Sunday, 28 September 2008


No list this week. I am so, so sorry. It won't happen again. I start classes proper tomorrow and am terrified, so that's my get out. I feel REALLY bad about this.

I will write something in the week to make up for it, if possible. I need to get a handle on what the normal univeristy week is going to be like. I hope it includes enough time for a My Week in Lists every Sunday night from now on, that is for sure.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

My Week In Lists: Week Ending 21st September

Top 5 Things I'm Going To Miss Whilst at Uni [A Very Sappy MWIL]
  1. The Friends who are not here. I mean, this is obvious, but it will be rubbish being so far from Cai and Hannah and Hannah and Lizzie and Francis and so on.
  2. Rockaboom, The Milkshake Shop Who's Name I Shall Not Type and The Phoenix in Leicester. A good little indie record store, a great violently-pink milkshake place and a filthy little arts cinema. I salute you all.
  3. Silence. Uppingham is a quiet, quiet town and just sometimes that was a good thing. Plus, y'know, you could walk around my neighbourhood at 3am with no fear of anything at all bad happening.
  4. The Family and The Dog. I may complain about them but they are ok kids, y'know. It will be very odd not having them around. I guess everyone has to adjust to this. Also the swing seat in the back garden.
  5. My Charlie Brown and Snoopy mural. I'll have to get used to going to sleep without them [and my awesome but too-big Woody Allen's Manhattan poster] watching over me. Uh. Playing baseball. Over me.
O'course it's kinda early on to know what I'm really missing but I'd say those five will be up there.

Next time: Less of this nonsense, more about THE EXCITING REALITY OF MOVING AWAY FROM HOME TO DO LEARNING. Have a good week, internet!

Friday, 19 September 2008

"What I Did This Weekend" or EOTR2008: Saturdays are Sweet

[For those of you wondering why this is taking so long, stay tuned]

Saturday began, promisingly, with an excellent Breakfast Burrito [which isn't in Firefox's dictionary. Way to be racist against awesome food, Firefox] and me and Richard and Ashish and Laurence all watching Absentee [who I quite liked, in an "inoffensive" rather than "engaging" way. Their last song was very good] and then Noah and the Whale. Apparently they're "a bit popular". I've been a bit unsure about Five Years Time previously but it's great fun here, all "the kids" [in both a literal and a Stuart Murdoch sense] make noise/throw up their hands and so on. Laurence notes that they seem to have at least one "hoedown bit" per song. Which should be encouraed, frankly. Dear British indie bands, more hoedowns, less songs about birds and lads.

Bowerbirds are a band I knew absolutely nothing about beforehand except that John Darnielle had talked them up, so I was expecting some sort of lyrical-heavy stuff but what we got was very pleasant folk with wonderful vocal harmonies. I hear Bon Iver had them on later to help him out but I missed that because I was in the Bimble Inn very much enjoying Seabear, an Icelandic indie pop seven-piece who sound like they should probably be from Glasgow. Well. During their songs anyway. In between their front man's heavily-accented and ever so slightly broken English shows their roots. They're adorable and soon get the [fairly full] tent on side, even suceeding in employing most of the tent as back up vocalists on their last song. They very quickly sold out of CDs immediatley after, much to my dissapointment. Still, probably my favourite discovery of the weekend.

On the way between the 'Birds and the 'Bear [shoot me on the way out], our party saw one of the best songwriter's in the world ever hanging out at the Duke of Uke stall so we all went and said Hi. Turns out Darren Hayman is very nice as well as being constantly brilliant. Apparently he'd brought Emmy the Great with them to sing during the Darren and Jack Play Hefner Songs set but she'd gone and gotten a gig on Sunday so she wouldn't be doing it. And then we discussed how he thinks Jeremy Warmsley doesn't have a good name for rock. Right on, Darren.

