Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Just Joans and the wonderful world of wee POP!

Petite and pleasingly-packaged pieces of pure indie-pop perfection!

The Just Joans are just about the most Glaswegian thing that I have ever heard. They sing in broad Scotch accents, make reference to 'the local', 'the telly' and the general humdrum of life. But strewn amongst the lyrics about Tesco's and Asda are mentions of Murakami and 60s Woody Allen box sets. And there's some recorder!
This has a 'made it in my bedroom' feel and is super lo-fi...but I make no mistake in using the word 'super'. The songs are well-crafted, original and memorable, and it is almost too cute...but thankfully only almost. It really is marvellous.
In one sense it reminds me of Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan - boy/girl vocals where she is apple pie sweet and he is slightly off-key (in the nicest possible way). And fortunately all the aforementioned references do not come across in a know-it-all Lily Allen or Kate Nash kind of way, even when you factor in the sound clips of, e.g. Davina on Big Brother.
Hey Boy, You're Oh So Sensitive is an EP/mini-album of 7 songs and comes in at just over 20 minutes. A delightful 20 minutes that I just can't stop replaying.

Hey Boy, You're Oh So Sensitive

And a bonus, earlier song from The Just Joans:

Belshill Station (from the now sold out Virgin Lips)

And have a listen to a few more tracks over at their MySpace...where there are even a few available to download.

If you are not familiar with wee POP! Records (the label on which Hey Boy, You're Oh So Sensitive was released), then I am here to rectify that. You definitely should be and are in for a treat. This is what being a music-lover is all about. wee POP! is Camila and Thor, who are based in London and release limited-edition runs of music by bands that they love. The discs arrive in a care package of gorgeousness - even down to the included sweetie!

The CD covers are hand-crafted and individually numbered (you even get a little 'certificate of authenticity' with the print number of the one you have in your hands). This is all about the tactile...for those of us who, despite the wonders of digital, still like to be able to hold something in our hands, have something physical, and have some liner notes to read. These are CDs made for vinyl lovers like me, and are little pieces of design perfection and indie-pop loveliness.

And did you ever wonder what the inner, smaller ridge of your CD tray was for? Don't worry, I shall wait whilst you take a look. Well, that was put there especially so that you can play wee POP!'s 3 inch releases. Honest!

Ok, so that might be something of a fallacy, but it really is that good. The canny music, made-with-love-and-attention packaging and generally friendly feel not enough for you? Then how about I tell you that the majority of releases are just £3.00 a (wee) pop? Or that there is a 'try before you buy' kind of aesthetic, with an mp3 download available for each release over at the label's page.

Still not enough? Golly, you are hard to please! Well then, let me talk a little bit more about that whole 'limited-run' business in an effort to convince you. Only 120-160 (at least, generally in that ball park) copies of each release are produced. Once it's gone, it's gone. This is a very smart move - I have long thought that one of the ways in which the dinosaur that is the record industry (I talk of the big guns, and not the do-it-yourselfers) can move forward and attempt to embrace the future is to offer us something exclusive, something collectible, something that is personal and truly feels like it is ours. Evidently Camila and Thor feel exactly the same way.

Go on, off you go...fill your boots and buy buy buy!

I ♥ weePOP!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Morning Benders - The Bedroom Covers

I'm just stopping by with a quick post to clue anyone in who doesn't already know about The Morning Benders' The Bedroom Covers. Just like it says on the tin (or the album front at least), this is indeed cover versions of well known songs that were all recorded at their home. It was released over at their blog yesterday and already seems to be proving rather popular.
And the songs that they have covered are corkers:
1. Crying - Roy Orbison
2. Mother and Child Reunion - Paul Simon
3. Why Don't They Let Us Fall In Love? - The Ronettes
4. Lovefool - The Cardigans
5. I Won't Share You - The Smiths
6. He's A Rebel - The Crystals
7. Marie - Randy Newman
8. Fools Rush In - Johnny Mercer/Rube Bloom
9. Temptation Inside Your Heart - Velvet Underground
10. Dreams - Fleetwood Mac
11. Pull Up the Roots - Talking Heads
12. Caroline, No - The Beach Boys
12.5! Why Don't They Let Us Fall In Love? (Live Daytrotter session)
It really is a good list, isn't it? And the songs here are definitely pretty lovely, particularly considering they are generally first takes recorded on a laptop in a bedroom. In fact, they are growing on me more and more, and as I listen I keep changing my mind about which mp3s to include! Oh, and it's free!
I think, despite the fact that the Paul Simon song is my definitive favourite (original) on the list, and that Randy Newman (the cover of Marie is lovely, incidentally) and Roy Orbison are further favourite artists of mine, some of the best covers here are actually:
The Talking Heads and Johnny Mercer tracks are great too. See what you think, then head across and get downloading! (Individual songs, or the lot as a zip)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mercury Music Prize shortlist announced

The nominees for this year's Mercury Music Prize have just been announced. And it goes like this:
Adele 19
British Sea Power Do You Like Rock Music?
Burial Untrue
Elbow The Seldom Seen Kid
Estelle Shine
Laura Marling Alas, I Cannot Swim
Neon Neon Stainless Style
Portico Quartet Knee Deep In The North Sea
Rachel Unthank The Bairns
Radiohead In Rainbows
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss Raising Sand
The Last Shadow Puppets The Age Of The Understatement
As ever, the winner will be announced on the night of the ceremony which, this year, will be held on September 9th. If I had a say, my vote would go to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss...although that would be a very tough call over The Bairns (read my guest post over at Cover Lay Down for some Rachel Unthank and The Winterset).
Which would you choose? Or what album do you think it is criminal that they should have omitted?

