Troubled Diva Spoticast 005

(Click the tracklist screengrab to open the playlist.)

As I’ve only just typed up the notes for last week’s Spoticast (click here to read them, if you’re not already on the front page of the blog), I am once again a little en retard when it comes to furnishing you with the full muti-media experience that IS the Troubled Diva weekly Spoticast.

In the meantime, here are this week’s twenty tracks, with alternative YouTube links wherever I could find them.

1. The Money Shuffle – Richard Thompson (YouTube – live clip)

2. Soul Lam Plearn – The Petch Phin Thong Band (YouTube)

3. Mustapha – Davy Graham

4. Mustafa – Staiffi et ses Mustafa’s (YouTube – re-recording)

5. I,I,I – The Osmonds (YouTube – re-edit)

6. Good Beat – Deee-Lite (YouTube)

7. My House – Hercules and Love Affair (YouTube)

8. Marriage – Gold Panda (YouTube)

9. Wouh – Nicolas Jaar (YouTube)

10.Wut – Girl Unit (YouTube)

11. Blind Faith – Chase & Status ft Liam Bailey (uncensored video)

12. Hello – Martin Solveig & Dragonette (YouTube)

13. True Confessions – The Undertones (YouTube)

14.The Bottom Line – Big Audio Dynamite (YouTube)

15. Why’d Ya Do It – Marianne Faithfull (YouTube)

16. TROUBLED DIVA POWER PLAY: Yang Yang – Anika (YouTube)

17. Me And The Devil – Gil Scott-Heron (YouTube)

18. Rolling In The Deep – Adele (YouTube)

19. Mean – Taylor Swift (YouTube)

20. No Words/No Thoughts – The Swans (YouTube)

To open the playlist in Spotify, please click the track listing at the top of this post.

You can also use this link:

Troubled Diva Spoticast 004

(Click the tracklist screengrab to open the playlist.)

These notes are a whole week late – but what the hell, better late than never, etc.

1. My Word! You Do Look Queer! – Stanley Holloway (YouTube)

I often forget how much vintage comedy is out there on Spotify. This monologue was new to me. Its title drew me in, mais bien sur.

2. The Magic – Joan As Police Woman (YouTube)

When it comes to Joan “Police Woman” Wasser, I can’t help feeling that we’re in diminishing returns territory. The new album has yet to grab me much, but this track has a certain je ne sais quoi.

3. The Words That Maketh Murder – PJ Harvey (YouTube)

Considering the number of PJ-influenced acts that are currently surfacing, she couldn’t have chosen a better moment for a comeback. I particularly like the lyrical homage to Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues”.

4. Yang Yang – Anika (YouTube)

I tend to imagine this Yoko Ono cover (with production by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow) being played in smoke-choked, sticky-floored boîtes de nuit, where desultory, long-fringed, black-clad ghouls shuffle in the gloom. Do such places even exist any more?

5. Days – Creep (YouTube)

Enough with the French, already. This features vocals from Romy Madley Croft from The xx. Again, we’re in mopey, subterranean territory here…

6. Night – Zola Jesus (YouTube)

..and, for that matter, here. It’s good to run with a theme.

7. Surfacing – Chapel Club (YouTube)
8. Austere – The Joy Formidable (YouTube)

I saw both these bands on the last NME Radar Tour. Neither impressed me on the night, but both have redeemed themselves with their new singles – particularly The Joy Formidable, once I was persuaded to give “Austere” a second listen. Everyone deserves a second chance, don’t they? And besides, it’s about time we had a few guitar bands in here.

9. Adapt – Wire (YouTube)

Still very much working in the music industry today, as they say on Buzzcocks, Wire have described this track (from their new album Red Barked Tree) as “a kind of where-are-we, state-of-the-world address: observations about extreme climate change and disaster, the failure of financial markets (“fairness flounders, sincere cheats”), child labour, hollow politics.”

10. Compared To What? – John Legend and The Roots (YouTube)

The social commentary continues, with the first of three tracks in which John Legend has an involvement. This is taken from his recent album of classic soul covers, recorded with The Roots. Although nothing could ever top Les McCann and Eddie Harris’s brilliant original, Legend does a pretty decent job.

