Friday, 30 November 2007

Three of a Kind #22

film scoresI love films. I could rabbit on about them for some considerable time. I also love film soundtracks and scores. This three of a kind entry is dedicated to three of my favourite bits of film scoring. I had to leave Ennio Morricone out of my choices otherwise it would have been a fourty-two of a kind, and I haven't chosen anything from musicals either. I am a bit of a fan of musicals (is that another one of my guilty secrets that slipped out?) but that's for a different entry, I think.

Anyway, first we have my favourite thing about Spartacus - the love theme. I was probably a bit moody and distracted while I was watching this film, thus I had a rather curmudgeonly reaction to one of the greatest epic films ever made. Given its flawless cast and genius director, I think the fault may be with me! But even in my grumpy state, I was moved by this beautiful piece of music by talented and versatile composer Alex North.

Alex North - Spartacus Love Theme mp3 (available for 7 days)

Next is a more modern score (1993) from The Six Degrees Of Separation. I couldn't get Jerry Goldsmith's catchy, snooty tango out of my head for days!

Jerry Goldsmith - Ouisa And Flan mp3 (available for 7 days)

Finally, (and I'm sorry about the sound quality on this one) here's one of the most exciting pieces of music to ever open a film, in my opinion. Hitchcock films always have appropriate and striking scores, but I absolutely love this one. Bernard Hermann is a legend!

Bernard Hermann - North By Northwest mp3 (available for 7 days)

You can buy albums by the featured composers and also the films these tracks came from at

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Three of a kind #21

(photo filched from one of our other websites)

Go ahead, punk, make my day!

Dead Milkmen - Punk Rock Girl mp3

Sham 69 - Hurry Up Harry mp3

Darren Hanlon - Punk's Not Dead mp3

Buy music by today's featured artists here.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Down The Line

Created by Fast Show veterans Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse, Radio 4's spoof phone-in talk show Down The Line is quite possibly the funniest thing I've heard on the radio since Dave Lee-Travis's (pompous and unintentionally hilarious) on-air resignation speech from Radio 1. I'd even go as far as to bracket Down The Line in with other modern radio greats such as On The Hour and Knowing Me, Knowing You. It really is that good.

DTL (as opposed to DLT) is such a convincing parody of a downmarket phone-in show that when it first aired there was outrage amongst Radio 4 diehards who didn't realise that the whole thing was a spoof - they just assumed their beloved station was going to rack and ruin.

But they needn't have worried. Featuring a cast of regular "callers" including the aforementioned Higson and Whitehouse plus Amelia Bullmore, Simon Day, Felix Dexter and Lucy Montgomery, with Rhys Thomas as nice-but-dim host Gary Bellamy, Down The Line was never going to be anything other than a brilliantly funny satire.

The complete first series is available to buy as a BBC Audio triple CD set. At a bargain £9.99 from, it would surely make for the ideal stocking filler this year for the comedy fan in your life!

Still not convinced? Then have a listen to this two-minute clip featuring caller Humphrey Milner (Charlie Higson) furnishing our host with a suggestion for the day's hot topic - naming a new colour.

If that didn't cause you to laugh out loud at least once, then it's probably safe to say that Down The Line isn't the show for you. But if you did enjoy it, then go on - buy the CDs! What are you waiting for - Christmas? ;)

(I'll never have a better opportunity to slip in this one-hit wonder from the eighties - which reached the dizzy heights of #27 in the UK pop 40 over Christmas 1985 - so without further ado, here's the Concept!)

The Concept - Mr DJ mp3

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Popundret / Asha Ali

A double helping of Swedish goodness today!

Formed in 1991, and heavily influenced by English bands like The Smiths, Popundret were yet another group to emerge from the northern Swedish town of Skellefteå - and, naturally, to sign for the local A West Side Fabrication label. Although the sum total of their recorded output only stretched to a couple of singles and one album (1996's Montmartre 15 40), Popundret did leave a couple of truly marvellous songs in their wake: Shiver Gone and Stab Me (the former especially being so utterly Smithsian that you might be forgiven for thinking that Morrissey had a long-lost Swedish twin!). But despite wearing their influences so heavily on their sleeves, these are both great songs in their own right.

Popundret - Shiver Gone mp3

Popundret - Stab Me mp3

We're getting towards the time of year when people start putting together their "Best of" lists for the past twelve months. Don't worry - I'm not about to bore you with one of my own, but I may drop in the odd personal '07 favourite here and there over the next few weeks. Which brings us to up-and-coming Swedish singer-songwriter Asha Ali's A Promise Broken. I first became aware of this track two or three months ago via the Into The Groove blog, and I've hardly stopped listening to it since. A really great pop song, and a real star in the making.

