Friday, 27 February 2009

Wooden it be good

Blimey o riley missus! Jenny Wilson, the Swedish singer-songwriter with the English-sounding name who used to front First Floor Power, has only gone and released her second solo album. What's she like? Hardships! (for that's the album's title) was unleashed yesterday and is available from (among other places. And formats - it's also out on vinyl and CD) the Klicktrack mp3 shop.

Here's Jenny (and chums) performing a live version of the album's first single The Wooden Chair - in a carpenter's workshop. (Do you see what they did there?) This video's more Discovery Home & Leisure than MTV, but that's a good thing, right?

On a not entirely unrelated note, here are the Sweptaways (who also have a new album on the way this year) with their stupendously good version of the Jenny Wilson song Let My Shoes Lead Me Forward. (Sweptaways stuff is also readily available from Klicktrack BTW.)

The Sweptaways - Let My Shoes Lead Me Forward mp3

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Three of a Kind #78

It's funny how you can often have the most inexplicable gaps in your record collecion. Or maybe it's just me. Take the Popguns, for example. I own four of their singles: 1989's Waiting For The Winter, '91's Still A World Away and Crazy, and '95's Get Out. All of these I'd have bought at the time of their release, and all are utterly brilliant. But for some reason I never actually got round to buying any of their albums - despite the excellence of those singles and the fact that they released several long players as well as a Best of compilation. Christ I'm slack at times.

I mean, just have a look at the video for Still A World Away. Indie pop just doesn't get any better than this:

And yet still it never occured to me to seek out any of their albums at the time. Pranny.

Thankfully, though, we live in an age where places like this mp3 shop seem to have pretty much every piece of music that's ever been recorded available to download at the click of a mouse, so I'm now able to plug some of those extensive gaps in my Popguns collection. If you have any I suggest you do the same, a bit sharpish. Be rude not to really.

The Popguns - Still A World Away mp3

The Popguns - Crazy mp3

The Popguns - Get Out mp3

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Ra! Ra! Ra! etc

Many congratulations and muchos kudos must go out this morning to Footlights College, Oxbridge, who saw off the oiks of Scumbag College Manchester in last night's University Challenge final. And what a final it was! Corpus Christi/Oxbridge's captain Gail Trimble is what you might call (if you favour gross understatement) a bit crash hot at this answering esoteric questions malarkey; that, together with the fact that she's a) a woman and b) quite good-looking means that for once University Challenge has actually been generating loads of column inches in the UK press. Even the BBC ten o'clock news had a report about her last night (which also meant they had to shut up about Jade Goody and the Oscars for two minutes. Which was a bonus).

Anyway, not all the attention the twenty-six-year-old Trimble is getting (particularly among bloggers) has been favourable. The fact that she'd almost single-handedly dragged her team through the competition (amassing 825 of the 1235 points scored by the Corpus Christi team in total on the way to the final, and correctly answering starter questions like they were going out of fashion - she managed 15 in one show) meant that some were labelling her smug and deeply irritating, ostensibly purely for the fact that she gave a nervous little smile every time she buzzed in with yet another correct answer - a smile that they interpreted as being some sort of supercilious sneer at Joe Public from an overeducated, overprivileged toff.

Really, though, she's just an innocuous - albeit phenomenally intelligent - contestant on a quiz show. I'd have thought that, in an age where mediocrity is celebrated everywhere by the media, people would be pleased to have a young person in the limelight who's actually achieved their fifteen minutes of fame by doing something genuinely impressive rather than just flashing their tits on a reality show or being just another shouty, sweary TV chef, or whatever. Clearly not, though.

Anyway, back to the final itself. I'd fully expected team Manchester (who, ironically, seemed far smugger than their Oxford rivals) to prevail as they were a fiercely intelligent bunch whose combined knowledge would surely prove more than a match for poor old Trimble on her own. And so it proved, early on, with Manchester racing into (if memory serves) a 70-0 lead. All this despite their own star player, the bearded Pertinez (who, incidentally, was a dead ringer for one of the contestants in the stare-out championships on Big Train), having an unusually quite night - I don't think he buzzed in once during the entire final.

The big match nerves had clearly got to Trimble too - she was incredibly subdued for the first half of the contest, and her team would surely have been trounced had it not been for her teammates actually dragging her through, for once. They were magnificent! Especially the speccy youth on the far left (of the panel, rather than politically) who I'd never really noticed in any of the previous rounds, but who, from nowhere, suddenly started answering the most convoluted of mathematical conundrums left, right and centre. This seemed to jolt the rest of his team to life and finally Trimble herself woke up and in the final ten minutes or so reverted to her usual whirling dervish ways, and Corpus Christi ended up winning by 275 points to 190. It had been touch-and-go right up until the last minute or two, though, which all made for an absolutely riveting final. Fair play to the lot of them!

