Nic Jones – Clyde Water
A few of the interviewees in this documentary about the musician Nic Jones recount when and how they first heard him and his most celebrated album Penguin Eggs. I think I must have heard his version of ‘Canadee-I-O’ on the Uncut Magazine CD, which is mentioned in the documentary. But Penguin Eggs wasn’t the first album I heard by him – that was Game Set Match.
In the early 2000s, if I was feeling broke, I’d go to my local library to borrow albums (it was pre-Spotify). On the occasion I went to look for records by Nic Jones the only music they had of his was Game Set Match (but still…they had Game Set Match), so that’s what I borrowed. I eventually heard Penguin Eggs, but it’s forever this version of ‘Clyde Water’ on Game Set Match I’ve preferred to the version (titled as ‘The Drowned Lovers’) on that more feted album.
In the documentary, Nic Jones says how he ‘tried to separate the singing from the guitar playing, so the guitar playing became automatic’. The musician Martin Simpson suggests this method gave the effect of ‘moving the vocal about on top of the accompaniment’. You can hear this on ‘Clyde Water’ I think. It gives the song a weaving mesmerising quality; while the lyrics are sung in such a way it’s as if Nic Jones himself is discovering the song’s story for the very first time. It’s an outstanding performance.
Jens Lekman – To Know Your Mission
My album of 2017 is Jen’s Lekman’s Life Will See You Now.
I was going to write a blog post saying why. This blog post would have encompassed All Tomorrow’s Parties 2008; ideals that could never be kept and that, I believed, weren’t meant to be; growing older; a brief nod to the excellent production on the record by Ewan Pearson; all backed up by quotes pulled from Jens’s commentary about the album. But I run out of time. So sorry, you’ll just have to take it on trust – it’s a great album.
Van Morrison – Cyprus Avenue (live)
On Friday night I was thinking about how much I like the album Astral Weeks. (My introduction to this album was through an excellent Lester Bangs article in his book Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung; a book I wholly recommend to you.) Browsing the web for songs off the album to listen to I stumbled upon this live version of ‘Cyprus Avenue’ recorded at the Fillmore East in 1970 – Van and his band channelling the spirit of Otis Redding.
Sufjan Stevens – John Wayne Gacy Jr.
Another someone who fell off my radar. Perhaps this was due to Stevens not releasing a follow-up proper to his 2005 album Illinois until 5 years after; in the interim releasing a record of outtakes (The Avalanche) and a mixed medium artistic exploration of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (The BQE). You never think you’re one of those fans who the musician / band intends to shed after a critically lauded album, but perhaps in this instance I was. Anyway, I’ve been revisiting the albums Seven Swans and Illinois. This is the devastating ‘John Wayne Gacy Jr.’ from the latter.
British Sea Power – Carrion
Reading of a new album released earlier this year by British Sea Power (it made the Quietus’s Best Albums of 2017 Thus Far) I was reminded how very excited about the band I was when they released their debut album, The Decline of British Sea Power, in 2003. At the time I thought it warranted inclusion on the list of great debut albums. It was one of the best I had heard. But the Quietus review also reminded me how somehow they fell off my radar just around the time of their third album, Do You Like Rock Music?.
So this week I’ve been re-listening to The Decline of British Sea Power. And I’m pleased to say it’s everything I remember. Would I still claim it as one of the great debut albums? Yes. That more people don’t think the same I can only attribute to the album inhabiting a space of its own when it was released; it never defined a moment like The Stone Roses, to pick one example, did. It deserves to be thought of as such though.
Their new album is their eighth I read. I’m going to catch up.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seed – ‘I Need You’
After reading a review this week about the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds gig at the O2 Arena in London I was reminded I hadn’t chosen, on its release last year, a song off Skeleton Tree for Going For A Song, though I had meant to at the time.
The song ‘I Need You’ might serve as a good indicator of Skeleton Tree as an album: lyrics are uncluttered, direct (evidenced by ‘I Need You’ as a title), sung by Cave in a voice that for the first time admits age and fragility into its timbre. Sounds of synths and parred back instrumentation – a tender wash of sound – are put in motion by Thomas Wydler’s drums; the Bad Seeds’ vocals provide additional support, together holding up and urging the song and singer forward to the main admission.
A year on from when I first heard them song and album have lost none of their emotional force. They are quite an achievement.
Jim Causley – Rewind
I’ve written about Jim Causley before, but it was this summer I listened to his album, Forgotten Kingdom, a lot; album and season weaving together in my mind. So to mark Friday’s equinox and the beginning of autumn I’ve chosen a song from that album that celebrates summer and its passing.
So come and roll me in the hay / Make a perfect end to a perfect day / For life is joy and life is gay / for only here and now