Tag Archive for 'England'

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“Free Love Freeway” – A YouTube Exploration

So after forcing myself to watch the Golden Globes, solely because Ricky Gervais was hosting, I started to remember his songs from The Office UK: “Free Love Freeway”!

It always cracks me up when Gareth and Tim start to join in, harmonizing. Here’s a version Ricky did on Inside The Actor’s Studio:

But I also came upon the most amazing thing! There’s TONS of covers of the song on Youtube! Just like how there’s millions of ukulele covers of “Paper Planes,” or of Neutral Milk Hotel! This makes me happy. It should become a campfire song, that everyone sings and knows how to play. Most of the videos are simple, homemade recordings, done in the person’s living room on a webcam.

Just look how much fun this family has doing it:

A ukulele/guitar version by Nobe & Ben:

by Sunny Williams:

A fast noisy live version by The Sun Lee Sunbeam:

And finally… Ricky Gervais recorded the song properly, with Noel Gallagher from Oasis singing back-up:

If you actually watched all those, I’m sure you’ll be hooked on the song too!

But to future coverers, I say, take some risks! There should be weird electronic versions, accordions, drums, anything. They don’t all need to be done on acoustic guitar!

- almostaghost

Btrxz’s Haiku Reviews of 2010 Or Things We Over Look (in no particular order 16/18)

Artist: Bonobo

Title: Black Sands

Label: Ninja Tunes

Country: UK

Genre: Beatjazz, Chill, Trip Hop

Date: 3-23-10

Bonobo- Black Sands

Tripping forward on waves

Taken far with sound to find

what is always there

El Toro

- Btrxz

Btrxz’s Haiku Reviews of 2010 Or Things We Over Look (in no particular order 15/18)

Artist: Dokkebi Q

Title: Hardcore Cherry Bon Bon

Label: 3QReq, Murder Channel Records

Country: Japan

Genre: Dub, Dubstep, Breakcore, Experimental

Date: 7-27-10

Dokkebi Q- Hardcore Cherry Bon Bon

Chaos is beauty originate

Fractured brute sound with sweet sweat

Follow if one dares

Black Tango

- Btrxz

Btrxz’s Haiku Reviews of 2010 Or Things We Over Look (in no particular order 14/18)

Artist: Shawn Lee

Title: Sing A Song

Label: Ubiquity Records

Country: UK&US

Genre: Neo Funk, Soul, Do Whop

Date: 7-20- 10

Shawn Lee- Sing A Long

Fun tickles a ear

Dance in steps of joy and smiles

Summer is endless

Swimming Pool

- Btrxz

Btrxz’s Haiku Reviews of 2010 Or Things We Over Look (in no particular order 11/18)

Artist: Skywatchers

Title: The Skywatchers Handbook

Label: Twins Of Evil Recordings

Country: UK&US

Genre: Electrofolk, Downtempo, Electronic

Date: 9-6-10

Skywatchers- The Skywatchers Handbook

Stare long into night

Peace welcomes a sound found lost

Placing you with stars

Soul Baptist

- Btrxz

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2010 – #8. Goldfrapp – Head First

Goldfrapp - Head First

shiny and warm

#8. Goldfrapp – Head First

Head First is yet another addictive album from Goldfrapp. Their string of records is getting pretty impressive! I find that when I listen to them, I end up listening to them a ton. And sometimes when I do that with other artists, by the time I’m done, I’m thinking, “that’s enough, I’m sick of this artist now.” But with Goldfrapp, I get hooked, and keep wanting to listen to more. Head First is no exception!

While their last album, Seventh Tree, was pretty chill, and showed off the sometimes-strange creativity of their songs, Head First leans back to Black Cherry or Supernature. It is energetic and bubbly, but with their occasional slight touches of darkness or menace. That’s not to say they are repeating themselves. Most press about Head First notes the heavy ’80s influence of the album, mainly in the sound of the keyboards/synthesizers. That is true, but misses some of the subtlety of what they are doing. Jazzercising to it would hardly be out of place, though, that’s for sure.