Asha Ali - A Promise Broken mp3

Asha Ali's self-titled debut album is available to buy as a download from the Klicktrack Music shop.

Popundret's Montmartre 1540 album is available from CD Baby.

Friday, 23 November 2007

"This might be a silly dream but it makes sense to me"

The Dreamers
"Squeal!" *frolic* "Yessssssssss!"

This is what happened in my house this morning when my post arrived. The Dreamers' debut album Day For Night had finally dropped on my doormat.
I swooned and clapped when I first heard about The Dreamers because I already knew I loved Swedish wonder Sarah Nyberg Pergament (aka Action Biker) who is one half of The Dreamers. The other half is English songsmith Kevin Wright, who has gone by the recording name of Mr. Wright and was in the band Always on El Records. High pedigree indeed!

Then I danced and checked the Friendly Noise website every day for three months when I heard they were going to release Day For Night. I was ridiculously excited about this release. You can already see the potential for enormous disappointment, can't you?

But that's the the strange's even better than I expected! I'm not sure how that's possible, but it's happened! It's a beautiful album and may even knock Jens Lekman off the top of my favourite albums of 2007 list.
Below are two tracks from Day For Night which will be available for just 7 days. The magical A Place I Know and perfect final track of the album Goodnight Farewell My Friend.

The Dreamers - A Place I Know mp3

The Dreamers - Goodnight Farewell My Friend mp3

Please, please be good to yourself and buy the album.

And as a timely treat here's Action Biker's version of a Swedish advent song, which you can download for free from the Friendly Noise website. (There's also another free Action Biker mp3 to download, so why not head over there?)

Action Biker - Vinden Susar I Advent mp3 (right click and save as)

Buy Day For Night on CD from Friendly Noise or download from Klicktrack. Either way you're getting aural magic for a bargain price!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Three of a kind #20

Coming soon to a theatre near you (possibly):

(click on image for larger version)

Sean Lock wasn't the only funny man Spike and me went to see over the weekend. Oh no - there was also Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy and Fatty Arbuckle, to name but several. And Paul Merton, who brought these legendary-but-sadly-no-longer-with-us comics to us via his Silent Clowns tour.

I'm not sure how many of you will have been to see a classic silent film as part of a large audience watching on a big screen, with a live pianist (as opposed to a dead one) improvising a soundtrack, but it's a truly memorable experience, and one that knocks a trip to the local multiplex to watch the latest overhyped, overpriced blockbuster into a cocked hat - especially when the silent film you're watching in its entirety happens to be Harold Lloyd's Safety Last (as happens in the second half of Paul Merton's show).

Basically, it's the one where Harold risks life and limb by performing a prolonged sequence of death-defying stunts and slips whilst clinging to the side of a building when he must have been well over a hundred feet from the ground. All without the aid of a safety net or rope tied around his waist, or any sort of protection at all! He really was risking his life up there. That's what made watching it with such a big audience so exciting - you're all gasping along and reacting to these incredible sights together. (The film is available to watch in its entirety on You Tube - albeit cut up into small chunks - but trust me, you'll enjoy it much more on the big screen.)

Paul Merton's Silent Clowns tour continues until 9th December, and calls in at Bournemouth, Bradford, Buxton, Reading, Plymouth, Northampton, Leicester, Salford Quays, Liverpool, Isle of Man, Portsmouth, Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen.

In the meantime, here are some songs to suit today's theme. (sorry, but The Sound of Silence just seemed too obvious, and I couldn't find It's Oh So Quiet for looking!)

Fun Boy Three - Our Lips Are Sealed mp3

My Life Story - Funny Ha Ha mp3

XTC - Stupidly Happy mp3

(songs available for 7 days.)

Buy music and silent comedy classics here.

Monday, 19 November 2007

"Don't be afraid, it's only me"

Last night kippers and I went to see comedian Sean Lock at my local theatre. He was brilliant, by the way (that's Lock, not kippers!). Also attending was an actor who has appeared in many British comedy shows who happens to live in the same town as me. (He was particularly ace in Look Around You.)

Today, on the way home from seeing kippers to the station, I found myself shambling down the pavement behind said local actor and I would like to say the following:

Dear Michael Fenton Stevens,

I am not stalking you. To show how nice and non-stalky I am, here are four great songs about stalking, all available for 7 days, so we can laugh off our humourous misunderstanding. Please don't take me to court.

