December 2011

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I actually really enjoyed this show – I got to play Barenaked Ladies, pretend to decode digital messages and discovered Momus & John Henriksson – but all that’s mattered since is that I set up a competition to win Josh T. Pearson’s Last of the Country Gentlemen. The problem is, I paid for the prize, so if I really wanted people to actually enter it, and so I’ve ended up spamming my way across Twitter like a gigantic, self-obsessed Josh T. Pearson fan.


You can enter the competition until about 7pm GMT tomorrow (the 21st) by emailing the name of his old band to thefolkbloke[at], by the way.

Josh T. Pearson – O Holy Night

The soft crackle of vinyl is a sound beloved of many, not least shown by the dramatic rise in sales of the medium in the last year. It might not be the resuscitation of the industry, but it’s a surefire indication that the physical product is a viable market, at least for now. The thing is, while I agree with that, I’ve always bought CDs myself. That might simply be down to simply when I was born, or that I’m lazy, or that, until very recently, vinyl hasn’t been in any way useful towards making digital copies of the music I buy. Whatever the reason, that pleasantly warm sound of obsoletion has never truly touched me in the way that it has so many others.

Which is why I was so surprised at how much it colours my love of a song I just discovered I had downloaded without realising this week: ‘Willow Pattern’ by Momus and John Henriksson. There’s a lot to love as it is. Henriksson’s light touch in arranging vintage samples under Momus’ sung-spoken lyrics of a doomed romance (with a particularly incredible line in the form of “They’ll put me to the sword / You will also die“) makes for compelling listening. This is shadowy, beautiful work, placed just the right side of creepy, but close enough to the centre of that scale to seem like it could tip quite easily.

But, like I said, it’s that crackle that completes the picture. Not quite instrumental, but certainly musical, the noise subsumes every other sound – an audio snowfall, at once hinderance and delight. It artificially dates the track, lending weight to Momus’ folk tale lyrical style, making the samples seem more genuinely utilised and does all of this so naturally that it’s only in the final seconds of the track, when it suddenly disappears, that you notice it was having an effect at all. It’s quite, quite wonderful.

Frankly, if a crackle is all I need to get this excited about a track, I’ll have to furnish myself with some records sharpish.

Momus and John Henriksson – Willow Pattern

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More Christmas stuff this week in the form of Withered Hand, Forest Mountain Hymnal and the wonderful For Folks’ Sake Christmas charity compilation, which you should buy. Also, I found out about a new band who I’m really rather taken with, in the form of Saintsenica. Here’s a track:

Saintseneca – Acid Rain

By the way, I’ll get around to, you know, actually writing something specifically for the blog at some point.

Lil Daggers are a band that have always interested me, but never enticed me. You know, the kind of group that make music that you have consistently enjoyed but never felt any great need to seek out. That feeling is over, and this review should go towards explaining that. I don’t go into a lot of detail about it, but I think my comment about the best comparison for Lil Daggers being Timber Timbre is the crux of my review, but that would only make sense to anyone who had talked to me about Timber Timbre so I had to cut that down a little, given that it was written for DIY. The point is that both of those bands have an ability to create atmosphere, but without stumbling into cliché – it’s music drawn from the past but subverted, as if seen through a slightly warped mirror. That for me is the ultimate trick – that ability to make old seem new is such a stumbling block for many that those who pass over it are pretty special in my eyes (ears).

Borrowing from the past is all well and good, but you have to know how to use what you’ve taken. In an “alternative music culture” awash with bands simply plonking a synth line or seven onto a track and calling it ‘80s, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that there’s actually talent in knowing how to use previous generations’ talents. Miami five-piece Lil Daggers have that, and in spades, and flaunt it proudly (and loudly) on their debut full-length. It just might not be what you expect.

Lil Daggers is a Frankenstein’s monster of an album, the band having violently desecrated the corpses of rock’s back catalogue and brought it juddering to life. ‘Slave Exchange’ shambles on a current of louche cool torn from The Idiot before revealing its decaying classic rock heart with a jolting guitar solo, ‘Pair of Lives’ is the spectre of some long forgotten campfire singalong twisted into a minor key and, frankly, we don’t even know what ‘Ghost Herd’ is, but it sounds like the soundtrack for something heard through the TV from Poltergeist – not to mention eventually fading into white noise itself.

That feeling of horror is no mistake either, with Lil Daggers invoking the same spirit, if not sound, of bands like Timber Timbre, shown in an ability to conjure up a sense of the macabre without contrivance. Reuben Molinares’ sharp shivers of Hammond organ, able to pierce even the thickest fog of guitar noise, form the backbone of the creeping dread that envelops the album, but Johnny Saraiva’s distant, detached vocals on ‘Dead Golden Girls’ and the nocturnal production work on ‘Strange Wolf’ certainly do their bit along the way. It’s a tactic that, for the most part, does away with the major problem that comes along with recycling the past – this doesn’t sound like something we’ve heard before, despite drawing on exactly what we recognise as a component part of its charm. More straightforward efforts like ‘Dada Brown’ do lack that same spark, and the middle section sags somewhat, but those moments of real reinvention stand out all the more for it.

Lil Daggers, then, reveal that the trick to borrowing older styles is to give them a new style of their own. This album isn’t just a throwback, it’s a gleefully sadistic reinvention; the Buffalo Bill of the music world, taking and wearing the skin of its forebears. And, just like the best horror movies, we want to turn away and just can’t. This is fascinating.

Lil Daggers – Dead Golden Girls

So by now I imagine you’ve seen this year’s BBC Sound of 2012 long list. It’s not spectacular. Which is why a group of the UK’s best music blogs – and me, somehow – were petitioned to put together their own list within much the same parameters to see what kind of alternatives we would come up with. No matter what I might think, the aim wasn’t to disrespect what had been suggested elsewhere, but rather to provide another viewpoint, from a different section of the industry (namely, outside of it, looking ravenously in) and, looking at the results, I think we’ve managed that admirably. So here it is, the Blog Sound of 2012 longlist:
  • Houdini Dax
  • Lianne De Haves
  • Theme Park
  • French Wives
  • The Good Natured
  • Alt J
  • The Jezabels
  • Lucy Rose
  • Bastille
  • Washington
  • Friends
  • Meursault
  • Daughter
  • Beth Jeans Houghton
  • Outfit

No prizes for guessing who I voted for there.

Meursault – Sleet

The shortlist will be revealed as and when the Beeb’s own version is released and we’ll continue from there. Oh, and just so you know, the “panel” was made up of:

Breaking More Waves, My Band Is Better Than Your Band,  God Is In the TV,  Sweeping The Nation, The Von Pip Musical Express, The Recommender, Faded Glamour, Drunken Werewolf, Flying With Anna, Not Many Experts, Underclassed Idle Ideas, Sonic Masala, Mudkiss, The Pop Cop, The Ring Master, Both Bars On, Music From A Green Window, Dots And Dashes, The Daily Growl, And Everyones A DJ, Kowolskiy, Just Music That I Like, Cruel Rhythms,  The Blue Walrus, Music Fans Mic, Seventeen Seconds, Eaten By Monsters, Seven Sevens, Unpeeled, New Rave Brain Wave, Peenko, Music Liberation and Song By Toad.

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Oh god, Christmas has begun.

Withered Hand – It’s A Wonderful Lie