Sometime after this I saw British Sea Power. I don't understand all the business with the branches and the leaves or why their fans had made banners and were, um, waving a Yoda toy arond. For one I literally do not know why they do this and for another I'm not sure what drives them to be so devoted to the band in the first place. British Sea Power are alright. I really can't think of anything interesting to say about their set because it was, y'know, Quite Good. And yet, the crowd went wild. Maybe it's just me. On the plus side, they did announce that there would be a Jonathan Richman covers band featuring two of their number, playing in the Inn at 1.30am.

A little while later, Low took to the stage. I'd been floored by their set at Summer Sundae 2007 so I was excited for this and was not dissapointed. Whilst I like Low on record, I LOVE them live. Many people made that crowd cheer but very few silenced them like Low did. It was dark and nasty and atmospheric and wonderful - the bass line of Canada creeping in made me smile more than anything else musical that had happened up to that point. Murderer was excellent too and I was really liking even the ones I didn't know [well, y'know, as much as you can enjoy the ultra-bleak stuff] but me and Richard and Ashish left early to get to Jeremy Warmsley.

See, JWarm was playing in the smallest tent of the festival so we assumed it'd be full and we'd have to get their early to get in. It was not as full as it should've been when we got there and then technical difficulties meant he started late anyway [meaning we missed the now infamous Alan-Sparhawk-throwing-a-guitar-AT-the-crowd incident]. But it was worth it, once he got going it was a joy to watch, I'd forgotten how tight his live band is. The second-album material was sounding extremely strong [Dancing With the Enemy is catchier than SARS and I love If He Breaks Your Heart more than is reasonable], the first album songs sounded better than they do on the album [I Believe In The Way You Move was never this sprightly, was it?] . He ended proceedings with my favourite cover song of all time, his version of New Order's Temptation. I told him this afterwards and he hugged me. This was all Very Very Good. He said he'd be back at 2.40 to do a covers-heavy acoustic set.

At midnight, me and Ashish went over to a tent that had been used in the day for children's activities and was now playing host to "Scarytelling", in which comedians were supposed to tell vaguely scary stories. Some of them did this, luckily not all. It ended with Robin Ince very drunk doing a series of the last lines of scary stories ("It was a child with the face of an old man! The hand wouldn't die! HE was the ghost!" etc.) and then a John Peel impression and then um, something about Stewart Lee vomiting. Then he read a very moving passage from someone's autobiography about their wife dieing. And then Darren Hanlon played a "Magical-realism Christmas murder ballad".

After this Ashish (perhaps wisely) went to bed and I went to see the end of the Modern Ovens [Modern Covers or Modern Others, gentlemen, surely?]. Sadly no "Since She Started To Ride" or "Dancing In the Lesbian Bar" or "Pablo Picasso" but a lovely "Ice Cream Man" and of course they finished with "Roadrunner". It's a very nice thing to see a tent full of people go mental to "Roadrunner". [RADIO ON!]

After a while, it became apparenty Jeremy Warmsley would not be playing a covers-heavy acoustic set. Here is how I could tell: There was nobody on stage, they were playing music over the PA, a dancefloor had formed, Jeremy Warmsley was on that dancefloor. So I went over and he turned out to be a bit drunk which is why he was not playing and he apologised profusely and repeatedly and sent me off with another hug. He's very nice he is. Buy his next record when it's out and definitely go see him life.

After all this excitement, I went to bed looking forward to Sunday. BUT WOULD SUNDAY BE AS GOOD?

Here is a spoiler, readers: Sunday was the best day EVER. I will write all about it soon.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

"What I Did This Weekend" or End of the Road 2008: Fridays are Fine

I should begin this by noting that my esteemed colleague from Sugar and Noise (and award winning young poet) has begun his write up of End of the Road festival and his will probably be loads better than mine because he's pretty good at That Writing Business. Click "Thirty Three Forever" in that list of links at the side and enjoy his view on things.


I've always been suspicious of music festivals. At most of them [even my beloved, local Summer Sundae] there are ten terrible bands for every one kinda-good one, the people are awful ["No, I'M more drunk right now. Anyway let's go and see the Klaxons"] and the places are worse [Mud! Mud! Massive Amounts Of Advertising! More Mud!]. But End of the Road is more than a little different. I'm fine to use up as many negative adjectives as I want in this paragraph because I'm not going to get much of a chance to for the rest of the article...

