Shuffle Everything – Vol. 6

We go full on Warpaint overload this week, not on purpose, mind. I have to make the heartbreaking decision between two of their best songs. It was like picking which is your favourite child, and I probably shouldn’t have done it.

Wall Watcher – Sunflower Bean

I can safely say that now Sunflower Bean have actually released a debut album, I like their softer songs. ‘Easier Said’ is one of the best songs of the year, ‘I Want You To Give Me Enough Time’ is heavenly. I remember hearing ‘Wall Watcher’ and being mildly interested in the album after hearing ‘Tame Impala’ on repeat for so long. It’s the heavier side of the band with fuzzed out guitar lines and buzzing bass. Julia Cumming takes over the vocal side, and though the chorus is infuriatingly catchy, it’s a bit plain. I think the handclaps that come along in the last half of the song are fun, and it’s interesting how they managed to marry that heaviness from the guitar with their poppier side that bursts out in colours on ‘Easier Said’

Joyce And Lonnie Fighting – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein (Stranger Things)

Recently I’ve enjoyed hearing songs from TV and film and trying to find them online, and I’m especially interested if it’s an original score – try ‘Macbeth’ and ‘The Child Pt. 1’ from the Macbeth soundtrack, it’s like Godspeed You! Black Emperor minus guitars.  But everyone got a kick out of the Stranger Things soundtrack from Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. You could pick any track from the soundtrack and be transported to a small town in 80s America, probably fighting aliens/monsters. The track is creepy and subtle, building to a climax that never occurs, but leaves you hanging. Let’s hope the duo nail the soundtrack for the second season.

Burgundy – Warpaint

love Warpaint, you may have noticed, or maybe not. I think their new album is the best thing they’ve done since the EP that ‘Burgundy’ appeared on, Exquisite Corpse. The song itself is also exquisite, resting on Jenny Lee Lindberg’s pulsing bass and a repeated guitar line that twinkles. The production is a little weird and kind of muddied up, so when the guitar enters at the beginning it sounds like someone’s put a pillow over the top of it. I have no idea if it was intended or not, but it helps when the bass enters, because your heart just melts completely. It’s fun to see how far Warpaint have come from ‘Burgundy’ to Heads Up, but whatever they do I’m going to defend to the death so they could make a rap-gospel album and I’d love it. Has anyone made a rap-gospel album before? The only thing I can think of is when Kanye said Pablo was, but only ‘Ultralight Beam’ was, and that was pretty amazing.

Red Right Hand – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

I cannot hear this song without thinking of Peaky Blinders. It’s a great show, but Jesus, they played this song to death. They even got PJ Harvey to cover it; never a bad idea. It’s the most well-known Nick Cave song, I remember the first time I heard it in the Jim Carrey movie Dumb And Dumber. There’s a reason everyone knows it, it’s pure undiluted Cave. Think of backwater America, looming vampires and murder and that’s what ‘Red Right Hand’ sounds like. The bell toll still sends shivers.

Warpaint – Warpaint

Oh hell. I was so happy Warpaint came along at least once, and now I’m going to have to choose between the two. The self-titled track came along a bit later than ‘Burgundy’, but has the similar post-punky vibe as that song. ‘Warpaint’ takes the crown though, purely because Warpaint had a release under their belt at this point and had a stable and talented drummer in Stella Mozgawa, who contributes to the explosion of sound around the 2 minute mark as well as bringing in a dancey swing that guided them towards the sound that they’re playing with now. The drums are mostly unaffected by the guitar-effect-swirl, which should sound weird but instead you get to focus on crisp drums or those twin winding guitars. By the time ‘Warpaint’ was released, Warpaint were the formidable team we now have.

Best Of The Week?

‘Warpaint’. I nearly did tried to remove Warpaint from the best-of-the-week equation mostly because they were going to top it out regardless, but I’m not a huge fan of ‘Wall Watcher’, the Stranger Things track is over way too son and I’ve heard ‘Red Right Hand’ way too much. ‘Warpaint’ works in so many layers, just listen to how Mozgawa goes crazy towards the end of the track.

