Best of 2012, 30-21

Well, before I start, I should mention that one of those little milestones I was looking forward to was passed earlier in the week.  I have no idea what constitutes good traffic on one of these things but I have to say that when I started this I neither expected nor was looking for anyone to stop by and read anything.  So I’m really surprised that this site has been visited by 18,000 people so far this year who aren’t either me or spambots.  So thanks for that, hope everyone who has read anything here has liked what was written enough to have a listen to whatever it was I was writing about, and thanks to those who hated whatever I’ve written little enough to not bother leaving any snotty comments!  The next, different, milestone is very close and the Baileys is already on ice.  That’ll be the substitute Baileys, as the last one met with a fortunate incident.

These listy posts seem to be getting longer and longer.  I’m guessing that this is a yardstick for me still agreeing with my choices so far as not only have they been fairly easy to write about (in most cases for the second time of asking) but where I’m supposed to breeze through them here to get an idea of how to sum each one up and justify their inclusion, I then sit and listen to each and every one from start to finish with a huge grin on my face.  Which is why they’re taking so bloody long to type up.

Hopefully during the next week I’ll have a bit of time to do something other than just continue this – there’s been a few really good records out this past week (that sadly I cannot include in this countdown for fear of buggering everything else up), and I might try to do a quick favourite singles/EPs thing as well.  Or I might just get bogged down in moving furniture about again.


Daniel Martin Moore and Joan Shelley – Farthest Field

I am not a calm man.  I tend to wander through life in a general state of being so highly-strung that it’s a constant bafflement to modern science that when I speak, it’s not at a frequency that only cats can hear.  It’s OK though, as not only am I fairly comfortable (well, resigned) in a life spent one iota away from meltdown (as I find that anything further away from this results in crushing boredom), I also have the benefit of listening to people being very nicely calm on my behalf such as with this new record from someone who is now an old favourite of mine, alongside someone new to these ears.


Best of 2011, No.2: Daniel Martin Moore – In the Cool of the Day

This time last year, I was freezing just across the road from the English Channel (or la Manche if you’re that way inclined) just a short stroll from the De La Warr Pavillion where I’d seen Billy Brag perform the previous evening.  I’d not gone to see Bill though (enjoyable, funny and stirring as he was), instead I’d driven 270 miles to catch a support act who had come up with one of my favourite albums of 2010.  And here’s half of that act with one of my very favourite albums of this 2011.


Maiden Radio – Lullabies

This is definitely one of those “not the sort of thing I’d usually be buying” records.  But, I am easily intrigued and (thanks to a general malaise discussed briefly a couple of posts ago) as I am currently absolutely shattered thanks to getting about half a dozen hours’ worth of sleep during the past two months, I’ll give anything a go.

I also decided to have a listen to this as it’s the first release from Daniel Martin Moore‘s new record label, Ol Kentuck Records, so it wasn’t that much of an arm-twister to pay up for this.


A Q&A With Daniel Martin Moore

Well, this is a bit of a departure, isn’t it?

Photo credit: Michael Wilson

This may or may not be the start of something irregular here, although that completely depends on my level of cheek in walking up to people at gigs and asking them if they’d mind being subjected to a line of odd and inane questions.  Thankfully, I so far have a 100% record in doing this, but that’s because I’ve only ever asked two people so far (the other one was a couple of years ago for another site).  It’s certainly something I enjoy – well, eventually, anyway.  Worries about questions bounce around for ages, but then the answers (which of course is, lest we forget, the important bit) come back and it’s great.


Anyway, thankyou so much to Daniel Martin Moore for agreeing to do this!  In a relatively short career so far, he’s managed to come up with a favourite album of mine for each of the last three years: the charming Stray Age, the politely angry Dear Companion (with Ben Sollee and My Morning Jacket’s Yim Yames) and this year’s spiritually cheerful In the Cool of the Day, all quietly moving works that deserve the widest audience possible.