Me and the other half of Leicester's favourite interracial indie-fan duo, my good friend Ashish, arrived at the End of the Road site in fairly low spirits. We'd been up since 5am, we'd been on a series of slow, warm coaches and for some reason we'd had to go through the center of London. We'd just missed the first shuttle bus from Salisbury to the festival so we'd had to wait for most of an hour and then on they were we passed a caravan on fire in the middle of nowhere. A bad omen, if ever I saw one.

But you know what the first thing you see as you head onto the End of the Road site is? A series of big pink letters on top of the box office saying "HEY! HO! LET'S GO!". Right on. Some friendly steward complimented by band t-shirt as we got wristband'd and from there on it was almost all up. We set up tents quickly [with the aid of my internet aquaintance Laurence] and decided to eat instead of watching Laura Marling. Not that I dislike her [um. Except for that "I think he thinks it makes me weak" one which is dire. But her most recent single was pretty good!] but we were hungry and I figured there'd be pleanty of average-to-good acoustic singer/songwriters performing at any given moment from now until the end of time really. Whereas handmade oragnic pizza would only be here this weekend!

I'm not quite sure where the evening went but the only music I remember seeing properly was Robyn Hitchock and Conor Oberst. One of these was weird and funny and very enjoyable and the other was more difficult. I really didn't know what to expect with Robyn, I've heard one or two things by him before and liked them. I was kinda hoping his full Venus 3 band would be with him because that'd really be something [look it up, mighty fine backing band that occasionally includes Sean Christopher Nelson doing backup vocals. More on him some other time perhaps, but in short he is (in every sense of the phrase) one of my favourite voices in US independant music].
It was just Mr Hytchock and an acoustic guitar for the most part but the songs were great. Baffling, but great. Richard once told me he didn't like The Shins that much because James Mercer's imagery was "a bit all over the place" and I'd say that applies times ten to Robyn, and I like it (I like The Shins too of course). There was a particularly charming number performed with two female vocalists about how babies behaviour leads to their sexual preferences in later life. After it had ended Robyn declared "This is folk music!". Then there was something about how all babies are really Jesus. As I said: Baffling. And how often do you get properly baffled in a pleasant way in music? Not often enough.

Conor on the other hand... Oh I don't know. There were some good songs in there; I Don't Wanna Die In A Hospital and Soulded Out!!! were fun and performed well but so much of the set felt flat. The long, boring blues number and cliche "rrrock and rrroll" songs by other members of "The Mystic Valley Band", Conor trying to be funny and just coming off as a collosal asshole ["Hi, we're The Decemberists! Haha! Woo!". I wish, Mr Oberst, I wish] and otherwise behaving like an 8 year old playing at rock star.
The last few songs of his set were made immeasurably more enjoyable by two girls near me who found a space in the crowd and had themselves a spectacularly energetic emo/country dance off, followed by interpretive actions for all the lyrics to [the very dull] "Milk Thistle". Those of us nearby were applauding them more than Conor by the end of it. Good work, girls, whoever and wherever you are [and whatever you were on].

After this I finally managed to meet up with Richard and together we took in a few minutes of Akron/Family [I liked that one loud, rhythmic one they did with all the shouting! Oh and again. Not so much this time. Now I'm bored. The End.] and then tried to see David Thomas Broughton but soon gave up because the sound was so terrible. For a few moments though, I really could see why Plan B goes on about him. His voice and the things he does with loops and samples are pretty incredible and pretty pretty.

So Friday was alright. It was to be bettered by the days that followed but it showed promise. And that pizza was really good.

[More of this tomorrow, obviously. Oh Sweeping the Nation also has their End of the Road coverage up so read that too, they're brilliant]

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Midweek Musings: Pre-EOTR, TVOTR and TNV

Times New Viking are giving me a headache as I write this. The songs are so good and I do like them but I can only deal with that much noise for a certain length of time. I do respect what they do and all but... have you heard their Daytrotter session? Where you can actually hear the songs without straining so hard? It's all the fun with less of the pain. I'm not saying that's necessarily better or worse, I'm just glad that it's there.