Shuffle Everything – Vol. 5

Everyone likes Screaming Females, or at least I think that’s the general consensus. They won last week with ‘Starve The Beat’ (a live performance, no less). We have a slow week this time – no instant favourites jumping out – but Cocteau Twins finally find a way to hook me with their Beach House-isms, or maybe that should be Cocteau Twins-isms?

Unstoppable – Sia

Sia’s second comeback album, This Is Acting, is brimming with pop excellence. The most unfortunate thing about it was that it came with the unofficial tagline of ‘songs other people rejected’ so it came with the assumption of a compilation. Nevertheless, ‘Unstoppable’ stands among ‘Bird Set Free’ and ‘Cheap Thrills’ (minus the horrific Sean Paul version) as a sign Sia is on top form. She just has a knack for writing the perfect pop song, and has the vocal gymnastics to make a huge song. Have you noticed that every Sia song relies on a massive drum sound? Listen to ‘Unstoppable’, ‘Elastic Heart’ and ‘Cheap Thrills’, it’s definitely noticeable.

Lazy Calm – Cocteau Twins

Cocteau Twins are a band I always remind myself to get further into, and never actually do. I’ve listened to Treasure, Garlands and what seems like the go-to Cocteau Twins record, Heaven Or Las Vegas, but it’s never properly stuck, which is weird as I can hear one of my favourite bands – Beach House – in them. ‘Lazy Calm’ is a long-ish song that’s all spacey synths, reverb and Elizabeth Fraser’s ethereal vocals. It begins in an ambient setting before real magic starts. Cocteau Twins do have their own magic, an atmosphere that’s summed up in the title of this compilation – Stars And Topsoil. It’s both up in space and nestled in the earth at the same time. I’d never heard ‘Lazy Calm’ up until this point, but it’s giving me the temptation to back and explore the band more.

Insight – Joy Division

I distinctly remember hearing Joy Division for the first time. This was back in secondary school, when people were starting to listen to Joy Division and the Smiths and wearing the t-shirts, with that hypnotic front cover that seems parodied and reduced to a stereotype at this point. I also distinctly remember hating Ian Curtis’s voice the first time I heard it. It’s grown on me considerably, and when it comes to ‘Insight’ I can’t imagine any other person attempting those bleak words. The song is a bit of a precursor to New Order with its bright synths that somehow manage to work around Curtis – It turns into a sci-fi fest at one point.

Distance Equals Rate Times Time – Pixies

‘Distance…’ is a fairly standard late-period Pixies song. It’s short, punchy, and the most interesting thing about it is the buried guitar sound that comes along in the chorus. I’m guessing it’s a guitar, I have no idea really. The song is about a terminated television broadcast of the Apollo 12 moon landing, but I don’t think it’s just that. ‘Looking into the sun’ screams Frank Black, several times. Maybe it’s a premonition of Pixies’ breakup – ‘We got to get some beer / We got no atmosphere’. Even the album title – Trompe Le Monde – comes from the phrase Trompe-l’œil, a painting technique where the painter uses realistic painting to create the illusion of three dimensions. I always saw that as Frank Black essentially creating the illusion that Trompe Le Monde was a Pixies album, when Kim Deal’s role was much reduced and the band was on the verge of breakup, and so it was more of his first solo album. Maybe I read into it too much.

Come Back From San Francisco – The Magnetic Fields

Our first repeat album comes from an album that was hard to not repeat, 69 Love Songs. Stephin Merritt is replaced by Shirley Simms on lead vocals and it’s a stripped down guitar song, fitting for such a sad love song. Merritt pleads ‘Come back from San Francisco / And kiss me, I’ve quit smoking’ as he tells himself that his lover doesn’t need him at all, but he needs him. 69 Love Songs has a tendency to have some filler tracks (It’s near-impossible to keep the standard high for 69 songs), and though the instrumentation is bare-boned, the lyrics are just as good as the others, even if it lacks a lot of Merritt’s sarcasm and loads itself with heartfelt pleading instead.

Best Of The Week?

