Sunday, December 06, 2009

Podcast #11: The world lights up

This podcast is as much for anyone reading this blog as it is for me, to help drag myself away from the radiant sadness of the Withered Hand album and that phenomenal video of Linton singing and banging the drums at the Slumberland 20th anniversary show.

You can download it here (34 MB)

Tracklisting (29' 45")

Boyracer - Final day
Eggplant - Candy floss conspiracy
Laura Watling - Let's go
Gaze - Peeking shows his ignorance
Christmas Island - Blackout summer
The Action Time - Rock and roll
This Many Boyfriends - That's what diaries are for
Dear Nora - The flats of irony
Inside Riot - Revolution queen
Lush - Bitter
Brilliant Colors - I searched
14 Iced Bears - Miles away
Leaving Mornington Crescent - Smile meant for you
The Aislers Set - Through the swells (P3 session)

Thankyou and I hope you like it. And if you're looking for Christmas, this way please.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It was never this cold in my dreams and I think I might have fought for the wrong side

Having no music to listen to on a four-hour train journey is a terrible tragedy. But this time I was travelling on the right side of the afternoon; and because my train was going up and down the Midlands, as some trains tend to do these days, I was looking at familiar fields and forgotten railway stations getting showered with the disappearing sunshine, that last bit of bright light before it all reluctantly fades away in that slow autumn way, and darkness only really fell just after Bedford, like it always does.

I had 'Rescue Us' by My Favorite going in my mental jukebox the whole time. It's sweetly and almost obsessively familiar so for a few hours it didn't feel like I needed to hear it properly. But it was making me want to bury my head in my hands and it was threatening to kill the gracefulness of what I could see out of my train window. It's a song with key changes that amount to emotional blackmail and it even has one of those galling yet incredible voice-breaking moments.

And the book in my hands was Rabbit, Run by John Updike, whom I'd completely missed out on reading before, and it's a very uncomfortable read: at first cruelly misogynistic, then equally misandristic, hollow in feeling, sexy as hell, urgent, hopeless, incredibly beautifully written.

Those were the four shortest hours of my life but by the time I got home I was feeling ten years older, ten years younger and like I should be burning everything down to start all over again. So I had a bath and went to bed.

My Favorite, 'Rescue Us' (mp3)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Why stuff is important, parts 3, 4 *and* 5: Striving for the Lazy Perfection

I remember the time and the place and the feeling - that's what's so mad about this record. It was a dark winter afternoon back in the 20th century when I went to Pilgrim, the only indie record shop in Athens, for the tenth time in as many dark winter afternoons and finally, finally they had received the stock from Sarah despite the general strike.

It used to take me about an hour and a half to get from the record shop to my house in those days. A walk down the centre of Athens, down to Athinas Street, a really long wait for the bus and a really long, ugly journey back home to Pireas. And the fifteen-minute walk up the hill until I could be in my room setting the record player up felt like the longest walk ever.

But this is not me looking back to 1994 with nostalgic feelings - it was a pretty grim year, really. It's just that the other morning I was up early and with 'Give A Little Honey' in my head so I put Striving for the Lazy Perfection on the record player and for some reason I had the exact same reaction I had 15 years ago when I sat down to listen to it for the first time: utter confusion.

The sweetest, guiltiest, sincerest, sexiest confusion. It started from the vaguely religious cover and slapped me properly with the first song, 'Obsession No. 1': something to be afraid of, something to worry about, something that made me want to close the door in case my mum walked in and heard how fast my heart was beating. The last time I'd heard from the Orchids was when that wonder of a single called 'Thaumaturgy' had come out about 18 months previously. I was so taken aback by that that I didn't want them to release anything else because there were not enough hours in the day to listen to 'I Was Just Dreaming'. But I was still desperate to see what they would come up with next because I almost knew where this was going. Almost. I didn't expect it to be so forceful.

Everything about this record shouts sex. Whispers and repetitive beats and suggestive lyrics. It's strange. I don't want to call it sensual or anything because it's not one of those shagging records that put you in the mood but then why do I always feel awkward listening to it with other people in the room? It's sexy but lonely and dark. And it's not just that. Most of the people I know who like the Orchids prefer to ignore this album and dance to 'Apologies' and 'Defy the Law' instead. But for me there is no greater, more consistent, more breathtaking record than this in all of Sarah's output. There is no 'Sarah sound' and this record proves it because it's a soul/ambient/rock/indiepop record that messes with your brain and your musical expectations to such a degree that it doesn't matter anymore and you can just sit there and listen and get swallowed by the fragility of 'Prayers to St Jude' and the irreverence of 'A Living Ken and Barbie' and the defiant heartbreak of 'A Kind of Eden' and yet it's still The Orchids, still five blokes from Glasgow, still unbelievably pop.