At the very, very opposite end of the production spectrum, the new TV on the Radio album is astonishingly good. The second half in particular is amazing. I'm not going to upload any tracks for fear of being bombed by the RIAA or something but... I will be buying that record on release day and you should to. If you want to sample it before doing so, you can hear it at various places on the internet. Kyp and Tunde have two of the best voices in indie rock and they get some really wonderful vocal melodies to work with on this album (See my current favourite: Shout Me Out). Dave Sitek is still a genius and proves he can do more than glossy fuzz: Family Tree features ghostly pianos and feels like a funeral in Heaven*. Oh and Dancing Choose is... well: "He's a WHAT? He's a WHAT?! He's a newspaper man!". Sold.

As I said last post: No My Week in Lists this weekend because I will be at "End of the Road" festival in Dorset. Which is cool for me, because I get to see maybe my current favourite band ever [The Mountain Goats] and half of my favourite broken-up band ever [Hefner, Darren and Jack Play Hefner are doing their last ever (?) set at the festival] all in a field in southern England. It's going to be worth the seven hour coach journey. It'll also be cool because some of my good friends who I speak to regularly online but rarely get to see in the real world will be there. One of them is Richard who's blog is linked in the sidebar there, the wonderful Thirty Three Forever. If he does a write-up of the festival it'll probably be better than mine.
But failing that: Great big fat review/report post on Monday.

Enjoy your weekend, all. Listen to that TV on the Radio album if you get the chance and if you're a Legal Music Only Type [and I respect that, whatever] then pre-order that thing. I imagine for those of you in the same age bracket as me, this may be your last weekend before leaving for University? It's mine! Do good things. Be good people. Talk to you Monday.

*Oh god I am so sorry that is such a terrible, pretentious meaningless thing to say. BUT IT DOES!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

My Week in Lists: Week Ending 7th September

Top 5 Things I've Enjoyed This Week
  1. Episodes of Student Bodies on YouTube. I (and various friends I've linked to it) have fond memories of this stupid Canadian teen sitcom from my childhood and it turns out it's just as much fun now. Flash (the amoral, mercenary, female photographer) may be the best charchter in any 90s teen sitcom. Also it is a LOT better than Saved by the Bell ever was. [Take that, Saved By The Bell . You are dumb! Student Bodies is dumb sometimes too but not on the same level. Mostly.]
  2. My new Spoon t-shirt from Insound. Took ages to ship (to be fair, I am on the other side of the Atlantic to them) but was totally worth the wait. They sent a really cool little catalogue along with it. And, uh, a Kate Nash poster, for no apparent reason. It has been donated to one of my younger sisters. So that's two amazing Spoon related things I now own - the other being a setlist signed by Rob Pope. I am indiegeek, hear me roar.
  3. Peppermint Smints. SO much better than the normal/blue Smints. I may never go back.
  4. Johnny Foreigner's album Waited Up 'Til It Was Light. It's been a month or so since I last gave the thing a serious listen and it's still one of the very best albums of the year, and not just for this most recent amazing single. I think my current favourite is the sole slow/quiet number [it always is], "DJ's Get Doubts" [I will add an mp3 here within 24 hours, promise]. I will point out that if this is the only JoFo song you've heard: The rest of them are high speed, high energy, electric-guitars-to-the-walls punky indie rock/pop madness. They're amazing, obviously.
  5. The first disc of season one of Flight of the Conchords. Pretty much worth it just for Arj Barker and Eugene Mirman and John Hodgman (no YouTube because all his best stuff has been on The Daily Show and that's all at their site and blah blah blah). I hear Aziz Ansari
    turns up later on too! Yay for people employing comedians I like.
So there you go. I'll see y'all for a Midweek Musing about something but I warn you now that there will be no My Week in Lists next Sunday because I will be in a field in Dorset seeing some amazing bands.

