Music favourites 2018

Here we go – the end of last year is prompting me to post to this largely dormant blog with a few favourite albums of 2018. Let’s start with…

SOME INTERESTING CONCEPTS

Juliana Hatfield – Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John (American Laundromat)

I jumped for joy when I first heard about this and, although a teeny bit long, it’s tops. All your favourites are included, well all of mine anyway I don’t know what your favourites are actually – Have You Never Been Mellow, A Little More Love, Xanadu, Magic, Don’t Stop Believin’, and there’s others I’m less fond of that come out much better in JH’s hands than you might expect such as I Honestly Love You. Then there’s the ones that are OK but I could have done without (Please Mr. Please and Physical, in particular). But wait, there’s more – a few songs were held over for a bonus EP Deeper Than the Night and the super Heart Attack. Nice sleeve art too.

Angelique Kidjo – Remain in Light

That’s right – the Talking Heads album covered song-by-song but Angelique Kidjo. I couldn’t envision how this would turn out before I heard it, or, how damn well it turns out – it’s excellent and makes complete sense as the original album consisted of borrowed African rhythms. Kidjo doesn’t just reclaim them though, she reinvents them.  Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) opens the album strongly, Once in A Lifetime moves away from David Byrne’s twitchy vocal style to something more dancehall and Crosseyed And Painless has even more energy than the original.

Matt Berry – Television Themes (Acid Jazz)

I assumed, wrongly, that this would be a joke album. It’s great. Everything from the 70’s pop illustration sleeve art to the selection of themes is first class. The vocalist on Are You Being Served sounds very similar to the original singer, there’s The Good Life, The Liver Birds, Doctor Who and even the brief idents to London Weekend Television and Thames Television. A few of the themes would be better known to British ears than mine (Blankety Blank, Picture Box, Wildtrak, World in Action, Open University, but what I lose by a childhood in Australia I gain as I discover these.  But how did Berry resist covering Robin’s Nest, The Tomorrow People, Angels and Follyfoot? Volume 2 please.

REISSUES (or archive firsts)

The Goodies – The Cricklewood Tapes (Network)

3 CDs of Goodies background music. Yes, about time. I believe there’s a long story about why this took so long to come out, probably the main reason being that the tracks were not intended to be listened to in this way but as an accompaniment to the onscreen action, but it’s here, so, hurrah! Well mostly, there’s no Needed or Run unfortunately as apparently these tapes no longer exist, but, there is a mountain of archive Goodies BGM here to explore.

Pet Shop Boys – Further Listening (Actually, Introspective, Please etc.)

Of course most of this has been released before, but it’s a great way to get hold of a motherlode of PSB material in one place. They also come with nice booklets that help to fill the hole left by the now defunct fan club.

 

Basil Kirchin – I Start Counting (Trunk)

First issue for this soundtrack of moody jazz and soft vocals. I’m even more keen to see the film now.

 

 

 

 

François De Roubaix ‎– Daughters Of Darkness – Les Lèvres Rouges (Original Soundtrack)

First issue for this one too I think. Gorgeous, moody, spooky jazz.

 

 

 

 

Bobbie Gentry – The Girl from Chickasaw County

Criminally overdue. Essential.

 

 

 

 

OTHERS

Cavern of Anti-Matter – Hormone Lemonade (Duophonic)

Tim Gane’s project while Stereolab continue their hiatus (which, good news, is looking like it’s ending). Lots of long motorik fun. It’s super.

 

 

 

John Maus – Addendum

Anything was going to pale in comparison to 2017’s Screen Memories (and this does), especially an album of offcuts, but JM is always a must hear for me.

 

 

 

 

Cold Beat – A Simple Reflection

An electronic band from San Francisco discover (one of my favourite albums) Eurythmics’ In The Garden, get obsessed, understandably, and create an ep covering Eurythmics songs from around that time (although only 2 of the 7 are from ITG). Get it from Bandcamp.

 

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Art imitates art – Diane Keaton and Frank Black

In 1993 Diane Keaton (yes, that Diane Keaton) released a book she edited called Mr. Salesman. The book features noir-ish 1950s photographs of travelling salesmen taken by Jamison Handy. It’s an absolute wonder and loaded with photographs that sit somewhere between mundane, surreal and creepy.

In 1994 Frank Black from The Pixies released a pop song called ‘Headache’. Fun song, and it also came with a rather appealing black and white 1950s styled video.

In a case of art inspiring art I think it’s pretty safe to say the book was the inspiration for the video for Frank Black’s ‘Headache’.

