Music Diary 2012 – Sunday

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Today’s head music: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – ‘Nobody’s Baby Now’ because my friend Nick told me he’s learning it on the ukelele so he can perform at a wedding, and ‘Private Life’ by Grace Jones because… i’ve no idea.

Another relatively music-free day. After a bike ride this morning I had to run a few errands. Over the last week or so i’ve resumed by CD ripping marathon as my collection makes its way inexorably and simultaneously into the loft and onto a networked hard drive. I’ve been spotting old favourites, forgotten curios and overlooked oddities as i’ve gone and I grabbed some of these on the way out the door.

As I drove I reacquainted myself with Jacob’s Mouse, first with their four track debut ‘No Fish Shop Parking’ and then with the first half of their last record ‘Rubber Ring’. Both bracing and fine. I found myself hearing them in counterpoint to the Field Music album and trying to draw comparisons. I think that those records which have dared to approach the mannered complexity of prog over the last few years have, in part, relied on advances in technology to make their records. To be fair, I know nothing of the way records are made, so perhaps this is balderdash, but they certainly sound more technological in their construction. Jacob’s Mouse, and a host of other bands, were trying to create complex, expressive music in the mid-Nineties, but with more traditional guitars, drums and voice. The results were often shot through with untrammelled creative energy and I think I like that better.

Nothing after that until about 30 minutes ago when I played the first three or four songs from ‘The Marble Downs’ by Trembling Bells & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. I like the album more and more. It really ought to be an overwrought mess, but somehow, perhaps because they choose to rock it up as much as they can, it’s undeniable fun.

And that’s it. On the downside, I didn’t listen to much music at all this week. I’ve explained a couple of the reasons for that. In general I think i’m listening to at least as much as this time last year, so perhaps this was just a slow week. On the upside, I never got around to pontificating on Sonos, streaming, ripping and how that’s affected the way I eat music. Think yourselves lucky.

Same time next year?

#musicdiary2012

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Music Diary 2012 – Friday

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Whether i’m fighting against listening for listening’s sake and over-compensating in an attempt to be authentic, or not, my listening continues to dwindle.

Having briefly considered writing up by Devon Record Club choice at lunchtime, I had ‘Chips Ahoy’ by The Hold Steady purring around my head, so after 5 when most of my colleagues had gone home, I played ‘Boys and Girls in America’ on Spotify.

When I got home, from nowhere, ‘Circle of Sorrow’ by Various popped into my head, so as I got changed I listened to the first two track from their album ‘The World Is Gone’ on the laptop.

On my way downstairs something jazzy was playing on Radio 2.

I’s now 10pm, and I think that’s me done for the day.

#musicdiary2012

Music Diary 2012 – Thursday

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No music at all until 6.30pm. Then I listened to the Moonface album ‘Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped’. It’s terrific, idiotic, smartass keyboard tweaking. I think i’m a little bit in love with Spencer Krug. He’s worryingly prolific and a reasonable proportion of his output is ridiculous in some way or other, but it’s all great. Whenever I listen to him I think he’s my favourite musician of the last 5 years. Oh, and the track ‘Shit-Hawk In the Snow’ is probably exactly what i’d make if I knew how to use music-making equipment. One chord played enthusiastically and percussively. Plus, this album has the best title ever.

And that’s it. No more music for me today.

One of the changes in my listening habits over the last few months has been the incursion of audiobooks. I have somewhere around 2-3 hours to myself each day, either in the car or walking the dog, and during this time I can listen to whatever I want. Last year, largely due to Devon Record Club, I partly replaced listening to Radio 4 in the car with catching up on albums, and my dog walks were never without headphones.

But music, unless I give it my full attention, leaves too much room for wandering contemplation, both internal and external. For reasons both labyrinthine and tedious, this is something I’ve been keen to avoid for the last few months. I’ve found that audiobooks help to to achieve this. Specifically, i’ve been listening to Stephen King books loaded up on my old iPod. They’re perfect. Enough going on to keep your attention (whatever the aural equivalent of a page-turner is) whilst not being stylistically so complex that it’s impossible to concentrate on them without driving off the road or walking into a hedge.

[I loved King as a teenager and now, coming back to some of his most recent books, it’s weirdly gratifying to see that he’s finally getting his due as the pre-eminent storyteller of his generation. So far removed from the schlockmeisters he used to be lumped in with. Plus, I’m a sucker for homey US of A yarns.]

So, in the car to and from work and a little around the house this evening, I listened to the last 2.5 hours of ‘Under The Dome’. It’s great.

Maybe music will come back into these spaces at some stage. I sort of hope so. But for now, someone else’s words are doing just the job I need.

#musicdiary2012

Music Diary 2012 – Wednesday

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Not a huge amount of music today. Nothing at all passed my ears until around 6.30pm. If I have time at the weekend i’ll write a little something about how audiobooks have, perhaps temporarily, displaced music in the car and on my daily dog walks. I’m sure you’ll all look forward to that.

Got home from work and started cooking. Whilst doing so I played the first half of the Horseback compilation ‘The Gorgon Tongue: Impale Golden Horn/Forbidden Planet’, four big slices of what would, in olden times, have been called shoegaze. Although Horseback are bracketed with avant Black Metal outfits, and their earlier work fits this bill a little more comfortably, if you were to release these four gauzy, ambient guitar pieces as a long lost Slowdive EP then the only people who would call you out on that claim would be, well, Slowdive and Horseback. Possibly even Slowdive might believe it was them.

