(Click the tracklist screengrab to open the playlist.)
As we all know, there are podcasts. And for those of us who are resident in a select number of European territories, there is also Spotify.
Podcasts let you mix music and words together, but they’re also a bit dodgy copyright-wise. (I used to do ’em on my old blog, but it all started to feel a bit piratical.)
Spotify lets you create and share playlists, but you can’t readily add your own spoken links.
But what if someone – a former blogger turned music journalist, for instance, who fancies getting stuck into a new creative project for 2011 – were to combine the best aspects of Spotify and podcasts, by publishing a weekly series of personally selected, legally sourced playlists and sticking the explanatory DJ patter on his blog?
That, my dear long-lost readers, is just what I propose to do. Every Monday, right the way through 2011, I’ll be publishing a link to a Troubled Diva “Spoticast” playlist, and parking my accompanying blurbs on this blog. Think of it as a weekly radio show, with added textual content.
Does that sound like a plan? Of course it does!
Is it likely that I’ll stick to it? Only one way to find out!
Let’s get on with the first show, then. And cue sig!
(Actually, let’s not bother with the old sig. It’s on YouTube, if you want to re-acquaint yourself with it.)
1. After New Year’s Eve – The Heartbeats
“New Year’s Eve is over. I had a nice time. I’m with my baby now, and everything’s fine. Did you, did you have a ball, New Year’s Eve?”
As for K and I, we had the quietest New Year’s Eve imaginable: coal fire, bottle of champagne, some rather indifferent television, and (in my case) a slight sense of regret that social plans hadn’t been made. But that was 2010 all over: a year in which the two of us failed to make much in the way of social effort at all.
There were reasons for that, and those of us who know us best might already have an inkling what they were. But I do know that there will be a few people reading this whom I have ignored badly in the past year, and that is definitely something to be regretted. In an oblique sort of way, this partial return to blogging is also a way of returning to a world that I have rather left behind.
2. The Last Of The Melting Snow – The Leisure Society
Let’s keep things seasonal for a while longer. There’s a downbeat, reflective, quiet-after-the-party mood to all the tracks in the first half of this playlist, which seems wholly appropriate to this time of the year. K called it “depressing”. I prefer to say “wistful”.
3. Observatory Crest – Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band
In the immediate aftermath of Beefheart’s passing, this seemed to be the tune that most on Twitter and Facebook were choosing to remember him by. It’s a good choice, especially for those who have habitually baulked at the Trout Mask Replica challenge.
Speaking of which: I had to chuckle at the inclusion of Beefheart’s “Dachau Blues” in The Guardian’s suggested New Year’s Eve party playlist, as Trout Mask was our time-to-call-your-taxis room-clearer at post-club “all back to ours” sessions, right through the Nineties. Not as a deliberate ploy, I hasten to add – but there would always come a time, usually around 3am, when K would become possessed with the urge to convert all his guests to the joys of Beefheart’s most challenging work.
“We must ALL LISTEN to Trout Mask Replica!” he would cry, lurching towards the stereo. “Now, you may not all appreciate it properly for the first twenty minutes or so. So I’ll just turn the volume up, so you can all concentrate… WHERE ARE YOU ALL GOING?”
Silly boy. He should have started them on “Observatory Crest”.
4. Nightsong – Sidsel Endresen & Bugge Wesseltoft
If you read Troubled Diva in the old days, or if you downloaded the old podcasts, or if I’ve ever done you a mix CD, then this track could well be familiar to you. I never tire of it, and again it continues that after-the-party mood.
5. The Dancing / Miss Lindsay Barker – June Tabor
But while we may no more go a-raving, there will still always be dancing. This begins and ends with a slow reel (Miss Lindsay Barker) which evokes memories of the night before, then anticipates nights yet to come. Meanwhile, the central song is based on the recorded reminiscences of Mary, a 101-year old resident of a care home in Fife. This track never, ever fails to touch me.
6. Dark End Of The Street – Ry Cooder
I was searching for Roy Hamilton’s version of this tune, from Dave Godin’s Deep Soul Treasures Volume 4 – but that’s not on Spotify, so I stumbled across this fine instrumental version from Ry Cooder instead. I don’t know much about Cooder’s early work, and this track suggests that it might be time to investigate.
7. Two Widows – Chris Wood
We saw Chris Wood at Nottingham Playhouse in early December. Although rendered a little below-par by his man-flu, he put on an engaging performance, based around 2010’s terrific Handmade Life album. Some of his best tracks could loosely be classed as protest songs – “Spitfires”, “The Grand Correction”, “Hollow Point” – but this isn’t one of them. My mother has been a widow for nearly twenty years, and most of her friends are widows too. I’m not sure how well this song represents them, as I don’t think they are the sort of women to allow their grief much of an entrance – but it’s a lovely song all the same. Depressive? No, wistful!
8. Old Smokey – Linda Lewis
Another old favourite, and much compiled “signature tune”. Over ten years ago, I acquired several crates of promotional seven-inch singles, mostly dating from 1970 to 1974, that once belonged to my late stepmother’s late third husband. This was James Hamilton, who wrote the dance reviews for Record Mirror and who imported the concept of beat-mixing from the US, having experienced an epiphany while watching Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage in New York. Sadly, the vast majority of these crates, which somehow failed to be auctioned off with the rest of his collection, consist of ghastly MOR junk and fifth-rate hack-pop – but every now and then, a gem surfaces. This is one of them.
9. 2nd 5th Heavy – Luke Abbott
Slowly ascending the ranks in the last few weeks of 2010, Luke Abbott’s Holkham Drones turned out to be my favourite electronic album of the year. The music was recorded in the Norfolk countryside where Abbott resides, and I found myself increasingly drawn in by its elemental, stripped down, roughly hewn, broadly etched and curiously pastoral quality. This is the opening track. It’s gentler and prettier than the rest, and hence a little more instant.