‘Lazy Calm’ surprisingly takes the lead. Prior to ‘Lazy Calm’ I saw Cocteau Twins as a bit of a sleepy dream-pop band, but ‘Lazy Calm’ might be my entrance to them properly. I’ll finish off the rest of the compilation and see where it leads next.

Shuffle Everything – Vol. 4

PJ Harvey came out on top last week with ‘Rid Of Me’ and after a week of pretty intense songs, there’s somewhat of a calmer week if you don’t count the storming ‘Starve The Beat’ by Screaming Females. Beck returns to compete with Blur for best post-breakup wallowing, it’s pretty hard to beat ‘No Distance Left To Run’ but he gives it his best shot, bless him.

Lost Cause – Beck

Sea Change is many people’s Beck album of choice and you can see most of his material since this album as affecting of what we think of Beck now – more of an acoustic singer-songwriter-type than the no-genre-slacker of the 90s. ‘Lost Cause’ is beautiful and sad and summed up in ‘I’m tired of fighting for a lost cause’. He tries to tear himself away from this person he’s broken up with, but their ‘sorry eyes’ and ‘wounds’ make it hard to ignore. I could just listen to the guitars on this track and the way they weave around each other, but the lyrics are front and centre.

Monday Will Never Be The Same – Hüsker Dü

A throwaway track from the full-to-the-brim Zen Arcade, led purely by piano in comparison to the hardcore punk that Hüsker Dü are famous for. In the context of the album I might have been kinder, but when you get thrown a bunch of interlude tracks you’ve got to remember how important the album format is, and how tracks like this can be welcome relief from full-on bands like this. I checked and ‘Newest Industry’ comes before this so maybe it was a good idea to throw in a piano interlude before getting into ‘Whatever’, which for the record is incredible.

Starve The Beat (Live) – Screaming Females

Live At The Hideout is one of my favourite live albums and is just as good as any of Screaming Females’ albums and has the added benefit of compiling some of their greatest songs prior to Rose Mountain together. It’s tragic that Screaming Females still don’t get as much credit as they’re due, seeing as they’re one of the tightest punk rock bands around. They have the bonus of having Marissa Paternoster on guitar and vocals, who works some guitar magic and screams like nobody’s business. The funny thing is how indebted to classic rock it is – listen to those guitar solos – but is imbued with DIY punk that everyone can get behind. Let’s applaud for King Mike for a second, and now let’s move on.

The Hook – Stephen Malkmus

On a completely random note, I found a CD single of ‘Jenny And the Ess Dog’ in my small town charity shop once, and I really wanted to know who in my town was in possession of Stephen Malkmus CD singles. Anyway, this is from the better Malkmus solo album, where he gets to play rock ‘n’ roll without having to attach the Pavement name and has plenty of fun with it. It’s a lovely, catchy pop song if you can ignore the lyrics about Turkish pirates and excruciating forms of torture. Then again, what do you expect from Stephen Malkmus? It’s the same guy that wrote that the Smashing Pumpkins have no function.

Gold Star For Robot Boy – Guided By Voices

still can’t get into Guided By Voices. I just couldn’t get around how short the songs were, and I’m not exactly sure why I have that problem. ‘Gold Star For Robot Boy’ sounds influential, you can hear a million indie rock bands in that song, in the middle of hyper-accessible pop-rock and horrendously lo-fi production. It’s surprising that Guided By Voices never got bigger than they did, especially in the healthy climate of the 90s they excelled in. Talking about gold stars is a fitting theme for Robert Pollard, he was a teacher at an elementary school at the same time as being a musical cult hero. Imagine all those kids telling people years later they got taught by Guided By Voices. I imagine the lessons would be interesting.

Best Of The Week?

‘Starve The Beat’s live rendition is staggering; six minutes of pure unfiltered punk that sings the praises of technical ability as well as a DIY ethic. The mixing is particularly good for a live performance, boosting those guitars way up and letting Marissa Paternoster go all out. The best rock band around?

Shuffle Everything – Vol. 3

We’re three weeks in, and so far we’ve sung the praises of Stereophonics, fallen back in love with Grizzly Bear and had an excellent selection of B’s. This time M.I.A. gets distilled into 30 seconds and we get into the dilemma of who makes the creepiest song – Arca or Rid Of Me-era PJ Harvey.