Next up, also on the Sonos, via Spotify, the new Death Grips album, ‘The Money Store’. Last year’s ‘Ex-Military’ mixtape was jolting but a little too blunt for my liking. On first listen this album proper is genuinely thrilling in parts. They may not know what they’re up to, but to me it sounds like they’re just banging musical rocks together to see what sparks fly, and fly they do. I’ll definitely go back.

Then whilst eating my tea, I watched ‘Fleetwood Mac: Don’t Stop’ the BBC Four documentary, on iPlayer. I have no affection for the band but the film was entertaining and, against all the odds, and the evidence here which points out explicitly how spiky they could all be, they seemed like nice people.

Finally I played ‘Spooky Action At A Distance’ by Lotus Plaza, again Spotify on Sonos. I phone my mum during the first song and finished talking to her during the last. What I heard in between wasn’t much, but it sounded okay. I guess I’d have to confess that the phrase ‘Pitchfork bait’ went through my head as the album kicked in, by which I meant woozy guitar shamble pop of possibly limited longevity but which sounds intriguingly opaque for now. Impossible to tell which of these records hide the hidden depths.

And that’s that. No head music of any insistence.

#musicdiary2012

Music Diary 2012 – Tuesday

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No music this morning apart from ‘Jesse James’ by The Pogues which was playing incessantly on my cranial jukebox.

Then, around 12.30pm, I was scrolling through The Power of Independent Trucking having been led there by a twitter link to the piece on the remastering of the My Bloody Valentine albums and happened upon a post discussing the best of Guided By Voices and immediately ‘Gold Star for Robot Boy’ was in my head, followed, inevitably, by ‘Game of Pricks’. I played them both via Spotify and they stayed there all afternoon.

Nothing else until I made it home and played the new Animal Collective tracks, ‘Honeycomb’ and ‘Gotham’. The Domino newsletter had dropped at around 4.30pm. I hadn’t even realised the new Animal Collective stuff was ready for release. A pre-order of the 7″ came with an immediate download and it was this I played three times in a row when I got back. It’s predictably unpredictable, harking back to somewhere around ‘Feels’. ‘Honeycomb’ is wayward and bonkers, ‘Gotham’, a slow burner which wheedles its way into your head by the end of the first play.

At 7pm the other Devon Record Club members arrived. This evening’s listening comprised:

‘Bodhisattva Vow’ by The Beastie Boys (in our The Vinyl Curtain slot)
‘The John Allyn Smith Sails’ by Okkervil River
‘Boys and Girls in America’ by The Hold Steady
‘The Eight Legged Groove Machine’ by The Wonderstuff
‘Shabini’ by the Bhundu Boys
‘Skills to Pay the Bills’ by The Beastie Boys
‘Plumb’ by Field Music

All of which adds up to a good evening in my books.

As I put the rubbish out, I played ‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel on the Sonos, having looked at the Best Of… album as I ripped more loft CDs yesterday. Sang along a little, then, when the second track rolled around, had heard enough.

#musicdiary2012

Music Diary 2012 – Monday

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I’ll try to keep it brief this year. Stick to the facts.

We watched the season finale of ‘Homeland’ last night and then I sat about for half an hour afterwards tippy-tapping whilst Jo watched ‘The Voice’ on iPlayer. As midnight ticked by I had my headphones on and was listening to John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ via Spotify. I love the way jazz is woven through ‘Homeland’. It seemed an affectation at first but as Carrie’s character became more skittish and improvisational, it started to make more and more sense. The title sequence is one of the best of recent years and every week it makes me want to listen to more jazz. So I did.

Later on I tried to listen to ‘Provision’ by Scritti Politti an album recently retrieved from a loft box of Jo’s stuff. I’ve never really listened to them and this seemed like a good time to start. Sadly, the detritus of Jo’s university years has left the vinyl in need of a pressure wash, so I only got 30 seconds in before abandoning it. Switched to ‘Matinee’ by Sharkboy which I’d spotted on the shelf a few days ago and pulled out. Then commenced wandering about the house and largely missed it.

I spent most of the day sorting out stuff from our prodigious loft and all the while ripping CDs to our network storage drive. I the major change in my listening habits since last year has been due to the acquisition of a Sonos system. I’ll write more about what that’s done later in the week. As the laptop churned away I tried a touch more Coltrane but it seemed if not sacrilegious then at least a little unfair to play it on tinny laptop speakers. Then played half of the Braids album until their ‘we want to be Animal Collective’ pleading became overwhelming. I’m not sure i’ll go back. Switched to Portico Quartet which lasted until Jo decided she wanted to hear ‘Your Woman’ by White Town. I was ripping a box of her CDs.

Prompted by another box find I played the whole of ‘I Was The King I Really Was The King’ by Animals That Swim and then just let iTunes run, so also got their first album ‘Workshy’ and then into ‘Burst Apart’ by Antlers and half way through its predecessor ‘Hospice’.

Then, whilst making tea I listened to a pseudo-religious epic by the band I intend to play at tomorrow’s Devon Record Club and then the first five songs from ‘Let It Be’ by the Replacements both on the Sonos in the kitchen.

Finally, I wondered about that woozy song that closes ‘The Bridge’ on BBC4 and might check out who it’s by.

Today’s head music

‘Rich and Strange’ by Cud
‘Julia’ by Silver Sun
‘Still In Love With You’ by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds 

#musicdiary2012