DsD, who says: “Happy Birthday Maki. As the lyrics of my contribution say, “May your days be golden”. Hope to see you very soon. Rich C. / DsD”

PS: All tracks (plus bluepeter’s vid) now in the Dropbox!

Spill Challenge no. 34872394 – If it ain’t broke?

Afternoon all! Has anyone already nabbed this week’s slot? I do hope not. (And if they have, sorry…) And I hope this isn’t a question anyone’s already asked. It might well be…

Anyway, yesterday I was listening to various tracks from Kate Bush’s “Director’s Cut” album, in which she overhauled material from two previous albums, “The Sensual World” and “The Red Shoes”. I became particularly obsessed with her new take on “Moments of Pleasure”, one of my favourite of her songs. At first, I was outraged. She’s taken out the chorus! The hook! And replaced it with what?! Some hushed choral “oohs”?! What the devil?! But the more I listened to it, the more I came to appreciate it. It seems to me that she has transformed a celebration of life (and lives well lived) into a gorgeous eulogy for those she’s lost. Less redemptive perhaps, but at least as affecting. I think I may actually now prefer this simpler, solemner version.

So my question is: have any of your favourite artists reworked their own material, and if so, has it been for the better or the worse? (If you can’t think of any, there’s always cover versions to consider, I suppose. But I’m sure we’ve been down that road before!)

New The Heartbreaks!

I never really listen to the radio. Dunno why – I just don’t tend to. But the other morning, I happened to put 6Music on as I was doing the washing up and Shaun Keaveney played this chirpy little indie-pop song from Morecambe’s The Heartbreaks. My ears pricked up. I think it may be my favourite record of 2012 so far. I realise this is because it sounds like it could have been recorded in pretty much any year since 1986 (and therefore I probably only love it out of some misplaced sense of nostalgia), but with a killer hook like wot it’s got, who cares? Like The Smiths meets The Railway Children meets The La’s meets Glasvegas. Plus, I can’t think of another song that rhymes ‘hot beverage’ with ‘privilege’, which makes it instantly brilliant.

The sort of song the British summer was made for. All we need now is to have one this year…

Sinéad does Dylan

I’ve been listening to a lot of Sinéad recently, partly because she’s got a (patchy) new album out and partly because I’ve had a stressful few weeks (college stuff mainly), and she’s always been a voice I turn to in times of difficulty. She understands, you see.

Anyway, yesterday I came across this video of her performing his Bobness’s “The Times, They Are A-Changin'” on Irish telly a couple of years ago. I can’t stop listening to it. It made me think in particular of tfd’s comment about Mitch’s recent Spanish earworm version of this song: “Should be bitter though.” Sinéad’s certainly tapped into that bitterness, not to mention fury…

She takes the song, changes one line (from “Come, mothers and fathers” to “Come, bishops and fathers”) and transforms it into a savagely righteous response to Pope Benedict XVI’s refusal to condemn the Irish Catholic church’s shameful history of child abuse. I think it’s an extraordinary performance – and one that gives me yet another reason to love her. I just wish it was longer!

Album Of The Whatever: Sandie Shaw’s “Hello Angel”

I’m much prone to claiming that such-and-such an album was my favourite when I was such-and-such an age, but I think Sandie Shaw’s “Hello Angel” may genuinely have been my favourite album when I was 16. Always a bit too pop-obsessed (and slightly too young) to really love The Smiths at the time, this was perfect for me: a glamorous 60s diva disinterred by Moz and given the chance to prove her relevance in the late 80s (the album was released – on Rough Trade, natch – in 1988).

The only actual Smiths song on the album is “Hand In Glove”, which she’d released several years earlier, but Morrissey and Stephen Street also contributed the two minutes of throwaway fun that is “Please Help The Cause Against Loneliness”.

Elsewhere, the album includes Sandie’s versions of The Waterboys’ “A Girl Called Johnny” and the Mary Chain’s “Cool About You”, the latter of which is particularly splendid. But surprisingly, it’s her own songwriting that wins out, in my opinion. “Nothing Less Than Brilliant” is aptly titled: joyous, ebullient, life-affirming. Expressing sentiments like these, it’s no surprise she went on to become a psychotherapist. (But then, I would say that.) The title track is gorgeously languorous. Or languorously gorgeous. Or something. “Take Him” is a slinky little “Jolene-esque” cha-cha-cha. And “I Will Remain” is just breathtaking – even down to the comedy punchline (Morrissey’s influence pretty obvious there, I would say!).