On “Dreaming,” for example, all the sounds and layers of synthesizers are there to enhance the chorus. Everything is there for that moment: “I, I am only dreaming…” Similarly, “Alive” hangs there, revving up, until the chorus soars in, “feeling alive again!” This is what Goldfrapp does in all their best songs of the past (from “Strict Machine” to “Oh La La” to name two), dropping razor sharp choruses into a relentless groove. They continue to do that on Head First, continue to do that better than anyone.

One new angle on Head First is that Alison Goldfrapp is singing fairly straightforward love songs. In the past, she used a lot of sexy innuendo and surreal language; here, she is using her seductive voice to sing of clearer and more immediate feelings. For instance, on “Shiny And Warm,” she is anxious: “shiny and warm / head in a storm / I’m driving home to you.” She sounds pretty exhilarated, and it’s pretty clear what will happen when she gets home (“you’ll play with my cheek / whisper something in the dawn”). She recognizes sometimes that the feelings might be a dream or temporary. On the title track, she sings “I am your visitor / I’m on the other side of your world.” She’ll deal with that later, but for now she’s “head first in love.” This immediacy certainly makes Head First one of the more romantic albums of 2010.

Goldfrapp “Dreaming”

Goldfrapp “Head First”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2010 – #10. M.I.A. – /\/\ /\ Y /\


down like your internet connection

#10. M.I.A. – /\/\ /\ Y /\

Initially, I was confused by /\/\ /\ Y /\. My favorite aspects of M.I.A.’s earlier albums, Kala and Arular, seemed to have been stripped away: the international politics, the world music beats. Do I want to hear M.I.A. using Autotune? Singing about how much tequila she drinks? A song like “XXXO” sounded very much like pure pop music, and I could easily hear a Christina Aguilera or someone singing it. Is this what I really wanted from M.I.A.? But a funny thing happened, even with this initial hesitation. I couldn’t stop listening to it.

The hidden aspects of many of the songs began to reveal themselves. Take the aforementioned “XXXO” which is ostensibly about a hookup. The chorus begins with, “you want me / XXXO” but is followed with the real chorus, “you want me to be somebody who I’m really not.” It is not the mindless situation it may appear at first. Similarly, at first I found “Teqkilla” despicable. But once I got around the the pun-filled lyrics about alcohol, I found it blown to bits by an insanely wild electro-jam. The end of the song is totally drunk on sounds and beats, and is completely awesome. Once I started to get into this song, the whole album started to click. If you start looking into the hearts of the songs, M.I.A.’s intelligence, creativity and lo-fi experimentation are still at their prime. The utterly bizarre echo-y gospel beat of “Tell Me Why,” the rock guitar back-to-back of “Born Free” and “Meds And Feds,” the trippy groove on “Story To Be Told”–they all started to work as clever, catchy tracks. (I still don’t like the Autotune though.)

And while /\/\ /\ Y /\ isn’t as explicitly political as her other albums could be, it does reveal itself too with more familiarity. Many of the songs are about freedom, never being caught. Instead of world politics, M.I.A. is focused on the politics of being an artist. (But it works as an analogy to the world too.) On “Lovalot,” she starts, “I feel cooped up / I wanna bust free / Got nothin’ to lose if you get me.” Later on “Space,” she sings that “gravity is my enemy” as she’s flying around in space odyssey (“I’m ahead of time so you’ll never lose me”). Is she staying one step ahead of expectations? Of authority? She’s out “living on the edge,” which is where the fight is, where the freedom is. It’s a great place for an artist to be.

So in the end, I consider /\/\ /\ Y /\ a great album. It is not showing up on many end-of-the-year lists that I’ve seen, and I reckon in the future it will continue to be overlooked, forgotten. Heck, I’m probably underrating it myself, even at #10 on my list. It is something that I will keep listening to, more and more. It’s not Kala, but it’s not trying to be.

M.I.A. – “Story To Be Told”

M.I.A. – “Teqkilla”

and for fun, here’s a great song M.I.A. threw on the web, after she got in a little pseudo-controversy with a journalist who wrote a less-than-flattering profile about her.

