Black Pumas – Black Pumas

Over a whatsapp video call, David showed me a new CD he had bought, I nodded politely as though I recognised the band and knew all about them and we moved on to the next one of three. The album was Black Pumas by Black Pumas and I thought little more of it until the very next day I somehow found myself in a record store for the first time in months since the lockdown started. I didn’t really have anything in mind to buy and was browsing around when I stumbled upon a vinyl copy of the album. I bought it, unheard, on a sort of recommendation by David. I think if I had gone to the store with a purpose, looking for something specific, I probably wouldn’t have, but apart from the recommendation it was on a nice splatter vinyl and came with a bonus CD, also it wasn’t particularly expensive.

I’ve played it several times since then and really do rather like it. If you haven’t heard them yet here is their track ‘Colours’ (which I’ve spelt correctly) for you to have a listen to before I go on:

So who are they? They are singer Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada who got together in 2017 and released their debut album, Black Pumas, on June 21, 2019. They performed at South by Southwest in 2019 and won a best new band trophy at the 2019 Austin Music Awards. On November 20, 2019, they were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. That’s quite a start.

Black Pumas performed “Colors” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! following their network TV debut on CBS This Morning along with a taping on season 45 of Austin City Limits. The band’s single “Colors” later reached number one on AAA radio. The single has been streamed over 60 million times across all platforms. Meanwhile, the official live video of “Colors” has been viewed over 25 million times on YouTube. Despite all this, nobody has pointed out that Colours has a U in it.

In their hometown of Austin, Texas, Black Pumas became the first band to sell out four consecutive shows at Stubbs, one of the city’s live venues, and on May 7, 2020, mayor Steve Adler proclaimed the date as Black Pumas Day.

The whole album is consistently good and doesn’t step outside it’s aesthtic with the production staying true troughout to a sort of modern 70’s feel that has been quite popular of late.

This is roughly what the vinyl looks like, not my picture but my copy is pretty similar:


A1Black Moon Rising
A3Know You Better
A5OCT 33
B1Stay Gold
B2Old Man
B4Touch The Sky
B5Sweet Conversations
Bonus CD
CD-1Black Moon Rising
CD-4Eleanor Rigby

I’ve yet to listen to the bonus CD, I’m not sure if they are demos or live or something else. I just checked, it’s a live session. SO that’s something to look forward to.

Stina Nordenstam

I went to the local rubbish tip last week and had a quick look through the stack of CD’s they have there that people were going to throw away as landfill. Amongst the Westlife, Boyzone and Robbie Williams CD’s, which are going where they belong, was ‘The World is Saved’ by Stina Nordenstam, which was a delightful surprise and a bargain at £0.50p

Ive been listening to Nordenstam since around 1998 when I heard a cover version of ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince. I was rather taken by the fragility of her voice and various tracks by her ended up on several mix CD’s that I used to listen to in the car (before MP3 playlists).

She was born in Stockholm and, as a child was greatly influenced by her father’s classical and jazz music collection. Early comparisons were made with artists like Rickie Lee Jones and Björk. Her early albums, ‘Memories of a Color’ and ‘And She Closed Her Eyes’ were jazz-influenced with elements of alternative rock. 1997’s ‘Dynamite’ began a more experimental path—most of the album was filled with distorted guitars and unusual beats. A 1998 cover album, ‘People Are Strange’, followed in the same vein. In 2001 Nordenstam went with a more pop-influenced sound on ‘This Is Stina Nordenstam’, and features guest vocals from Brett Anderson. Nordenstam’s 2004 album ‘The World Is Saved’ continued the path set on This Is…, but presents a more realised sound and acknowledges her earlier jazz influences.

‘The World Is Saved’ is her last album release, 15 years ago in 2004, so I’ve no idea what she is up to now. The last thing she seemes to have been invloved in musically was back in 2007 with David Sylvian’s band ‘Nine Horses’.

The voice that Nordenstam uses on her official releases is a voice she chooses to reveal as, though it may seem juvenile at first, and tentative, it is quite deliberate, she is more than capable of much more than she allows the listener to hear but she uses her voice to help tell the story of the words she is singing, with long pauses at times that can be quite unnerving.

This is Stina Nordenstam is the first of her albums I bought, but it was both the Purple Rain cover and that of The Doors – People are Strange, that first brought her to my attention. Nordenstam doesn’t do many interviews and often disguises herself with wigs and suchlike and this has had a twofold effect, on the one hand she has to a degree, protected her anonominity, and on the other, it has restricted her success. From what little I do know of her, I suspect she would be just fine with that

The choice of cover versions on People Are Strange is an intersting one, here are the tracks:


1Sailing – The Sutherland Brothers / Rod Stewart3:14
2I Dream Of Jeannie – Theme3:56
3Love Hurts – Everly Brothers  0:32
4Lonesome Road – Traditional2:04
5Bird On A Wire – Leonard Cohen3:41
6Purple Rain – Prince3:48
7Swallow Strings – Stina Nordenstam1:08
8Like A Swallow – Traditional2:44
9Reason To Believe – Tim Hardin4:10
10I Came So Far For Beauty – Leonard Cohen4:01
11Come To Me – Stina Nordenstam3:28
12People Are Strange –The Doors3:35

All of her albums are available on popular streaming sites so go and discover if anything you’ve heard here appeals to you in any way.

To finish, there is a video available of a young Nordenstam not being typically Nordenstam from 1989, before her first album was released, here it is, the girl can sing.

Aurora – A Different Kind Of Human – Step 2

Back in 2015 the John Lewis Christmas advert featured a cover of the Oasis song ‘Half a world away’, performed by Aurora. This advert is actually quite a big thing in the UK and every Christmas it becomes a water cooler conversation. Over the years there have been some pretty good cover versions and the odd original, these are the ones released as singles:

23 November 2009“Sweet Child o’ Mine”Taken by Trees23
12 November 2010“Your Song”Ellie Goulding2
11 November 2011“Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want”Slow Moving Millie31
9 November 2012“The Power of Love”Gabrielle Aplin1
10 November 2013“Somewhere Only We Know”Lily Allen1
6 November 2014“Real Love”Tom Odell7
6 November 2015“Half the World Away”Aurora11
10 November 2016“One Day I’ll Fly Away”Vaults53
10 November 2017“Golden Slumbers”Elbow29
8 February 1971“Your Song”Elton John7

you may remember the Aurora track from 2015:

Anyway, the point I was getting to was that I had no idea who it was singing but saw the advert repeatedly that Chritmas and there was something about her voice that I really liked, but I never really investigated any further, I’ve no idea why.

I did see this about a year ago where she was covering Massive Attack, and doing it very well. Again I didn’t investigate any further.

Cut to last week and I did this:- Your F***ing Sunny Day where I included a track by Aurora (Apple Tree) which put her back in the forefront of my mind so when a few days later I saw this in HMV reduced to £9.99 I picked it up.

So, some detail, basically from Wikipedia, Aurora Aksnes (born 15 June 1996), known mononymously as Aurora (stylised as AURORA), is a Norwegian singer-songwriter and producer. She spent much of her life in Os, Hordaland county, Norway.

Aurora did not originally expect to perform music professionally, preferring to keep her music private: “I never really wanted to sing, or to be on the stage at all,” she said. “I just wanted to write, maybe become a doctor or a physicist or something of that kind.” When she was 16, Aurora performed a “really long and boring song about world peace” at her high school’s leaving ceremony and a classmate put the video online.

Around the same time, a friend uploaded a track Aurora had recorded as a Christmas gift for her parents to SoundCloud. These two songs were discovered by a representative of Made Management, a Norwegian management company, who invited Aurora to visit their office for a meeting in early 2013. “At first I thought no,” she recalls. “But then my mum said I should think about the idea of sharing my music with the world because maybe there’s someone out there who desperately needs it. And that could actually be a good thing.” In a few hours both songs received thousands of visits in Norway, which earned Aurora some notoriety in her country, in addition to a fan base on Facebook.

Aurora then set about working on her songwriting for around a year before giving her “first proper live performance” at a Norwegian music festival. “I don’t think I was born to be an entertainer, I used to really be afraid of playing live on-stage. Obviously it’s terrifying! But now I look forward to it every time. I’ve learned not focus on myself, cause it’s not about me. Now I only think about giving everyone the best experience. A magic moment.”

I opened the album when I got home and it was a nice surprise to find that it was a nice clear blue vinyl:

There’s an interesting genealogy to why I would like this album, at least I think it interesting. During one of my many charity shop visits looking for CD’s I picked up a copy of Body Talk by Robin, a performer I have paid absolutely no attention too really, but I popped the CD on in the car for my journey to work and, despite it being further towards Pop that I normally listen to, I really liked it, in fact, it’s a fabulous album. What it did was open me up to more music that drifts into the pop spectrum, and it opened me up to the song ‘The River’, the opening track of the album, which I swear I’d heard before but can’t remember where or when.

I think what I like about the music that Aurora is producing is that while it clearly has many pop elements it still seems to retain and outsider feel about it as though it is a stream meandering alongside a river of pop but never quite joining it. She also seems to be rather quirky, and I like quirky.