Striving for the lazy perfection. Striving for the lazy perfection. God, I could say those words until my lips dissolve. What a perfect title.

One day everyone will understand.

The Orchids, 'Welcome to My Curious Heart' (mp3)

Friday, July 31, 2009

We like your coat!

Last night I was in the pub with Dave waiting for Ian to show up. When he did, he pulled the stool, sat down and said "Fucking hell, this is worse than ever before". He didn't even say hello. Our marathon stroll down memory lane (five days is a long time) included Dave getting up and doing a John Travolta dance, Ian pulling the festival programme out of his bag and going through the schedule, and me grabbing my double vodka with both hands and downing it in one.

We were talking about Indietracks, by the way.

I miss Indietracks so badly. It hit me on Wednesday night that that there's so much perfection and randomness in spending three days in the middle of nowhere under banners that say 'indiepop festival' that it's impossible to not need help to get over it. Anyone's got any drugs? DJ Polar's disco in the loco shed on Sunday night was the most unexpectedly amazing thing that had ever happened to me. I've seen many radiant, pop-happy faces in the last few years but that sense of losing yourself in the disco lights and the unfamiliar sounds of La Casa Azul and what felt like a 15-minute remix of 'Honolulu Superstar' by Helen Love, surrounded by the most incredible people - oh man, I wanted to kiss everyone, and maybe I should have done. I'd be surprised if there was anything purer than that moment. It had nothing to do with anything, it was happening regardless of life.

And when we started walking out of the deserted festival site, the last people to leave, like last year, and I saw that Elefant backdrop on the main stage, suddenly that weekend we'd just had came together. All those disparate things, the happiness and the anguish, and feeling lost and drunk, crying as you watch your friends triumph on stage or as you watch them flailing their arms around, the trains, the glitter, needing a cuddle, needing the loo, dying for some food, passing the vodka around, believing in impossible things... From 1993 when Luis used to send Elefant mixtapes out with every order to 2009 when I'm saying goodbye to a quiet field way past midnight looking at that stage - well, it turns out this is a loveletter, not a festival. You know how you fall in love and everything is perfect and you want to put it all down on a piece of paper so that it becomes more real? That's how I understand Indietracks now and it makes a lot more sense.

Sorry, I just need to lie down. Where is our tent again?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why stuff is important, part 2: Rough Bunnies

If I could build a time-machine (it's just laziness that stops me), I'd go back to before the Rough Bunnies' proper website disappeared and read and re-read that brilliant bit in their news section that said "Sorry you can't buy our cds anymore - Anna's mum's computer broke down and we lost all our music". I was crying and laughing at the same time because I was thinking, well, I can't buy them which is shit but ha! what a way to go. And so they went.

Last night I came back from the pub, tipsy and rain-soaked, and put Inside Riot on who are my Ramones. They play and play and play, relentlessly and with determination, some average songs, some songs that make the world absolutely bloody beautiful but every single one of them gave me a reason to smile and feel defiant. That's because they symbolise to me everything that's fantastic about indiepop and thinking about that makes me feel invincible every time.

Doing things, engaging, having strong principles, making an effort, not being scared to hug some people and tell some others to fuck off. Those things are even more important than the music. Do you see what I mean? Not the music itself but the idea of the music. This is not some cute art project that you take on, study thoroughly and then present to the world for consumption and admiration. This is the way in which we live our life and the music is a result of those things. It's also the reason we get together but it comes second. No, first. No! Second! First! What I mean is, if you put a gig with great bands on, see that's not necessarily a popshow. If you play some great records, see that's not enough. It's important that all this is done within a context. Some people say 'scene' is a dirty word but our scene was created out of sheer urgency. Like Jamie said, it's something we need to do. It's important that we do it randomly and without a plan and without fear. That perfection which comes out of randomness and panic about the end of the world, or half the bands cancelling on you, or the Guardian getting indiepop wrong again, that perfection is impossible to create. It just creates itself from our faffing around, and we get to live it if we are lucky. The same way Rough Bunnies did their music! The same way that 'What a World' came to be.

Read about Rough Bunnies/Inside Riot here. Read it, go on - it's great.

