Back in the days where people weren’t too fussed about genre labels, when experimentalism regularly hit the high points of the charts and when nobody really gave much of a stuff how much records weighed, remixes reigned supreme. These were mostly shuffled off to the margins of b-sides and exclusive 12″ singles, but there was the occasional album of rejigged and reworked music for our pleasure. Remixing was all over the place, some remixers became more venerated than the people who employed them, and then it all seemed to tail off rather quickly, or at least vanish underground to a place where most people couldn’t find them, except for the very determined. The occasional gem bobbed up to the surface (the Soulsavers’ sublime take on Starsailors’ Four To The Floor being a prime example), but it all went quiet as some remixers went back to being DJs, others started making their own records from scratch, and others carried on messing about for diminishing audiences. This record is a celebration of decades of messing about with other peoples’ stuff.
Sometime during the last couple of months when the hinges fell of this blog (and myself), I made a bit of a discovery. I’m doing all of this wrong. What I should be doing by all accounts is to spend more time saying that I’ve written something (or, in many cases, copy/pasted a press release) rather than sitting down thinking of what to say. And if that’s the wrong way of going about things in the current climate of “look at me and give me traffic” music blogging, then I’m happy to be such a halfwit for not joining in. 6 Days From Tomorrow was never truly written in order to be read (I rarely read it myself, so I have no drive to make others do so. But thanks for reading anyway, you’re more than welcome here), it was done as what I thought would be a private thing to get my thoughts in order when other attempts failed, and it’s not doing a very good job of that either! That it’s become something else entirely from whatever I originally set out to so is a source of occasional pride, and that I’ve managed to gain such little victories without recourse to “You won’t believe what has done, it’ll blow your mind” clickbait shenanigans or paying neither Facebook nor for the privilege of spreading the word feels like quite an achievement in itself.
So, whenever I write something, I park it on the 6dft Facebook Page and the 6dft Twitter thing (although I have to say that this is a very underused feed and my personal one is much sillier), and I park it there once. I tried the “ICYMI” thing last week that everyone else does (which some proper sites do several times a day) and felt such an absolute wretched tart for doing so that this will never happen again. This doesn’t mean that I am averse to Likes, Shares, Favourites Retweets and other such word of mouth if someone gets to read any of this and feels strongly enough to do so, and in fact it remains a thrill to me whenever someone takes the time to do so, but I’m not doing any of this cobblers in order to be at all popular. I’m doing it to keep my own ducks in a row.
One of the joys of getting into a band some way into their recording career is that not only do you get to look forward to future endeavours, you get to trawl backwards as well to see where it all came from. Usually that brings forth the obvious musical pathways and the shoots of ideas that would flourish later on, but it’s the ones that occupy their own particular time and space that intrigue and interest the most. The Soulsavers’s debut album from ten years ago and re-released this weekend was one such record sought out and picked up after buying their subsequent release and, although it feels different musically on the surface, the link from one to the other is as strong as any, as the noirish exploration of pulp Americana found here isn’t far beneath the surface of its sequel.
Best Laid Plans, and all that. The current default setting here at the mo is “try to do something, then knock something else together as quickly as possible because Plan A has just gone a bit wonky”. The pic to the left of this scribbling is the majestic, erm, majesty of the planet Saturn which looks stunning through the telescope but more than a little bit smudgy when I employ a camera. Ah well, I know what it is and that’s the main thing. Other plans that have gone awry (including the arrival of cloud-filled skies at night no matter how clear and lovely it is during the day) have been scuppered by time and work constraints, so I hope to start doing the thing I was hoping to do last week, next week – or maybe alternate that with this on Sundays. I’m waffling.
And if things go vaguely (or at all) well tomorrow, I’m planning on liveblogging the Tomorrow’s Harvest Listening Party starting here at about 20:45 BST. Would be fun if you popped by, so it’s not just me hitting “update” every 10 mins, typing ridiculously fast and looking for alternate words for “ethereal”.
After much deliberation, writing out of lists when I was supposed to be doing actual paid employment-related shenanigans, trying to look all organised by tapping out a spreadsheet and then forgetting to save it, throwing everything away and starting again, and finally making it up as I went along, my choice for my Number One favourite record of 2012 was the one at the top of the very first list after all. After picking my way through 49 other things and being able to pinpoint the exact justification for it being where it was, it’s probably fitting that the overriding reason for having this at the top of the pile is a succinct “dunno really”, before putting it on again.
It’s been a bit of a madness this past 6 weeks where I’ve crammed in over 50 albums over and over again (as there were a few that didn’t make the final list) while tapping this out, reorganising and generally wailing at the world in general, and to be honest it will be nice to give my brain a couple of fallow days before starting all over again. I can’t honestly think of a better way to finish this Top Fifty off than this record, something that has all of those undefinable “this is how all records should be made” elements in the right amounts and in the right order, and one that never fails to move me whatever mood I happen to be in whenever I start listening to it.