Since the release of In the Cool of the Day, Daniel has been very busy touring here, there and everywhere (and coming back here very soon), contributing photographs for the accompanying bits and bobs with My Morning Jacket’s last record and has somehow also managed to find the time to set up his own label, Ol Kentuck Recordings.  All of which makes it even more of a surprise that he’s found the time to contribute to this!  I’ve rambled on enough, so without further ado (but with a quick acknowledgement to Aaron and Todd who helped out by chipping in with a couple of questions!) etc….



Half-term Musings, Random Favourites So Far

Well, everyone else has done one.   I guess it’s the immediacy of the internet nowadays that lists simply can’t wait until the year end.  I did try to do this properly, but trying to whittle down about 40 or so absolute corkers so far this year I soon realised that it’s all far too much work, especially as I’ll be doing it all again in December.  So the following fifteen albums (no singles or EPs, will be saving those for year-end also) are in no order and their selection has been completely arbitrary in a daily mood-matching way.  Some of those will be high up my (and most others’) list in the deep midwinter, some may well have dropped off a bit and others replaced by whatever is going to pop up between now and the end of the year.   What I’m trying to say is that it’s all a bit random.  As is the accompanying text; I copy/pasted it from my Facebook entries over the past fortnight and the tenses are all over the place.



Iron & Wine / Daniel Martin Moore, Manchester Academy 2, 15/03/2011

Well, that was all a bit strange.


I have to admit from the off that I’m not hugely familiar with Sam Beam’s recorded output, having only recently got into him through this year’s excellent Kiss Each Other Clean album, so I will be vague – if not totally ignorant – about what songs were performed.  Not that it matters, as it was an excellent show performed impeccably, but more on that later.  What is immediately apparent is that I need more Iron & Wine albums, and am more than quite happy to now know this.


Crap traffic and an even crapper driver (me, for I have no sense of direction.  I could get lost in a cupboard) meant that I arrived slightly late, meaning that I sadly missed the start of Daniel Martin Moore’s set.  I arrived somewhere near the beginning of That’ll Be the Plan, and I was drawn immediately into the show, Daniel’s voice and songwriting charm being more than capably backed by his band, which ebbed and floweed on and off the stage as each song demanded – full backing for the aforementioned …Plan and set-closer Dark Road, sole piano behind the excellent In the Cool of the Day and on his own for Flyrock Blues, meaning that the set (and introduction to the artist for a decent-sized section of the attentive audience) was incredibly varied in scope, winning over many a new fan in the process.  And those who weren’t completely won over by the music were charmed by the tale of his newly-bought teamug from Portmeirion, home of The Prisoner, during which he was called – and happily admitted to being – a nerd as this anecdote continued along the lines of wondering if he was going to step offstage and right back into The Village.  Not your usual onstage banter then (especially when mixed with his explanation of Mountaintop Removal mining practices as a precursor to Flyrock Blues), and the place was all the better for it.

And what was the most heart-warming from all this was hearing snippets of conversations at the end of the set, mostly along the lines of “See?  I told you so…” – it’s brilliant to see that word of mouth and the willingness to listen to something that isn’t the usual flavour of the month can put a surprised smile on some of even the most hardened hipsters who had turned up for this, giving louder and warmer rounds of applause with each successive song.


Looking at a couple of online thoughts on last night’s headline act, it seems as if a lot of people didn’t get exactly what they expected.  As someone who had no idea what was supposed to happen, I could soak it all up quite happily, somewhat amazed by the spectacle taking place on the stage.

And what was taking place was evangelically funky.  The band that the impeccably-suited and groomed Sam brought with him were all very accomplished musicians, and their not inconsiderable talents were utilised to the full during a set that took in a huge array of styles and twists as they applied themselves to his songs.  Folky vocal harmonies mixed with jaunty African rhythms and heavy jazz arrangements and OK Computeresque guitar passages (possibly literally in this last instance – I’m sure I heard a snippet of Lucky in the grandiose middle of one song) were the order of the day, apparently confusing many who had turned up for a nice little acoustic set, and certainly stunning most of this sell-out show to statuesque immobility.


This non-movement of the crowd was certainly not lost on the band, with Sam mentioning very early on that he’d never seen so many people not move, followed later on with an exclamation of “You guys can dance, and I saw you!” and a round of applause which was warm and without sarcasm – he was having fun, and just wanted everyone else to join in a bit.  This continued right the way through, with Walking Far From Home (I know some of them, at least!) having to be restarted after a short fit of giggles when it was obvious that nobody was joining in.


Given that the new material is quite heavy on band involvement and carries a very definite musical stamp, it probably made sense to mould the set around this, and it will be interesting for me to get into the older material and see what bits I can pick out as being performed at this show – and this show has certainly piqued my interest into getting into his back-catalogue as soon as possible.  Where it seems to have been a bit of a culture shock for some people, it was an eye-opener for me.


Daniel Martin Moore – In The Cool Of the Day

Something that is becoming increasingly rare in today’s music industry is the Short Album.  With CD capacity expanding and digital space almost limitless, artists seem hellbent on filling as much room as possible with their thoughts and ideas whether or not all of those ideas were especially good ones.  It’s as if a fear has gripped recording types the world over, inducing a panic that if they increased the quantity then nobody would notice the quality if the latter was cause for concern.

There’s nothing wrong with a proper Long Player – there are some great and classic sprawlers out there, both past and present, as well as some briefer works that could have been better for having a bit more going on.  But back in the days when an album’s worth was judged on something to do with maximising the sound potential of the grooves on a 12″ record, and more importantly if it could fit on one side of a C90 cassette (a philosophy somewhat at odds with the “Home taping is killing music” ethos of the time, but hey – you couldn’t take a record player to the park), the emphasis was on a maximum 45 minutes’ worth of brilliance, with any extra stuff squirrelled away for future single-based usage.


Due to the somewhat silly rules applied by whoever it is that presides over eligibility for UK record sales charts, the shortest official Long Playing album I own is Nuclear Assault’s Good Times Bad Times – which is five tracks and seven minutes, 27 seconds long.  Which, if nothing else, is handy for timing boiling rice.

Less silly examples of more “proper” short albums that are so perfect in length are Slayer’s Reign in Blood (which in fairness was probably an hour-long epic when they started, before they decided to see just how fast they could do it), Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, The Lemonheads’ It’s a Shame About Ray and Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence – all of which clock in at under half an hour.  Any longer would just be over-egging the pudding.  And this new one from Kentucky’s Daniel Martin Moore, from an idea plucked from the ether when sat at an old piano, fits the bill of being more than good enough to know exactly how to pitch a record that is exactly as long as it should be.  Which is a lot more than can be said for me when it comes to hammering out overlong preambles such as this.



Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore, Billy Bragg – Bexhill De La Warr Pavillion 10-12-2010

I had never been to a Billy Bragg gig before, and to date (this will change) I do not own any Billy Bragg albums.
Despite this, Billy Bragg has always been in the periphery of my musical and political upbringing long before I became an adult.  And not just on the political side of things either, I found myself singing along with the chorus to New England (and felt a genuine lump in my throat and tear in my eye at the verse dedicated to Kirsty MacColl) as if I was a teenager again.

And from the perspective of someone who has been almost exclusively to Mark Lanegan and Lanegan-related shows over the past 5 years or so, it was really bloody weird to have a bit of talking from onstage between songs.
Bragg is a brilliant entertainer.  He is funny, passionate and really takes the time to engage his audience.  He of course was preaching to the converted at this show, but this didn’t dampen his spirit one iota as he switched effortlessly between tales of recording his part for Cage Against the Machine (an alternative celeb-studded reworking of John Cage’s 4’33” as opposition for whatever X Factor dross gets released for the Xmas No.1 spot) on a cellphone whilst stuck on a snowbound Scottish motorway, and his passionate support for those trying to make a better world for themselves and others against the odds.  And this latter bit only really made Billy make sense to me after seeing him live onstage – everything he says and does is so positive, at odds with a decades-old perception of him as an lefty agitator against this or that or whatever, not that there’s much wrong with that either.  He has an incredibly disarming Englishness about him (certainly in the way that he saluted the crowd at the end, first with his guitar and then with a cup of tea, flinging the used teabag into the audience), and it is a much more friendly, positive and palatable view of being English than the image sold to us by the Far Right of this country of late, so more power to Billy for exuding that, and letting the rest of us recognise that positivity in ourselves also.