More goodness from the YouTube Screening Room: 'Sebastian's Voodoo' and 'Ryan'

Sebastian's Voodoo

A creepy looking, but beautifully animated and ultimately sweet, short.

Voodoo - Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Voodoo Village - Tony Joe White

Hoodoo Voodoo - Billy Bragg and Wilco

Voodoo Spell - Cuatro Caminos


"Four decades ago, filmmaker Ryan Larkin produced some of the most influential animations of his generation. Years later, plagued by alcoholism and drug abuse, he was destitute on the streets of Toronto. In this haunting film, his friend and fellow animator, Chris Landreth, examines Ryan's life through the voices of those who know him best. Combining real interviews with strange, disembodied computer-generated characters, "Ryan" won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Animated Short."

This animation is really amazing. Although, does it look to anyone else like David Schwimmer and Woody Allen in conversation? I especially love the Rene Magritte moment towards the end. This blog owes a lot (well, ok, perhaps just its title) to Magritte.

Here are some links to Ryan Larkin's own animations:

Syrinx (1965)

Walking (1968)

Street Musique (1972)

And a few tenuously-linked mp3s too:

Is This Art? - The Levellers

My Art - Le Tigre

To Me You Are A Work of Art - Morrissey

Art-i-ficial - X-Ray Spex

There is also a fantastic short film set in Sarajevo and Chicago (filmed in New York), in which a woman trapped inside by the siege communicates her thoughts to her brother (I presume) overseas. It is haunting and deeply affecting...and beautifully made.

New from CSS...

CSS are back with their latest (second) album, Donkey, which was released yesterday. It's good, but I have to say that it has, to date, left me feeling a little underwhelmed/unmoved. It is fine, it is well-produced, but it is, well, forgettable. They are just not as bratty this time around, and it seems that it was this very brattishness that worked so well for them.
Part of the appeal with their debut album was the slightly ropey English and sense of naivety, even when they were singing about "arts-hole"s and suchlike. This, for me, just feels a little too polished and therefore, whilst it is an okay album, it comes off sounding a bit generic and soulless; almost as if they are trying to emulate Le Tigre but not quite managing it. However, the download single that they have provided, Rat Is Dead, is really rather good.

Rat Is Dead [Rage] - CSS (from their new release, Donkey)

And here are a couple of tracks from their previous album, Cansei de Ser Sexy, for comparison:

Alala - CSS

Let's Make Love and Listen To Death From Above - CSS

Apparently the B-side of their next single, Left Behind, will be a cover of The Breeders' Cannonball. Which is something that I shall definitely look forward to hearing. Maybe I'm just a stickler for tradition...anyone else miss them being called Cansei de Ser Sexy ('tired of being sexy'), rather than the abbreviation?
You can download Donkey for just £5.00 from 7Digital this week.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Face off with Facebook - getting the message across

This rocks my socks. Teresa Valdez Klein of was so pissed off with the number of targeted weight loss ads on Facebook that she decided to do something about it. Shelling out $5.00 per day to place her own advertisement, she came up with the above. When clicked, viewers are taken to the Love Your Body Day website.

Holly Combe referred to it as 'subvertising', which I think is a great term!

It warms my cockles, it really does. What a positive message! And somebody that is actually taking some action. I am seriously impressed.

Body and Soul - Billie Holiday

Got Body If You Want It - Gossip

Advert - Blur

Weight - Sarah Slean

Wonderful World, Beautiful People - Jimmy Cliff

Songs of the Fifty States: Bonus Tracks - Travelling Around

This really is the last 'Songs of the Fifty States' post - finishing off with a few songs that encompass many states at once, some of them all 50.

The 50 States Song - Sufjan Stevens (you see, that's why Sufjan - pronounced soof-yan FYI - Stevens has not appeared before in this list...there is method to my madness!)

Delaware - Perry Como (you'd think that I might have chosen this one for the state of Delaware, but it's so much better here...a fun one)

I've Been Everywhere - Hank Snow (Johnny Cash also covered this on Unchained)

Song of the 50 States - They Might Be Giants (it doesn't mention any states, but it fits in spirit...and title!)

And some godawful cheese that is just here because it fits the bill!:

50 States - Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer (primarily included because it comes from an album called, amusingly, Scat Like That!)

Fifty Nifty United States - School House Rock (educational...and sickening!)

For another state 'namechecker' song, check out this post by LD over at Star Maker Machine.

50 states
70 songs
286.5 MB
4.2 hours

...and we're done!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Songs of the Fifty States: Alabama to Georgia

I haven't forgotten...

Alabama - Neil Young

Kicking off the list is a demanding job, but Alabama does us proud with lots of songs to choose between (go here for another two...or at least two different versions of the same song). Neil Young takes us in his very capable hands to start proceedings. Lynard Skynard and Sweet Home Alabama were never really seriously entertained.