M.I.A. – “Haters”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2010 – #11. Corinne Bailey Rae – The Sea

The Sea

put her records on

#11. Corinne Bailey Rae – The Sea

Corinne Bailey Rae made a giant leap with her second album. Unfortunately, tragic circumstances led to it. But The Sea ended up one of the most soulful and emotional records of 2010.

After the quiet success of her first album, Rae’s husband died of an accidental drug overdose. When she returned to record The Sea, she clearly channeled her feelings into her songs. Don’t get me wrong–The Sea is not a downer of an album. It reflects on love and loss in an emotional way, but never reaches the level of Harrowing. “It’s hard to recall the taste of summer / when everywhere around, the chill of winter,” she sings on “Are You Here,” probably the most nakedly emotional song on the album. In “Paris Nights/New York Mornings,” she remembers “love filled nights,” but with the caveat that they are running out of time. And while “the sea breaks everything,” she also realizes that it “cleans everything.” Wiki says she wrote about half the songs after her husband’s death, and I can’t speculate which ones were or weren’t, but all the songs tie in: she looks at love, the good and the bad, the memories, the struggles.

Musically, though, is where The Sea is the most impressive. Rae’s self-titled first album was more or less pop music. Except for some touches, the music does not sound organic — drums are created, vocals and lyrics clear and romantic, rhythms perfect and predictable, her voice warm and inviting. I say this not to demean it, I enjoy it, but to contrast with The Sea, which, upon listening close, is absolutely nothing like it.

First, she recorded The Sea with a band. The energy that comes from a band performing is perfect for her voice, and they combine to create atmosphere and a bit more drama. She shows more skill in singing, as well. Instead of pop clarity, she purrs more, like a real soul singer should. Soul music is about passion and feelings, and she finds that, ironically, by pulling her voice back. You don’t have to go big to get there. Her natural voice is big anyway, so to keep things slightly mysterious does nothing but enhance the emotion and ambience.

As I have mentioned a couple of times on this countdown (and will a couple more, I’m sure), I went to Coachella this year. Rae was one of the acts, which was a great and welcome surprise. I was stoked, and made sure I didn’t miss her. She did not disappoint, and I even stood near her in the crowd later as we watched Sly Stone have a crazy meltdown. If people skipped her, wrote her off as one of the “pop” acts Coachella sometimes adds, they really missed out.

They also would be missing out on The Sea, if they wrote her off after her debut.

Corinne Bailey Rae “Paper Dolls”

Corinne Bailey Rae “I Would Like To Call It Beauty”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2010 – #17. Record Club – Oar

Beck Wilco Jamie Lidell Feist

I could use me some yin for my yang

#17. Record Club – Oar

Beck’s superb and on-going Record Club project is my next choice for this countdown. Beck organizes a handful of fellow musicians and friends, and in one day, they cover an entire album. The tracks are recorded as videos, and then released on Beck.com weekly. He tackled Skip Spence’s Oar for the third project, which is an unbelievably good record. It is a sometimes strange mix of folk and jazz, but with the emotion of one man singing the blues. Skip Spence was an obscure genius, a lesser-known Syd Barrett-type who also went mad. His story is fascinating, but better saved for another post. Beck has been a long-time fan of Spence’s, and has covered him a couple of times prior to this as well.

The first couple of Record Clubs were a fairly random bunch of musicians. This time, the third project, Beck surrounded himself with a band, Wilco, who already have their own chemistry. This brought an added dimension to the proceedings, and the ability to go almost anywhere musically. Further, the other musicians (Feist, Jamie Lidell, Brian LeBarton, James Gadson) are all supremely-talented collaborators, who can easily fit in with whatever is going on. With Beck overseeing everything, this Record Club was set up to succeed.

And succeed they do. They all jump into Oar with unbridled enthusiasm and creativity, relishing the brilliant songs. They handle the project in two sections, basically. Eight of the tracks were done with all the musicians, and the remaining were done as a killer funk band of Beck, Lidell, Gadson and LeBarton (i.e., without Wilco). These two set-ups really complement each other, and make for a very well-rounded album.