The more I listen to this album the more I like it, it’s a quick grower, which is not always a good thing but I think in this case if Aurora continues the way she is then she could well become a Bjork like musician who continues to make and break her own rules, which the music industry needs. Homogenous music is a boring dead end, we need difference.

The Seed (above) is a lovely, but quite scary view on our current environmental crisis and has a very simple point to make, and it makes it very well, ‘You cannot eat money”

Just like the seed I don’t know where to go
Through dirt and shadow, I grow|
I’m reaching light through the struggle
Just like the seed I’m chasing the wonder
I unravel myself All in slow motion [

You cannot eat money, oh no
You cannot eat money, oh no
When the last tree has fallen
And the rivers are poisoned
You cannot eat money, oh no


A1The River
A3Dance On The Moon
A4Day Dreamer
A6Soulless Creatures
B1In Bottles
B2A Different Kind Of Human
B3Apple Tree
B4The Seed

Here is a great performance from this years Glastonbury festival, an event I will never get to go as tickets sell out in a nanosecond.

0:40 – The River 4:22 – Churchyard 8:56 – All is Soft Inside 14:12 – Warrior 18:10 – Soft Universe 23:25 – Runaway 27:51 – Apple Tree 31:40 – The Seed 36:27 – Forgotten Love 40:15 – I Went Too Far 44:21 – Queendom 48:27 – Running with the Wolves

This is a raw feed from Glastonbury 2016 on the John Peel Stage, it starts at 20 minutes so scroll forward, fabulous performance.

1 – Black Water Lilies 2 – Warrior 3 – Winter Bird 4 – Under the Water 5 – Runaway 6 – Under Stars 7 – I Went Too Far 8 – Running With the Wolves 9 – Conqueror

She has an authenticity, or at least that’s what I perceive, that I really like and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what she does next.

Darkstar – Foam Island

Somebody bought this album back around 2015 and wasn’t very pleased with it as I found it in a used records bin still in its shrink wrap for £7.00. As it was released by Warp records and I was sure I’d heard some of their tracks somewhere in the past and don’t remember hating them, I bought it. Pretty glad I did as I really do like it. I’m very fond of spoken word interludes in music, the sort of thing Public Service Broadcasting do for instance, and this has an element of that although more between tracks rather than as an integral part of them, they have a proper sense of not being scripted though, which matters. There’s also some words from former British PM David Cameron, the man so self absobed in his own belief of his invincibility that he never considered that the referendum could possibly not go the way he expected, and when it did, he ran away and left everybody else to deal with it.

Darkstar are James Young and Aiden Whalley (there was a third member at one point, James Buttery) who began making music together in London around 2007 and originally self released their records. ‘Foam Island is their third studio album which was released on 25 September (UK) and 2 October (ROW) via Warp Records. The album’s main themes were informed by social change in the UK and in particular how this is affecting the youth of today post UK Conservative Party re-election. Much of the spoken word included on the album is as a result of the duo travelling to Huddersfield in order to talk to and capture the thoughts and aspirations of the Northern youth of England.

A1 Basic Things
A2 Inherent In The Fibre
A3 Stoke The Fire
A4 Cuts
A5 Go Natural
A6 A Different Kind Of Struggle
A7 Pin Secure
B1 Through The Motions
B2 Tilly’s Theme
B3 Foam Island
B4 Javan’s Call
B5 Days Burn Blue

For me it was a good find as it is another of those bands that I’ve seen or heard a small amount of but never really investigated, now there are a few more albums out there that I can discover and if there’s one thing I really like, it’s finding new things to listen to. There’s an interesting summation to the album review in Crack magazine, which I think is probabaly true:

Foam Island is not the zeitgeist-defining masterpiece that something as ambitious and politically engaged as this could have been. There are moments when it seems to lose focus; minutes that pass without note. But Darkstar sound comfortable with themselves, and their uneasy equilibrium. You won’t hear another album like it this year, and that alone is a reason to grimly raise a glass and be thankful for a band with a disdain for smiling sweetly, and who remain on the outside looking in.

It’s probabaly fair enough, but sometimes it is just a question of whether you like something or not, and I like it.

Further Charity Shop Adventures

So yes, I have again been in the charity shops but a different town this time. It is best to leave 2 to 4 weeks between visits so that some new stuff comes in, although a couple of shops I usually visit have stopped stocking CD’s at all and replaced them with greeting cards, I guess it must be more lucrative, less hassle.

As always I’ll pick up anything that is remotely interesting and this time I had a pretty full bag having also found an lp for £1:

The back cover isn’t great but the rest of it is VG+ and plays nicely. So that was good as nowadays it is very slim pickings in the vinyl bins, unless you are a big Easy Listening fan that is.

This visit did include Oxfam, who are much more expensive than other shops, with some of the CD’s being at almost full price, but I don’t go over £1.99 there and usually not over £0.99 a disc (the Oxfam in the picture is the actual Oxfam I go to). Anyway, here is what I got:

[Dave, the Graham Coxon is a duplicate, so yours effectively].

So, standout finds for me where Kendrick Lemar, Roots Manuva & Nick Cave but there’s plenty of listening pleasure there to get me ears into. I can’t remember what I played first, it may have been ‘Halsey’ as the shop assistant in the British Heart Foundation said it was really good and that she had a copy. Last time nobody guessed which one I played first, so I’ll tell you, it was The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook.

Hekla ‎– Á

Who the hell is Hekla Magnúsdóttir? Well, she plays the theramin, and who doesn’t love the theramin?………………………. Don’t answer that.

If you had to categorise her debut release you might very well go for something like ‘Icelandic ambient’, but no, she doesn’t really fit in that, she produces rather haunting electronica overlayed with a delicate voice, haunting even. It’s a strange listen and and times there is a creepiness about it but there is also great beauty. For me, one of the key indicators of whether this album is any good or not is whether I’m constantly thinking “Teramin, Theramin, Theramin” all the time as I’m listening to it, and I don’t. Some of the sounds and transitions between notes are unusual but she plays the instrument with such skill that there is no suggestion that there is anything gimmicky here. Hekla is an extremely skilled musician who can make her instrument bend to her will.

Obvioulsy I’ve made some assumptions here, so just in case, here is a quick rundown on what a theramin is:

The theremin (/ˈθɛrəmɪn/; originally known as the ætherphone/etherphone, thereminophone or termenvox/thereminvox) is an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact by the thereminist (performer). It is named after its inventor, Léon Theremin (Лев Термен), who patented the device in 1928.

The instrument’s controlling section usually consists of two metal antennas that sense the relative position of the thereminist’s hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and amplitude (volume) with the other. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.

The sound of the instrument is often associated with eerie situations. Thus, the theremin has been used in movie soundtracks such as Miklós Rózsa’s Spellbound and The Lost Weekend, Bernard Herrmann’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Justin Hurwitz’s First Man, as well as in theme songs for television shows such as the ITV drama Midsomer Murders. The theremin is also used in concert music (especially avant-garde and 20th- and 21st-century new music), and in popular music genres such as rock.

If you wanted to buy one you can pay as little as £40 but the go to instrument appears to be by Moog and it is about £300.

I bought the album a few weeks ago, it was discounted to about £11 I think from £20 ish and this is the thought process that made me decide to buy it:

It’s quite cheap, oh Icelandic, Theramin! It will be terrible or brilliant. I’ll get it.


Í Hring4:22
Heyr Himna Smiður1:52
Ekki Er Allt Gull Sem Glóir3:25
A Way4:13
Í Felum2:42

Frank Sinatra – Come Dance With Me

Another 1959 record from the best of joins the shelves, and its Sinatra, so of course it’s good. I still think the cover photo is a bit creepy though.

Come Dance with Me! is Frank Sinatra’s twenty-first studio album. This was Sinatra’s second recording with arranger Billy May, and it’s a great orchestra. The album reached #2 on the Pop charts and stayed in the chart for 140 weeks, apparently it is Sinatra’s most successful album but I’m not sure on what that is measured, still, it did well.

At the Grammy Awards of 1960, Come Dance With Me! took three awards: the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male, and the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement. The second of which was given to Frank Sinatra and the third was to Billy May.

As one can gather from the title the album is a collection of songs related in some way to dancing, or as it says on the back of the sleeve “Vocals that dance” which is very late 50’s.

A1Come Dance With Me
A2Something’s Gotta Give
A3Just In Time
A4Dancing In The Dark
A5Too Close For Comfort
A6I Could Have Danced All Night
B1Saturday Night
B2Day In, Day Out
B3Cheek To Cheek
B4Baubles, Bangles And Beads
B5The Song Is You
B6The Last Dance

Julie London – London By Night

Another of the best albums of 1959 arrived this week, the wittily titled ‘London By Night’ by Julie London. While compiling the best of list for 1959 I listened to a load of albums on Spotify through noise cancelling headphones but playing the actual record is a much better listening experience. Having the sound vibrate the air molecules in the room, filling it up, bouncing off walls and filling my ears from multiple directions just feels so much better. Added to this the fact that I wasn’t doing something else while listening, just siting and listening, also helps to create a better listening experience.