North to Alaska - Johnny Horton

Alaska was another state that I tackled over at Star Maker Machine - so head across there for a few further tracks, including another Johnny Horton song, as performed by Johnny Cash and June Carter. This Horton track is a cracker, and was even covered by Ted Hawkins. Plenty to get your teeth into for the largest state of all. But does anyone else think it kind of sounds like he's singing "McNuggets they're finding"??

This bonus track is my other half a rule-break (see this song list for the rules) - I posted it myself, as a supplementary track, at SMM, so it did appear on the main page...but seeing as it was me that posted it, it only half counts, right? It's just too lovely not to also include here...I love Camera Obscura and Tracyanne Campbell's voice.

Arizona - Alejandro Escovedo

Mr Escovedo (watch out for an upcoming review of his latest album Real Animal, plus several other worthwhile recent releases...if I ever actually get around to it!) provides us with a smashing song here, and there were no others that I seriously toyed with posting. In this sultry song you can almost see the shimmering evening heat haze. George Strait's Ocean Front Property in Arizona is also pretty good, as is Dan Fogelberg's Tuscon, Arizona (all 8 minutes 36 seconds of it!) and Jake Matthews' Arizona On My Mind.

When I started to plan these posts, I was almost convinced on posting Gossip's song Arkansas Heat, but I decided to try to find a decent country song, and keep with the theme. Jesse Dayton has done us proud, amping things up a notch for this state that can count 'What a State!' as one of its nicknames!

Goodbye California - Jolie Holland

The Left Coast really leaves us spoilt for choice, with more songs than you can shake a stick at...and a lot of great ones at that. In fact, I think it was the state that provided me with the toughest choices with regards what I was not able to include. Gram Parsons, Kathleen Edwards, Liz Phair, The Ramones, Roy Orbison and Sarah Slean were amongst those that I grudgingly had to cut from the list. This is Jolie Holland at her peak, her lazy jazzy-bluesy-country voice lackadaisically ambling through the tune. If you had not heard her music before, I reckon that this would be enough to make you fall in love with it...but beware! Stick with her first two albums, Catalpa and Escondida, however, and you really can't go wrong.

With so many marvellous songs to choose from, I really couldn't leave it at just one, and so here is a second courtesy of the legendary Mama Cass. A classic slice, if not one of her better known tracks.

Colorado Girl - Townes Van Zandt

The first track that I thought of for Colorado was The Flying Burrito Brothers and Colorado, but SMM beat me to it once again! Never mind, as in addition to the great song above, I could also have chosen Merle Haggard, Hank Snow, John Denver, Ozark Mountain Daredevils or Railroad Earth...and they are just the ones that would have been worthy of inclusion. It took far too long for me to discover Townes Van Zandt, but once I did that was it! And this is a beautiful, sweet and tender song, which clearly trumped the rest.

Connecticut - Judy Garland

I shall not lie - Connecticut was perhaps the toughest state of all. There just don't seem to be many songs dedicated to it. In fact, other than Superchunk and Connecticut, there really weren't any tracks that I liked. Except, that is, for Ms Garland! Well, I couldn't rightly call myself a homo without including her somewhere, eh? It sure ain't country music but, hell, this is the best it gets, I'm afraid!

Hmmm...what else can I tell you about this state? Well, the name 'Connecticut' comes from the Mohegan word 'quinnitukqut', which means 'place of the long tidal river'. A person from Connecticut can be referred to as a Connecticuter, a Connecticotian, Connecticutensian, or even a Nutmegger or Yankee (the official State Song is Yankee Doodle). Or how about Connecticutie? Which is a term that never ever should be used for a certain George Walker Bush, who was born there!

Dover, Delaware - The Duhks

Delaware became the very first state on December 7th 1787. Curiously, it was one of the last to be covered over at Star Maker Machine (with a further four tracks). This would seem to be because there are just not that many good songs about Delaware. This Dukhs one, however, is an exception, and it just lovely.

Floridays - Jimmy Buffett

I really like this song, but if any sticklers out there should feel that it does not count due to the fact that the word 'Florida' is not discrete in the title, then maybe you will be appeased with a bonus track...

A live cut of perhaps the noisiest song on this whole list. A nice change, or a complete bastardisation when it comes to theme, feel and rules? I shall let you decide. (P.s. I love the Butthole Surfers, personally)

The obvious choice when it comes to Georgia would be Ray Charles with Georgia On My Mind, a song that pretty much can not be beaten. It is so fantastic, in fact, that it was adopted as the official state song in 1979. But did you know that it was not origianlly about the state at all, but a woman named Georgia? The music was written by Hoagy Carmichael, and the lyrics by Stuart Gorrell about Carmichael's sister. It has been covered by innumerable artists, but there is truly none so great as the late Mr Charles.

The song in question, then, was of course a second choice. But this does not mean that it is not a great song. It is.

I just couldn't get out of this list without a spot of Charlie Daniels! Here we are with the final 'added extra' novelty song. Leaving the list on a Charlie Daniels note? So you think...just watch!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Feist on Sesame Street!

Leslie Feist...check.


Bucket loads of cuteness...check!