11. All The Boys – Keri Hilson (YouTube)

Although Keri Hilson’s latest album largely left me cold, this Legend-penned adieu (oops) to former lovers is one of the few tracks which grabbed me.

12. Getting Nowhere – Magnetic Man ft John Legend (YouTube)

And here’s Legend for the third and last time, guesting with the second-billed act on the forthcoming NME tour (also featuring Crystal Castles, Everything Everything and The Vaccines).

13. A Homeless Ghost – Console (YouTube)
14. TROUBLED DIVA POWER PLAY: Synchronize – Discodeine ft. Jarvis Cocker (YouTube)
15. Pills – Fujiya & Miyagi

This week’s synthy selections lead us nicely into…

16. Was Dog A Doughnut? – Cat Stevens (YouTube)

…this startlingly ahead-of-its time album track from 1977, in which Cat Stevens inadvertently invents electro.

17. Doctor My Eyes – Jackson Browne (YouTube)

Staying in the 1970s (which I am all too wont to do, let’s face it), “Doctor My Eyes” was a Top Ten hit for The Jackson 5 in the UK, whereas Jackson Browne’s 1972 original charted in the US. I’d never heard this until a couple of weeks ago. Knowledge gap duly filled.

18. Tourist Leggo – King Short Shirt

Calypso music from Antigua, as brought back to the UK by John Peel after a holiday there in 1977. I lost my taped-off-the-radio copy decades ago, and so was delighted to find this again on Spotify. You half-expect King Short Shirt to lay into his target good and proper – “tourist” being such a loaded word – but he confines himself instead to gentle mockery.

19. Roll Jordan Roll – The Fairfield Four

Discovered via the short-lived, but much-enjoyed, ILX listening room. Bass, HOW low can you go?

20. Coming Home – Diddy-Dirty Money ft Skylar Grey (YouTube)

My ability to appreciate contemporary hip hop hit the skids around six years ago, never to recover – which, to someone who likes to form an accommodation with most genres, is a source of considerable regret. These days, I’m the sort of bozo who only enjoys two or three US rap tracks a year: “Empire State Of Mind”, something by Kanye West (at least up until his most recent album, which again falls into DO NOT GET territory)… and this affectingly bombastic cracker from – of all people! – Puff Bleeding Daddy, whom I have cheerfully loathed for a decade and a half. You never can tell, can you?

To open the playlist in Spotify, please click the track listing at the top of this post.

You can also use this link:

Troubled Diva Spoticast 003

(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:

Friends and “friends”.

Earlier this week, The Guardian ran a think-piece entitled “Friendship, Facebook-style. Are social networking sites promoting devalued, impermanent relationships?” It reminded me of similar observations which I made (while in the grip of an uncommonly sour, grumpy mood, and rather too long-windedly, as was my habit) on my old blog, nearly four years ago.

(If pressed for time, and aren’t we all these days, skip to the third section, just below the second horizontal rule. The rest is ancient history.)

It’s a shame that my old commenting system packed up, as I remember quite a lot of people disagreeing with me, and I’d like to check back. I wonder whether anyone’s opinions have changed since then?

Nice while it lasted (see update)

I am finding WordPress’s relaxed attitude to post titles very liberating, in an Autumn 2001 kind of way.

Update: This would be fine and dandy, were it not for a bothersome glitch in WordPress: namely that comments left on posts without titles can’t be directly accessed via the “recent comments” widget on the sidebar. Oh well. We can’t ever go back, can we?

There’s no escape from a Tangerine Dream.

I have a Tumblr, but I don’t use it much. Yesterday, I posted this photo to my Tumblr account, which I spotted on an ILM thread (“Vintage seventies (or sixties and eighties) magazine ads for albums”). For the first time since I started using Tumblr, the photo then got picked up and re-blogged all over the place. (N.B. This is how Tumblr works. Everybody re-blogs everybody else, and the culture permits it).

Anyhow, for those who don’t do Tumblr (which is most of you), here’s the photo once again.