Edit on 24/9/09: My friend D uploaded every single Rough Bunnies/Inside Riot/The Flame song he's got for everyone to enjoy. Here: Do it. Do it now.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Podcast #10: The joy of pop

We have Indietracks and we have Bristol and we have trains that take us there and harbours to sit by, and we have cups of tea and cheeky bottles of vodka, and so everything that's impossible and heavy and scary gets drowned in those and the joy of pop.

What? It's true.

You can download the new podcast here (38 MB)

Tracklisting (33' 38")

Henry's Dress - Definitely nothing
First Base - I'll be your hangover
Vanilla Ride - Rocket bicycle
The Mayfair Set - Desert fun
Standard Fare - 15 (Nothing happened)
The Hi-Life Companion - Jenny and Bill
Cheap Red - Unlucky in love
The Wendy Darlings - Eleasy
Love Dance - When you're with him
Stars of Aviation - Herman Dune slept on my floor
The Specific Heats - Are you for real Mehgan O'Neill?
South Ambulance - Davy Crockett
Figurine - pswdstdum

Friday, April 17, 2009

A lifetime of pain dramatically punctuated with occasional ecstasy

London can be horrible. If you’re not feeling too good and life has taken a funny turn or two, it can be an almost unbearable place to live. It’s always packed, hasty, rude and stressful but most of the time I can forgive it because it gives me thrills that I can’t imagine ever getting anywhere else in such quick succession. But carrying a heavy heart and an anxious head around in rainy, dirty bus stops and crowded trains is enough to make me think of impossible moves around the country and an easier life that I’ve no idea how to even picture.

But can I really complain when my hair smells of almond?

Devine & Statton - Ugly Town (mp3, 6 MB)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Podcast #9: What matters most

I think tonight I know what matters most and I made a new podcast so I don't forget. You can download it here (35 MB).

Tracklisting (38' 34")

Pale Saints - You tear the world in two
Girl Alliance - The train to school
The Yesterday Sky - A winter's dawn
My Favorite - Burning hearts
Mousefolk - Don't let me slip away
Betty and the Werewolves - The party
The Give It Ups - Make and do
Mascot Fight - Danger man
Paisley - I'm right here
Pants Yell! - Alison Statton
Dead Famous People - Postcard from paradise
Je Suis Animal - Secret place
Sylvan - We don't belong

Monday, January 26, 2009

I would rather wait until it's all too late

If there's one time in my life I look back to with a fondness that borders on n*stalgia, it's the early to mid-1990s when Greek indiepop was carrying me around the way that indiepop does now: a huge wave of fun, unstoppable and sincere, part of nothing and connected to everything. I made so many friends back then, exchanged a ridiculous amount of mixed tapes, went to all the popshows, thought it was forever. But it was all over before we knew it and the sparkle didn't just fade away; it evaporated. Hardly anyone remembers what happened back then but when I put a Kissamatic Lovebubbles song on, my heart flutters at the memory of their drunken gigs, Vassilis singing down his microphone as if the end of the world was imminent, and the wonders of Sarah and Heaven Records didn't seem so far away because we had it all there before us. Of course, Greek indiepop didn't suddenly appear in the 90s and things have picked up again in the last few years. But there is something in the sound of those bands I saw back then that makes my sense of having witnessed something special more and more intense as time goes by.

From Fantastic Something to something fantastic. Here's a short Greek indiepop mix. Hope you like it.

Download the mix (zipped mp3s, 41 MB)

One Night Suzan - Until
Impossible Tymes - Dreambrushpaint
The Occassional Flickers - A word of a friend
Starblind - Crush on you
Next Time Passions - Untitled
Kissamatic Lovebubbles - Roxanne
The Happy Balloon - Always you
Fantastic Something - If she doesn't smile
The Jaywalkers - (You can't be) happy all the time
Pillow - Pure pure pure
Raining Pleasure - Capricorn

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lalalalondon popfest

So what's everyone doing at the end of February?

This last week has been all about finally starting to tell the world about our little pop secret and it's such a relief to make it real and see everyone getting so excited. We have friends travelling from all over to be here which makes me feel scared, proud and happy in equal 33.3333% measures. I hope the tube is working that weekend. I hope everyone shows up like they said they would. I hope everyone has a smile on their face.

If you'd told me 10 years ago that I'd be able to play a small part in doing things like this, I'd have built a time machine to make it all go faster. The question is, would I have skipped the part where I got mildly obsessed with an ELO song?

The Hit Parade, 'I Get So Sentimental'