Cancel The Astronauts - I Am The President Of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home) mp3 (artist website) (This really is a corking song. If you only download one song today, I'd like it to be this one.)

Hello Saferide - Highschool Stalker mp3 (artist website)

Liechtenstein - Stalking Skills mp3 (right click) (artist website)

David Bowie - Love You Til Tuesday mp3 (artist website) (I love the way he laughs at the absurdity of rhyming branch - said the southern way - with romance during this song.)

You can buy music by the mentioned artists here, here and here.

Yours sincerely,


Sunday, 18 November 2007

"You might like them"

The Free Design
There's something about family groups that makes their harmony singing so much closer than unrelated bands. Chris, Bruce, Sandy, Stephanie and Ellen Dedrick were The Free Design (in various combinations) and released 7 albums between 1967 and 1973.

Kites Are Fun was their first LP, and below you can download the simplistic-sounding title track. Apparently it was chief songwriter and arranger Chris Dedrick's first song, written when he ws thinking about a girl with the initials K.A.F. Not at all bad for a first attempt!

The Free Design - Kites Are Fun mp3 (available for 7 days)

They wrote a song called 2002 - A Hit Song which, sadly, wasn't. It really deserved to be, and is a lovely piece of catchy pop, as are most of their songs. It would be easy to write the Free Design off as a sickly, cheery family group, but for me they're right up there with the very best Bacharach and David melodies. A lot of their songs seem to be about appreciating simple joys in life and who can argue with that philosophy?

The Free Design - Love You mp3 (available for 7 days)

As we're nearing the festive season (ish), here's a Christmas song from the Free Design full of lovely sentiment and perfect harmonies.

The Free Design - Close Your Mouth (It's Christmas) mp3 (available for 7 days)

Buy The Very Best of Free Design from Cherry Red Records and find out more about the Free Design at this great fan site.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

What can Do-The-Undo do for you?

I recently wrote of my love for erstwhile Dutch maestros Daryll-Ann, and the recent solo album of the band's co-songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Jelle Paulusma. What I failed to mention - basically because I hadn't even heard about it at the time - was the new solo project of the band's other co-songwriting, singing guitarist Anne Soldaat: Do-The-Undo.

Well, I say solo project, but this would be doing the other members of Do-The-Undo a disservice, as they are, clearly, a band. As well as Mr Soldaat, the line-up also features a couple of other Daryll-Ann alumni: bassist Dick Brouwers and one-time producer Henk Jonkers, who now finds himself on drumming duties. The quartet are completed by Thijs van Duijvenbode on organ and piano. But the project is very much Anne's brainchild.

The band's self-titled debut album is out now, and having heard it for the first time last night, I can happily confirm that Daryll-Ann fans will be more than happy with this one, as it sees Anne back on top form; I got exactly the same buzz listening to this as I used to get whenever hearing a Daryll-Ann album for the first time, which is really quite something.

It's also uncanny how similar Anne and Jelle's singing and songwriting styles are - I still have trouble telling them apart despite the fact that I've been listening to their songs for the best part of a decade and a half now (and also despite the fact that both are now recording completely independently of each other!).

Here's my favourite track so far from the album - Mary - which will be available for download for the next seven days:

Do-The-Undo - Mary mp3

There are also four other Do-The Undo tracks available to stream on the band's MySpace page.

If you like what you hear, you might care to do as I did: nip over and buy the album in its entirety from Be rude not to really!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

"You were writing your setlist on the side of a cup"

Poor old Don Lennon. He must curse being lumbered with a name that sounds similar to the name of one of popular culture's biggest icons (although possibly not as it's been implied in the past that this isn't Don's real name). I know I get irritated every time I search for him in an online shop. "Did you mean to search for that wildly famous pop star?", asks the annoyingly perky search help function. "No, I bloody well didn't, otherwise I would have typed his bloody name, wouldn't I?" is my usual response. If I'm in a good mood.

Anyway, Don Lennon is much better than his almost namesake. His witty lyrics delivered in deadpan style are never better than on his third album, Downtown (2002 Secretly Canadian), which tackles issues such as whether it's alright the pretend to like Dave Matthews in order to get your end away. He's been compared to Jens Lekman, but Don Lennon is much more low key, a bit like Stephin Merritt or the Go-Betweens. Have a listen to this lovely song from Downtown:

Don Lennon - The Night Kramer Met Ann mp3 (available for 7 days)

In 2006, Don recorded the Acid House Kings' Tonight Is Forever for the EP Everyone Sings Along With The Acid House Kings on which 5 artists covered AHK songs (released following the success of their karaoke DVD, Sing Along With The Acid House Kings. Also on that EP was Magnus Carlson's beautiful version of Will You Love Me In The Morning, but I'm sure we'll get around to that another entry.)
Here's Don's interpretation of Tonight Is Forever. "Oh, I like this part. I like that funky guitar..."