My copy is a 1963 repress so not really very long after it was originally released and the entire process of recording, mixing and pressing would still have been analogue. Though my ears are not as good as they used to be, I,m pretty confident I can hear the difference. The sound is rich and full and it feels like it has a warmth about it which is often lacking when digital came along. This is not a scientific thing, I can’t really prove it one way or the other, it just feels like that to me.

On listening more closely to the songs they are a piece of social history and at times indicative of the place of women in the late 50’s. while sitting and listening to the lyrics rather than letting them wash over me I was struck by these words from “Just the way I am”:

If perhaps I’d been a little distant
If I tried to play a little hard to get
Do you think you might have fallen in love?If I’d been a trifle, inconsistent
If I hadn’t let you light each cigarette
Do you think you might have fallen in love?And if I’d wonder the way you like, him
Would I’ve been more appealing?
Had my chin been stronger
Had my kisses lasted longer
Would I’ve inspired that I adore her feeling
If I’d been little more, attractive
Had my power had not been so, overactive
Would you have not held that nose
Like some meek, sweet adolescent lad?
What a fool I was to ever believe
That someday you could love me,
Just, the way, I am

Written by a man, Bobby Troup, and sung by a woman. It is possible to read different things into the lyrics but it gives me the sense of things being entirely the woman’s fault. I decided to check if Bobby Troup was actually a man, and he was, he was also the writer of “Route 66”. When I looked up his songwriting credits I discovered this song was not originally sung by Julie London (although some of his songs were), but by June Christy 4 years prior, who I’ve never heard of but she has a nice voice.

Much of the above is just rambling, sorry, also I discovered Bobby Troup was the husband of Julie London.

Let me give you a special prize for staying with me this far. When I buy a used record I always hope for an inner sleeve that advertises other records as this was a sort of old timey music discovery route. Unfortunately this album had a plain white sleeve, however, I just discovered something inside the cover!

I don’t remember seeing an insert like this before, and it has the Peggy Lee/George Shearing album that is also in the top 30. I knew you’d be excited. I listened to tracks form some of the other albums by people I’d never heard of, like The Dinning Sisters, Glen Gray, Peters Sisters, Ray Anthony, didn’t like it. Harry James was ok, Sinatra, Garland, Cole and Kitt I already know, which just left Nelson Riddle, who I knew was often Sinatras band, so I gave that a listen, the band is great but I couldn’t listen to a whole album of songs that normally have vocals but are played as instrumentals.

I really should say a little more about who Julie London was, so here is the start of her wiki entry:

Julie London (born Nancy Gayle Peck; September 26, 1926 – October 18, 2000) was an American singer and actress, whose career spanned more than 40 years. Born in Santa Rosa, California to vaudevillian parents, London was discovered while working as an elevator operator in downtown Los Angeles, and began her career as an actress. London’s 35-year acting career began in film in 1944, and included roles as the female lead in numerous Westerns, co-starring with Rock Hudson in The Fat Man (1951), with Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes in Saddle the Wind (1958), and opposite Robert Mitchum in The Wonderful Country (1959).

In the mid-1950s, she signed a recording contract with the newly established Liberty Records, and released a total of 32 albums of pop and jazz standards during the 1950s and 1960s, with her signature song being “Cry Me a River”, which she introduced in 1955. London was noted by critics for her husky, smoky voice and languid vocal style. She released her final studio album in 1969, but achieved continuing success playing the female starring role of Nurse Dixie McCall, in the television series Emergency! (1972–1979), in which she appeared opposite her real-life husband, Bobby Troup. The show was produced by her ex-husband, Jack Webb.

A shy and introverted woman, London rarely granted interviews, and spent the remainder of her life out of the public sphere. In 1995, she suffered a stroke, which left her with permanent health problems, and died five years later of a heart attack.

Track List

1Well, SirBobby Troup, John Lehmann3:09
2That’s for MeRichard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II2:26
3Mad About the BoyNoël Coward2:11
4In the Middle of a KissSam Coslow2:19
5Just the Way I AmBobby Troup2:43
6My Man’s Gone NowGeorge and Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward3:50
7Something I Dreamed Last NightSammy Fain, Jack Yellen, Herbert Magidson2:36
8Pousse CafeNigel Mullaney, J. P. Jowett, Chris Foster2:53
9Nobody’s HeartRichard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart2:20
10The Exciting LifeEarl Hagen, Hubert Spencer2:31
11That Old FeelingSammy Fain, Lew Brown2:29
12Cloudy MorningMarvin Fisher, Joseph McCarthy2:13

And now for your listening and viewing pleasure, The Julie London Show from 1964:

Nérija ‎– Blume

The album for August I received today (actually 2 days ago now) from my Rough Trade Subscription is Blume by Nérija. I’m on my fourth listen and I absolutely bloody love it.

To my thoroughly untrained ear I hear a strong, resounding in fact, echo from the days of the Jazz greats intermingled with everything that has happened since then, with occasional seventies TV themes and a sprinkling of Afrobeat. It is a delicious cocktail.

Nérija were winners of the Jazz Newcomer Parliamentary Jazz Award 2017 and Jazz FM Breakthrough Act of the Year 2016 nominees, Nerija are are a collective of London-based musicians playing exciting and original music inspired by Jazz, Hip Hop, Afrobeat and South African Township. Featuring a line-up truly representative of the up-coming London jazz scene, the seven-piece band features rising players such as tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia (Polar Bear, Outlook Orchestra, Steve Reid InNOVAtion Award Winner), trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey (KANO, Little Simz, KOKOROKO) and guitarist Shirley Tetteh (Maisha, Gary Crosby’s Groundation).

After the release of an EP in 2016, their eclectic repertoire has appealed to the UK jazz scene as well as giving them a presence at rap and pop-focused festivals. They have toured across Europe and the UK and performed alongside top UK jazz musicians such as Nathaniel Facey of Empirical, pianist Zoe Rahman, and supporting Jazz Jamaica at the renowned Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. Recently signed to Domino records and having performed at Ronnie Scott’s, the Barbican and jazz fetivals in the UK and Europe, Nérija are truly part of the buzz.

SXSW Band Write UP

My copy is three sided orange vinyl with the fourth side etched, which is sort of nice as it means it hasn’t had the crap compressed out of it to get it onto 2 sides, even though etched sides are a little pointless, it’s better than blank I guess. Oh and it’s limited to 1200 copies.

Odetta – My Eyes Have Seen

So my quest to find copies of every album in my Best Albums of 1959 continues with a copy of My Eyes Have Seen by Odetta. I had thought this one was going to be more difficult to find than it eventually was, all the copies seemed to be in the U.S but one popped up for £4 last week and I jumped on it, so now it is in my possession and another ticked off the list. I currently have 19 of the 30 in the list, so well on the way to finding them all.

So, Odetta, this was her fourth album release and, as far as I can see, it has only been re-released once since 1959 on vinyl, back in 1973 in Italy for some reason. As far as I can tell my copy is from 1959, it’s in OK shape but far from perfect, as long as it plays OK that’s fine though.

Odetta Holmes (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008), known as Odetta, was an American singer, actress, guitarist, lyricist, and a civil and human rights activist, often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”. Her musical repertoire consisted largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, she influenced many of the key figures of the folk-revival of that time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin. Time magazine included her recording of “Take This Hammer” on its list of the 100 Greatest Popular Songs, stating that “Rosa Parks was her No. 1 fan, and Martin Luther King Jr. called her the queen of American folk music.

The rear of the cover contains a paragraph explaining each song, in the language of the time, which I’ll share with you now:


  1. Poor Little Jesus – One of the most powerful Negro Christmas spirituals, Poor Little Jesus draws its strength from the contrast between its exulting melody and its lamenting text. It is far removed from the traditional, “sweet” carol as a plantation is from the meadows of the English countryside. Odetta ironically adds a modern reference which is deeply moving in its underlining of the seemingly endless tide of suffering.
  2. Bald Headed Woman – In this Negro prison song, a boasting air becomes both a comic mask to cloak the tragedies of prison life, and assertion of defiant strength. Songs of this kind, created under conditions whereby they must be carried by the human voice alone, attain a stark, classic line, and it is thus that Odetta sings it, unaccompanied, the silences as potent as the sung phrases, and with punctuation provided by her own hand claps.
  3. Motherless Children – This song is a variation of the better known spiritual, This Train. For the listener, Odetta’s version is a deeper one, since it juxtaposes the jubilation of the gospel train with the tragedies of life.
  4. I Know Where I’m Going – A tender and beautiful love song, which has become a favourite in the repertoires of ballad singers on both sides of the Atlantic.
  5. The Foggy Dew – An old Irish ballad that has been collected in various form. This haunting version celebrates the Easter rebellion against the British rule in 1916, which ended in defeat of the citizen army by the “long-range guns” of the British troops. The extraordinary accompaniment, with its mood of foreboding at the opening, and of the mournful defiance at its close, is a tour de force by Odetta’s guitar and the bass of Bill Lee, her accompanist.
  6. I’ve been Driving On Bald Mountain and Water Boy – Odetta’s linking of these work songs results in a sum greater than the parts. Here is a rhapsody on Negro labor which overwhelms the listener by its alternation of moods and the richness of its characterizations. Opening with the depiction of the proud, John Henry-like steel-driver, Odetta introduces his “buddy” who got hi “learnin’ ” on the Big Bend Tunnel, and shows the mutual respect of these masters of the sledge and spike. The tempo accelerates to a climax at which the mood of freedom suddenly breaks and we find the worker on the chain gang calling for the “water boy”. A mood of bitterness and anguish pervades the first verse, where the dull repetition of rock-breaking is reflected in the hardness of the voice. Then the prisoner’s memory awakes and a rich sense of the loss of freedom is unleashed in the “Jack of Diamonds” verse. Memory is erased in the tempo of labor which engulfs both singer and audience in a dramatic close.