The tracks with Wilco and Feist for the most part play the songs straight. Beck sings lead on “Little Hands” and “Diana,” sticking quite close to Spence’s original vocals. Wilco fills out the music in subtle and playful ways, like those lead guitar licks on “Diana.” Feist gets to sing the staggering “Weighted Down,” which was a perfect decision. I don’t think Beck or Jeff Tweedy would have been quite right for the song, neither’s voice has the necessary heft for it. Feist, however, brings it. Similarly, the band starts Spence’s slow and spooky “War In Peace” slow and spooky, but then drop a crazy guitar solo by Nels Cline. They never overdo anything, which is a perfect skill to have when doing an album in a day. For example, on “All Come To Meet Her,” they strip the song all the way down, and the entire group sings it acapella.

Meanwhile, the funk band lets loose with more abandon on the remaining songs. While the Wilco tracks are beautiful and tasty, after Wilco left (or before they got there, not sure), the other guys jammed. Jamie Lidell has a high soul falsetto, James Gadson is a legendary funk drummer on all the classics, Beck and Lebarton are groovy dudes. They must have realised, what else are we going to do here? “Books Of Moses” and “Cripple Creek” are the answer.

As you can see, this Record Club was up for anything-acappella barbershop, ’70s funk, acoustic guitars, rock, Ace Of Base (yep), whatever. That they were doing it from a template of Skip Spence’s songs is pretty inspiring. The project both stands on its own, and brings new light into the sometimes shady corners of Spence’s genius. If you’re not following Beck’s Record Clubs, you’re missing out. (It’s on hiatus at the moment though, I’ll certainly post when it returns.)

You can watch/listen to all of the songs on beck.com by clicking here.

Record Club: Record Club – “Grey / Afro”

Record Club – “Broken Heart”

Skip Spence:

Alexander Skip Spence – “Cripple Creek”

Alexander Skip Spence – “Weighted Down (The Prison Song)”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2010 – #21. Robert Plant – Band Of Joy

Robert Plant - Band Of Joy

southbound saurez

#21. Robert Plant – Band Of Joy

Robert Plant has always been a bit of a musicologist. Even in Led Zeppelin, he was very often the one connecting the songs to the blues with his lyrics and knowledge. His solo albums the past 10 years or so have focused on delivering more of his knowledge–mostly all covers, world music, bluegrass, whatever strikes his fancy. In the early 2000s, Plant was mixing triphop and world music with the blues (yes). Then out of nowhere, he did a duet album with Alison Krauss, a fairly pure country/bluegrass collaboration that was quite successful. Band Of Joy is in a similar vein to the Krauss album, but with a few more twists to it. Krauss isn’t here, but he is using many of the same people from their album, and in effect, this is a collaboration with musician Buddy Miller. Together, they make a warm album, again almost entirely of cover songs.

The music is handled tastefully, Plant doesn’t do the Golden God thing anymore. Not that anyone should want him to. The loudest he gets is the occasional “welll!” that gets tossed into songs. Nowadays, Plant focuses on subtlety, texture and foremost, serving the song. In many instances, Plant sings his covers very straight, sticking faithfully to the original melodies. Compare Plant’s version of “Angel Dance” to Los Lobos’ original, and you’ll hear what I mean. Musically, however, Plant and Miller add touches of bluegrass and country into the song for flavor, and that’s what makes this album special. Similarly, the Low covers (“Silver Rider” and “Monkey”) delve directly into Low’s slowcore sound, but with Robert Plant singing. (It’s quite an unexpected combo to hear, though there were a few Page & Plant tracks some years back which were similar to slowcore.) A few other songs are similarly pure, ancient traditional songs like “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” and “Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday.” Where does he find these old songs? They’re terrific.

Plant’s mission here seems to be, not to experiment, but to deliver some great songs. That he does so successfully is such a joy.

Robert Plant – Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday

Robert Plant – Angel Dance

- almostaghost