Maxine (Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain) by Small Town Boredom

Small Town Boredom are Fraser McGowan and Colin Morrison.  Fraser is one of my best friends in the world and I don’t know anyone with a more extensive collection or knowledge of Sparklehorse.   He’s a constant support to me and is the man behind the recording and mixing of my solo ep as well.  He’s a super guy and a wonderful and under rated musician.  Small Town Boredom’s debut record ‘Autumn Might Have Hope’ is a highly under rated piece of music and the yet to be released follow up ‘Notes From The Infirmary’ is truly as good a record as I’ve heard by any Scottish artist in a very long time.  The sooner it is out and the sooner Fraser gets the credit he deserves the better.  His solo project Caught In The Wake Forever is also simply stunning.  And when you hear his solo stuff, the Sparklehorse tune that Small Town Boredom chose to cover will come as no surprise whatsoever.   ‘Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of  A Mountain’ is the title track and album closer on Mark Linkous’ last official studio record as Sparklehorse.  It’s an instrumental.  It’s dark, it’s brooding and it’s quite beautiful.  When Fraser sent me the track I had to have a chuckle to myself at his choice.  It really is the perfect track for Small Town Boredom to have chosen.   It’s about 8 minutes of ambience splattered with bleeps, clicks and static, which all add to the overall impact.  There’s something so affecting about this tune.  I’m pretty sure that no matter what,  Mark Linkous could capture beauty in a jar and put it on display for all to see.  I love this version of the track.  So please, check out Small Town Boredom here.  Once again, check out Sparklehorse here.  And please support Depression Alliance UK by downloading the track HERE.  You will also find all the other contributions to date at this page.  Enjoy.

Things That I Love Today #71

This Morning by Raymond Carver

This morning was something.  A little snow
lay on the ground.  The sun floated in a clear
blue sky.  The sea was blue, and blue-green,
as far as the eye could see.
Scarecely a ripple.  Calm.  I dressed and went
for a walk – determined not to return
until I took in what Nature had to offer.
I passed close to some old, bent over trees.
Crossed a field strewn with rocks
where snow had drifted.  Kept going
until I reached the bluff.
Where I gazed at the sea, and the sky, and
the gulls wheeling over the white beach
far below. All lovely.  All bathed in pure
cold light.  But, as usual, my thoughts
began to wander.  I had to will
myself to see what I was seeing
and nothing else.  I had to tell myself this is what
mattered, not the other (And I did see it,
for a minute or two!) For a minute or two
it crowded out the usual musings on
what was right, and what was wrong – duty,
tender memories, thoughts of death, how I should treat
with my former wife.  All the things
I hoped would go away this morning.
The stuff I live with every day.  What
I’ve trampled on i order to stay alive.
But for a minute or two I did forget
myself and everything else.  I know I did
For when I turned back I didn’t know
where I was.  Until some birds rose up
from the gnarled trees.  And flew
in the direction I needed to be going.

Saturday by Sleepingdog

It’s time for another Mark Linkous number in the tribute project, this time in the form of the quite simply stunning Chantal Acda aka Sleepingdog.  What a lot of people don’t know is that Chantal and I have started the early stages of a record together. We’re going under the moniker Nine Threads and we have a few songs that we’ve been passing to each other.  She recently took one of my ideas and turned it into a sublime little number.  It had some idea of where it wanted to go, but her voice and ideas gave it direction.  She’s a truly brilliant musician and if her new stuff is anything to go by (I’ve had a sneak preview) she is going to become very well known and very popular very quickly indeed.

Anyways, our project all kind of came together as we bonded over dEUS and our grief and sadness at the news of Mark Linkous’ death.  Unlike most people involved in this project Chantal had the pleasure of meeting Mark Linkous and I believe they too bonded over their love of horses.  So it’s very fitting that she chose such a beautiful song to cover for the project.  Taken from his debut record ‘Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot’ this song is just simply beautiful.  I cannot describe how much I love it.  So I’ve included a video of him playing it live to accompany this piece.

In the meantime, you should check out Sleepingdog here. And come along and see her in Edinburgh and Glasgow on 2nd and 3rd June when she plays the Roxy Art House and Brel respectively, with me for support.   Also, check out Sparklehorse here and download the song HERE.  Please support this important project as we try and raise money to support Depression Alliance UK.  A massive thank you to everyone who has contributed so far.  Come on people.  Buy the tunes.  Your support is appreciated.  Thanks.

Olafur Arnalds – …And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness

Olafur Arnalds had only released one full length album prior to the release of this record.  To me, that seems crazy given the volume of music he has released over the past year or so.  However, it’s true.  In real terms, this is only his second long player.  As such, I’m not going to assess this against the EPs that followed his debut record ‘Eulogy for Evolution’ but merely consider how the man has progressed since his brilliant debut propelled him into the spotlight.