Pulp - Common People (full length version) mp3

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Song of the Day

An old favourite from El Perro Del Mar AKA Sarah Assbring (no sniggering at the back), and a lovely animated video to boot.

Buy the mp3

El Perro Del Mar's brand new album, Love Is Not Pop, is released by Licking Fingers on April 1st. You'd be an April fool to miss it.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Spike! xxx

Monday, 16 February 2009

They haven't stopped dancing yet (probably)

And now, live from the Empire Ballroom Leicester Square, it's... the Maudsley Hospital Patients' Day Release Party 1979 UK Disco Dance Finals!

Click here to watch Part Two (for some reason embedding's been disabled on this bit)

Sadly that seems to be that as far as available footage of this particular contest goes, so we may never know who won. It's probably just as well, mind, as, after twenty minutes or so of being force fed I Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet on a constant loop, together with all that energetic dancing, whooping from the audience and bad puns from cheesy voiceover man, you end up feeling quite worn out. It's well worth a look, though, as some of that dancing - not to mention the outfits - has to be seen to be believed.

Still, though, how about "Downtown" Julie Brown being one of the contestants! (What do you mean "Who?".) And what an impressive panel of judges: Anthea "Give us a twirl" Redfern, Tessa "I'm Free!" Wyatt and Patti "Mr Grimsdale!" Boulaye, to name but three. Those are some mightily impressive gigantic glasses the woman Boulaye's wearing there, too. She'd certainly give Su Pollard a run for her money in the specs appeal stakes. (Apologies for that last bit - I've clearly been infected with the spirit of cheesy voiceover man and his "hilarious" quips.)

Oh, and who is that smoothy presenter bloke with the open-necked shirt and FAB FM-esque mid-Atlantic drawl? Anyone know? What a git anyway! If he was made of chocolate he'd eat himself!

Anyway, there's loads more of these old UK disco dance final clips from similar years for you to gawp at over on YouTube if you're a masochist and/or slightly insane.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Three of a Kind #77

Valentine's Day was invented in 1927 by executives at Wallmark Cards who saw it as an easy way to fleece money from the lovestruck while simultaneously pissing off and further alienating already embittered singletons the world over. Al Capone hated it so much that he even tried to have Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon bumped off on February the so-called 14th. And all because the lady didn't love Milk Tray. Well really!

On the plus side, Valentine's Day gives modern-day bloggers everywhere the perfect excuse to put up some cheesy old love songs they wouldn't get away with posting during the rest of the year. Which almost makes the whole cynical exercise in shifting overpriced greetings cards and teddy bears with red, heart-shaped "I love you" cushions tied around their necks worthwhile, as far as I'm concerned. Hurrah!

D Train - You're The One For Me mp3

Madder Rose - The Love You Save mp3

Darts - Can't Get Enough Of Your Love mp3

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Three of a Kind #76

I don't know about you, but it's normally at about this time that I like to put on a baggy old jumper, dig out some classic Ride singles and generally mope about by the record player pretending it's 1991 all over again. Actually, that's not strictly true. Sometimes I pretend it's 1990 (variety being the spice of life and all that).

Blimey, though. Can you believe it's almost twenty years since Chelsea Girl came out? Makes you think, dunnit?

Ride - Chelsea Girl mp3

Ride - Unfamiliar mp3

Ride - Like A Daydream mp3

Mildly Interesting Pop Fact: Despite their golden era clearly being the period around the turn of the 90s, Ride soldiered on until 1996 before finally calling it a day. Actually, that fact may well only be of interest to me, as I sort of lost track of the band after Twisterella, so hearing about their subsequent endeavours always kind of surprises me a bit. Carry on.

Slightly Made-Up Pop Fact(s): After the demise of the band, Andy Bell travelled back in time to form wildly successful but actually slightly dull synth duo Erasure with pop veteran Vince Clarke, who ordered him to sound as much like Alison Moyet on their records as possible. Tiring of what he saw as Clarke's unreasonable demands, a disillusioned Bell eventually left the music business behind to set up the women's clothing chain Oasis, with whom he still plays bass to this day.

Buy Ride stuff

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

That's Snowbiz

Oh goody, Suburban Kids With Biblical Names have recorded a live version of 1999 for PSL - in the snow! (Scroll down to last week's SKWBN post for the original, #4 EP version as an mp3.)