That is indeed Feist singing her hit 1234 on Sesame Street, with modified lyrics for the kiddies. I, personally, don't think that I have ever enjoyed "counting to four" quite so much!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Vive La France!

As today is Bastille Day, I thought that I would put together a compilation of songs in French (by artists of several nationalities). This task proved more arduous than I initially anticipated, as I simply did not realise quite how many French songs I had in my music library! Therefore, the difficulty came not in finding suitable tracks, but in whittling down their sheer volume! I decided to enforce a 'female singers only' rule (oh, how I love those French ladies!), in order to cut the numbers down a little and make the task more manageable, but still had to make some tough calls about what to include and what to omit.

I toyed with writing my post introduction in French, but decided that it has been so long that it would be vaguely understandable at best...bog all chance of grammatically correct, so I decided that should be a 'nay'!

I think the list below is a good one, with some super songs and a nice cross-section of different styles and voices, old and new. See what you think:

1. Je Danse Donc Je Suis - Brigitte Bardot

2. M'envoyer des Fleurs - Sandrine Kiberlain

3. La Derniere Minute - Carla Bruni

4. Comment Te Dire Adieu - Francoise Hardy

5. Ne Me Quitte Pas - Bic Runga *

6. Si Tu Dois Partir - Fairport Convention

7. Tout Doucement - Feist

8. L'un Part L'autre Reste - Charlotte Gainsbourg

9. Ma Premiere Cigarette - Gillian Hills

10. La Foule - Edith Piaf

11. Little Boxes (Petite Boites) - Kate and Anna McGarrigle (more Little Boxes)

12. Salamandre - Sarah Harmer

13. Mile Tendresses - Tift Merritt (more Tift Merritt)

14. La Chanson d'un Fille de Quinze Ans - Ann Savoy and Linda Ronstadt *

15. Pa Janvier, Laisse Moi M'en Aller - Patty Griffin *

16. Bisonours - CocoRosie

17. Lo Boob Oscillator - Stereolab

18. Mal de Mer - Rupa and the April Fishes

19. Judas Mon Coeur - Belly (more Belly)

20. Paris S'enflamme - Ladyhawke

Plus a bonus 'mystery' track!


I found this track whilst perusing my iTunes; it had no tags other than the song name, and I have no idea who sings it! I like it, and if anyone out there is able to identify it, you get serious brownie points!

Or why not have the lot as a zip file? (Sadly not in order, so you may have to create a playlist in your digital media player to hear them as I intended)

* Thanks to Boyhowdy over at Cover Lay Down for these contributions.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

THIS is how to write a PR e-mail! Introducing Jon and Roy...

"We came upon your site while perusing the blogosphere and found you had posted some Matt Costa. We're fans of his and wanted to send you music of our own. We're an independent acoustic roots band from Victoria BC, Canada, named 'Jon and Roy' and thought our music might also be up your alley. I'll spare you the hype speech because you must get lots of new music in daily, but I'll leave some links below and a download of the album, as well as a few quick tracks for a quick sample…

Quick facts: New album 'Another Noon' just came out May 20th in North America, we licensed the title track to Volkswagen (Eos) for good or bad (it really helps us as a small indie act no matter what people think) , toured the UK in March and really just want people to hear the damn album."

They then went on to include links to their website, MySpace and Facebook pages, as well as three mp3 downloads and a link to download their album, and links to where the album could be purchased (even adding that I shouldn't feel I had to include these!).

This provides everything that a music blogger needs in one shot - no need for tonnes of follow up messages or hours of internet's all there. Furthermore, they pointed out where I could find a bio, rather than reeling off reams and reams of it in the e-mail and acknowledged the fact that I do indeed get many such e-mails. It's just that few are so well put together as this one!

I wanted to like Jon and Roy, then, before I had ever heard them. Following the MySpace link (always include a MySpace link!) to have a listen before I decided whether or not I wanted to download the tracks/album, I found that I didn't like them quite as much as I wanted to. The music and their voices are very good, it's just not really my thing. This in itself puts them head and shoulders above the majority, i.e. that the music is actually good!

I post them here as a lesson to all those other PR e-mailers, and because I really think that they may well be to some readers' taste - think Matt Costa (who I'm not especially into, I have just posted one track - however, the fact that they had actually had a bit of a look at my blog was promising), Jack Johnson, that kind of thing...laid back, acoustic-sounding, folk-influenced etc.

Flight Down - Jon and Roy

Another Noon - Jon and Roy

For more Jon and Roy, visit:

Website (where you can stream each of their albums)
MySpace, and

And buy their album:

Direct from them
At Amazon
Or on iTunes

It's Not Over 'Til the Fat Girls Sing

Warning: May contain spoilers!

I watched the film Fat Girls for the first time a couple of days ago...a film I have wanted to see ever since I first read about it being in production (over a year ago). And, whilst not all its scenes are entirely successful, or necessary for driving the 'plot' forward, I rather enjoyed it as a whole.