I have to say that the real Mercury Prize shortlist this year is a bit of a disappointment this year in the respect that it’s a bit on the vanilla side. Thankfully this means that everyone can get all in a strop about *their* faves not getting a mention, and this is the real spirit of the competition. Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way from an award named after a telecommunications company that went bust in 1999.
So, to join in with the doings, here’s an almost shortlist of my favourites that weren’t nominated keeping to a couple of mild criteria:
- Released within the real prize’s qualification period (July 12 2011 – September 10 2012)
- Artists involved are at least partly from the UK
- Artists not actually shortlisted (although for the purposes of this list, only Richard Hawley – see below for comedy gold in 2006 – is omitted from this thingy)
- Something from qualifying album is on Spotify, just to make it easy for me. BTW, if you like something here or elsewhere on the various playlists, please buy it – no artist will ever make a living from the tiny streaming royalties they receive.
Hope there’s something you like, or violently disagree with.
Hooray for 2-day weekends! I’m absolutely knackered at the moment, something which is making me feel rather guilty after watching yesterday’s Olympics where someone who could barely stand up was apologising to an entire nation for finishing second, where all I’ve been doing is being alternately sat behind a desk and wandering round a warehouse for slightly longer than I normally would.
That’s one reason for the general quietness here, anyway. The other is that I’ve just been a bit fed up recently. A couple of weeks ago, I was sat listening to a new record (which I shall not name) and found the experience so dull that I actually forgot that anything was playing at all from the halfway point until about 20 minutes after it had finished. As it turns out, it was the fault of the record in question rather than my own frame of mind. That said, I’ve been in such a position several times before and know full well that when I’m depressed, the last thing I want to listen to is people singing about how good or bad their lives are, or what they think the listener should do in order to either cheer up or feel worse. Which is where the good old instrumental comes in, as they’re largely neutral, letting the listener sit there to either fill in the blanks or just have a few minutes of nothing to think about other than “well, this is nice isn’t it?”
Hopefully later today there’ll be a more wordy Whatever, paving the way for a whole bunch of updates as soon as I can find the time to get a few words in edgeways…
There are more than a few ways of ‘discovering’ music new to oneself. Press reviews, radio play, friend recommendations and spending money on a whim are all winners. Even (current bugbear alert!) terrible, twee covers of the likes of Pixies, Stone Roses, The Smiths or Joy Division have a use if someone hears it and wonders what the original sounded like before adland got a hold of it and hoovered the soul out. The most fun method for me over the years is the good old Pete Frame Method. It’s probably no coincidence for me that of all the little groups and subsets of musical taste I’ve been into over the years, many of my favourite moments of finding things have sprung from reading through the credits and thanks lists of new records (1980s Thrash albums being particularly lengthy exponents of this craft), a habit that continues to this day.
And it’s a habit easily fed by seasoned arch-subcontractors the Soulsavers (whose recent album I scribbled about here), themselves coming to my attention via someone else (Mark Lanegan) and who have vicariously opened pathways to lead to a host of great artists and records – including both of my favourite albums of last year and more than a couple in the positions below them, either directly or via an extra step or two. This new one continues that trend, featuring as it does the vocalist from their very first album and the subject of one of the highlights (Spiritual) of their second.
Lots to do and no time to do any of it seems to be the order of the day here. It’s not helped by the constant helpings of European Football (which is on as I type, so please forgive occasional losing of track or bouts of unexplained swearing, although the latter is mostly to drown out Jim Beglin), although I have helped things along a bit by accidentally deleting my comment/spam queue without checking to see if anything was actually from a person. Whoops.
Right, now I’m starting to receive more and more things from artist, bands and those in the employ of the aforementioned, I’m going to have to make a proper job of this. So once a month (the 1st seems as good a date as any) I’ll devote a page to this sort of thing. Thanks so far for all I’ve been sent, apologies for not getting round to most of it so far…
Pre-release streams are a bit of a temptation-wringing affair for me – one waits months for a highly-anticipated record to come out, and one week before it’s due to hit stores and mailboxes across the world, there it is in 1s and 0s, which can change the effect of the eventual three-dimensional arrival from “Yes, it’s here!” to merely “it’s here”. To be fair, this is possibly a condition unique to my family, having spent many an early December with my brother & sister rooting in the same part of the same cupboard for year after year, ogling our presents-to-be before Mum & Dad finally sussed and started putting decoys in; a tactic that worked incredibly well as it meant that they weren’t woken up at stupid o’clock on Christmas morning by screaming children because we were so convinced we were getting poorly-wrapped vegetables one year that we slept in till gone past 10.
Anyway, after that bizarre digression, I am happy to report that I am mostly immune from succumbing to stream-based temptation nowadays, except in the most pressing of circumstances. This is one such occasion, as I have been looking forward to this new work from Stoke-On-Trent’s favourite Rhythm Methodists and their unique brand of Northern Gothic ever since it was announced.