It’s been a bi-polar kind of month for me, half of which was spent in Manchester, superconnected and the other half, cut-off from the rest of the world in an wi-fi-free Fermanagh (also without my hard drive). It’s funny how quickly I’ve become reliant on my computer and the internet for music. I guess it’s sad, really. I’ve fallen out of the habit of buying cds, granted for financial reasons, but if I were to make a quarter year resolution, then it would be to start up again.
Quarter of a year. It’s not long passing. And this year, I think, has been exceptionally top-loaded with great albums and it’s only going to get better. I had the privilege of interviewing The National yesterday for The Skinny. It’s ahead of the new album, High Violet, which is excellent. I think it’s too early to say whether it’s as good as Alligator or Boxer, given that they were both immensely slow-burning albums, but so far so good. In anticipation, I’ve included Fake Empire from their 2007 classic.
I’ve also been hammering David Thomas Broughton’s album, The Complete Guide to Insufficiency, pretty hard. I see it as a halfway house between Panda Bear and Nick Drake. His subject matter tends to be a tad maudlin, but his voice is overflowing with emotion – as powerful as Antony Hegarty’s. What amazes me is that his debut set was recorded in one take. If you listen to it, you’ll know what I mean. It was recorded in a church, which I think adds a sense of potency or reverence to the sound quality that’s even palpable without knowing where it was laid down. The Complete Guide is five years old now and he’s due to follow it up this year.
I’d never heard of Kath Bloom before this month, when I saw her recommended on a message board, but she’s been releasing records since the 70s. My personal highlight from her new album is here. When I heard this track, I fell in love with her voice. It reminds me of Johnny Cash’s the older he got, in the sense that it’s weary, slightly out of tune at times, but somehow conveys infinite wisdom.
In keeping with the comeback, I’ve included my own highlight from Gil Scott-Heron’s return, the title track from I’m New Here. It’s a cover of a Smog song and when I first heard he was doing that, I was confused and wary: I’m a huge Bill Callahan fan. But it sounds great, and when Gil sings the chorus, his voice doesn’t sound a million miles away from Callahan’s.
Since I’ve spent half the month cut off, I’ve had to make do with the contents of my mp3 player (it’s not very big). I’ve been listening to lots of Electrelane and their first two albums in particular. I think it’s fair to say they got more accessible as they went along. The Valleys, from the Power Out, is the best thing they’ve ever recorded. It’s an operatic choral number that kinda comes out of nowhere. What impresses me most, is how the girls from the band manage to hold their own with the choir. I always thought the vocals on Electrelane tracks were relatively weak. How wrong I was.
There are a few newish tracks here, but most of it is mined from the archives. I wrote about the tragic death of Mark Linkous earlier this month so I won’t do it again. I’ve included a few of my favourite Sparklehorse tracks in the mix too.
Enjoy: Scrawls & Bawls March 2010 Playlist
1. David Thomas Broughton – Unmarked Grave
2. Sparklehorse – Eyepennies
3. Kath Bloom – Like This
4. Jason Lytle – Yours Truly, The Commuter
5. Tindersticks – The Organist Entertains
6. The Unwinding Hours – Solstice
7. Sam Amidon – 1842
8. J. Tillman – Steel on Steel
9. Sparklehorse – Saturday
10. The National – Fake Empire
11. Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here
12. Owen Pallett – Lewis Takes Action
13. The Mountain Goats – This Year
14. Uncle Tupelo – Screen Door
15. Local Natives – Wide Eyes
16. Electrelane – The Valleys
17. Sparklehorse – Wish You Were Here