Friday, 21 February 2014

Top 5 Songs of 2013

Time to bring my review of 2013 to a somewhat belated close. I had intended this topic to be a quick win having done regular mini-top fives throughout 2013, but somehow that didn't really help at all. The various end of year reviews introduced me to a whole bunch of new tracks that I loved and almost derailed my efforts to compile this list. In the end most of these tunes did feature in my songs of 2013 top fives so perhaps I should just trust my instincts in future.

1. "Plastic Cup" Low - This might be a little predictable with Low also claiming my number one album of the year but The Invisible Way was full of songs that could have staked a claim to my favourite of the year. This was the lead single and the first track I heard way back in January 2013. I've undoubtedly over played it but still love it enormously.

2. "Tell Em All To Go To Hell" Ezra Furman - Have a listen to this and tell me you didn't have a little dance. Seriously! I reckon you've a heart of stone if you don't love this song. Ezra's album was another entry in my top 5 and, like Low, is full of corkering tunes, though unlike Low also full of Saxophone (perhaps it's no coincidence that the Sax player was also the producer). There's something of a 50s & 60s rock'n'roll vibe going on but that's no bad thing in my book especially when it's played with hearts firmly on sleeves.

3. "Willie's Lady" Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer - This is proper folk. From an album of traditional ballads collected by Francis James Child in the late nineteenth century. Mitchell & Hamer's versions really bring those old songs to life and this tune features some spellbinding guitar picking as well as telling a fantastic tale that always brings a smile to my lips by its end.

4. "When I Knew" Eleanor Friedberger - Former (and possibly present) Fiery Furnaces member, Eleanor Friedberger, has won my heart with her latest collection of songs. In a recurring theme, her 2013 album, Personal Record, was also full of fabulous songs but it's this tune that edges it for me. I normally fall in love with the tune first but all one of my picks for this list are here because I love the words.

5. "WWPRD?" Jeffery Lewis & The Rain - Otherwise known as What Would Pussy Riot Do? and a good old fashioned call to action. I first heard this in session with Marc Riley, and still think that might be the best version I've heard. It makes me laugh a bit but has a serious message at it's heart. In the aftermath of the events in Kiev this song seems even more relevant.


Friday, 14 February 2014

Chop's Gig Reports - January 2014

No time this week to sort out a top five so here's a couple of links to my first gigs of 2014.

Laura J. Martin at The Sebright Arms - Thursday 16th January 2014 - The start of another gig year and yet another Laura J. Martin gig. Pleasingly The Sebright Arms was sold out and packed out for this SoundsXP promoted show. Less pleasingly, I am abstaining from alcohol for the whole of January which meant I had to eschew the fine selection of beers.

Mogwai at the Royal Festival Hall - Friday 24th January 2014 - Very few things match the buzz of getting a ticket for a sold out show on the day of the gig. I'd kept my eye open for people selling spares but in the end it was the RFH who came to my rescue. Releasing a few extra restricted view tickets the week of the show, and still having some when I finally gave up on finding that last minute front stalls spot. Worked out brilliantly as I had a fantastic spot to see a spectacular gig from.


Friday, 7 February 2014

Top 5 Songs about Tea

A chance conversation with an American I work with about making tea got me into a discussion about the first song on this list and from there my mind found it's way to pondering other songs about tea and inevitably from there to a top five.

I'm nothing if not predictable.

1. "T.U.S.A." Masters Of Reality - This was the song mentioned above, from the Masters' 2nd album which featured Ginger Baker on drums. Baker provided the words and sang lead vocal on this hilarious rant about the inability of Americans to make a decent cup of tea. It never fails to make me laugh and also acts as the perfect beginner's guide to making a proper cuppa.

Pour boiling water over the tea
How simple and clear can the instructions be?
They bring you a cup with a lemon slice
And an unopened tea bag beside it (How nice)
And a pot of water and it may be hot
But boiling it isn't so tea you have not
It's boiling water that brings out tea's flavor
With a dash of milk you've a real brew to savor
They drink luke brown water that looks like gnat pee
And it's got nothing to do with a good cup of tea

2. "Pennyroyal Tea" Nirvana - A fine tune from Nirvana's final studio album, "In Utero", that also features on "Unplugged in New York". This was due to be released as a single but was cancelled following Kurt's suicide. A poignant song that hints at the use of a herbal remedy for stomach pain but is ostensibly about someone with chronic depression. Probably summed up many of the anxieties that led to Cobain's untimely death.

Sit and drink Pennyroyal Tea
Distill the life that's inside of me
Sit and drink Pennyroyal Tea
I'm anemic royalty

3. "Everything Stops For Tea" Jack Buchanan - From the soundtrack to 1935 film Come Out Of The Pantry. The vocal couldn't sound more typically English but Jack was actually Scottish.

"The factories may be roaring, with the boom-a-laka zoom-a-laka-wee
but there isn't any roaring when the clock strikes Four, everything stops for tea"

4. "Have A Cuppa Tea" The Kinks - You can rely on the Kinks for a tune to capture the eccentricities of British life and they wrote a few songs that mention tea. This is from their 1971 album, The Muswell Hillbillies and again features some wonderfully observed lyrics.

If you feel a bit under the weather,
If you feel a little bit peeved,
Take granny's stand-by potion
For any old cough or wheeze.
It's a cure for hepatitis, it's a cure for chronic insomnia,
It's a cure for tonsillitis and for water on the knee.

5. "Tea For Two" Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli - There are loads of songs that name check Tea but I struggled to pin it down to one that I felt would round off this top five. In the end I found this instrumental version of "Tea for Two" that features the amazing guitar skills of Django Reinhardt alongside virtuoso violinist Stephane Grappelli which I think does the job pretty well.