10. Night Air – Jamie Woon
This ended up being the highest new entry, or maybe the fastest climber, in my Best Tracks of 2010 list. It briefly charted in late November – but only at Number 67, and only for a week, so you might have missed it. Since then, Jamie Woon has been selected as one of the young hopefuls on the BBC’s Sound of 2011 long-list. Some people have moaned about “Night Air” being watered down, poppified dubstep – but that’s just what I’d like to hear more of in 2011, please.
11. Since Day One – Teena Marie
”Contrary to popular opinion, I’m extremely shy.” Another “lest we forget” moment. Most Britishers know the late Teena Marie best for 1980’s “Behind The Groove”, but my fondest memories are reserved for this Jazzie B (Soul II Soul) collaboration from 1990’s Ivory.
12. Kardomah Café – The Cherry Boys
Having sat on a discussion panel with him a couple of weeks ago – following the rough-cut screening of Nottingham film maker Jeanie Finlay’s Sound It Out, a documentary about Teeside’s last surviving record store – I’m currently yomping my way through Graham Jones’s Last Shop Standing, an entertainingly anecdotal travelogue of the UK’s few remaining retail outlets for recorded music. Jones also managed Liverpool’s Cherry Boys in the early Eighties, and “Kardomah Café” was their best known song.
Not having heard it in nearly thirty years, I was rather taken aback by the Proustian rush which the song inspired – not least because I was barely familiar with it in the first place. (I probably heard it three or four times on the radio, tops.) But that’s nostalgic over-saturation and the instant accessibility of the past for you: all the songs which meant the most to you at the time have been so thoroughly exhumed, that it’s only the minor tracks on the fringes which retain their Proustian power.
13. Gawad Teriamou – The Sway Machinery ft Khaira Arby
Oumou Sangare might be Mali’s best known veteran diva, but Khaira Arby gave her a damned good run for her money in 2010, thanks to her first international album release, Timbuktu Tarab. But there was also this taster single from The Sway Machinery’s forthcoming album, The House Of Friendly Ghosts Vol 1. This was recorded with Khaira in Bamako, following last year’s Festival au Desert in Timbuktu. Other Malian musicians will be appearing on the album, including Vieux Farka Toure and Djelimady Tounkara.
14. Taxi From The Airport – Grosvenor
The most uptempo track thus far on this Spoticast, which puts me vaguely in mind of Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out”. Grosvenor is the alter ego of Hot Chip’s drummer Rob Smoughton. There’s an album too, but this is the only track I know.
15. It’s The Earth That Moves – Bibi Tanga and the Selenites
Bibi Tanga is a diplomat’s son from the Central African Republic, who flits between Africa and Paris. This is the last track on an album which has been out for nearly twelve months, but which has only just shown up on my radar.
16. Pineapple Crush – Lone
I banged on a fair bit about Nottingham’s Matt Cutler, aka Lone, when his debut album Lemurian dropped a couple of years ago. His newer material is dancier and housier, without losing all of the blurred wooziness of his earlier downtempo excursions. Word of his talents seems to be spreading, and “Pineapple Crush” has duly surfaced in a few specialist “best of 2010” lists. This pleases me.
17. Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) – The Vaccines
I’ve not listened to much straight-up, ramalama, no-nonsense, high-octane, guitar-based rock in the past few years, and I guess it’s unlikely to surface much on this year’s Spoticasts – but I still have my moments, so here’s a trio of short sharp bursts of punky energy, which should dispel any lingering wistfulness from the first half of the show. The Vaccines are also on the Sound of 2011 long list, and they will be the opening act on the next NME package tour. As it’s often the opening acts on these packages that achieve the biggest success (Florence and the Machine, Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, The Ting Tings etc ), we might as well make ourselves familiar now.
18. Back To The Fuck Yeah – Pulled Apart By Horses
I came across this band while voting for the shortlist in The Guardian’s First Album award, the results of which will be announced at the end of this month. (I’m backing Rumer and Ikonika.) Ooh, I thought: at last, a noisy punky thrashy ramalama high-octane etc etc band which I can get behind. But that was only a few tracks in, before the ramalama high-octanity all got a bit too much for me, and I retreated back to my usual comfort zone. This is still a terrific track, though. They’re from Leeds. I’ll be in Leeds tomorrow. How amazing is that?
19. What The Fuck Is The Internet? – Japanther
I shall dedicate this track to anyone who has ever been slagged off on the Internet. Which could well be most of you. Its sentiments should speak for themselves. There’s little to unravel here.
20. It’s Easier – John Grant
And finally, I couldn’t let this inaugural Spoticast pass by without a track from my favourite album of 2010, John Grant’s Queen of Denmark. Up until last week, I was calling These New Puritans’ Hidden my album of the year – but I was still wearing my supposedly objective “critic” hat, as opposed to my subjective, and comfier, “music fan” hat. I’ve since swapped hats. “It’s Easier” isn’t one of the more immediate tracks, but it’s the track which I’m currently enjoying the most. Like much of the album, it’s a heartbreak song, and there’s nobody doing heartbreak better than John Grant right now. He’s touring the UK in March, but sadly he’s giving the Midlands a wide berth. Ah well, another time.
And that’s your lot for this week. I’ll be posting a second batch of tunes next Monday. If you’d like to suggest a track for inclusion, then please feel free; the comments box is but inches away, and I’m not above doing requests. See you next week!
To open the playlist in Spotify, please click the track listing at the top of this post.
You can also use this link: http://v.gd/tdcast001