The story is centred around a high school student named Rodney (Ash Christian who, aged 20, also wrote, directed and co-produced Fat Girls), who thinks of himself as a 'fat girl'. Here, 'fat girl' is a synonym for outcast or social pariah, although it's a little bit deeper than is anyone that feels awkward or different...anyone who feels like they were never destined to 'fit in'. Something that I'm sure we can all relate to, having all passed through that 'teenage misfit with hang-ups' phase (no matter how popular, no matter how big one's social circle, I am almost certain that we have all felt this).

Rodney's best friend is an actual fat girl ("but not just on the outside...on the inside too") who lives in a trailer with her mums. Early in the film, they are joined by a third 'fat girl', a Cuban refugee adopted by an African-American family, named Rudy. This is one of the film's failings, in my opinion; the fact that it tries too hard (but then, maybe that is fitting after all!) with its unusual list of characters - a teacher called Seymour Cox (yes, really) who Rodney happens upon dragged up as Liza Minelli, a mother who "everything she cooks in the house has a religious affiliation, so it's not very filling" (e.g. holy hamburgers and Jesus jambalaya), dad's death whilst having sex with a "midget woman". Oh, and it stars that token old lady - who you may remember best singing Rapper's Delight in the film The Wedding Singer.

On the other hand, Fat Girls often feels a lot less self-conscious than such films as Napolean Dynamite (the characters here are not so 'special', are more just regular, gawky teens) or Juno (with its contrived one-liners and pretentious, if good, soundtrack). The fact that it is a little bit dreadful in parts could hardly be more apt...the film itself seems a tad awkward, as if it is finding its own identity, just like its characters. There is a scene in church that perfectly captures this, followed by a scene with Rodney wiping his mouth on a Star Spangled Banner in front of a room full of Sunday School children - a blink-and-you-may-miss-it moment that is a brilliant touch. Somewhat less brilliant is the character of English (although he sounds more German!), slutty twink.

Rodney, in the final moments of the movie, concludes that "Being a fat girl is being comfortable being yourself. I finally found my inner fat girl. And I like her - she's totally cool." It's just a shame that he had to wind up in bed with his teacher to discover this...that just plays to all the nasty stereotypes out there!

Watch if you like: Napolean Dynamite, My First Mister, Juno, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Ghost World.

If you are a friend or regular reader, you may well know that I am something of an FA (check out this post on fat positive songs, for example) and so I thought what better opportunity to share with you some videos from two of my favourite YouTube 'fat girls'? I have been looking for an excuse to post the Chubbygirl27 video below for ages!

Contemplating My Navel - ChubbyGirl27 (Emily)

Emily - The Darlings (look out for more from the fantastic wee POP! records later this week)

Emily - Adam Green

A Fat Rant - joynash1 (Joy)

Totally Awesome - joynash1

Joy - PJ Harvey

Joy - Lucinda Williams (you should also search out the fab Bettye Lavette version of this, from her brilliant covers album I Got My Own Hell To Raise, if you haven't already heard it)

Plastik - a fat positive, animated take on body image and the media

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Songs of the Fifty States: Hawaii to Maryland

Everybody Does it in Hawaii - Jimmie Rodgers

The first artist that comes to mind here is probably Elvis Presley, right? Or the Hawaii Five-O theme tune (did you know that Dweezil Zappa has recorded the latter?)? Or maybe even Brian Wilson? Well how about something a little off the beaten track for the youngest of the 50 states (which became the 50th state on August 21st, 1959)? Also worth a mention is John Prine's Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian. And The Strokes' Hawaii Aloha is also pretty good.

Some more Hawaii facts (from Wikipedia) is the only US state that:

  • is not geographically located in North America
  • is completely surrounded by water
  • has a royal palace
  • does not have a straight line in its state boundary
  • continuously grows in area (due to currently active lava flows, most notably from Kilauea)

Did you know that Captain James Cook (who was from Middlesbrough, where I grew up!) was the first European 'visitor' in 1778? He named the islands 'The Sandwich Islands' after the Earl of Sandwich, who was one of his sponsors on his travels, and he was killed for abducting an Hawaiian chief as ransom for a stolen boat. The inactive volcano Mauna Kea is actually the tallest mountain in the world, and is 4436 feet taller than Mount Everest. However this relies on measuring below sea level, as only 13,796 feet stand above water. Oh, and Bette Midler was born there.

Idaho - The BoDeans

Idaho - Yonder Mountain String Band

When it came to Idaho, after my planned track of My Own Private Idaho by the B-52s was so rudely taken by SMM, I found that I really could not decide between the two tracks above; I think I prefer the BoDeans song, but the Yonder Mountain String Band track is indubitably more 'country', and there is some awesome banjo picking. Another 'sod it, have both' state! Josh Ritter's a capella Idaho is, incidentally, also lovely.

The Illinois Enema Bandit - Frank Zappa

This is the longest song in this list by far, coming in at 9 minutes and 25 seconds (think yourselves lucky...I have five versions of this song, and could have made you sit through 12 minutes and 42 got off lightly! This particular version comes from Kreega Bondola). The story that the song is based on is true, and is not a very nice one!

Read about the Enema Bandit (Michael H. Kenyon).

Sufjan Stevens (Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois - he has a full album dedicated to the state in Come On Feel the Illinoise) and Skip James (Illinois Blues) were cut from the list late in the day, as I figured that a song this length was plenty for one state, and any bonus tracks would be over-egging it a little!