I guess what I love(d) about this album is how surprisingly cohesive it is. It should feel like a ragbag of “will this do?” covers, but it hangs together really well as a whole, I think. And Sandie has probably never sounded in better voice.

Ladies and gentlemen, here she is, Miss Sandie Shaw…

New Sinéad!

She sounds to have had a rough old few months, but this new single is really rather joyous and uplifting. Here’s hoping the album, “How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?”, lives up to its promise. Perhaps most intriguingly, it looks to feature a cover of John Grant’s “Queen of Denmark”. I for one can’t wait!

New(ish) David McAlmont!

This one passed me by somehow when it came out toward the end of last year, but in the last few days I’ve been enjoying the recent EP from David McAlmont and new musical partner, Guy Davies. As you can see from the video above, they’re going by the name of Fingersnap. The video is for the EP’s lead track, “I Wanna Rise”, which – like much of his uptempo post-McAlmont & Butler work, I think – is a bit of a pale imitation of “Yes” (with something of a BeeGees’ “Tragedy” vibe thrown in with those strings).

The final track on the EP, however, strikes me as a bit special. Written as a ‘letter’ to Gene Robinson, the (openly gay) Bishop of New Hampshire, it manages successfully to combine the personal and the political in a way that didn’t quite happen for me in his work with previous collaborator, Michael Nyman (although that album, “The Glare”, is quite fascinating – and stunning in parts). Plus, his voice on this song sounds just effortlessly beautiful.

Check it out (if you’re so minded):

Earworms – January 9

“An intellectual snob is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger.”
Dan Rather

Les Sans Culottes – Les Sauvages
Fromage homage and oh so camp! Get your go-go boots on for this one.

Zaz – Prends Garde à Ta Langue
I apologise for this choice if Zaz is as popular in the UK as she is on the Continent, where she is THE success story of the year, hailed as the new Piaf, and her music is played literally everywhere you turn (in shops, on the TV, escaping headphones in the library). Despite the overkill – and her shameless record company has brought the same album out THREE TIMES in one year: the original CD, then CD-plus-DVD and now the live-on-tour version of the same songs – her music remains toe-tappingly refreshing.

Earthling – Soup Or No Soup
Earthling were a trip-hop combo (I think I’ve got that right, I’m not very good at genres) who never made it. People who liked Tricky found them too normal and the rest of the world never found them at all. I tried to get their “First Transmission” onto the R/R playlist several times to no avail. Have a listen to this. Have some soup. Sing your own Hallelujah….

Rare – Something Wild
From that mid-90s era of Morcheeba and Lamb when everyone and his wife (and Everything But The Girl) went “a bit trip-hop”. I know nothing about this band, but I somehow heard the single when it came out, bought it and haven’t stopped listening to it since.

Billy Joel – The Stranger
Abahachi and I don’t have many musical tastes in common, but we both enjoy this one; I can think back to my teenage years (this was my favourite album of 1977) and he can witter on to his heart’s content about the Jungian theory of the persona…
Mrs Abahachi

Aphrodite’s Child – Break
This is a lovely limpid tune, totally at odds with everything else on the 666 album and a minor hit when released as a single back in 1972. It was sung by the band’s drummer, Lucas Sideras. I think that more people know of the band than have ever actually heard them, despite two members, Vangelis and Demis Roussos, going on to become internationally famous. This song really deserves to be better known.

Well, my friends, I’ve had a lovely eight or so months curating earworms – it genuinely has been a huge, huge pleasure. And I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated everyone’s contributions and kind words of support. But all good things must come to an end… to make way for other equally good, if not better things! So it’s time for me to hand the baton on to… the one and only Zalamanda! I know she’ll do a fab job – and hope she enjoys it as much as I have. Please keep sending submissions to – thanks! And I’ll see youse all down in the Comments area…