(Click the tracklist screengrab to open the playlist.)
This week, your Troubled Diva Spoticast comes with added functionality for the Spotify-deprived, in the form of YouTube links for every track. I’m too good to you. Really, I am.
1. Up Past The Nursery – Suuns (YouTube)
Not much grabbed by the opening cuts on Zeroes QC, the just-released debut from Montreal’s Suuns, I was all set to drag it to the trash pile. Mercifully, and just in the nick of time, a Facebook pal with dependable instincts posted a link to this little beauty, which otherwise would have escaped my notice. Carpers have pointed out its similarity to Clinic’s “The Return Of Evil Bill”. Yeah, whatever. I preferred “Fireflies” to “Such Great Heights”, as well.
(But since we’ve started playing that game; is it just me, or does this threaten to morph into the Macarena towards the end?)
2. Be Africa – Bibi Tanga & the Selenites (YouTube)
I wasn’t intending to return to Bibi Tanga quite so soon – he has already received priceless exposure on the first instalment of my wildly influential Spoticasts, and one has to be fair to all those countless acts who are clamouring, CLAMOURING I tell you, for a similar career boost – but a couple of remixes of “Be Africa” recently emerged on 12-inch, which sent me scuttling back to the original album track. I particularly like the disco-tinged bassline, which follows nicely from the Suuns track. Still not heard the remixes, but I can see why remixers would have been drawn to some of the elements on display here.
3. Sirka v Iouzi – Iva Bittova/Vladimir Vaclavek (YouTube)
Iva Bittova is a Czech singer and violinist with avant-gardist leanings, and this is taken from an album which she and guitarist Vladimir Vaclavek released in 1997. Before switching to pizzicato fiddle later in the track, Bittova wields a curious little mini-glockenspiel, the likes of which I haven’t seen before. This begins prettily enough, before going a bit gutturally bonkers in the middle, as Iva’s yelps are augmented by Vladimir’s grunts.
Note that Spotify has the studio version, while YouTube hosts a live recording from Czech TV. Both are worthy of your time.
4. Kuar (Henrik Schwarz remix) – Emmanuel Jal (YouTube)
In contrast to the Bibi Tanga track, I have only heard the two recent remixes of Emmanuel Jal’s never-more-apposite plea for electoral justice in his native Southern Sudan. A former child soldier turned rap artist, philanthropist and campaigner, Jal donated the original version of “Kuar” to the Sudan Votes, Music Hopes compilation, which marked last April’s parliamentary elections (the country’s first in 24 years). Last week, the mostly Christian people of Southern Sudan voted again, this time on whether to secede from the Muslim north. Results are expected to be announced in early February.
5. I’m A Cuckoo (The Avalanches mix) – Belle & Sebastian (YouTube)
And while we’re in the area, let’s dig out this ace re-working of “I’m A Cuckoo” from 2004, which is transformed by the addition of a Southern Sudanese choir (whose post-performance corpsing is a joy all of its own).
6. I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool) – Candi Staton (YouTube)
Candi’s debut US R&B hit from 1969 is hereby dedicated to all those who appreciate the charms of the more mature gentleman (although if truth be told, Candi’s testimonial falls some distance short of “heartfelt”). If Florence Welch ever gets her honking chops around this one, then we’ve all had it!
7. Don’t Think About Death – The Humms (YouTube)
Faintly doomy, non-specifically menacing garage rock from Athens, Georgia, which introduces the intriguing concept of “left-handed cigarettes”. I haven’t the faintest idea what they’re on about. This couldn’t concern me less.
8. Hotel Room – Smoke Fairies (YouTube)
Holy Moly described their album Through Light And Trees as “the album Robert Plant would make if he were young and beautiful again (and if he were two girls from Chichester, obviously)”. It’s a flippant point, but not without a nugget of truth – for if you were, like me, charmed by Plant and Krauss’s Raising Sand, only to be let down by Plant’s Band Of Joy, this well could be the album for you. Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies are playing Nottingham’s Glee Club on Thursday, and I’m contemplating a “payer” in their honour. If I did an “album of the week” slot – and I might yet, oh I might – then this would be it.
9. Michael A Grammar – Broadcast (YouTube)
…which would be preferable to running a perpetual “Who Did We Lose Last Week” slot, but here we are again, and what can you do? In memory of Broadcast’s Trish Keenan, this is taken from 2005’s Tender Buttons, always my favourite. My fondness for this track has always been heightened by the way that Trish sings “Michael”, using much the same interval that my mother would use when calling me down from my bedroom at tea-time.