Oh, and I'll never get a better chance to give this lost classic another run out:

Freewheel - Sweet Swedish Winter mp3

And we can't possibly give that song an encore without doing the same for this one - i.e. arguably the best Swedish pop track I've ever featured here:

Freewheel - Starfriend mp3

Click on the label below for a bit more about Freewheel.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Long Live Helen Love

An old favourite from Helen Love today to celebrate the release of her/their new 7" single Calm Down Dad, which is out now on Spain's Elefant Records, and which can be ordered from the Elefant webshop. (Sadly there doesn't seem to be anywhere on the web where you can stream the song at the minute. It's a belter though, trust me.)

Helen Love - Long Live The UK Music Scene mp3 (for 7 days)

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Dubious But Decent

In which we once again shamelessly rip off draw inspiration from Gideon Coe's now-defunct Dodgy But Great series of surprisingly fantastic songs by tragically-unhip artists, which formed an integral part of his much-missed mid-morning show on BBC 6 Music a few years ago (until, inexplicably, he binned it).

Today it's the turn of Scottish actress and singer Barbara Dickson, and her 1980 #11 smash January, February - which actually entered the charts in March. Oh the irony. This song is ridiculously good, anyway; the video's not bad either, despite the fact that in it Barbara appears to be auditioning for Stars In Their Eyes as Brian May. (She also appears to have nicked my mum and dad's patio table and chairs, but that's famous people for you - no respect.)

Barbara Dickson - January, February mp3 (for 7 days)

Mildly Interesting Pop Fact: I Know Him So Well, Barbara's 1985 duet with Elaine Paige, remains in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling female duet of all-time, narrowly pipping Shampoo's Trouble and Daphne & Celeste's Ooh Stick You to the title.

Kids today...

Just in case it'd slipped your mind, the new, long-awaited EP from Suburban Kids With Biblical Names is released today! Get it here.

Suburban Kids With Biblical Names - 1999 mp3 (right click)

Monday, 2 February 2009

I've started and they're Finnish

Burning Hearts are Finnish duo Jessica Rapo and Henry Ojala. In another life Jessica is the singer with Le Futur Pompiste while drummer/multi-instrumentalist Henry plies his trade in Cats On Fire, who've made quite a splash here in the UK over the past twelve months or so. I've no idea how Burning Hearts came to choose their name although I suspect it probably wasn't inspired by the Survivor song of the same name which featured on the soundtrack to Rocky IV many moons ago. (Then again, you never know!)

A week or so before Christmas we received a preview of Burning Hearts' forthcoming album Aboa Sleeping courtesy of Matthew at Shelflife Records which I was immediately taken with and have been enjoying ever since. If dreamy, female-vocalled synthpop is your bag (daddio) then I think you're really going to enjoy this album, which comes out on February 10th but which you can pre-order from Shelflife for a measly $10 right now. In the meantime, get your listening gear round these!

Burning Hearts - I Lost My Colour Vision mp3 (right click)

Burning Hearts - Iris mp3 (left click - available for 7 days)

Buy the album

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Three of a Kind #75

It's one of my favourite places on the 'net, yet I barely understand a word of it. Swedish-language music and popular culture website PSL is such a boon for me because it's full-to-bursting with specially-filmed live performances of individual songs in all kinds of unlikely places by a multitude of top solo artists and bands.

This month alone PSL-shot promos have appeared on the site by M. Ward, The Ladybug Transistor, The Weakerthans, Hanna Hirsch, Skansros, David Sandström Overdrive, and Tobias Fröberg. (Spike and me once met Tobias Fröberg in the bar after a gig where he'd been supporting Kathryn Williams. He really is a lovely bloke, and smiled benignly as I excitedly gabbled on about my love of Swedish music in general and rattled off a list of my favourite bands. Great sense of humour, too, as anyone who's heard his onstage banter will testify.)

New vids appear sporadically on PSL so you never quite know when you're going to find something fresh on the site; but this unpredictability just makes it all the more enjoyable. If you've never been there you really could do a lot worse than to check it out sometime, as I guarantee you'll find something you like. Here are a few of my favourites:

I featured this song on the blog a while back, but Frida Hyvönen's Dirty Dancing definitely bears another listen (or thousand) as it is, frankly, wonderful. This one looks like it's been filmed in some tea rooms in Harrogate, but the location's actually Stockholm. Nice dungarees too!

Whippersnapper Swedish sister act First Aid Kit really are terribly good, you know - even if, worryingly, one of them appears to be wearing a Spice Girls t-shirt in this clip.

Remember the videos for Massive Attack's Unfinished Sympathy and The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony? Of course you do. Well, this one, starring Sarah Nyberg Pergament AKA Action Biker, is a sort of polite Swedish equivalent!

Get thee to PSL for much, much more of the same