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Archive for December, 2010

Emotional Equivalent

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Dubstep. Nary a genre, it seems, has split opinions more. To some it’s plodding, environmentally sparse, bass heavy grooves are being hailed as the latest savior of electronica. To others, the audio equivalent of watching shit dry on a sidewalk. Personally I find it to be no different than most music; 10% of it can be truly dynamic (usually in the hands of it’s innovators) and other 90% usually missing the point with results that are predictably meh.
Basking in that former percentile however is UK pioneer Benga with his dubstep anthem Emotions; a track which fuses just the right amount of soul into an otherwise perceivably cold genre (a feet I’d say on par with what Derrick May does with techno).
Along comes jazz vocalist José James (who also moonlights for the likes of Flying Lotus and Jazzanova), to put his own soulful spin on Emotions (here rechristened as ‘Warrior’), as well as adding some very welcomed vocals.

José James – Warrior (AKA Emotions)


PS Those in Thee Versions Galore Facebook Fanclub who have yet to make up their mind (or have no idea ‘what a dubstep is’ ) got the original on the wall…

Peanut Gallery

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Apologies all around for my recent unexplained absence. As you can see my last post was on my birthday and, if you can believe it, the linear dissection of events played out like this:
big birthday bash into hangover (sizable) into 1/2 sec of recovery into food poisoning into bad stomach flu knocking me on my ass for 5 days. But the good news, I was finally able to get caught up on Mad Men.
But now I’m back, and bearing gifts no less; everyone’s favorite Peanuts classic, Christmas Time Is Here by Vince Guaraldi. And who more bespoke for that maudlin task than Belle & Sebastian.

Belle & Sebastian – Christmas Time Is Here (Peel Session)

Merry Xmas

PS Is it me or do the goyish Charlie Brown and Linus look more like two ornery old Jackie Mason-style Jews. “So Irving, vat, vas there a forest fire? You couldn’t find us a bigger tree!?!?”

It’s My Fac-ing Birthday.

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

It’s my birthday today so I’m throwing caution to the wind and featuring a cover of one of my favorite unsung Factory Records heroes and hopelessly obscure pop groups Miaow AKA the enigmatic Cath Carroll.
During the late 70s/ early 80s Cath Carroll cut her perfect teeth by indulging in dual identities; one as guitarist/singer for several Manchester area post-punk bands before eventually settling down to Miaow. And the other as a not so mild mannered reporter under the pseudonym Myrna Minkoff penning for music rags like the NME and City Limits. Ironically it was at the latter career where she caught the attention of Factory Records‘ Tony Wilson, that is by her oft habit of berating him in print.
Ironically, in true Tony Wilson style he promptly turned around and signed her (first as Miaow, then as later as a solo artist).
But despite Wilson throwing everything but the overpriced conference table behind Cath & Co to get her to be Factory’s next best thing since Joy Division (or at the very least A Certain Ratio), and notwithstanding the fact that she would get routinely named dropped by infamous 80s/90s engineering auteur and all-around misanthrope Steve Albini, it unfortunately did little to awaken the sleepy fickle masses to her critically lauded pop. Regardless, her little trail of work for Factory, some John Peel sessions and being featured on NME‘s seminal C86 compilation pretty much laid the foundation for what would become know as ‘Indie Pop’ or ‘Twee’.
HOWEVER don’t let all this gushing about the past give you the impression she’s be languishing as some sort of forsaken footnote to a micro-genre. She is still very much alive and kicking today, living in Chicago, still penning the occasional music article and still making some brilliant pop. Be sure to check her home on the interwebs Lilypad, where you can find most of her recordings as well as a much better bio than the one I just hacked together.
On a personal note, I discovered her when I was in high school via another obscure music rag compilation, Strum + Drum. Her mysterious and bittersweet single Bellevue prompted me to track down the rest of her elsuive back catalog which I’d credit being second only to The Smiths in getting me through boarding school in one mentally intact piece.
Trumping my Cath Carroll obsession however is Teenbeat/4AD act Unrest. Besides covering today’s track, Miaow’s When It All Comes Down, they went a full step further (over the line?) by penning the stalker-ish single, ahem, Cath Carroll.

Unrest – When It All Comes Down


PS Factory Records completist nerds and those in Thee Versions Galore Facebook Fanclub and, you definitely want/need the original. You know where to look…

That’s some bad hat, Maurice…

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Jaws. Yeah yeah, we all love the shark but you know who the true star of that film really was? Quint, the surly carcharadon Ahab that basically extorts the town for 10 large so he can go on a drunken fishing trip. He reminds me of my grandfather, who was also another one of those tough WWII sonofabitches. I can only pray that when I get that older I can be half as surly as them. So far I’ve got the beard and the bad demeanor, but then that’s everyone under the age of 40 in Silver Lake.
So up from the depths I’ve pulled a rare one from electro-house eccentric Maurice Fulton (AKA Mu, Ladyvipd, et al); a far, very very far, left-field, acid tinged reworking of the main title from Jaws by John Williams.