(P.S. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was one place on the web where everybody put ALL their stuff, rather than spreading it around various blogging systems and social networking platforms? This is kind of why I seem to be blogging again. I just want everything in one place!)

Troubled Diva Spoticast 002

(Click the tracklist screengrab to open the playlist.)

Surprised that I’ve made it to the second week of my Grand Blogging Plan For 2011? Yes, I’m a little taken aback as well. But a pledge is a pledge, and music’s made for sharing – so why not click the pic, tweak the volume, and avail yourselves of my capacious facilities?

1. Down By The Water – The Decemberists

The last Decemberists album (The Hazards Of Love) rather passed me by . This time round, I’ve been alerted to their presence by a) last Friday’s Guardian Film & Music, which featured them as the cover story and b) the January release date of their new album (The King Is Dead), at a time when new releases are thin on the ground and I’m scrabbling around for Hot! New! Music!

In advance of the album, here’s their current single. I’m not sure why, but I was vaguely expecting something bookish and pastoral. This is neither.

2. Living Is So Easy – British Sea Power

British Sea Power availed themselves of The January Lull three years ago, with Do You Like Rock Music. They’re pulling the same trick this year with Valhalla Dancehall, which was released at the start of the week. Again this is the lead single: slinkier and wryer than the BSP of yore, but I’d be surprised if the album was entirely devoid of their customary earnest bombast.

3. Night Air – Jamie Woon

If these Spoticasts were weekly radio shows – which is how I think of them, to a certain extent – then I certainly wouldn’t be shying away from repeat plays for favourite tracks. This was on last week’s playlist, and since it has just crept back into the singles chart (at a cautious Number 83), I’m going to give it a further micro-nudge by sticking it on this week’s playlist as well. I’m calling this slot the TROUBLED DIVA POWER PLAY! Yeah, I’m cheesy like that.

4. Today Never Ends – Teenage Fanclub

Teenage Fanclub’s Shadows nearly made my Albums of 2010 list, but I marked it down for sounding too much like a typical Teenage Fanclub album (an unfair charge, but them’s the breaks). Nevertheless, it does sport some lovely moments, and none are lovelier – or indeed more atypical – than this track, which closes the album. I particularly like the shimmering pedal steel, and the way it intertwines with the organ.

5. The Wig He Made Her Wear – Drive-By Truckers

Here’s another above-par track from an album which otherwise didn’t grab me much. Drive-By Truckers songs are narrative rather than confessional, which has always been something of a stumbling block, but this twisted murder tale has gradually reeled me in.

6. The Sky – Derroll Adams

This is taken from Ghosts From The Basement , a compilation of “lost songs, dreams and folkadelia from the vaults of Village Thing, 1970-74”, which K gave me for Christmas. Village Thing was a Bristol-based label which specialised in “alternative folk”, years before the term became more widespread. This isn’t typical of the label’s output, as the late Derroll Adams was a) American, b) a banjo player, and c) a bit older than most of his label-mates; he was in his late forties when this track was recorded. A major influence on Donovan in the 1960s, Adams once said that all his songs had the “freight train whistle’s spirit of loneliness”. That’s certainly true here.

7. Get It Right Next Time – Gerry Rafferty

I could easily have chosen “Stuck In The Middle With You”, which I danced to on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square as part of Antony Gormley’s One And Other project – but instead, I’m going to mark Gerry Rafferty’s passing with my favourite of his three solo hits. And while we’re saluting the recently departed…

8. Cantonese Boy – Japan

…here’s a reminder of Mick Karn’s distinctive, almost pointillist bass style, taken from my favourite Japan album.

9. Somebody To Love Me – Mark Ronson & the Business Intl ft. Boy George & Andrew Wyatt

Considering this is probably Ronson’s best work since Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black – and it’s certainly Boy George’s best vocal since Antony and the Johnsons’ “You Are My Sister” – it’s a real shame that this heart-meltingly gorgeous track didn’t chart higher than #55, which it achieved for a single week last month. Perhaps it will “do a Woon”, and resurface sometime soon. But I somehow doubt it.