Banana Skit – M.I.A.

The very introduction to M.I.A. in album format, but it actually manages to pack a sum-up of M.I.A. into the 30 seconds we get. It’s amazing how M.I.A. was talking about refugee education back in 2005, but it’s only now big news. This wasn’t a one off, M.I.A. would repeatedly talk about issues before they became high profile like when she spoke out about WikiLeaks and freedom of information. The instrumentation is uniquely M.I.A., full of syncopated beats that have an acoustic sound mixed with a more synthetic side. It’s the fusing of the old and the new, the Sri Lankan side and the London side. Arular is pretty amazing, it’s the first album I’d recommend to anyone who doesn’t know where to start with M.I.A. Or maybe Kala, if you want your fix of ‘Paper Planes’.

The Gentle Art Of Choking – My Vitriol

Now here’s a band I don’t know enough about. I know they’re a bit of a cult band, releasing only one album back in 2001 and are currently trying to release another one. It’s definitely a sound of the era, back in the days of the Strokes and the Vines, except there’s more of a noise-rock/shoegaze flavour to it. Points for the hyper-emo title and lyrics: ‘Don’t look at me that way / I know what you’re gonna say / It’s on your face’, but I like the sound of it. They’ve got the bonus of sounding like a blend of every indie rock band from the 1980s onwards, but maybe that’s a bit of a nail in the coffin of making an original bunch of noise. They’re kind of mysterious in a Sunny Day Real Estate kind of way, they’ve even got the one-album-then-silence deal going on.

Else – Arca

Genuinely scary electronic music from Arca, this album in particular makes my skin crawl in a good way. Though ‘Else’ doesn’t rank anywhere near some of the creepier stuff, it has eerie piano keys plonking away and occasionally splashes of noise. This falls into the beautiful category of Arca, but there’s always an uneasy alliance between what is beautiful and what is stupidly scary with Arca, and he loves to play between the two. The lack of recognisable vocals and the use of silence makes songs like ‘Else’ something a bit inhuman, and maybe that’s why I’ve never got into Arca as much as I’d like to.

Rid Of Me – PJ Harvey

Last week we hit the jackpot with Beyoncé on ‘Sweet Dreams’, this week we’ve got the mother of all bubbling tension with PJ Harvey’s ‘Rid Of Me’. This album especially has a kind of restrained fury that’s inexplicably more terrifying than if Harvey goes apocalyptic. Which she does, on the chorus of ‘Rid Of Me’. Ever made the same mistake I did when you first heard the song and it was so quiet that you had to turn it up, and then when the guitars and drums kick in it bursts your ear drums? ‘Lick my legs / I’m on fire / Lick my legs of desire’ and ‘Don’t you wish you never never met her’. The way it bubbles up, you end up begging for it to explode, because you know it’s coming. You aren’t rid of it.

Deny – The Clash

I’ve got a problem with the Clash that I can’t get past. They’ve becoming such a flagbearer of original British punk that they’ve become a bit of a parody. However, saying that, they do have an incredible amount of variation in their music compared to the Pistols (But then again, were the Pistols around long enough to write anything other than snotty punk?). Joe Strummer has a knack for a pop song, singing about the in-fighting within the relatively small punk community. I think the guitarwork on songs like ‘Deny’ sets them apart from just a power chord thrash, even though they do employ that tactic. There’s a section at roughly 30 seconds in where you can hear where the Libertines came from.

Best Of The Week?

‘Rid Of Me’. The song leaves a deep impression, one that might not have been as powerful if not for the muted guitars that build up to the unrelenting chorus. Hopefully we get a less scary week next time.

Shuffle Everything – Vol. 2

We’re two weeks in, and there’s more songs than we know what to do with. This week we shuffle through a surprising amount of B’s, and they’re all classic B’s. But seriously – Blur, Beatles, Beyoncé, Bowie. We wallow in post-breakup misery with Blur, damage our hearing with Sparklehorse and catch Bowie in a strange phase.