Side Two

  1. Ox Driver Song – This is a song of the American Southwest frontier, of the pioneers emigration by covered wagon or prairie chooner west from the Mississippi. The drive through mud and over steep hills required a granite-like fortitude and it is this quality which Odetta’s perfromance captures, with its unstoppable momentum and cumilative intensity.
  2. Down On me – Oddetta first heard this song in a Library of Congress recording by Vera Hall, as collected by Alan Lomax. The lyrics, with the outcry “Looks like everybody in the whole wide world is down on me” are secular, but the influence of the spirituals is not hard to perceive. A rich body of folk song, created by wandering singers, embodies such a bridge between the spirituals and the blues.
  3. Saro Jane – This is a song of a Negro rouster, a stevedore, who served on a U.S. gunboat that harassed the Confederate supply lines during the Civil War. It was collected by Dave Macon in 1887 from Negro singers in Nashville, Tennessee, and is considered the first example of the “roustabout” songs which arose on the great rivers of the centrsl United States. Filled with good humour, its finest irony is its claim that the stevodores have “nothing to do but sit down and sing”.
  4. Three Pigs – With the inflections that Odetta gives to this children’s song, it becomes a fable for grown ups.
  5. No More Cane On The Brazos
  6. Jumpin’ Judy – Tqo Negro prison songs, which express quite different emotions, No More Cane speaks openly and literally of suffering and degradation, expressing personal sorrow and mood of resignation. It is poetically the more profound lyric, especially in its ironic opening statement. Jumpin Judy, which shares some verses in common with Leadbelly’s Midnight Special, is a comic fantasy, in which ribald ellements effectivly mask the resentments and bitter sarcasm.
  7. Battle Hymn Of The Republic – The melody is of folk origin, despite authorship claims of several 19th-century composers. The words are by Julai Ward Howe who wrote them in December 1861 after hearing Union soldiers singing John Browns Body as they went to battle near Washngton D.C. The Battle Hymn was first published in the Atlantic Monthly of February 1862 and became the anthem of the Union forces.

Upon listening to this album twice as I wrote out the above I am genuinely suprised that it isn’t more well known, revered even. Perhaps it is but I’m just not aware of it. Though it may not be your normal listening choice I do urge you to put half an hour aside and just listen to it from start to finish, it is a wonderful collection of songs beautifully performed.

Streets Of Laredo – Wild

When an album is priced at £3.00 one doesn’t expect much, but it is certainly worth taking a chance on, it’s the price of a cup of coffee after all. In an act of pure laziness I have copied and pasted their bio from their facebook page as I know little or nothing about them, so here it is:

The title track on Streets of Laredo’s new album, WILD, essentially sums up their attitude since starting the band in Auckland almost five years ago. It’s a gorgeous, soul-stirring ballad with a haunting trumpet line, buttery harmonies, and a chorus that goes: “They call us wild / Let’s show them wild.” 

“It’s about how ridiculous you have to be to hang in there with music, against all the good, logical advice people will give you,” says Dave Gibson, who formed the band with his younger brother Dan after they bonded over records like John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Give Peace A Chance” and Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” “Trying to make a career in music is scary and there’s zero security involved,” Dave continues. “And fantastic things will happen, but you really have to be borderline crazy to keep doing it. ‘Wild’ does a great job of encapsulating what that’s like.” Singer and percussionist Sarah jane Gibson says “Wild” began as a song to Dave about their life together (the two are married), but developed into an anthem for anyone who needs encouragement to chase their dreams. “”Wild’ is about being more daring,” says Sarah jane. “If you’re gonna take a big risk, you need to go all in.” 

When the Gibsons relocated from New Zealand to New York City back in 2012, it took a major leap of faith on their part. They had only played one gig and demoed a few songs, but the newborn project incited such a genuine spark of inspiration that they all felt a bold move was in order. “When we moved to the U.S., Streets of Laredo was really just an idea,” says Dave, who is the band’s drummer and — along with Dan, Sarahjane and guitarist Cameron Deyell — one of its principal songwriters. “We were like, cool, let’s start from scratch in a really big town. And I like to think that the naivety and boldness of that move has really paid dividends for us.”

It undoubtedly has: In the four years since they made a new home for themselves in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, Streets of Laredo has developed from an idea to a brainstorm to an exciting new reality for the now six-piece band. They released a critically embraced debut full-length, Volume I & II, in October 2014, and have toured North America with artists from Shakey Graves to Kaiser Chiefs to Albert Hammond, Jr., as well as bringing their rousing blend of gospel-tinged folk and psychedelic Americana to receptive audiences at festivals including Bonnaroo and Governor’s Ball.

The band started writing the batch of songs for their second studio album while they were still on the road in support of their debut, and recorded the first series of demos in early 2015. Although they had taken a traditional approach to their debut, writing on acoustic instruments and recording with minimal studio manipulation, Streets of Laredo saw this new one as an opportunity to experiment. “The first album, we tried to limit our choices to organic-sounding and acoustic-sounding instruments, and songs that could be expressed very simply in a live, unplugged setting,” says Dave. “This time, we explored the use of synthesizers a lot more — especially Dan, who experimented the most with using samples and unusual noises that ended up becoming part of the songwriting process. There’s a quite brutal synthesizer line in ‘99.9%’ that wouldn’t have been an option on our first record.” 

Another technique the band used to refresh their perspective was to start a song using sampled instruments, and then transpose the part to acoustic guitar for the recording. Says Dave: “Your fingers go to real different places on piano than guitar, so it’s a way of fighting muscle memory and familiar patterns.” 

Once they had amassed a series of demos they were excited about, Streets of Laredo recruited esteemed producer John Agnello. Fans of Agnello’s deft touch on albums by Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., the band began sharing demos with the producer early on, making refinements based on his input as they moved from preproduction in Brooklyn to three weeks recording at Dreamland Studios in upstate New York. “John definitely influenced our sound,” says Dave, who admired Agnello’s knack for capturing relaxed, natural-sounding performances. “He respects the take and if it’s got a few glitches in it, so be it. He was really good at helping us feel super comfortable and be less academic about things in the studio.” 

Indeed there is a newfound confidence running throughout WILD — from the title track and “99.9%” to the eerily catchy “Silly Bones” and a sweet, lilting tune called “Doesn’t Even Bother Me,” which Sarahjane describes as “this beautiful sentiment about not feeling like you need to be in the mix all the time in NYC, but finding a way to live a happy, normal life with your family.” She continues: “We have an ideal situation, where we can do this and it doesn’t take us away from each other. When we tour and play it feels like we’re living a good life together and fulfilling our dreams. The trick is remembering to find the magic in the moment.”

Streets of Laredo are: 
Daniel Gibson – Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitar 
Dave Gibson – Drummer, Backing Vocals
Sarahjane Gibson – Vocals, Percussion 
Cameron Deyell- Electric Guitars, Backing Vocals
Sean McMahon – Bass, Backing Vocals 
Andrew McGovern – Trumpet, Synth, Percussion

So the big question I guess is, do I like it? And I do. Sometimes there are odd connections that occur that lead you to things quite unexpectedly, for example, if you were to look at my recent post Best Albums on 1959 you would see, at number 30, an album by Marty Robbins, on his next album after that one, ‘More Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs’ you would find the song ‘Street Of Laredo’. Which is nothing to do with why I picked up the album but is a moderately interesting coincidence.

There are two styles on the album as a result of shared vocals, some by SarahJane Gibson which at times have a Fleetwood Mac vibe about them and most by Daniel Gibson, which you can hear in the video above.

For £3 it’s a good listen and I’m glad I took a punt on it and added it to my collection.

KOKOKO! ‎– Fongola (and BlueDot 2019)

I received a yellow vinyl version of Fongola by KoKoKo! a couple of weeks ago via my Rough Trade subscription and I didn’t get to play it more than once before I headed to Hong Kong and then the festival. It was coincidence, a useful one, that they were playing as to receive a new album and get to see the band shortly after is pretty cool.

A wind of change is blowing over the cultural landscape of Kinshasa.

An amazing alternative scene is thriving far for the occidental fantasies of “world music”…

It is explosive and vibrant. These sounds are emanating from the ghetto and downtown clubs of the Congolese capital in between the government-imposed power cuts. The artists actually bring something alive in the chaos of the 3rd biggest african city. They have strong new ideas with DIY constructed instruments and a powerful and unique drive. This movement is more expressive, lively, spontaneous and direct compared to most big cities’ scenes, like London, Berlin etc… It’s raw, free and open creatively more like NYC in the 70s and 80s or Berlin in the 90s if it has to be compared to artistic movements. It’s inventing everything from nothing and it’s happening now and you can experience it through the recordings, the videos and KOKOKO!‘s incredible live shows.

The above is from the BlueDot write up. So it was a lively and energetic performance and I really enjoyed it. I’m listening to the album again now and it does benefit from better production than the live show (which is to be expected) and I am recognising some of the tracks having heard them live.

It does actually take a lot for me to not like something, it has to be exceptionally bad in my view, but this isn’t. Though there is a little repetitivness, in the repetiton of the band name in many of the songs for example, it isn’t a problem at all and even though I have no idea what the subject matter of each song is, they all seem to have a sense of joy about them.

Blanket – How To Let Go

I found an album by Blanket in the reduced items bin at the record shop which I picked up for the following reasons, I quite liked the cover, it was cheap. I hadn’t heard of them before other than maybe a very vague memory of something in a playlist once, maybe, so it was pretty much a blind purchase but I think I got lucky.

I don’t know much about them and there isn’t all that much online either, but I did find this on their official Facebook page:

‘blanket’ started as a bedroom project from Bobby Pook and Simon Morgan. Later recruiting Steven Pellatt and Matthew Sheldon to form a live show. ‘Our Brief Encounters’ was released in 2017 to much critical acclaim, the band then toured that EP around the UK and mainland Europe.

“a five-track sweeping euphony that runs through a gamut of textures from ambient, textural soundscapes to ebullient, cloud-nine euphoria in 26 minutes” – The Independent

The band has always directed and filmed their own visuals, music videos and content with Vocalist Bobby running a video production company (Sumo Crucial Productions), ahead of their first full length release in early 2018 they made a short film documentary entitled ‘Fragments Of A Dream’ about their home town of Blackpool and a look at the differences between the old days and new of the town.
In May 2018 the band released ‘How To Let Go’ their first LP on Music For Nations / Sony Music UK.

It is essentially Post-Rock, if you want to dilute it that far, but I think they refer to themselves as Cinematic Rock, which is basically the same thing if you use Mogwai as a handy comparison. Completely unbeknown to me (for the second time) they will be playing at the BlueDot festival in July, on the Friday, which I will be at, so in all probability I will get to see them (The first one I didn’t know about is Sons of Kemet).

I’ve listened to the album a couple of times now and I do rather like the instrumentals, particularly the opening track, which is the title track, ‘How To Let Go’ starting with some nice piano and then getting really heavy rather quickly I’d say.

There’s one track, the name of which I forget now, which has what I think is a digitally altered vocal, which may or not be deliberate, but I’m not sure I liked it that much. I find a lot of digitally altered vocals disagree with the expectations of my ears and it therefore feels slightly uncomfortable. I just checked, it’s called ‘Worlds Collide’, which I listened to again and I really like it apart from the opening vocal.

Overall, a really good album I think and as it was reduced to £9 I’m pretty pleased with my purchase, which has by now had several listens and I’ve probably got my moneys worth already so any further plays are a bonus, and I do think it will get further plays.

Eluvium – Piano Works

Label: Temporary Residence Limited ‎– TRR299LP-C1
Format: 3 × Vinyl, LP, Limited Edition, Iridescent Mother Of Pearl
Limited to 1000 copies. Includes Pianoworks Vol. 2 (new recordings of classic Eluvium piano pieces).

This arrived in the post yesterday. I pre-ordered from Rough Trade, and then saw the exact same version in my local record shop on Saturday. I didn’t know it was going to be there of course and the only extra expense is the P & P.

Eluvium is one guy, Matthew Cooper, who is based in Portland, Oregon. His first release was sixteen years ago and there has been a steady release schedule in the intervening years of ostensibly ambient material with some oddities along the way. If you’ve not already seen it I talked previously about his 2016 release False Readings On and it was one of my Albums of 2016.

Most of Eluviums previous releases are centred around piano but little of it is just piano, as we have here in Pianoworks. I am not qualified to pass any comment on the piano playing, in relation to style, technique, difficulty etc. But I am qualified to say that I like it. It’s gentle, simple at times but it is music for times when that is exactly what you want. If you fancy a pogo in your living room then this isn’t the album you’d choose but for reflective moments, quiet moments when you have time to breathe, Pianoworks is an ideal companion.

I just looked at the Bandcamp page and read this, which seems absolutely right: Inspired by the quiet thoughts and solitary observations of children – and the evolution/dissolution of that ephemeral, uncorrupted wonder of simple joy – Pianoworks begins with a song about children’s piano lessons, and culminates with an etude driven by the struggle to hold onto innocence and imagination as adulthood settles in. The record’s dramatic simplicity in both execution and expression is with purpose: Cooper wants the music to be simple enough to inspire children and novices to play, and the concept simple enough to resonate regardless of age or experience.

The album is a double on mother of pearl vinyl and very nice it is too:

As mentioned right at the beginning, it comes with a third disc of previously released but re-recorded tracks, one of which is ‘An Accidental Memory in Case Of Death’, which I have been listening to pretty regularly for over a decade now.

The full list of re-recorded tracks is down below:

It’s a nice package, with downloads as well, although I never use those and if the mood is right in your world, I’d recommend giving it a listen.

Nina Simone – Pastel Blues

There are a lot of old jazz and blues albums being re-issued at very reasonable prices at the moment, this isn’t one of them, costing pretty much the same as a new release, but worth every penny.

The album was recorded in 1964 and 1965 and released by Phillips Records in 1965, peaking at number 139 on the Billboard charts, which is interesting as it almost certainly one of the top 100 albums of the decade, in my opinion, and this chart placing re-affirms my view that charts are not necessarily a reflection of what was actually good in any given year. Popular does not necessarily equal good.

I’m always on the look out for Nina Simone albums to add to my collection, and there are plenty to add as I only have two, this and ‘Little Girl Blue’, oh, and a best of CD that I bought in a charity shop for £0.50p.

The recording of this album is a little unclear to me as, online, some tracks are listed as ‘Recorded Live’ but it doesn’t say that on the album cover, maybe they were. It’s an album of cover versions, although back in this time period this was often the norm, with only the final track, the traditional song ‘Sinnerman’, credited to Simone as arranger.

Speaking of the cover, here is a special treat, the liner notes:


Be My Husband3:19
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out2:35
End Of The Line2:51
Trouble In Mind2:37
Tell Me More And More And Then Some3:05
Chilly Winds Don’t Blow3:59
Ain’t No Use2:35
Strange Fruit3:26

I do prefer the Billy Holiday version of ‘Strange fruit’, which would be even better if the production values were as good as on this record (not that the Holiday version is terrible), but Simone still does a really good version.

There is a certain feeling to ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’ that comes from Simone, as though she has lived it and is just passing on her story, she’s exceptionally good at owning a song and her voice carries a depth of emotion that few other performers seem to be able to achieve.

Sons Of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile

For Fathers Day today, I received a couple of albums. By received I mean I went to the record store, chose them, paid for them and brought them home. I picked up a copy of the 2018 Mercury Music Prize winning ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’ by Sons of Kemet. Of course they didn’t actually win, Wolf Alice actually won, but this is better than that in my view.

I do tend to always read it as SONS OF KERMIT though, and then visualise Robin his nephew. I wish this weren’t true but it is and I can’t seem to stop doing it now. Anyway, this is their third album, I haven’t heard the other two yet but really, really like this one. While it is filed under Jazz, which is quite right, I hear quite a fair bit of Ska in it as well and other influences.

Sons Of Kemet are born of many vital elements, a name that nods to ancient Egyptian culture, and a line-up that comprises some of the most progressive 21st-century talents in British jazz and beyond. Band-leader, composer and sax and clarinet don Shabaka Hutchings brings together his fiery vision alongside London-based bandmates Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford and latest addition Theon Cross. – That’s what it says on Bandcamp.

I sat listening to the album and then had a little browse to see where they would be playing in the UK this year. Much to my surprise I already have tickets to see them in July, as they will be at the Bluedot festival, which I’m going to, possibly alone now as my son isn’t going to be around, my best friend in the whole wide world refuses to go and my good lady wife is very much on the fence about it. That’s fine, I can do alone.

For reference and in relation to my earlier point, below is a list of the nominees for the Mercury Prize, in which there are a couple I don’t think should be there but otherwise it’s quite a good list, but I think it generally accepted that Wolf Alice was the safe choice of winner.

2018 Hyandai Mercury Prize shortlist in full:
Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Everything Everything – A Fever Dream
Everything Is Recorded – Everything Is Recorded
Florence & The Machine – High As Hope
Jorja Smith – Lost & Found
King Krule – The Ooz
Lily Allen – No Shame
Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon?
Novelist – Novelist Guy
Sons Of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile
Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life

They are playing on the Saturday at the festival but I have difficulty be able to see if they are on at the same time as Kraftwerk or not, if they are then, much as I like them, I will probably be watching Kraftwerk. There are a lot of bands at the Bluedot Festival that I’ve never heard of, but I see that as a real positive, it’s an opportunity to discover new things and if I don’t like what I’m hearing very much I can go to another stage and see what’s happening there.

Best Albums of 2002

I was thinking that 2002 wasn’t that long ago, but of course it’s 17 years, and looking at the albums from that year I’m quite surprised that they were released that long ago. It really seems so much closer. Anyway, I’ve left a lot out and gone for a top 54, a stupid number but 54 it is. As always with these sort of lists it is all my opinion and I’m quite comfortable with being considered wrong, because that’s the thing about opinions, mine is right.

54 – Cornershop – Handcream For A Generation

Cornershop have always been rather underrated in some quarters, but not by me, this is a really great album, and anybody who releases a single with the repeated line ” The overgrown super shit”, is ok with me.

53 – Moloko – Statues

I think I may use the word Underrated more than would initially appear necessary, but I’m not convinced Moloko received the acclaim they deserved. They produced great Dance/Pop songs and Róisín Murphy’s voice is fabulously distinctive. I like them.

52 – Moby – 18

This, of course, is the album that isn’t ‘Play’ and it was never going to repeat its success, but it has some really good tracks on it, not least ‘We are All Made of Stars’ which I find better than many of the ‘Play’ tracks.

51 – Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World

I never took any notice of Super Furry Animals, despite them being very Welsh, and then I heard the track below on a compilation and really liked it. It’s not indicative of everything they do though.

50 – Xiu Xiu – Knife Play

I have one album by Xiu Xiu and this isn’t it, in fact I’ve never heard his album until now. It is sort of experimental but it has something about it that I really like, it’s also nothing like the album I do have, which is their re-working of the Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack to Twin Peaks. I fully appreciate this won’t be to everybody’s taste.

49 – Out Hud – S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.

One of the great benefits of doing lists like this one is that I get to listen to things that otherwise I probably wouldn’t. In the 17 years since this album was released I have never tripped over it, I literally know nothing about it. I listened to it, I love it.

48 – Jóhann Jóhannsson – Englabörn

There are certain things that I can confirm as being true, one is that I like modern classical, another is that I like film soundtracks, which leaves me rather vulnerable to this. Although, I do have 2016 release Orphée so I’m not a complete stranger to Jóhann.

47 – El-P – Fantastic Damage

There are things about Hip-Hop, Rap etc. that I don’t understand but the young ‘uns seem to be all over it, talking about flow and sick beats amongst other things, frankly, most of the time I can’t even make out the words, I’m old, I can’t help it, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t like or appreciate something from within the constraints of my own understanding. I appreciate this, it’s, erm, dope.

46 – Ms Dynamite – A Little Deeper

She was the next big thing, but turned out not to be. This was partly by choice I think as she took time off for her child and her return was marred by a badly promoted second album and then being dropped by the record label. Putting that aside, this is a really good debut and, personally, I think it’s a shame she didn’t take off. I saw her DJ-ing a few years ago, I like her.

45 – Beck – Sea Change

I’ve listened to this album several times over the years and even though I know it is very highly regarded, the track ‘The Golden Age’ is the only one I can ever remember because I once put it on a mixtape. I must try it again and see if I’ve missed something.

44 – Dalek – From Filthy Tomgue of Gods and Griots

I don’t know why I like this, I just do.

43 – Aimee Mann – Lost In Space

I bought this when it was released and it is only today when I went looking for it that I realised I don’t have it now. Mann is a really good songwriter and I thought back in 2002 that she would be a bigger thing than she turned out to be, though this is not necessarily a criticism. There are a lot of good songs on this album, you should give it a listen.

42 – Craig Armstrong – As If To Nothing

This is classified as Modern Classical, Downtempo, Experimental, Ambient. Well that’s me sold on it then, how could I resist? Don’t know him? Craig Armstrong, OBE (born 29 April 1959 in Glasgow, United Kingdom), is a Scottish composer of modern orchestral music, electronica and film scores. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 1981, and has since written music for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta. He also has several film scores under his belt. I’m a fan.

42 – Groove Armada – Lovebox

Francis Rossi of Status Quo played on the track Purple Haze, the opening track to the album and in the video below, the guitar riff is from an early Quo track called April, Spring Summer And Wednesdays. The album is packed with cool, really listenable tracks, recommended.

41 – Nightmares on Wax – Mind Elevation

When I started buying vinyl again this was among the first that I bought, well, first 20 or so, I can’t remember exactly. I’d been streaming it before that and saw it in the shop, seemed an obvious choice to me at the time.

40 – Ladytron – Light and Music

‘Seventeen’ by Ladytron is one of my favourite tracks of this year. I had it on my Ipod, or whatever I was using then (Might have been Creative Labs as it had the biggest storage back then), in a playlist and it was played a lot. Oddly enough, I don’t think I ever listened to the whole album, just odd tracks, but now I have, it’s great.

39 – Morcheeba – Charango

Another album I actually bought when it was released, a double CD, one of which was instrumental versions, I only played that once. I still think their debut album is brilliant and this one doesn’t disappoint either, containing a duet with Kurt Wagner of Lambchop on the track ‘What New York Couples Fight About’, seek it out, it’s brilliant.

38 – Supergrass – Life on Other Planets

The fourth album from Supergrass, the standout tracks being ‘Grace’, and ‘La Song’ and ‘Never Done Nothing Like That Before’ on an album that could have been a classic but doesn’t quite make it. Still worth having though. I also like ‘Seen The Light’ which is so very T-Rex.

36 – Max Richter – Memoryhouse

I love the work of Max Richter and this is no exception, although it is one I don’t own yet I have listened to it several times. Memoryhouse is considered a “landmark work of contemporary classical music”. It’s an experimental album of “documentary music” recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, which explores real and imaginary stories and histories. Several of the tracks, such as “Sarajevo”, “November”, “Arbenita”, and “Last Days”, deal with the aftermath of the Kosovo conflict, while others are of childhood memories e.g. “Laika’s Journey”. The music combines ambient sounds, voices (including that of John Cage), and poetry readings from the work of Marina Tsvetaeva. 

35 – Jurassic 5 – Power In Numbers

I picked up a copy of this only a couple of months ago from a charity shop and have played it a lot in the car. Apparently the album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

34 – The Chemical Brothers – Come With Us

There are some really good tracks on this album, although I don’t think there were any massive ‘Hits’, I could be wrong about that though. This is their 4th album and ‘Star Guitar’ probably is the best well known track on it but despite some negative reviews I rather like it.

33 – Lemon Jelly – Lost Horizons

Lemon Jelly albums are generally their own special version of ‘feel good’. They are almost a brand rather than band with the their graphically designed images adorning the pages of countless magazines and the expensive collectors editions of their records. This is happy music made for cosy afternoons tucked up on the sofa and if you’re looking for something that’ll give you a bit of a spring in your step, then you really couldn’t do much better.

32- The Cinematic Orchestra – Every Day

Here we have a mélange of jazz, orchestral and digital samples which is primarily operating in a territory first mapped out by Bristol’s Massive Attack, if at a somewhat more rarefied and abstract level. The modern jazz and 20th century classical sensibilities are distinctive and well performed and, as Roots Manuva performs on one track, I am pre-disposed to liking it.

31 – The Roots – Phrenology

The Roots brand of hip-hop had a distinctly group-oriented musical sound and Phrenology builds from that, with the band filling their sound out and pushing it in a variety of directions for Phrenology. If you like things categorised, the band sound is a sort of tight soul/funk augmented with soul vocalists, including Musiq, Jill Scott, and, at the time, promising newcomer Cody ChesnuTT.

30 – The Coral – The Coral

Underrated is an entirely personal concept and I do say it far too often. More often or not the music is underrated by my and was in fact very popular which is usually as a result of my completely ignoring bands until many years later and then wondering why I paid no attention at the time. I picked up the CD of this in a charity shop a couple of months ago and it is really very good, and I’m only 17 years late in listening to it. There’s also something both amusing and endearing about a singer who pulls faces that make them look as though they are attempting a particularly troublesome shit.

29 – Tom Waits – Blood Money

Tom Waits is a genius, a total outsider who seems to do whatever the hell he wants and sod what people think. I rather like what’s happened to his voice, which is pretty much the sound of a man gargling a gallon of gravel, but with brilliant songwriting. He released two albums in 2002 and the other one is here too, it’s a close call between them.

28 – Tori Amos – Scarlet’s Walk

I’ve always had a soft spot for Tori Amos, another brilliant songwriter, but initially lumbered with the idea that she was the new ‘Kate Bush’, which she wasn’t. This album is 18 songs long and, perhaps, there are a couple too many, however, what to leave out? It’s an 18-track concept album that details the cross-country travels of Scarlet, a character loosely based on Amos, as well as the concept of America post-September 11, 2001. Perhaps the story wouldn’t make sense without all the songs.

27 – Tom Waits – Alice

Like the simultaneously released Blood Money, this album is previously unrecorded music from an opera production by Waits, his wife Kathleen Brennan, and longtime collaborator (“The Black RIder”) avant-garde theatre director Robert Wilson, which explored the obsessive relationship between Lewis Carroll and the little girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland, Alice Liddell. I’d never heard of this opera, the songs are fantastic and I do wonder now about the show itself.

26 – Eminem – The Eminem Show

I am not a huge Eminem fan, but I can very much appreciate the impact he has and the crossover popularity. A careful listen to this album strongly suggests that the overriding emotion is the loneliness created by fame, money, and failed relationships, which is sad, but not a unique situation and it’s much easier to be sad if you’ve got money. What it does undeniably have is bloody catchy songs from a man who was the biggest pop star on the planet at the time.

25 – Porcupine Tree – In Absentia

Here is another band that I completely missed, they weren’t even on my radar. It wasn’t until I recently went to see Steven Wilson on tour last year that I started listening to the back catalogue and I was quite confused. My understanding was that it was Prog, which is part of it but it feels like there’s a lot of Pop in there, with hooks galore and more catchy choruses than you can shake a stick at.

24 – Gomez – In Our Gun

I actually though Gomez had broken up years ago, but they haven’t, they’re most recent album having been released in 2011, which I’ll check out along with a couple of others I’ve never heard. On the sessions for In Our Gun, the band also set aside some of their Americana influences in favour of tinkering with newer technology. All five members became fascinated by samples and loops and other electronic touches that could bring some new sounds to Gomez. At the same time, the band members worked to integrate the approach into songs that had an R&B or a folk-rock feel, allowing the effects to wash over tried-and-true traditions. Give ‘Even Song’ a listen, you might like it, if you don’t you’re wrong.

23 – Röyksopp – Melody AM

Melody A.M seemed to be playing everywhere back in 2002, at a time before MTV became unwatchable drivel it seemed like every 30 minutes they had a track playing. It’s a strange album in many ways, being a sort of after-club easy listening electronica which has an unsettling familiarity about it, and somewhere in there, a sense of chirpy sorrow, which is an odd feeling to evoke. It is super catchy and, for its genre, almost perfectly proportioned.

22 – Beth Orton – Daybreaker

I’ve seen Beth Orton a couple of times now and both times reminded me of not only the high quality of her songwriting but also of how much I like her voice, it’s almost lazy, and yet precise, which I have trouble making sense of. The first time I saw her was a seated concert with about 600 people in the audience, she was heavily pregnant and sat alone on the stage with just her acoustic guitar as accompaniment. The sound was stunning.

21 – Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around

I don’t think I really need to say much about this. If you don’t know it, where the hell have you been!?

20 – The Streets – Original Pirate Material

I have difficulties with this album, as I remember liking it on first and second listen but it had no staying power for me. It felt like listening to an audiobook repeatedly, however, going back and listening again I think I appreciate it more particularly in the context of what else was happening in music at the time. The references were instantly recognisable, mundane everyday issues of public transport, cheap drugs, fast food, and hangovers. There was no self aggrandizing, just brilliant phonetical descriptions of street life and culture.

19- Damien Rice – O

This album felt all conquering back in 2002, particularly when tracks from it were used in the film ‘Closer’. Today it is just as good as it was then, however, it does suffer from overplaying as many very popular releases often do. The songs are still incredibly good but that familiarity, over familiarity even, can, for me at least, have a detrimental effect. I do still give it a listen every now and again though.

18 – The Libertines – Up The Bracket

The Libertines were pretty casual and rough around the edges with a sound that could have come from the 66 or 76 rather than the beginning of the 00’s. The songs were brash and bold, funny at times and spoke of perfectly ordinary, mostly English things, with Sid James quotes adding to that particular Britishness. Ignore what happened afterwards, this album, a debut, was like a breath of fresh air at the time.

17 – The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

It’s quite the trick to make one feel small and insignificant but happy about it at the same time, which is what the Flaming Lips pull off with this album, which may or may not have an overall concept, it’s difficult to tell. There is a diverse array of subject matter covered, mostly melancholy ponderings about love, mortality, artificial emotion, pacifism, and deception, not the most heartwarming of subjects, but who can deny the beauty of ‘Do You Realize??’

16 – Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

An album loved by the critics and liked by me. It has been said that the album is complex and dangerously catchy, lyrically sophisticated and provocative, noisy and somehow serene. It has been called a masterpiece and was top 3 on lots of year end lists. I’m yet to figure out why, it’s good, but a masterpiece? I’m not so sure.

15 – William Basinski – The Disintergration Loops 1

Speaking of masterpieces, here’s one. Not from everybody point of view for sure, but from mine it is. The music was recorded from a series of tape loops that gradually deteriorated each time they passed the tape head, an unexpected consequence of Basinski’s attempt to transfer a collection of his old recordings from magnetic tape to digital format. The completion of the recording coincided with the 9/11 attacks, which Basinski witnessed from his rooftop in Brooklyn and the artwork features Basinski’s footage of the New York City skyline in the aftermath of the World Trade Center’s collapse. He would subsequently dedicate the music to the victims of the attacks. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to it, in its entirety and it has some kind of emotional effect on me that I find difficult to explain. It is not related to the twin towers attack, it just makes me introspective and thoughtful, and, of course, I have admitted many times to my love of repetition.

14 – Pearl Jam – Riot Act

I had a CD player in the kitchen, on top of the refrigerator, and this CD was in it for several months, just playing while I did other things, sometimes for just a song and other times the whole album repeatedly. It grew on me, mostly due to my being too bloody lazy to change the CD but also because those are the sort of songs on the album, they aren’t necessarily going to hit you right between the eyes, but there’s a good chance they will get to you in the end.

13 – Iron and Wine – The Creek Drank The Cradle

Simplicity is a wonderful thing. The sparse lo-fi sound of the album is attributed to Beam recording the tracks at home on a four-track recorder initially as demos. His intention was to pass these on to Joey Burns and John Convertino of the band Calexico who would provide a rhythm section on the finished piece. However the demos were released instead. I don’t know who made that decision, but it was inspired, these fragile, beautiful songs are a joy.

12 – Mum – Finally We Are No One

Here I go again, UNDERRATED! there, I said it. Múm (Icelandic pronunciation: ​[muːm]) are an Icelandic experimental musical group whose music is characterised by soft vocals, electronic glitch beats and effects, and a variety of traditional and unconventional instruments. The last sentence doesn’t do them justice, they are magical.

11 – Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head

I know Coldplay are extremely popular, but personally I think they did 2 1/2 good albums, this is the second one, the next one is the 1/2. This topped a lot of year end polls, which is fair enough I guess but it was the popular choice, which is not how I judge things, after all, the best selling album of 2002 was Escapology by Robbie Williams, and it’s shit. That having been said, there are good songs on this and, for me, it’s in the correct place in this list.

10 – Martin Gretch – Open Heart Zoo

I wrote about this album quite recently, so here is what I wrote

9 – The White Stripes – White Blood Cells

Well, one must ask, ‘Do you own all the White Stripes records?’ and one must answer, ‘Yes I do, and am completely and utterly biased’. This was an album that showed progression, which continued through the next album, Elephant’ and on until they finally split. Despite the Guitar, Vocal, Drums format seemingly being limiting, it just isn’t noticeable, good songs are good songs and White Blood Cells is jam packed full of them.

8 – Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man – Out Of Season

Absolute beauty. I was already sold on Portishead and so was a tad worried what was going to happen with a solo album (sort of), I needn’t have been, tracks such as the delicately acoustic ‘Mysteries’ (below) are not Portishead, but they are Beth Gibbons and they are wonderful, like a photo album you forgot you had, opening it years later and feeling the mixed emotions of melancholy and joy and somehow being grateful for the moments you captured on film.

7 – Sonic Youth – Murray Street

This is one of my faviourite Sonic Youth albums which forced its way into my psyche by having tracks in various playlists that I listened to a lot back then. If you’ve never listened to the album I highly recommend it, great songs, and much catchier than one might expect.

6 – Godspeed you! Black Emperor – Yanqui U.X.O

It is fair to say that GSYBE are not everybody’s cup of tea, and I’m good with that as they are very much mine. I saw them a few years ago at Warwick Arts Centre, on my own, and it was quite an intense listening experience. I do love the way the tracks build, often from almost nothing into lovely repetitiveness, layer after layer, into an almost classical crescendo.

5 – Lambchop – Is A Woman

Another band I saw at Warwick Arts Centre, again on my own, anti-social bastard that I am. I like things that are a little different, in this case Kurt Wagners phrasing, it feels almost desperately sad at times, and his use of words, the songs often feel to me like poems set to words, the Bukowski sort. A gem of an album.

4 – Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights

I was given a mix CD that had no track listing and the track PDA from this was on it, although I had no idea what it was. When I finally figured it out I sought out the album and, having found it, played the damn thing to death. Interpol were compared to Joy Division a lot, and there is some of that influence there for sure, but also Echo & the Bunnymen amongst others, but they aren’t these bands, they are their own thing. Check out ‘NYC’, ‘Stella was a diver and she was always down’ and ‘PDA’ down below of course, but don’t limit yourself to those, just listen to the album.

3 – Boards of Canada – Geogaddi

A classic, which I wrote about HERE so I won’t again (because I’m lazy).

2 – David Bowie – Heathen

This is one of my favourite Bowie albums and to me it feels complete, unlike many of his earlier releases. It has none of the persona’s present that Bowie had previously used to such good effect, it seems more to be that he had found himself to be David Robert Jones, all grown up. The choice of cover versions are perfect, the Pixies’ “Cactus,” Neil Young’s “I’ve Been Waiting for You” and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy’s “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship” all fit beautifully with the self-penned tracks. This album is a gem.

1 – Sigur Ros – ()

An album of 8 untitled tracks (though they were later named) with vocals in a made up language that nobody really understands is an unlikely resident of the number one spot, and yet here it is. () is an album of spacey, drifting ambience and brooding textural melodrama with songs that sometimes demand patient, observant listening. For me, music is more than a catchy hook or riff, it is about mood and emotion, texture and sometimes headspace, that place where you can go to get away from all your troubles, transported there on an analogue wave. An unexpected lifting of the spirits, a mild euphoria, a period of melancholy, it is all included. I love his album.

There are a lot of albums that were released in 2002 that could well have been in the 54 above, but they aren’t.

Below are the UK’s top selling albums of 2002 as promised, 2 made it into my list.

1 Escapology Robbie Williams
2 Missundaztood Pink
3 Escape Enrique Iglesias
4 A Rush of Blood to the Head Coldplay
5 One Love Blue
6 By the Way Red Hot Chili Peppers
7 The Eminem Show Eminem
8 Unbreakable: The Greatest Hits Volume 1 Westlife
9 ELV1S: 30 #1 Hits Elvis Presley
10 Heathen Chemistry Oasis
11 Come Away with Me Norah Jones 3
12 Silver Side Up Nickelback
13 A New Day at Midnight David Gray
14 Greatest Hits I, II & III (The Platinum Collection) Queen
15 Fever Kylie Minogue
16 Let Go Avril Lavigne
17 Greatest Hits 1970–2002 Elton John
18 From Now On Will Young
19 Forty Licks The Rolling Stones
20 Feels So Good Atomic Kitten

Why not reply with your own top 10 of 2002? It’s harder than you might think!

Pearl Jam – Vitaology

I rarely talk about Pearl Jam, which is odd as I really rather like them and have done since they released their debut album. A lot of their releases came out when I was buying CD’s rather than vinyl, but any album that contains the track ‘Spin The Black Circle’ deserves to be owned on that format I think.

So this is how Pearl Jam get in my head, played on repeat while I am doing something else or left in the car CD player for weeks on end so it always comes on while I am driving. I had ‘No Code’ in for a couple of months and when I listened to it a few years later was surprised I knew all the songs, having forgotten about the car marathon.

One of the problems I initially had with Pearl Jam was that everything I heard that wasn’t ‘Jeremy’, wasn’t ‘Jeremy’, which is silly really but there you are, I compared everything they did to it and if it wasn’t vaguely similar I was displeased. Now this is clearly stupid, several albums of songs that all sound the same would be pretty crappy but that’s how it was. It was this subconscious listening that I later did that shook me out of that idiocy and it’s a good job it did otherwise I would have completely missed so many great songs.

Just in case you are wholly unaware of who Pearl Jam are, here is a very synopsised synopsis:

Pearl Jam where formed in 1990 in Seattle, Washington. Since its inception, the band’s line-up has included Eddie Vedder (lead vocals), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), and Jeff Ament (bass guitar). Since 1998, the band has also included drummer Matt Cameron (also of Soundgarden). Boom Gaspar (keyboards) has also been a session/touring member with the band since 2002. Drummers Jack Irons, Dave Krusen, Matt Chamberlain, and Dave Abbruzzese are former members of the band.

Formed after the demise of Gossard and Ament’s previous band, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam broke into the mainstream with its debut album, Ten, in 1991. One of the key bands in the grunge movement of the early 1990s, its members often shunned popular music industry practices such as making music videos or giving interviews. The band also sued Ticketmaster, claiming it had monopolised the concert-ticket market. In 2006, Rolling Stone described the band as having “spent much of the past decade deliberately tearing apart their own fame.”

I’m not a big fan of favourite songs from an album, unless it’s one of those albums that really only has one good song on it, and I do like the whole of Viataology, but if somebody held a gun to my head and asked my to pick one song, well, I’d suggest they need some serious medical help, but I would also pick ‘Corduroy’.

As a band I like their ethos, which I take at face value, in that they really do not seem to take advantage of their fan base, or, they really take advantage but don’t appear to. I hope the former. In its first week of exclusively vinyl release (back in 1994), Vitalogy sold 35,000 copies and was the first vinyl album to chart due to exclusively vinyl sales in nearly a decade. 

I do remember disliking this album on first listen as I was still in ‘Jeremy’ mode I think but, like so many of their albums, it has grown on me over time and now it has several favourites on it, but it doesn’t stand up as a complete work. ‘Pry, To’ is filler. ‘Bugs’ is just terrible and “Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me”  should never have been conceived let alone given birth to. Take these away and you have a great, but shorter, album.

Death and Vanilla – Are You A Dreamer?

Label: Fire Records ‎– FIRELP543X
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Limited Edition, Special Edition, Pink
Released: 10 May 2019
Genre: Electronic, Rock
Style: Darkwave, Experimental, Psychedelic Rock

If either of you bothered to read the drivel I write then you would know that I have mentioned Death & Vanilla several times before, to prove this you can click here: More on Death & Vanilla (Though you probably won’t).

So a new album on lovely pink vinyl in a special sleeve with music that very much is what they are about. Vintage instruments, atmospheric production, melodies and motifs that tickle your ears until they slip in because there is little other choice.

1. A Flaw In The Iris – 04:45
2. Let’s Never Leave Here – 06:06
3. Mercier – 04:25
4. Eye Bath – 06:25
5. The Hum – 05:10
6. Nothing Is Real – 05:02
7. Vespertine – 04:07
8. Wallpaper Pattern – 05:09

Marleen NilssonMagnus Bodin and Anders Hansson are Death and Vanilla and they all hail from Malmo in Sweden (there should be some umlauts on that last O but I’ve no idea how to do them).

As of today I have everything they have ever released on vinyl, which all came about from a random purchase one day because I liked the cover. That they later did a couple of live soundtracks to old films was a bonus, as I do love a good soundtrack, I also love old analog instruments, they are the gift that keeps on giving.

Miriam Makeba ‎– Miriam Makeba

Label: London Records ‎– HA 2332, London Records ‎– HA.2332
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Mono, Purple Label
Released: 1961

I was delighted to find and original copy of this album in the used record store today, filed under Jazz, which is debatable, but a very pleasing discovery nonetheless.

Zenzile Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a South African singer, songwriter, actress, United Nations goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist. Associated with musical genres including Afropop, jazz, and world music, she was an advocate against apartheid and white-minority government in South Africa.

Born in Johannesburg to Swazi and Xhosa parents, Makeba was forced to find employment as a child after the death of her father. She had a brief and allegedly abusive first marriage at the age of 17, gave birth to her only child in 1950, and survived breast cancer. Her vocal talent had been recognized when she was a child, and she began singing professionally in the 1950s, with the Cuban Brothers, the Manhattan Brothers, and an all-woman group, the Skylarks, performing a mixture of jazz, traditional African melodies, and Western popular music. In 1959, Makeba had a brief role in the anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa, which brought her international attention, and led to her performing in Venice, London, and New York City. In London, she met the American singer Harry Belafonte, who became a mentor and colleague. She moved to New York City, where she became immediately popular, and recorded her first solo album in 1960. Her attempt to return to South Africa that year for her mother’s funeral was prevented by the country’s government.

Makeba’s career flourished in the United States, and she released several albums and songs, her most popular being “Pata Pata” (1967). Along with Belafonte she received a Grammy Award for her 1965 album An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba. She testified against the South African government at the United Nations and became involved in the civil rights movement. She married Stokely Carmichael, a leader of the Black Panther Party, in 1968. As a result, she lost support among white Americans and faced hostility from the US government, leading her and Carmichael to move to Guinea. She continued to perform, mostly in African countries, including at several independence celebrations. She began to write and perform music more explicitly critical of apartheid; the 1977 song “Soweto Blues”, written by her former husband Hugh Masekela, was about the Soweto uprising. After apartheid was dismantled in 1990, Makeba returned to South Africa. She continued recording and performing, including a 1991 album with Nina Simone and Dizzy Gillespie, and appeared in the 1992 film Sarafina!. She was named a UN goodwill ambassador in 1999, and campaigned for humanitarian causes. She died of a heart attack during a 2008 concert in Italy.

Makeba was among the first African musicians to receive worldwide recognition. She brought African music to a Western audience, and popularized the world music and Afropop genres. She also made popular several songs critical of apartheid, and became a symbol of opposition to the system, particularly after her right to return was revoked. Upon her death, former South African President Nelson Mandela said that “her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us.” – Wikipedia

She has such a beautiful voice and was, in so many ways, a trailblazer for African music. The Click Song may be familiar to you, maybe not, but do have a listen to the concert from Stockholm below, she was amazing.

01:05 – 04:04 “Mbube”
04:06 – 07.14 “As The Rising Sun”
07.24 – 10.16 “Forbidden Games”
10.23 – 13.17 “Chove Chuva”
13.29 – 15.17 “Click Song”
15.37 – 20.00 “When I’ve Passed On”

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