Have a look at the video here:

And at these pictures from the Mr. Salesman book.

mrs6 mrs5 mrs4 mrs3 mrs2 mrs1

 

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Pel Mel – Rags to Tatters: The Best of Pel Mel

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How the superb Newcastle/Sydney Australian 80s Indie pop outfit Pel Mel have thus far escaped a CD reissue is a mystery to me, but it’s great to see that this has finally been addressed with a limited (200 copies only) compilation Rags To Tatters: The Best of Pel Mel (also available as an unlimited download album). RTT compiles most of their debut Out of Reason (1982) and follow up Persuasion (1983) with a two non-album tracks included – their almost-breakthrough single ‘No Word From China’ and the excellent Water (B-side of Blind Lead the Blind 7”). Unfortunately chart success eluded Pel Mel despite their catchy singles and vibrant indie sound. I was hooked the first time I heard ‘No Word From China’ and Out of Reason quickly became a firm favourite featuring the deliriously effervescent singles ‘Blind Lead The Blind’ and ‘Shoes Should Fit’.

This compilation appears to have been released by the band and although it’s a fantastic thing for Pel Mel fans I’m disappointed that they’ve left off some tracks from their albums, in particular the heartbreaking closer from Out of Reason ‘Logic Failing’. Also missing from OOR is ‘Current’, and from Persuasion both ‘Tongue-Tied’ and ‘That Girl Had A Gun’ have been excised. I imagine this was due to space considerations but is still a great shame. A preferable approach would be an anthology double CD to collect both albums in full, following which there would be ample space for single b-sides,  different 7” versions, the 12” of Pandemonium, the early compilation track ‘Click Click’ and probably even their offshoot recordings such as The Limp and who-knows-whatever-else lurking in the Pel Mel vaults. Maybe they could address these missing tracks with a Bandcamp download compilation instead? They’ve already done this with a selection of live tracks – called I’m a TV: pel mel live 1979 ─ 1984

RTT remains an essential purchase and a long-overdue reminder of what an excellent band Pel Mel were – or are, as they reformed in 2012 as Pel Mel Organisation, hurrah!

Bandcamp

 

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#blogjune – The Trivia Encyclopedia

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This is the last day of #blogjune. It’s been fun doing a post each day and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I thought I might keep this going at a slower pace – one a week, or thereabouts.

But, to today’s post, it’s something special from my childhood – The Trivia Encyclopedia by Fred L. Worth. I stumbled across this around 1980 or so and found it endlessly fascinating in its surgical detail of often useless facts. Want to know the name of the bear who played Gentle Ben? It’s here (Bruno). In the James Bond books and movies, what does S.P.E.C.T.R.E. stand for? (Page 253 – Special Executive for Counter-Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). What year was Alfred Hitchcock born? (Page 28, 1899). The names of all the Chan Clan (from The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan cartoon)? Why, it’s Allen, Flip, Henry, Moon, Nancy, Scooter, Stanley, Susie and Tom (Page 66). It’s all here. Thanks for asking.

Of course, we now have the internet and decades of pop cultural back-glances to know all this stuff, but then there was nothing and this was revolutionary goldmine of information. It was Google in a book, and from what I can tell, quite a hit. There was even a scandal involving Columbo and the game Trivial Pursuit using Worth’s book to source questions.

I have 2 different editions of The Trivia Encyclopedia but this el cheapo Tempo paperback is my favourite, partly because it’s the first copy I ever had, but also for the sensational slighty trippy cover design. Many thanks Mr. Worth.

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#blogjune – Mark Ryden’s Blood

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If I was in a court case to argue why physical media is better than downloads I would confidently present this item, smile and wave to the stunned crowd and exit in a puff of smoke. This is Stan Ridgway and Pietra Wexstun’s Blood – a soundtrack commissioned for artist Mark Ryden’s ‘The Blood Show’, and what a treasure it is. Mr Ryden’s paintings adorn the fold-out sleeve and the music is an appropriately magical experience that will surprise anyone only familiar with Stan Ridgway from his days fronting Wall of Voodoo.

Enjoy. *Walt vanishies in giant puff of smoke*

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#blogjune – Rabbit and Cat School

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So, this. I found this old plastic toy in a big bin of what I think were carnival prizes from, maybe the 1950s. There were also things like plastic mini-trumpets, paper streamers and other things I’ve forgotten now. But this was the star, a Rabbit and Cat school. It was in a plastic bag and I decided the best thing to with it was to display it against its original cardboard backing in a 3-D frame. Looking at it now I could have done a better job of securing the items to the card (I used those plastic cord tie things), I’ll go back and fix that at some point, but my lack of handiness notwithstanding I do think they are super. There’s even a blackboard (which says “1+1=?” and has the sum underneath). Bless.

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#blogjune – Big Eye S+P

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The most expressive salt and pepper shakers I’ve ever owned. I mean, there’s no competition. These little Keane-like big eye pups are going to win every time.

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