Maurice Fulton – Jaws (Main Title)


Any Given Sunday

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Back when I was a wee young indie lad covered in music badges I remember having the most awesome Sundays Sunday, like ever, and suffice to say it doesn’t get much more nerdier than this. It started by waiting in line at Rough Trade records(SF) with my rare import copy of the Can’t Be Sure 12″ waiting to get it autographed by The Sundays while arguing with my friends about who they sounded more like; The Smiths or The Cocteau Twins. Then upon meeting Harriet, who I was madly in love with at the time,  I handed her a bouquet of flowers that I also brought with me. While she blushed (and her husband looked on in anger), I upped the indie dork factor by asking her why she signed to Rough Trade instead of 4AD. ‘It was a closer walk from our flat’ she said in low scratchy voice (she had a cold) whilst signing my record. Later that night I got to see them play live. Unfortunately the friend I was going with had to drop out, so it was just me on my own and to this day it’s the only show I ever been to by myself. They played their entire album, but because it was so early on in their career when it came time for the encores all they could do was apologize and re-play some of the songs they played earlier. Nobody cared. All of us, somewhere around 40 people tops, just kept cheering and going apeshit. Trite and sugary as this all sounds I honestly miss being a gawky nerdy indie teen. Funny enough I still have that 12″ and it sits facing outward on a nearby shelf. Some people cover themselves in tattoos to remind them of their earlier days, I have my autographed Sundays’ record. Once a dork always a dork.
So, jogging my memory today is James Figurine with a fun little techno/synth-pop rendition of Can’t Be Sure.

James Figurine – Can’t Be Sure


PS Those in the Versions Galore Facebook Fanclub who missed out on cinched baggy Levis with mock turtlenecks and Doc Martens the first time round, got the original on the wall for you…

Religious Fanatics

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Swiss/Italian duo Tinpong lock groove Rio-era Duran Duran classic New Religion into a jazzy, funked up, female nu-disco track.

Bottin Presents Tinpong – New Religion


One Easy Piece

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Despite never really penning the great American pop song, and spending much of his career as a recluse, balladeer Scott Walker still boasts an impressive musical imprint that spans more than four decades. Indeed his unique, sprawling, existential ballads have influenced the likes of David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, to contemporaries like Goldfrapp, Damon Albarn and Jarvis Cocker. His story is as a classic tragedy that could be ripped out of one of his own songs. Poised by the 60s music press as the next Beatles or Rolling Stones (with his band The Walker Brothers), he mysteriously decided to turn his back on both convention and the music biz in general. He refused interviews and would release only the occasional, but no less potent, albums. At this point I’m going to totally cop out and direct you to my good friend Stephen’s definitive Walker documentary 30th Century Man; essential viewing for either beginner or fanatic.
Not a good friend, but certainly wish he was, is electronic music auteur and modern day dream-pop/shoegaze torch bearer Ulrich Schnauss who covers Walker’s It’s Raining Today with aplomb.

Ulrich Schnauss – It’s Raining Today


PS Versions Galore Facebook Fanclub members, got the original on the wall for you.
Just an FYI: Facebook has been sucking it royally lately with a severe ‘posting’ bug, so you may need to reload or log in and out to see it.

Steady Now!

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

At the risk of becoming an audio ambulance chaser at this point, I thought I’d serve up an Aretha Franklin post. The poor Queen of Soul has been in serious bad health as of late, with people going so far as holding all night prayer vigils for her. Pull through Reethie!
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Aretha’s Rock Steady. When I lived in New York I subletted an apartment from a programmer slob (the worst kind of slob btw) named Charlie who insisted on keeping most of his crap in the apartment while he was not living there. Well long story short one day a large pipe burst and quickly proceeded flood the apartment. Within about 5 minutes the studio was under a half a foot of water, no joke. While I was able to quickly rescue a lot of my belongings whilst the super shut off the pipe, poor Charlie & the slob factory’s stuff was not. Shortly after the waters receded one of my more enlightened crate-digging friends decided to stop by. Surveying the miniature hurricane Katrina disaster that now constituted my apartment, he quietly stepped over the wreckage to Charlie’s now defunct record collection, and without saying a word he picked up the one record  in the heap that didn’t get soaked; a copy of Aretha’s Young, Gifted and Black. With a small hmmmpf-that’s interesting grin on his face he threw on Rock Steady.
‘I fucking love that track.’, he said.
‘Yeah’, I smiled, now oblivious to the surrounding carnage, ‘Not bad.’

With that I have for you a small, but sublime, collection of VG-approved covers. Leading, as always, with reggae is a cut on PAMA by The Marvels (which btw trying to find Aretha’s version of ‘Rock Steady’ in a sea of reggae/rocksteady tunes should be the very definition of A Needle In A Haystack). Old school funk and soul cuts abound from (the very rare) La-Mars, Frank Owens, Jackson Sisters, Johnny Hammond Smith, Julius Brockington and Ruby Delicious as well as some new school funk/soul from The Perceptions and a surprisingly not half bad one from Ex-En Vogue diva Dawn Robinson. And lastly for my more dance-oriented colleagues out there, a Trax Records bronze-age (1986!) house version from Dalis

The Marvels – Rock Steady
La-Mars – Rock Steady
Frank Owens – Rock Steady
Jackson Sisters – Rock Steady
Johnny Hammond Smith – Rock Steady
Julius Brockington – Rock Steady
Ruby Delicious – Rock Steady
The Perceptions – Rock Steady (Craig Charles Show Session)
Dawn Robinson – Rock Steady
Dalis – Rock Steady


PS Bonus re-edit for those in the Versions Galore Facebook Fanclub, you know where to look…