So, what to do now? I finished my top 50 a week sooner that I thought I would, and now there’s a bit of a gap. May as well carry on as I finished then, and what better way of doing so than commenting on an EP from one of the very people who topped the list, to celebrate coming top of a list that was far more professionally put-together and infinitely more important than the one in the posts below?
It’s a release that isn’t without a slight grump though. Coming as it does as a bonus disc of an album I (and many others who will be wanting this) already own, a standalone issue would have been preferable. In any case, I bought it anyway, and so as it’s Christmas, the first person to message me on the 6dft Facebook Page will get my spare copy of Last of the Country Gentlemen album posted to them. Of course, if whoever receives that giveaway then wants this EP, they’ll have to buy the album again in order to get it… Ah well, c’est la vie.
I’m not entirely sure if this means that I can’t make my mind up, or that I can’t count, as this technically makes the whole malarkey a Top 51. Then again, even before I started to compile this list I knew that these would be top of the pile, and as I was further listening to all of the records in this list and beyond to try to find some sort of pathway through it all, it became harder and harder to separate them. So, in the end, I didn’t bother. Because not only was it ultimately pointless to try to convince myself that one was better than the other, the two records could almost be brothers – not twins, as the differences are just as great between them as the similarities that bind them, but each fits with the other so well that it’s now difficult for me to listen to one without the other. So, it’s far from an annoyance for me that I can’t pick between them, it’s more of a joy.
One thing that has come from me doing this blog is the rediscovering of the youthful joy of buying stuff previously unheard of just by seeing a name connected with it. Forging pathways and making connections (and making the occasional wrong turn) was a favourite method of mine for leaping from band to band, album to album for reasons varied and tenuous – the “thanks to…” lists on many a thrash/punk album for example have set me off in new directions, or even someone wearing someone else’s T-Shirt. Yeah, it’s a bit random, but more fun than going through 30-second samples of a computer’s recommendations on a phone because of some clever algorithm.
It was wandering through someone else’s Facebook page on a Sunday night last month, and this band’s name popped up alongside that of Josh T. Pearson, who has come up with one great album of his own this year and who appears here as co-producer. Well, that was enough for me, who duly forked out the necessary for the CD and download of this, their debut album without having heard a note.
I don’t appear to have done a single one of these this year. No idea why I stopped, as they’re fun things to do even if they are strangely an absolute sod to format and I’ve yet to work out why.
I do need to start doing these more often though, as the rest of the blog is becoming, well, a bit of a chore. And if it’s a chore to write (or contemplate writing), then it’s going to be even more of a grind to read. Truth is, there’s been a real shift in the way I’ve been looking back at the past (which was the sole reason for me starting this in the first place), and I seem to have spent most of the year avoiding it wherever possible. So what I’m sort of hoping to do is try to get as far as the end of the year in whatever mode gets me there (providing the “Best Of…” list doesn’t finish me off), and then attempt something more organised and altogether silly next year.
This was not a gig I was planning on going to see until last weekend (already having a ticket for Josh’s upcoming Manchester show in November), when a friend pointed out that Josh was to be once more supported by Richard Warren it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
The impressively CV’ed artist (as documented by JTP himself, introducing his support act) wasn’t so much bathed in red light as liberally pelted in it, the overdriven cardinal illumination matching the mood emanating from Richard’s heavily-reverbed guitars (both acoustic and electric) delivering a set that was fascinating to both listen to and watch, as at several points during his performance, he looked as though he and his guitar were locked in a fight for supremacy. It was a fight well-pitched though, bringing the best out of both of them as the songs (presumably mostly taken from his upcoming Wayfarer album) came out noisy, beautifully played and utterly eerie, the rising temperature in the sold-out room adding to the infernal atmosphere created by the music. Another great set, and the new album’s out on October 17th – can’t wait.
It seems strange on paper when the headline act’s full setlist stretches to a whole five songs, but that doesn’t begin to tell the story of Josh T Pearson’s headline set. “This first one’s called Tuning”, he quips as he takes to the stage and takes his guitar out of the case that has been on stage all evening. And indeed it’s some time before he begins his first song, as comments about the heat in the venue lead to him asking the audience whether or not he should take his jacket off, followed by the crowd chanting “Off! Off! Off!” and him obliging with a responding “You dirty bastards”. That this banter continues in good nature for a few more minutes before finally launching into opener Sweetheart, I Ain’t Your Christ sets the stall for the next hour, drawing the sadness of his songs and the impish delight of his lengthy chats between numbers from the same emotional well – presenting these apparently opposite sides to his personality brings a curious balance to the show, and to Pearson himself. It’s obvious from his performances that his songs still hurt; when he sings he stares at fixed points in the room throughout and lengthy instrumental passages are played with eyes closed, with Josh barely moving at all save for his fingers.
His approach, as well as presumably giving himself emotional breathing space between songs, has the crowd rapt. Pin-drop silent during songs to the point where, during part of Woman When I’ve Raised Hell, he briefly steps away from his microphone and turns his guitar pickup off and he can still be heard without amplification. And, just as we are quiet during his performance, we are in hysterics at his jokes; some cringingly and endearingly terrible (he really doesn’t like drummers by the sound of things), some utterly hilarious. Anyone reading this and planning to go to any of his later shows, you need to demand that he tells both goat jokes and *especially* the one about Willie Nelson. Audience participation was encouraged, although after the first joke (“How do you make a duck sing?”) was immediately answered by Josh (“put it in the oven until its Bill Withers”), the jocularity – and lengthy Big Lebowski quoting – was left to the headliner. The heat is once more referred to (“It’s nice to see British people sweat”) before announcing that “We got three more depressing songs now” and, after a couple more jokes (including the Willie Nelson one), he drifted into Sorry With a Song, once more sending the audience into silence as he went wherever he goes in order to do this, his delicate (and occasionally tempestuous) guitar picking and emotion-filled voice leading each other carefully through his stories. And when the final strains of Singer to the Crowd (“I stole this song off a Frenchman”) have been performed, the show is over and Josh leaves the stage seemingly (and hopefully) as happy as we are upon leaving the Brudenell Social Club.
Sweetheart, I Ain’t Your Christ
Woman When I’ve Raised Hell
Sorry With a Song
Singer to the Crowd
Josh T Pearson’s reputation as a singular recording artist is rapidly growing. With shows like this, his reputation as a unique and warm entertainer can only expand further and it’s highly advisable for anyone near anywhere he happens to be playing to go along and be enchanted and astounded. There’s really nothing like him.
All Human life is here, but the Holy Ghost seems to be somewhere else.
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.
It’s been a few years since I last saw Josh T Pearson on stage, and I must confess that I don’t recall a huge amount of his set, squeezed inbetween the moody and occasionally shouty Tenebrous Liar and the evening’s headliners the Soulsavers. What I do recall is a set where nobody was entirely sure what was going on with this guy on stage, applying a soft but strongly passionate (and slightly intimidating) voice on top of a long and wandering guitar accompaniment to songs that seemed to begin and end on a whim. And in the midst of this was a haunting rendition of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart preceded with something akin to a polite and warmly-accepted apology for attempting such a song in Manchester, as if any of us had any geographical right to intervene.
Blimey – turns out I remembered more than I thought. Anyway, that was 2007. Now, he has his own headlining tour on the back of his startling debut album Last Of The Country Gentlemen (reviewed herein), and the attention is all on him.
It lives! I’ve lost all my contact info and my email’s gone all weird, but that’s the price of progress, I guess…
Had a tiny hiatus when I had to replace my computer and didn’t fancy doing assorted 500-word musings on my phone (and naturally, I am also using this as an excuse for not updating the “upcoming…” page, although I might get round to that later. Or I might not). Which is a bit unfortunately-timed as I now have another largely unexpected backlog of things that I had either forgotten I’d ordered or that had arrived earlier than expected.
In the latter of these two categories comes this absolute pearler of a record that seemingly isn’t out until next month, but that very kindly arrived last week thanks to the lovely mail-order types at Rough Trade records, who also see fit to add an exclusive bonus disc into the bargain. And given that my sole prior recollection of this artist was from a singularly intense support slot from a few years ago, this debut album is a huge surprise and yet another indication that 2011 is shaping up to be a brilliant and incredibly varied year for amazing music…