10. Retro Rockets – The Stranglers (YouTube)
I interviewed JJ Burnel again last week. He had been a delight to talk to twelve months ago, and he was just as much fun this time around, teasing me with his fantasies of procuring “gum jobs” from his aging fanbase. (Ah, if only I wasn’t writing for a family newspaper. But I’m sure I can find space elsewhere.)
“Retro Rockets”, a protest song about the state of chart pop (“too much static in my ear from the people who cruise it”) was released as a single nearly a year ago. Appropriately enough, given its central premise – that there is no room left on pop radio for bands like The Stranglers – the song stalled at Number 198. A year later, and a week after the veteran radio DJ Paul Gambaccini’s claim that we are witnessing “the end of the rock era”, the highest placed rock single (using the broadest possible definition of the term) in the current UK singles chart is “Bigger Than Us” by White Lies, all the way down at Number 62. Depending on your disposition, you might cheer or cringe at the message of “Retro Rockets” – but at least you can see where Burnel was coming from.
11. TROUBLED DIVA POWER PLAY: Lights On – Katy B ft. Ms Dynamite (YouTube)
Meanwhile, as rock languishes, UK Funky breaks through at last. Sorry JJ, that’s just how it is. Holding steady at Number 4, this remains my favourite current chart hit.
12. All Over Your Face – Ronnie Dyson (YouTube)
Inspired by the “80s style r&b/boogie/electro with old school soul vocals” thread on ILM, here are two prime examples. Ronnie Dyson first made his name as the original teenage lead in the Broadway production of Hair. In the 70s, he recorded with Thom Bell, one of the prime architects of the Philly sound. This was his last US R&B chart hit, from 1983.
13. Put Our Heads Together – The O’Jays (YouTube)
And from the same year, here’s one of the most successful Philly acts: similarly moving with the times, but still recording for the same label. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of music like this.
14. Paradise – Starkey ft. Anneka (YouTube)
We’re still in Philadelphia, but now we’re back in the present day. This is the last, and best, track on Starkey’s Space Traitor Vol. 1 EP. I don’t know much about dubstep – and I sure as hell didn’t know that they were making it in Philadelphia – but I know I love this. According to his Myspace, Starkey’s only upcoming UK date is at Stealth, here in Nottingham. Truly we are blessed.
15. Klinsfrar Melode – Marco Bernardi (YouTube)
There wasn’t enough electronic music on my first two Spoticasts, so here’s where I redress the balance. Marco Bernardi is from Glasgow, and he has been putting music out since 2004. This is the first track I’ve heard by him. I had a hard job choosing between the original version and the 13-minute remix by DJ Sprinkles, so maybe I’ll flip the record over next week.
16. The Sun Rising – The Beloved (YouTube)
Almost exactly 21 years ago, we threw our best ever house party. I was so pleased with the music that I’ve hung onto the tapes ever since, and recently I used them to construct a 53-track, four-hour replica on Spotify. “The Sun Rising” is as good a reminder of that era as any, and if I could find the Hildegard Von Bingen piece that it samples (the proper choral version, not the “classical chillout” bollocks version), then I’d link to it as well.
17. The Unicorn – Stimming (YouTube)
Characterised by beautiful use of strings and piano, this is taken from the most recent EP (Change) from Hamburg’s Martin Stimming.
18. U & Eye – Chaim ft Meital De Razon (YouTube)
And so to Tel Aviv, although “U & Eye” is released on Ellen Allien’s Berlin-based label, Bpitch Control. I don’t have much to say about this one, to be honest. If this were a radio show, I’d let it run on from the previous track, without further comment.
19. Synchronize – Discodeine ft. Jarvis Cocker (YouTube)
French dance duo make clapped-out pop star sound fresh and interesting again. Rest of world shrugs, having stopped caring about the clapped out pop star several years ago. Their loss, as this is peachy.
20. Do It Now – Dubtribe Sound System (YouTube)
I’m finishing with an epic this week. It might be over 13 minutes long, but not a second is wasted on this truly inspirational deep house classic from 2001. You might also recognise the piano part from The Juan Maclean’s equally brilliant “Happy House”, which came out in 2008.
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/tdcast0003