Don Lennon sings the Acid House Kings - Tonight Is Forever mp3 (available for 7 days)

Don Lennon has now released five albums full of finely-crafted, original songs and you can buy all of them from his official website.

John LennonDon Lennon


Sunday, 11 November 2007

The Drowners

One of many fine Swedish bands to have started out on the brilliant A West Side Fabrication label based in the northern town of Skellefteå, The Drowners are a power pop combo who emerged in the mid-90s and have gone on to release five studio albums in the intervening decade - the latest of which, the ominously titled Cease To Be, was released at the end of July this year.

I mentioned the release date there because, Cease To Be being the band's first release for five years, I'd previously assumed that they'd already done just that - i.e. ceased to be - so it was a pleasant surprise to learn that The Drowners are still very much an entity.

The band comprises five members: vocallist Magnus Vikstrom, Andreas Persson on drums, Leif Renstrom and Mikael Sundqvist on guitars, and Par Nordstrom on bass. Originally influenced by bands such as R.E.M., Husker Du and The Replacements, the band quickly established their own distinctive sound, and songs such as Teenager, The Destroyer, Is There Something On Your Mind?, Summer Break My Fall and 21 all stand up well alongside the excellent Swindie pop produced by nineties contemporaries such as Popsicle, Brainpool and The Wannadies.

Here are a couple of examples of The Drowners' sound: debut single Teenager, from 1996; and, from the latest album, Words (a cover of the wonderfully cheesy 1983 F.R. David classic!).

The Drowners - Teenager mp3

The Drowners - Words (Don't Come Easy) mp3

(songs available for 7 days)

Buy Drowners stuff from Listening Post Music.

Visit The Drowners on MySpace.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Three of a kind #19

The LucksmithsFrente!The Waifs

Kylie Minogue, Men At Work, Rolf Harris...yup, Australia has produced some quality music over the years (do not think I'm kidding here - I cry at Two Little Boys every single time and Kippers and I are still arguing over which song was Kylie's finest hour), but there's more! Much, much more. Here are live songs from three of my favourite Australian bands.

The chances are that, if you've stuck with our blog to this point, you'll already be familiar with The Lucksmiths. Here's a song from a recent gig of theirs in Massachusetts. You can download the rest of the gig from Bradley's Almanac.

The Lucksmiths - Great Lengths (live) mp3 (right click and save as)

"I wonder if you can pick up my accent on the phone", muse The Waifs in their 2002 single, London Still. Yes. Yes we can. And I hope to always hear it because it's lovely! This is from a live session for Radio 3 from a few years back.
The Waifs - London Still (live) mp3 (left click, available for 7 days)

And finally, the band which opened my eyes to how great Aussie music can be, Frente! I'm not entirely sure when this is from - probably 1997 or so - but if anyone wants to hear the rest of the session, leave a comment saying so and I'll put it up.

Frente! - What's Come Over Me (live) mp3 (left click, available for 7 days)

There are lots of lovely downloads if you visit Frente! lead singer Angie Hart's website.

Buy albums by the featured bands from

Thursday, 8 November 2007

"'Here comes the one that you love,' they are singing to me"

The band Candidate
If I said 'experimental folk' to you, would you run screaming? I suspect you would. I think possibly I would, too. So although that phrase is used on Candidate's website, I'm not going to describe them like that simply because they are much better than that sounds. You may have heard Candidate if you've watched Johnny Vegas sitcom Ideal, since their track Song Of The Oss served as it's closing theme. That's from their superb 2002 Wicker-Man-soundtrack-inspired album Nuada. As is the following song.

Candidate - Beautiful Birds mp3 (available for 7 days)

The Candidate website lists the band as Joel Morris, Alex Morris and Ian Painter, but they have acquired three fringe members (Alex Donohoe, Jason Hazeley (of Ben & Jason not-quite-fame) and Phil Morris) since the site was last updated. One of them isn't pictured above.

The thing about Candidate is that they have a tendency to just drift past for a while before you even notice them. Occasionally they're a little too subtle for their own good! It took me a good few months to get a handle on 2001's Tiger Flies, but once I got there, I was very glad I hadn't given up on it after the first listen.

