In a change from my usual programming, here is a podcast episode about music (and the power of the mixtape).
To paraphrase the narrator:
I don’t want to sound too grand, but there is a power of mixtapes when you put them together a certain way– the power of music, even. Or at least the power that we believe it has. That it can confess devotion on our behalf, even in the form of an exploded puzzle. Even the most casual mixtape– or playlist these days– that you make for a friend, you’re saying, this is what I like. Or a lot of times, this is what I’m feeling right now. In a way, you’re saying, this is who I am.
Songs gathered together like that are a kind of parlance, a language. The words are someone else’s, but they’re also our own. So that’s what’s coming up on today’s episode, kind of a mixtape of its own, because we have a crush on you, and because the particular songs in this show tell you a surprising amount about the people listening to them. We can’t wait to play them for you.
This one caught me off guard. Wairunga is a sumptuous 1 hour live album that has come out of nowhere. Better yet, it is accompanied by a film of the recording, which takes you right there to their secret little concert.
The album is named after the location that the tracks were recorded. It is a little town on the New Zealand’s East coast that appears to have one road, but is a regular retreat for the band. For this recording they set up shop on a grass tennis court, and got to work. As they play, the weather starts to come in around them – they plough on and it feels like the elements of Wairunga leave their mark on the recording. It feels right that they credit it in the name.
This is utter alchemy from everyone’s favourite Kiwi seven-piece.
Whipping you back to 2010 for Jai Paul’s edit of Emiliana Torrini’s Jungle Drum. He takes the original and blesses it with his warm electronic goodness.
I have written about Jai Paul before, so let’s focus on Emiliana. She is a Icelandic singer-songwriter who specialises on wistful folk. If you are a fan of Bjork or Laura Marling then she is definitely worth checking out. You can pick up the same melancholic fisherman’s wife thread running through their work. Me & Armini is my pick, and is the third of her six albums.
Throwing it back to 2005 for some indie-rock goodness. Editors bring that broody, angsty vibe that sometimes makes so much sense. Lights, Munich, All Sparks, Someone Says, all very good. Having said that, the album is way too long. Swerve the slower balad-like efforts unless you really have nothing better to do.
All the way back to the 1998 Mercury Music Prize winner for this Sunday’s listen. Gomez are a 5-piece band hailing from Southport (the North West’s eleventh most populous settlement in the North West for those of you who were wondering). Their music sits somewhere between blues, indie and rock. Anyway, it’s a classic, and if you don’t know, then at least check out tracks #1 and #2. Classics.
Heavy Beach House vibes coming at you this Sunday from Swedish band I Break Horses. Some intense shoe gaze combined with synth pop and mysterious female vocals. Even a touch of atmospheric organ. It’s a strong formula. And in The Prophet, I Break Horses are bringing it to the max. Feel it.
Something a little different for you to dive into today. Song Exploder is a podcast that gets artists to open up about a track they have made. It goes deep on why and how they made it. It will honestly add a whole new layer of appreciation to some of your top tracks and artists.
At the time of writing there are 194 episodes, each at about 20 minutes in length, so plenty to choose from. Scroll through to find your favourites, including: Phantogram, Fleetwood Mac, Tame Impala, Robyn, Bon Iver, Little Gradgon, Gorrilaz, Bonobo, DJ Shadow, Mobb Deep, and whole load of others. The best I’ve listened to so far was Caribou, explaining both the message behind Home, and the techniques he employed in the production.
You can subscribe via your favourite Podcast provider here. Shout out to Ollie Lyth for the recommendation.
The last real proper gig I went to was on the 14th March, to see these guys, and it was fucking awesome. (God I miss it so much). Since then Diva and Alex have been busy, and last week they came out with their second full album, Hyper Romance.
Since Melt Away a lot has changed. They have moved from London to Bristol. Gone are the masks and the alter egos – in comes stripped-back intimate honesty. Gone is the electro-pop sound they became known for – in comes a grungy style that occasionally borders on shoe-gaze. They built up their new sound in their basement studio, using cheap amps and distortion pedals. If nothing else, the album is a showcase of their enormous potential as a duo. Plenty of promise to keep developing and growing.
But are they living up to this potential in Hyper Romance? There are some notable highlights – Metal Violets and Burning Hour are up there with my favourite JD tracks – but in general I think the release falls short on spark. The creativity and originality of their former releases aren’t quite hit with the same regularity. Granted I’ve set them a high bar, but hey, I think they are good enough. Looking forward to the next one. Also I hope they don’t read this because I would like to be their friend.
Notable mention to the title track Hyper Romance which samples the 1984 documentary Streetwise (about homeless kids in Seattle) in a subtly beautiful and incredibly emotional way. Definitely worth a listen.
Put simply, Sylvan Esso are the band we all need right now. Let them take you to your happy place with their hotly anticipated third album Free Love which dropped on Friday. Ferris Wheel, Frequency, Free and Rooftop Dancing were all released before, but my pick is Numb (and Frequency is also bit nice).
To present the release they hosted a virtual album launch. It is full of live performances, behind the scenes content, bits of art, and little previews of things to come on the album. Also a sensationally dodgy DJ mix by one of their mates. But anyway, all wholesome. All lovable.