No Distance Left To Run – Blur

Not the happiest way to begin a shuffle sequence, but do we really have a choice? This highlight from the best Blur album (no question) was about Damon Albarn’s relationship disintegration, and he sounds like he’s falling apart. ‘I won’t kill myself, trying to stay in your life / I got no distance left to run’ – 13 is often credited as an album about Albarn’s breakup, but does it get featured in enough breakup album lists? No where near, but it’s songs like ‘No Distance Left To Run’ stand toe-to-toe with Adele’s heartbreakers. The song manages to have Graham Coxon show off his guitar skills within a ballad, plus there’s some excellent backing vocals. Well, now I’m all sad.

Polythelene Pam – The Beatles

I have one Beatles album saved, and it’s Abbey Road. I haven’t even heard the thing the whole way through. If you’re looking for a Beatles’ song which has some hidden meaning, you won’t find it here. It’s barely over a minute and is pretty much about an attractive woman with the strange line ‘She’s so good-looking but she looks like a man’. Nice back-handed compliment, guys. The scouse accent when they sing ‘You could say she was attractively built’ is the funniest thing on the track. The song sounds underdeveloped, but then again I don’t think I could stand two more verses about plastic bags.

Sweet Dreams – Beyoncé

Oh, we’ve hit the jackpot. Remember when this was played on repeat for about a year? This is 8 years old! Sasha Fierce was peak Beyoncé, if we’re talking 100% pop-Beyoncé. Anything afterwards, it gets arty and conceptual, whilst still making sure Beyoncé remained the Queen of Pop. This album was loaded with singles, top to bottom. The kind of semi-chorus of ‘My guilty pleasure, I ain’t going nowhere / Baby as long as you’re here, I’ll be floating on air’ is incredible, especially when it switches out from the main chorus, just like that. It’s kind of untouchable, even if it’s not ‘Halo’. Now, ‘Halo’, we can’t talk about that.

Ghost Of His Smile – Sparklehorse

I have no idea what Sparklehorse is, I think my first point of contact was his duet with Thom Yorke on a cover of ‘Wish You Were Here’, which I have forgotten completely. Somebody made some weird production choices on this track, I assume on purpose, because the drums and guitars are crushed up to the point of verging on unlistenable. The little keyboard line is cute, and the vocals punch through well. I think it’s about an introvert, but the ‘ghost of a smile’ line makes me think he might be depressed. This is a sad song, and I think I need to move on before the guitars make my ears bleed.

Knock On Wood – Live, 2016 Remastered – David Bowie

This is from the Who Can I Be Now? boxset that came out a few weeks ago and I fully recommend it if you’re as interested as I am in Bowie’s in-between stage between glam and his Berlin period. It’s in-keeping with his soul interest of the time, being a cover of Eddie Floyd, who I’m told is a soul artist from the 60s. But the song gets jacked up into a Diamond Dogs rock track with a glam-rock guitar and a saxophone blaring away in the background. I can’t see him, but I imagine Bowie strutting across stage in some kind of intense suit.

Best Of The Week?

‘No Distance Left To Run’, followed by ‘Sweet Dreams’. Beyoncé might have the shinier song, but ‘No Distance Left To Run’ has you covered for wallowing in sadness, which we don’t recommend, but if you have to, ‘No Distance’ is cathartic.

Shuffle Everything – Vol.1

One of the great things about streaming is there’s very little to limit an album library. Unlike a physical collection of CDs or vinyl, or even an iTunes library, is that eventually you’ll fill up a shelf, or the space limit. Whilst there might actually be space limitations on playlists, it’s so that you can actually fit a broad spectrum on your streaming service of choice. So we’re shuffling the entire thing. Our library, in its ever-evolving growth and decline, is going to be shuffled at random. The aim of this is to somehow get me to listen to things I’ve stored but never taken the time to listen to, or to explain why Dido’s No Angel is no guilty pleasure. We’ll do five songs at random every week. Good? Good.

