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:

5 thoughts on “Troubled Diva Spoticast 002”

  1. So happy you’re doing this.
    In the spirit of TD blog projects past, I’ll type response as I listen.

    1. Decemberists- based on this song alone I’d swear Colin Meloy was guesting with Blue Rodeo.

    2. BSP- Not a fan, This hasn’t changed my mind

    3. Jamie Woon- nudge nudge. I like this a lot. Mainly because the lyrics move it beyond the standard modern R&B grind soundtrack.

    4. Teenage Fan Club- I’m slowly getting over my aversion to steel pedal,(childhood in kitchens tuned relentlessly to Nashville). Luke Doucet’s latest got me over the hump and so I like this more than I would have even a year ago.

    5. Drive-By Truckers- Twang me to death.

    6. Derroll Adams- Terry Tufts,James Keelaghan, Harry Manx. I OD’d on this stuff last year. You might like Old Man Luedecke.

    7. Gerry Rafferty- Somewhere in my basement there is a Gerry Rafferty album that I played the hell out of in 78-79. I loved City to City. I like this too.

    8. Japan- Still cool.

    9. Mark Ronson- This is terrific. The mix of voices is inspired. This could have been a sentimental dirge, instead it’s biting, sharp and sad.

    10. Mice Parade- I didn’t know there was MOR kora, but I think I’ve just heard it.

  2. I’m playing a game here… “How Many of these would I recognise?”

    4 this time 😉

    Might be slightly higher if I heard them, but 3rd party software does not get downloaded onto my PC.

    But it’s nice to read you again.

  3. asta: I await Part Two with eagerness!

    BW: No third party software at all – wow, so do you just stick to pre-installed Microsoft programs?

  4. Spoticast 002

    Part 2

    11. Raghu Dixit- Pleasant. In Canada there’s a huge market in Bhangra and South Asian/western mixes. I like the voice. That’s all.

    12. Cee-Lo- Another voice I like, but this song is already annoying me when it comes up on local radio which seems to be every 20 minutes. The distance between catchy and earworm irritant is might short.

    13.Fantasia and Cee-Lo- Poor Fantasia has the chops but has never been able to get beyond the curse of American Idol. She was born 35 years too late.

    14. Jazmine Sullivan- s’alright. Another play my song, song.

    15. Katy B and Miss Dynamite- I like this. It’s a good Friday song, but Katy is a little light in the verses.

    16.Boney M- I grew up when all the cool kids loudly proclaimed,”I hate Disco”. I LOVE DISCO- even crazy shit like this that borrows heavily from Daddy Cool. I am dancing to this right now.

    17.Cosmetics- Speaking of cool kids…. Cosmetics are still bubbling just under the surface here making them super cool.

    18. School of Seven Bells- I’ve been listening to them over the past week and I still hear Jan Hammer meets Renaissance. Like.

    19. Anna Calvi- More Zola Jesus that Siouxie for me. This could be part of a soundtrack for one of those 60s religious epics starring Tony Curtis or Kirk Douglas. pass.

    20.James Blake- I do like this and I’m a Blake fan. 2011- the year of the gap. However, I am trying to imagine this in live performance, and I suspect that I’d be in the audience silently screaming, ‘Oh just sing the damn song’.

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