Up in Indiana (Acoustic) - Lyle Lovett

Unceremoniously robbed of North Dakota, Mr Lovett finally gets to make an appearance here. And it's certainly a catchy one. Indiana was one of the states that I also posted a track for at Star Maker Machine, where my entry was a bit of a cheeky one - Tom Petty's Mary Jane's Last Dance, which was originally called Indiana Girl!

Just listen to little Michael Jackson's vocals here...they are amazing! This was back in the day, when he was a young, black kid out of Gary, Indiana whose best friend (i.e. favourite song he performed) was a rat named Ben. How times change!

Iowa (Traveling III) - Dar Williams

Perhaps my favourite song of the entire set, and one that has previously featured here on this very blog. It is THE Iowa song! "I have never had a way with women" - I hear you sister! Eleni Mandell's Iowa City is also a great song, but very little tops this Dar Williams track - it is simply gorgeous.

Manhattan, Kansas - Donna Fargo

Kansas was a tough cookie to crack, courtesy of all the (great) songs out there about Kansas City, Missouri. Aside from those, there just seem to be a lot of dreadful rock songs! Anything following Dar Williams has a lot to live up to, and this was the best that I could find - Fargo's vocals sound, to me, a lot like Loretty, which is never a bad thing. This state immediately makes me think of Dorothy Gale, who will feature (kind of!) later on...

Blue Moon of Kentucky - Patsy Cline

Kentucky is another one of those states (it is even called The Bluegrass State!) that offers a great deal of choice, with lots of fantastic songs available (see Paul's post over at STWOF for a further 16!!), so why did I choose to post this (relatively obvious) one? And why this version, when so many have sung this track? Because I absolutely love Patsy Cline and can never listen to the "mo-on" part enough (I have no idea if there is a name for the way she sings that bit, so I hope that you know what I mean!).

Louisiana Women - Waylon Jennings

Again lots of choice for this state. My first port of call would have been Randy Newman and Louisiana 1927 if it were not for those pesky peeps over the way (the list there was a great one). It is immediately clear, in listening to this Waylon Jennings track, that it was written by the marvellous J.J. has his sound stamped all over it. A cracking, subtly-played entry with some corking harmonica.

This track is another one that I discovered in the course of my research, and it was a good'un, so it appears here as an 'added extra'. Honourable mentions go to The Charlie Daniels Band with Louisiana Saturday Night and Hank Williams' Jambalaya (On the Bayou), which does not qualify, as it does not contain the state name, but is possibly more about Louisiana than any other song I know!

Going to Maine - The Mountain Goats

I shall not lie - this was the only Maine track that I had/could find that was worth posting (except for Maine Island Lovers by Okkervil River, but I couldn't find out if that was really about the state, due to being a UK resident who is not all that clued up on US geography!)...thanks heavens for The Mountain Goats! (P.s. Fortunately, it is a decent song!). It is also the shortest song to feature in this collection, coming in at just one minute and 41 seconds.

Maryland County Road - Erica Wheeler

There are not so many Maryland songs out there, as far as I can tell (although The Mountain Goats again have it covered). Maryland is apparently, however, the richest state in the US in a pecuniary sense. I also seriously considered Sarah Brightman and Murder in Maryland Park but summised that, although a smashing song, it was not enough about the state itself.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Songs of the Fifty States: Massachusetts to New Jersey

Massachusetts - The Bee Gees

This post of my Songs of the Fifty States series qualifies as the least 'countrified', starting right from the top with The Bee Gees and a song that showcases their knack for songwriting pre- squeaking, squawking disco era (1967 to be precise, and their first UK Number 1). Perhaps here I have succumbed and posted the most patent Massachusetts-related track, but it's a goodie and, to be honest, I didn't really bother searching much further here! The only other track I considered was The Dropkick Murphys' The State of Massachusetts. I was impressed with the posting of Juliana Hatfield's Feeling Massachusetts for this state over at SMM, as I had completely forgotten about it...I owned it on tape at the time, and have never had it digitally, so it definitely made me smile to hear it again.

Massachusetts itself (which definitely qualifies, for me, as the most difficult to spell state...I am always tempted to put a second 'S' in the middle) is a state worth reading about, if you are not American and therefore did not learn it all in school...the history from the pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe right up to it becoming the first state, in 2004, to recognise same-sex marriage, is certainly worth a read.

Devendra Banhart can be a bit like either love him or you hate him. Well, I love both Marmite and Banhart, so I was pleased to be able to include him in this list. Whilst Saginaw, Michigan would have provided a great country track (just pick your singer...Lefty Frizell, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Johnny Horton...), this is such a sweet song that I (again) decided to break my own rules. Ambulance Ltd.'s Michigan is also pretty good.

I absolutely LOVE this song! Whilst 'Weird Al' Yankovic is most associated with the parody song, and whilst this is indeed somewhere short of entirely serious this, I think, is perhaps Yankovic at his most successful. In fact, here he almost comes off as Frank Zappa in his bizarre story-telling. Where do I get my ticket?

As the lead track here is something of a novelty one, I thought it best to also include a supplementary 'bonus'. And it is (although only slightly less novelty!). Also considered: Minnesota Girl - Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day), Minnesota - The Dandy Warhols.

Mississippi is one of those states where there is no lack of great songs to post. In fact, I posted four of them myself over at Star Maker Machine (Ted Hawkins, Nina Simone, Sammy Walker and Jimmie Rodgers). I had not heard this particular Janis Ian track before this week, but I absolutely love might well be my favourite new discovery whilst preparing for this theme.

Whilst the Janis Ian track above won out, no questions asked, to head up this Mississippi entry, I also felt that I had to include this Rufus Thomas cut. Great stuff, with a super horn section!

Dylan's Miss the Mississippi was just too Dylan - the nasal, atonal voice at its most prominent (don't get me wrong, I am a big Dylan fan). Also losing out were the likes of The Grateful Dead, the Dixie Chicks, Jim Croce, Mavis Staples, Son House and Waylon Jennings...a popular state!

Missouri - Merle Travis

Missouri, or the 'Show Me State' (...what?), previously known as the 'Puke State' (...even bigger WHAT??) provides, perhaps surprisingly, quite a selection of decent songs to choose from. Johnny Cash again could have featured, with Missouri Waltz. Or Mac Wiseman with It Rains Just the Same In Missouri (which I cut out pretty late in the day). Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin's We Can Win Missouri! is also worth a mention as a recent one. And then of course there are the Missouri River songs - try Cold Missouri Waters by Richard Shindell. Purposely avoided: Missouri by David Nail.

Montana Cowgirl - Emmylou Harris

This one I posted in the comments at SMM (so felt it only fair to also offer a supplementary track here) - a fairly recent (1994) Emmylou Harris number. Her voice is as gorgeous as ever (and I'm going to see her live in September...yippee!).

Bonus track: Montana - Venus Hum

I guess that Venus Hum don't really fit in with the 'feel' of this list as a whole, and that is why they're here only as a bonus track. But there's something that I really like about this one, despite it perhaps being more dance-y than the usual kind of thing I listen to. Kristin Hersh's Arnica Montana is also a great tune, but would seem to have absolutely zip to do with Montana!

The Nebraska Song - Sawyer Brown

Far and away the most obvious choice for this state would have been Bruce Springsteen, which is why I barely even considered it for inclusion. Anyway, I prefer Sawyer Brown's voice, so there. Also considered: Josh Rouse with Dressed Up Like Nebraska.

Nevada - Scout Niblett

This was the only Nevada track I even considered including! Just click on that little 'play' button to the left...nuff said, I think. Loves it.

New Hampshire - Sonic Youth

This is the one full exception to my rule re: not posting any tracks from the main posts over at SMM. I love Sonic Youth, this is a fab song, and I was simply not able to find another decent enough alternative (Matt Pond PA doesn't do a lot for me). The additional track below (the state motto) was the nearest I could get:

Another one that was a clear 'definite' from the get-go. You are likely to know, if you are a regular reader of this blog, that I am a big fan of the 4AD label. I first heard this particular track when I received a free CD with Uncut magazine back in 1998 - a full CD of 4AD artists (and 19 tracks!), which is perhaps my favourite compilation CD...and did I mention it was free? The track listing also included the Pixies, Lush, Mojave 3, Tanya Donelly, His Name Is Alive, Lisa Germano, The Breeders, This Mortal Coil, Kristin Hersh, Dead Can Dance, the Cocteau Twins and several more. Heaven!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Free Music: Lounge On the Farm 2008 'Ear Candy' Mixtape

Download it now!

The Lounge on the Farm festival takes place next weekend (11th, 12th and 13th July) in Kent and, to warm people up and get them in the spirit, they've issued a free-to-download 15 track sampler, featuring some of the artists that will be appearing. And it's a scorcher! It even features a recent favourite of mine, Norwich's Sargasso Trio.

To download the album, head across here (where you will be asked to enter your e-mail address so that they can send you a download link) and to read more about the festival itself, including the full line-up, visit the Lounge on the Farm website.

Here is the full track listing:

01. The Shortwave Set – Sun Machine
02. Wild Billy Childish & The MBE – Again and Again
03. Sargasso Trio – Heels On Fire
04. Pete Greenwood – Negotiations And Last Words
05. The Suggestions – Fashion Monkey
06. J*Star – Hot Sleng Dubplate
07. Toddla T ft. Micachu & Miss Bienek – Backchatter
08. The Onlookers – Reverse The Widow
09. Black Kids – I’m Lonely [And I Love It]
10. Cats In Paris – And Ugly
11. Pete Molinari – Adelaine
13. Syd Arthur – Earthbound
14. Midfield General – Love Thyself
15. Hotrods n Dragsters – Spitfire Romance

And a couple of sample tracks to get your juices flowing:

Sun Machine - The Shortwave Set

Heels On Fire - Sargasso Trio

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Short Film - The Big Empty

I have just stumbled across this short film over at YouTube and I simply had to share it. I would recommend watching in full screen mode (click the little square within a square at the bottom right), as it is over 20 minutes long!

This is certainly not the usual YouTube 'talking into a webcam' fact, both George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh were executive producers. The title refers to a girl, Alice (Selma Blair), who has nothing inside of her. She presents at the doctor's with an ache and, upon further 'exploration', is found to contain a never-ending expanse of arctic conditions.

Surreal it may be, but beautifully played. It reminded me of Being John Malkovich, which I think to be an incredible film. I have an extremely limited attention span, and I didn't look away once!

Here is the song that is used towards the end of the film...hell, the use of this song would almost be enough to sell me on its own (I'm a huge fan of the record label 4AD and have always loved this track):

Song to the Siren - This Mortal Coil

Songs of the Fifty States: New Mexico to South Carolina

Here's one about The Land of Enchantment, the 47th US state. "Who is K.C. Groves?", I hear you ask. She is one quarter of Uncle Earl...a bloomin' excellent band. Also considered: Jah Wobble's New Mexico Dub. But I decided that, whilst I rather like Jah Wobble, it really does seem to have very little to do with New Mexico, given that there are no words...and it most definitely is not country music. Perhaps it is intended to 'evoke the spirit of New Mexico' or some such mumbo jumbo; but as I have never been there and am not that emotionally intelligent, we'll pass on this occasion! Still worth a listen if you can track it down though.

The Only Living Boy In New York - Simon and Garfunkel

New York was a somewhat tricky little number, with the majority of songs being about the infamous city, as opposed to the state as a whole. This one's ambiguous...whilst it is more than likely about NYC, it doesn't say so specifically and, well, it's a lovely song. The story goes that Paul Simon (perhaps my very favourite songwriter) wrote it when Art Garfunkel pissed off to Mexico to film Catch 22, leaving Simon to do the predominance of the writing for the album Bridge Over Troubled Water. 'Tom', here, is Garfunkel...a nod to the days when they were known as Tom and Jerry. The only other track that I seriously considered here was Tori Amos and I Can't See New York...but that would seem to be about death and dying!

North Carolina - The Devil Makes Three

A North Carolinian song from a Californian band. I think I found this in my research for this post, and don't have any other tracks by them...but if this serves as an example, I am definitely going to have to pay closer attention! A lovely, simple modern bluegrass entry.

The first song that came to mind for this state, and the second I thought of for this 'theme' altogether, was North Dakota by Lyle Lovett...a truly gorgeous song. That was posted over at SMM however, and seeing as there was a decent alternative I had to stick to the rules! I did toy with posting a live version of the Lovett song, but I decided that that would still be cheating. Whilst very little can match Lovett, I think that this is still a very good substitute.

Dayton, Ohio 1903 -Randy Newman

Mr Newman's only appearance (dem dars the rules) - it's a good song...Louisiana 1927's even better, but unfortunately that was posted over at 'the other side' (damn you SMMers!). Equally, he could have shown his face in Kentucky (My Old Kentucky Home), but seeing as there a massive number of Kentucky songs to choose from, and fewer for The Buckeye State, I decided that he would be put to better use here instead! I decided against Look At Miss Ohio by Gillian Welch, despite it being a most excellent tune. Also not quite qualifying was Porter Wagoner's The Banks of the Ohio, as it is about the river rather than the state. I have also read that CocoRosie do a cover of Damian Jurado's Ohio, but sadly I don't have a copy of that.

My Oklahoma Home - Bruce Springsteen

Again, although a good song, a second choice - my first was The Kinks' Oklahoma U.S.A., another one that SMM beat me to (it was only fair to let the theme over there wind up before I made my final decisions/postings...particularly as, although I have thought of covering the states before, it is Paul's decision to focus on it there that has resulted in me actually getting around to it!). But this is perhaps more is Springsteen in country mode (which I much prefer, as his rock output has somehow always failed to move me and has never really got under my skin).

I Must Be in Oregon - Greg Brown

In researching these posts, before deciding on the final format and what prose to include, I looked up everything from state nicknames to state mottoes and slogans to state flowers and birds! Have a look over the list of official state insignia...state dinosaurs anyone? Oregon, or The Beaver State (fnar), won the 'best motto' competition with "She flies with her own wings". Brown is from Iowa and another of his songs, Iowa Waltz, was unsuccessfully proposed as a new official state song for Iowa...or so says Wikipedia. I love his low, slightly gruff, almost Leonard Cohen style vocals here.

If this week has taught me one thing, it is that there are some truly dreadful Pennsylvania songs out there! However, I like this one, with its Disney-esque intro and innocent lyrics about needing to find a way back into the arms of his "angel".

Rhode Island - Show People

Whilst my first choice for this state would have been Erin McKeown singing Rhode Island is Famous For You (I have a feeling that this particular post contains more second choices than any other, although I still think that it is a pretty strong set; it is also the only one of this series not to contain any 'bonus tracks'), that was another song swiped from underneath my nose by fellow SMM contributor Boyhowdy. I suppose I should really thank him, however, as without that I would not have discovered this lovely alternative for the smallest state (whose motto almost rivals Oregon's - it is simply "Hope").

South Carolina Low Country - Josh Turner

Of all the songs I selected for this theme, this is the one that has continued to play its way around my head when away from my computer. I particularly love that "low" is sung as a low note - simple things! I had a tough time deciding between this and The Outlaws' South Carolina, but when I kept finding myself singing this one, I knew that it had won.

Arrived here from The Hype Machine? I would love it if you took the time to leave a comment! :o)