Candidate - Hangman's Waltz mp3 (available for 7 days)

This year Candidate released their fifth album, Oxengate, which was well-liked, where it was noticed. You can stream four songs from various albums at Candidate's myspace page - (Going Back To) Amsterdam from Oxengate is my favourite of them.

Buy Candidate albums from (I'd recommend starting with Nuada)

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

He's (not) in the army now

While his military qualifications may have been somewhat spurious, there's no doubt that Colonel Abrams earned his stripes as a bona fide pop star - albeit only for a short time. His one genuinely massive worldwide hit, Trapped, came out in the autumn of 1985 and made it all the way to #3 in the UK charts, at a time when such an achievement actually meant something, in terms of sales as well as kudos.

But yes, Trapped sounded superb to my young ears then, and still sounds just as great all these years later. One of the most enduring dancefloor smashes of the decade? I certainly think so. Colonel, sir, I salute you!

Colonel Abrams - Trapped mp3 (up for 7 days)

Buy The Best of Colonel Abrams here.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Three of a kind #18

A trio of cover versions by Swedish artists of other Swedish artists' songs today: all-female acapella choir The Sweptaways tackle El Perro Del Mar's Say;Acid House Kings reinterpret Loveninjas' Keep Your Love; and The Cardigans' Carnival is dramatically reworked by, umm, The Cardigans!

The Sweptaways - Say mp3

Acid House Kings - Keep Your Love mp3

The Cardigans - Carnival (Puck Version) mp3

In other news, Spike's modem's knackered so I'm afraid you're stuck with just me until she gets a new one. Come back soon, Spikey!

Buy music by today's featured artists at the Klicktrack mp3 shop.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Can you feel the farce?

Formed in Bristol in 1983 and active for the next ten years, The Brilliant Corners were destined to become one of those bands whose commercial success never came close to matching their critical acclaim. They were sort of like a south west version of The Smiths, really, only without the record sales, the highly eccentric lead singer or the huge cult following. The songs were often every bit as good, though.

As you might expect for a band with such a long lifespan, the Corners went through quite a few different changes of musical style, but for me their jangly guitar phase, circa 1987, was by far the most memorable.

Which brings us on to today's choice of mp3s. I'd go as far as to say that Delilah Sands is as joyously melodic a slice of eighties indie pop as you're ever likely to hear, chock full of endearingly wonky (and occasionally indecipherable) lyrics, along with an irresistibly uptempo musical accompaniment. A genuinely great pop song, in short. Ba-ba-da-da-ba-ba-ba-bah!

The Brilliant Corners - Delilah Sands mp3

And, from the same year, their inspired tribute to the king of farce, Brian Rix.

The Brilliant Corners - Brian Rix mp3

Incidentally, it turns out the Brilliant Corners' name doesn't come from a particularly well-executed football set-piece, as I used to blithely assume, but from a Thelonius Monk jazz passage. Mmm! Nice!

Buy the Brilliant Corners BBC Sessions here.

Visit The Experimental Pop Band (what the Brilliant Corners did next) on MySpace

Friday, 2 November 2007

"No matter how much time you spend with me I want more"

Elizabeth Harper

I discovered Elizabeth Harper.... when a friend of mine, Simon Storey posted a couple of photos he'd taken for her. (He takes magnificent pictures, by the way, so go and have a look at his work when you get a couple of spare minutes. That's one of his at the top.) Apparently his work wasn't credited in several places - boo hiss! - but it got me to go to her website and listen to a couple of tracks. They were fan-bloody-tastic and it wasn't long before I'd bought her album. It quickly became one of my two favourite records of that year and that rarely is the case with albums I buy in January. Particularly astonishing is the fact that it's her debut and sounds so accomplished from start to finish. Observe:

Elizabeth Harper - Low Tide mp3 (left click, available for 7 days)

Apparently New York-based Ms Harper learnt to play guitar with the aid of tabs of Elliott Smith songs and spent her formative years listening to the likes of The Smiths and The Cure. She has toured the UK, opening for The Long Blondes and has also opened for Johnny Marr at the Mercury Lounge. Does any of this put you off? Me neither!

Elizabeth Harper - Let Me Take You Out mp3 (right click and save as)

Her website is never up to date and I haven't heard anything new for a while, but I'm definitely not bored of her self-titled debut album yet. Still, if you're reading, Elizabeth, how about a second album, eh?

Elizabeth Harper - Trouble At The Palace mp3 (right click and save target as)

You can buy Elizabeth Harper's fantastic debut album from Angular Records for a measly £6. I can rarely be arsed to learn other people's songs properly, but I can play Harper's song Rock Like A Baby, which can be streamed at her myspace page. Good, isn't it?