Just Like A Baby – Sly And The Family Stone

Great. I have to explain why I haven’t heard this classic album yet. I’ve heard plenty about There’s A Riot Goin’ On, mostly that’s it’s pretty great. ‘Just Like A Baby’ is very funky. It’s like a lost time capsule of funkiness, with a silky guitar solo that has Sly Stone moan over it – like a baby, but it’s the bass that rules the track, just like any funk track should. It pops, but don’t think of it in the way that Flea’s basslines pop. It’s subtle and not overpowering, but it’s always there. Stone sings about crying like a baby when his lover lies to him, inside a ‘little big man’. I honestly can’t tell whether it’s a drum machine or not, but the ‘tinniness’ of it makes me think it is. This was made in 1971, so it’s got to be a fairly early introduction of drum machines, right? I just realised I know very little about drum machines.

Reprise – Grizzly Bear

have heard this before, but I can’t quite remember it. ‘Reprise’ doesn’t stick out like ‘Knife’ or ‘Colorado’ did on Yellow House, but then again this was a fairly quiet album back when Grizzly Bear were a quiet semi-folk band. ‘Reprise’ has grown on me now – look at that repeated like ‘My love’s another kind’. Another kind of what? And in relation to what else? I’m tempted to shout ‘Show yourself’ to Grizzly Bear, but I think it would break their spell. They like their mystery, especially on Yellow House where they do sound like a band singing about hidden corners of houses. Listen to those layers of vocals and banjo. This is when Grizzly Bear sounded a bit like Beach House – especially the start of the song – but then again, I think songs like this are much less obscured than those first couple of Beach House albums. It’s less about a layering of effects and more a layering of instruments without becoming blurry.

Deeper Understanding – Kate Bush

What I’m playing here is the Director’s Cut version that came out in 2011. It’s two minutes longer and arguably not as good as the Sensual World version, which I adore. In a really strange move, Bush adds her son’s vocals onto the chorus with a vocoder, and it doesn’t add much to the song at all, but Bush is fond of her son being part of her work, so there you have it. Generally Director’s Cut was an unusual choice, re-recording many parts of The Sensual World and The Red Shoes that didn’t especially need addressing, but I am fond of the harmonica solo that doesn’t intrude as much as you’d think it would, plus her scrambled vocals at the end are interesting. It turns it into proggy territory, and the back half gets quite hypnotic. Points for keeping the references to ordering computer programmes from catalogues in. I talked about the song’s lyrics a bit in my classic review if you’re interested.

World Love – The Magnetic Fields

I made it through 69 Love Songs once, more out of a morbid curiosity and the idea of a marathon of genre-spanning pop songs appealing to me. ‘World Love’ integrates the spanish flavours that The Magnetic Fields used on 69 Love Songs plenty. I loved how they had so many songs to write and record that the songs were mostly kept short, light and bouncy. Stephin Merritt’s known for his unique sense of humour, but lines like ‘So if you’re feeling low, stuck in some bardo / I, even I know the solution / Love, music, wine and revolution’ isn’t sarcastic at all, even if he’s proposing love and political upheaval is the key is happiness. He might be right.

Nice To Be Out – Stereophonics

You’ll have to bear with me because this album was my childhood. I can still see that bright green cover stuck in a CD case in the glovebox, probably scratched to shit. Saying that, I don’t remember this song at all, so nostalgia can’t be that powerful. It’s not ‘Handbags And Gladrags’ or ‘Have A Nice Day’, but it’s good to remember when Stereophonics were a bit deal, trying to be a bit like the next Oasis and all that. They might not have the classic album or the global singles that Oasis did, but they could write a damn good song. ‘Nice To Be Out’ is an acoustic song with Kelly Jones’s instantly recognisable vocals, where he occasionally cracks up if he holds a note a bit too long, and some really nice glossy pop production. It’s a bit of a bittersweet song, with jokes like ‘I stood where Oswald took his shot / In my opinion there’s a bigger plot’ and then also ‘Sleep to drink or drink to sleep / One more week and we will meet’. This era of Stereophonics is criminally underrated for rock bands.

Best Of The Week?

‘Reprise’, no doubt. Completely head over heels and now desperately want to revisit Yellow House. Let’s all revisit Yellow House right now. Yeah.