10. Kupanda – Mice Parade

Let us now return to our developing theme: peachy cuts from patchy albums. This kora-infused opener from Mice Parade’s What It Means To Be Left-Handed got me squirming with anticipatory glee, but it wasn’t at all representative of the indie-schmindiness which followed.

11. Hey Bhagwan – Raghu Dixit

And here’s another. Raghu Dixit’s self-titled album has some great moments, but its “crossover” aspirations steer it into dodgy waters. You get hints of that here, but any latent Manu Chao-isms are kept in check by the lustrous vocals of this Mysore-based singer-songwriter.

12. It’s OK – Cee-Lo Green

I don’t think I’ll be enjoying this follow-up to Cee-Lo’s chart-topping “Fuck You”/”Forget You” for long – it’s too slight and too cap-doffingly retro to be much more than a passing pleasure – but as of this week, “It’s OK” is making me nod and smile.

13. The Thrill Is Gone – Fantasia ft. Cee-Lo Green

Tell you what, let’s have a double helping of Cee-Lo. Fantasia Barrino won American Idol in 2004, and her 2010 album Back To Me album reached #2 in the Billboard chart. On “The Thrill Is Gone”, Cee-Lo’s mocking guest rap undercuts Fantasia’s lovelorn pleas with wickedly withering indifference.

14. Don’t Make Me Wait – Jazmine Sullivan

From one contemporary soul diva to another: this selection from Jazmine Sullivan’s second album is a breezy, foxy delight, which puts me in mind of vintage Janet Jackson.

15. Lights On – Katy B ft. Ms Dynamite

I do like playlisting songs from the charts. This one has climbed seven places to this week’s Number Four, making it the biggest hit to date from the UK Funky scene. Katy B first caught my attention via her guest vocal on “As I”, one of the best tracks on the 2008 album from Geeneus (who also produces this single) – but she is better known for her debut hit “Katy On A Mission” and her work on Magnetic Man’s brilliant “Perfect Stranger”. Meanwhile, Ms Dynamite hasn’t charted this high since 2002, and I’m glad she’s back.

16. He Was A Steppenwolf – Boney M

The fine Disco Discharge series continues, with the imminent release of four more double CD collections. From the forthcoming Mondo Disco set – but originally from their colossal 1978 album Nightflight To Venus – here are Boney M (featuring the recently deceased Bobby Farrell), coating a typically daft lyric with an almost Temptations-esque gloss. This is the second murder tale in this week’s playlist. I’m not sure which one is the more implausible.

17. Sleepwalking – Cosmetics

There are two of them: Nic and Aja. They come from Vancouver, and they reportedly live in a fashion studio. That’s all I can tell you. I stumbled across this in somebody’s best-tracks-of-2010 list. It would have been a shame to miss it.

18. Heart Is Strange – School Of Seven Bells

This is the only song I’ve heard by School Of Seven Bells, which is terribly remiss of me as they’ve been quite the thing in certain circles, but you can’t hear everything, can you? Although Lord knows, I try. I’m getting a faint whiff of the Banshees here, which leads me neatly to…

19. Jezebel – Anna Calvi

…on which the Siouxsie influence is even more pronounced. To say nothing of PJ Harvey – but that’s allowed, as Anna Calvi’s forthcoming debut album is produced by Harvey’s long-time collaborator Rob Ellis. This, then, is the obligatory buzz-building “taste-maker single” – and a Frankie Laine cover, to boot.

20. Limit To Your Love – James Blake

James Blake’s name is currently being bandied about on the same “names to watch in 2011” lists as Anna Calvi. Following two instrumental EPs, “Limit To Your Love” is his first full vocal track to surface. It’s a cover of a song from the last Feist album, and I love what Blake has done with it.

If this continues to climb the charts – it has just entered the Top 40, after a few weeks of steady if modest sales – then it could become next week’s TROUBLED DIVA POWER PLAY! Or is there a more deserving candidate? What do you think? Tell me, do…

To open the playlist in Spotify, please click the track listing at the top of this post.

You can also use this link:

Troubled Diva Spoticast 001

(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: