It’s rare that I do posts of a personal nature these days. Partly because I’ve become a little bit more guarded over the past couple of years anyway due to this & that, but I suppose it’s mostly because I’ve been so busy trying to listen to so much new stuff that I’ve not been looking backwards so often anymore. Which is probably why it came as a genuine shock to me when I read a message from a friend of mine today stating that this record is ten years old today. Conversations that have sprung from this revelation have seemed to have the same effect on several other of my friends today, and then the floodgates opened – a whole decade of memories, communities and even enmities all springing from the collective coming-together over one record. Happy Birthday, Bubblegum.
It always seems a bit strange when a band goes eponymous some way into a career. The usual way about things is to self-titlingly announce yourselves right at the start and then take it from there, wherever “it” takes you. When it does happen though, it’s an eyebrow-raiser. Why now? Why this?
It does all become rather apparent once attention is paid to what the Smoke Fairies have achieved with this record, that both expands their musical palette and brings an intangible feeling of a closer bond, which is rather nicely illustrated by the image on the cover – it takes two wings for one to fly, after all…
The full title of Ghosts: A Collection Of A-Sides, B-Sides and an EP From The Recent Past wouldn’t fit in the box I have at the top of this page to enter such things, so the least I could do was embolden it at the earliest opportunity. And it’s a collection of which is as accurate as it is copiously-monickered, for it gathers a selection of early singles, plus what may or may not be some previously unreleased things from before their full debut album sprang forth. This dual CD edition gives you, the consumer, not just the original Ghosts compendium but a whole extra disc featuring another nine songs from the archives. And as it’s also a Thursday that sees this package hurtling through my letterbox, this post is being accompanied by a rather lovely wine. Long/possibly made-up words and many things in brackets to follow/precede aren’t so much a startling prediction as a worrying inevitability.
Four hundred posts in, and I’m still here bobbing about like Steve McQueen on a sackful of coconuts. Not sure if this is an achievement or a sad indictment of a state of mind, but there you go. So it’s nice to mark the occasion not with booze (although I am) but with something that goes back to round about the time this rambling nonsense all started.
Back in July 2010 I wrote about what I now know to be the first part of a trilogy, and have followed its author’s career with interest since then – a particular highlight being catching him live and (in an event as yet uncatalogued by yours truly) seeing first hand just how much of an effect a song can have on someone. And now here we are at the other end of it all. Richard Warren’s third album as a solo artist is here, bringing down the curtain as graciously as he first raised it three years ago.
Right, after that enjoyable diversion, I’m off again.
On to the Top Ten at last, and while the records featured were easy to pick out, putting them in some sort of order I’m happy with has proven to be a nightmare thus far. In short, it’s not done yet! I’ve spent much of this week’s travelling time listening and relistening to each album, and I’m still none the wiser as no sooner have I finished listening to one, then that one leaps up several places until I listen to the others and it all gets a bit messy. But that all just gives me an excuse to listen to them all again and come up with a different order, so as pointless as this whole thing’s been since the start, at least it’s still fun.
There’s also the thing that all of these final entrants, in whatever order they manifest themselves in, are in the last ten not just because they’re really good records (which they are), but have stood out from the others for reasons that aren’t necessarily musical; hopefully the guff written about them over the next three weeks or however long it takes will go a long way to explaining this intangible otherness that’ll all make sense at some point. Fingers crossed on that one.
So, at Number Ten, I have this absolute gem from Germany that I bought on a late-night whim and more or less because of the title and a sepia-toned cover that reminds me ever-so-obliquely of Tove Jansson’s Moomin artwork. And if that’s not a decent enough reason to blind-buy a record, then I don’t know what is.
I’m not a religious person, and that doesn’t bother me. It also doesn’t bother me if other people are, and I have to sometimes admit a slight envy at times when a bit of faith-based comfort wouldn’t go amiss. Ah well, never mind.
I do like the imagery of it all though, whether it be the wonderful architecture of some of our older places of worship, the paintings of Blake and Bosch, or some rather stirring music, even if the 3rd verse of All Things Bright And Beautiful is a bit dodgy to a semi-socialist such as myself. It certainly brings out the creative in people, that’s for sure.
I’ve also no idea if Josh Haden, he of Spain, is particularly religious *mutters something about not being bothered to do any research on a Friday*, and again I’m not bothered whether he is or not. What I am bothered about is the fact that he’s carved out something altogether strange, personal and rather unique in this record (EP or LP? I’m still not sure how these things work nowadays) that’s been released this week after gestating for five years or so.
This is yet another of those pre-release streams, a concept that is proving to be rather handy this week as it means that I’m not sat here on Monday what to listen to first out of this, the Soulsavers album or the other one that’s due to drop on the same day. Having said that, it’s been a bit of a bugger today, as this one coincides with the Sigur Rós livestream that I am currently typing away on in another window as I try to do this intro at the same time so I can get this finished in some sort of sensible timeframe.
The first album from the Smoke Fairies was a blind buy back in 2010 that soon became (and remains) a firm favourite of mine. The mixture of gentle, careworn British folk married to a murkier US blues is something that worked sublimely well in the hands and – especially – voices of Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies and so hopes are naturally high for this next collection.
I have to admit to being a little bored recently. No idea why this should be the case, as this March has been the strangest and busiest times for 6dft in general, and I’m all for that sort of thing. The thing I suppose that’s been bothering me slightly of late is that 2012 has seen some great stuff so far and I have plenty to look forward to (May promises to be especially promising), but I’m finding myself leafing through the pages of the proper music press and not thinking “I like the look of that” for any number of reasons, whereas the past two years – and especially this sort of Springtime period – has seen me make some delightful purchases on the spur of the moment based on the most tenuous of notions. That probably says more for my current state of thinking than a dearth in buried quality, so this week I’ve been almost forcing myself to reopen the receptors, trawl anywhere and everywhere and decide on something for the first reason that entered my head.
And the first reason that entered my head upon seeing this was “Ooh, Witches”. Which was enough for me.
Quite a few of my closest friends are vegetarians. I have no idea why this is, I have never asked them and have seen no real reason why I should pry into this as it neither alarms nor offends me. Having said that, there are occasions where I (at a percentage of carnivorousness approaching utter totality, obscuring almost all else other than crisps and the occasional Toblerone) wonder if it would be impolite if I smuggled a Pepperami in one of my socks akin to a Scottish sgian dubh in order to remain polite yet also appease my cravings as I nip outside under the pretence of having a cig (which is tricky in itself nowadays as I’ve given the smokes up for five years or so). I merely mention this as I suspect that this particular album may have limited appeal within my social circle. Although beans and peas get mentioned occasionally.
I have to admit to being especially pleased when this album arrived last weekend. Thanks to a friend letting me know in the nick of time that not only was Richard Warren supporting Josh T Pearson in Leeds (after seeing the pair of them play great sets in Manchester earlier in the year), but also that a new album was forthcoming. There’s definitely something to be said for looking forward to something, but it’s all the better for not having to wait that long. Not that there’s anything wrong with anticipation of course, but immediacy is a lot more fun.
So, given that last year’s Laments was one of my favourite records of last year, hopes were very high for this one. And the Wayfarer doesn’t disappoint. It’s something recorded (on a two-track reel-to-reel) with a singular intensity and almost completely unadorned, except for his own accompaniment and the heavy dramatic presence of the Union Band providing a brass background that is both exultant and infernal depending on which of the two songs they are so well-employed on.