What have YOU enjoyed this week, internet?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

EPs and Housing Issues

"I know you're pretty pissed, I hope you still let me kiss you" etc.

Two things of interest happened to me today: 1. I found out where I will be living when I start University in a few weeks and 2. I got the new Stars EP

Two first because it's more fun: I've long been a fan of the EP. There aren't enough of the things. Dear every band, do an EP or two. With EPs you get an equality of songs that doesn't exist in any other format. On most albums people will pay more attention and listen more to the songs near the begining (understandably just because albums take time to listen to and you don't always have it) and any singles taken from it. With EPs though, they're short enough that all songs can be judged on equal merit. Uh, unless any singles are lifted from it which does happen and is silly. I'm all for non-album singles but they should be a standalone thing.

The EP allows for an album like "arc" of songs [slow opener, mid tempo song, more intense song, climax, cool off for example] but without the time consumption, so it requires less effort on the part of the listener. For this reason alone I can't believe EPs aren't more popular. You'd think the mainstream pop kids would be all over such a format. But no, it's left to the left-of-center and the ever-so-slightly-obscure (and of course the Very Very Obscure and everyone in between) to really utilise the form.

Stars, as you should be well aware by this point, are a Canadian indie pop five-piece who formed in Toronto and currently reside in Montreal. After a series of small releases they got Indie Big with Set Yourself On Fire and followed it in 2007 with (my favourite of their albums, though the fans disagree with me) In Our Bedroom After the War.
Why do I love Stars? A few reasons: They're frequently unabashedly romantic and sexual, Torquil Campbell and Amy Milan are both excellent singers and I enjoy bands with multiple lead vocalists, the instrumentation is always interesting ranging from guitar lead pop-rock to lush electronics to a lone piano...

"Listening to Stars feels like being young and in love" is what I expect to say about this band once I'm old enough to say that without it being ridiculous. Actually that's a neat segue: There's a track on their new Sad Robots EP called "14 Forever" which, over a skipping, tapped beat and a piano that grows into a rush of full percussion and keyboards, addresses and acknowledges the joy and ridiculousness of youth. "Ten thousand drunken kids in a field can't be wrong" Torquil declares breathlessly through an old radio. He knows that he is joking and that there is some truth to his joke.

My favourite track here is called "A Thread Cut With A Carving Knife". It follows the floaty, piano-led ambi-pop intro track and starts with a swell of keyboards before an insistent little beat sneaks in, soon joined by live drums and Torquil describing a series of incidents over a few days at the height of Summer whilst keyboard lines descend in the background. The explosive chorus of "Til the next day!" has Amy joining in and a big fuzzy wall of noise backing them up. It sounds like taking a deep breath of cold air on the top of a hill as the sun rises. It sounds like being alone and perfectly peaceful in a large, noisy crowd. It feels good.

The six track set ends with "Sad Robot" itself which sees Amy singing softly in French over an acoustic guitar [up close] and cold, synthetic ambient noises [far away]. It's lovely, more than anything else, and very touching even though I don't understand a word she's saying. [Update: My mutli-talented friend Sophie has translated a few of the lyrics for me, it's sad, pretty stuff but I think it works just as well if you don't understand it. Amy's voice does a lot of the work for you.]

Which is Stars all over: Not always precise, but always effective and always affecting

Meanwhile in the real world: I'd been panicking about my University accomodation because other people I know who are going to Birmingham had been told and I had not. Today, I finally recieved an offer. It's not where I wanted to be but it does seem alright and (Drumroll!) I have my own toilet. That puts me in a relatively small percentage of the world's population, you know. Even a relatively small percentage of University students it seems. I will make sure to never take this for granted.
Anyway, I move in on Sunday the 21st. I now have a definite date to countdown to. Countdown seems the apropriate term, too: Leaving home to live alone for the first time is a lot like leaving Earth for planets and places unknown. I think there may even be a Simon Armitage poem that uses the same analogy?

Probably. I steal everything I write [today's post subtitle is a Hold Steady reference in case the top line didn't tip you off]

See you at the weekend, Internet.