All well and lovely, but he wasn’t the reason I’d driven down to the South Coast.  The reason I’m here tapping away at this while the English Channel makes a rather soothing racket about 50 feet away is because of the support act.

This all came about a bit strangely.  Two years ago (practically, to this day) me and two friends came down to Bexhill-On-Sea to see Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan perform at the beautiful De La Warr Pavillion – a great gig at a great venue in the company of great friends.  A few months ago, I was watching top political argument show Question Time, and it just happened to be hosted at the same venue (and how many other theatres can boast the hosting of both Lanegan and Dimbleby, albeit non-simultaneously?), which set off the old thought processes going, namely “right, we need an excuse to go back there”.  And the next day, I get a message from a friend in Canada telling me that Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore were supporting Billy Bragg in December, and a quick check of wherever it was on the internet that has this such info later, the De La Warr Pavillion was right there.  So the date was there, the venue was there, and an act I’d wanted desperately to see was there.  If only my lottery numbers were so willing to conspire with the fates in such a manner.

Ben and Daniel were on stage almost as soon as the auditorium doors were open, launching into recent album-opener Something, Somewhere, Sometime, and it was heartening to see those who had chosen to arive early get so into them straight away.  Other favourites from Dear Companion swiftly followed such as Needn’t Say a Thing, Only a Song and Flyrock Blues, interjected with explanations about why their collaboration came together through their displeasure at Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining methods.  This may sound strange to a country that has few mountains and no coal mining industry left to speak of, but as they explained, this was them bringing their problems from their backyards into the public domain, and how if we all cared about each other’s plights then we could all come together to find a solution.  It wasn’t all seriousness however, as merchandise was funnily and hamfistedly plugged by way of one of Billy Bragg’s tea mugs, and Ben made a light remark or two about the very tall Daniel Martin Moore’s somewhat small-looking guitar.

Ben and Daniel’s solo outings also got an airing tonight – Daniel performed That’ll Be The Plan from Stray Age, and Ben ran through an enthusiastic version of Bury Me With My Car, explaining that he had recently undertaken a US tour (with cello) on his bicycle.  Wrapping-up came in the form of an outstanding rendition of Try, featuring some incredible musicianship from Sollee as he played his cello like I’ve never seen anyone play one, and a rousing Dear Companion with Daniel in great vocal form.  Ben also joined Billy Bragg onstage at the end of the evening for Following the Wrong Star, a song that I hope gets recorded and released exactly as it was performed here.

This was a strange gig for me to be at – I had been to shows before where I’d wanted to see the support more than the main attraction before, and I’ve travelled this distance with the sole purpose of being at a gig before, athough never both at the same time.  What I got from tonight is a pair of incredible performances, one from a new act who I hope to hear more of over the years, and one from someone who had established himself in my upbringing with a far greater prominence than I had originally realised.  result all round, then.

Best of 2010, #2: Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore – Dear Companion

Well, it’s been too nice a day to be sat inside a cafe with free wireless internet, so I didn’t.  I didn’t the day after either, hence this really stupid timeline that will make no sense to anyone but me.

Instead, I spent the day wandering about the grounds of an ancient church trying to read weather beaten gravestones from the 18th Century and (possibly) earlier, and pottering about on the seafront being harassed by seagulls which was a largely necessary evil, as weirdly enough, right up on the beach as close to the incoming tide as possible has been the only place to get a decent 3G signal on my phone.

And so on to my choice of second-favourite album of this year.  As the TV behind me is currently beaming reports of a student protest being met with a sadly over-the-top response from the police (not excusing those who have turned up to bait the police by surging – from the back – people towards the lines, but charging with horses was disproportionate and unacceptable) and political discourse in general across the Atlantic being largely portrayed as being groups of people trying their hardest to shout over the top of other groups of people who respond in turn with more shouting, this record stands out as people with something important to say, saying it with a calmness and grace that has been lacking elsewhere.  This approach may not garner the headlines as much as much noisier gatherings, but it is still a powerful plea and is one that is as steadfast and strong as the mountains that it has set out to try to protect.