It would be easy for somebody so talented at writing a classical composition to stick to what he knows best and, therefore, what he produced on his debut record.  However, Arnalds does not appear to be somebody who is willing to reproduce past glories or rest on his laurels.  He wants to explore new sounds, test how classical music can cross the divide to mainstream by using more accessible instruments and techniques.  That’s not to say that this is a massive departure in sound from his previous work, because it’s not, but there are some real subtle additions to this work, which take the record in a different direction and may well introduce Arnalds to a whole new audience in the process.  The introduction of live rock drums is the perfect example of this, at times taking the record beyond being a simple classical record and into the world where classical and mainstream collide.  Classical purists may well choke on their half time glass of champagne at this turn of events but when the drums kick in on ‘Tunglio’ the album explodes into life.  It’s a trick repeated elsewhere on the album, just to life the tempo perhaps, and it’s one that works perfectly adding a new dimension to the always wonderful piano and string arrangements.

Elsewhere, Arnalds is at his understated and simplistic best, creating piano and string lines that hook into your heart and drip through your body til all you can do is lie down and let the music take you over.  Not many musicians have the ability to write this many wonderful piano lines.  If you cannot feel emotional listening to this record, then you must be dead inside.

If creating a second album is about challenging yourself creatively and stepping out of your comfort zone, then I don’t think Arnalds achieves this simply by adding drums to this record.  Nor do I believe this was his intention.  The familiar piano motifs are all in attendance on this record.  The wonderful string arrangements are there too.  Adding the drums, for me, feels more like an attempt to attract a new audience than a deliberate attempt to change direction.  That said, what this record does do is leave me wondering what will happen next.  On the back of this, Arnalds could come back with a full orchestral/electronic explosion, or he could come back with an album of simple piano pieces of stunning beauty.  Neither would surprise me.  And on the basis of this record, both would delight me.  It really is an excellent piece of music from start to finish.  Olafur Arnalds continues to be an inspiration to me.  Filling my head with beautiful sounds and making this world a better place to be.  You can check out his work here.  DO IT and enjoy.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy And The Cairo Gang – The Wonder Show Of The World

It’s late at night.  It’s hot.  It’s sticky.  There’s a cool breeze coming in through the window.  Not much of a breeze but just enough to give the room a slight freshness, which is most welcome.  I’ve woken from a nap and I’m feeling a little groggy to be perfectly honest.  That amazing feeling you get when you wake from a nap and feel like you should wake up, but at the same time you could easily just roll over, shut your eyes and have another.  It’s not like the feeling of waking in the night.  That’s different.  This feeling is more one of confusion.  Why is it still daylight?  Why was I sleeping?  What is going on?  It’s an amazing feeling.  Even now I still feel groggy.  I feel like proper sleep will descend on me soon enough.  I decided to stick on my ipod and just enjoy the warm groggyness.  Embrace it.  I chose this album by one Will Oldham aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy to soundtrack this hot, sticky, groggy, sweaty evening.  And it’s perfect.  What a beautiful record this is.  All I really need now is a bottle of whisky and the night would be good.  Better than good. Perfect.

I’ve always been an Oldham fan.  Seeing him live at the ABC some years back now really was a pretty special night and I never fail to be impressed by his ability to produce album after album of quality songs, without ever really changing his approach to song writing.  Things might be turned up a notch or brought right down to the barest bones.  And for me, it’s when Oldham takes things down to the bare minimum that his music really shines.  This album is stunning in it’s simplistic beauty.  Sure, there are little compliments of wonderful instrumentation, gorgeous backing vocals here and there, and the odd moment of uplift.  However, for the most part, what really grabs me with this record is the quietness.  The subtle quietness.  The perfect soundtrack to a hot, sticky night.  Another perfect piece of music from one of music’s most talented songwriters.  Check out Bonnie “Prince” Billy here.  Enjoy.

Most Beautiful Widow by Kieran Naughton (Deserters Deserve Death)

You know, sometimes people make it very easy for you with a project like this and write everything that needs to be said for you.  Keiran Naughton is guitarist and singer in Deserter’s Deserve Death and also an excellent young sound engineer.  He contacted me to ask if he could be part of the tribute project and of course, there was never any doubt he could be.  This is the first Sparklehorse cover of the project and a fitting way to start.  I’ll just leave Kieran to say a bit about why he chose the song then and let you guys get on with downloading it.  I hope you do.  Remember all the money is going to Depression Alliance UK to help raise awareness of this often forgotten but alway serious disease:

Deciding on a track to cover by Sparklehorse for me was a no-brainer, this track is the one song that I always go back to every time I pick up an acoustic guitar.  The song is one I hold dearly and one I could never do justice but felt like the right thing to do.

I first heard the song when a friend of my older brother sang it to us in our kitchen, I was hooked, for my next birthday I asked for the album, it didn’t leave my Discman for a good few months, I think I was about 14.  Sparklehorse were a turning point for me and my musical taste, up until then I’d been almost exclusively into grunge and American punk music, after Sparklehorse came Radiohead and Mogwai and Godspeed -I could go on.  I stopped wearing Nirvana hoodies and ripped jeans and was more vintage T-shirts and cardigans with cords, I have a very fond memory of these times back home, it’s always summer for some reason.

I remember seeing Sparklehorse at Leeds Festival in 2001 on my own because none of my friends were interested.  I was befriended by a group of loud liverpudlians who sat down next to me, I think they took pity because I was by myself and shared their weed and cider with me.  When the band eventually came out I remember thinking how tall and scruffy Mark Linkous looked.   Years later, and a lot less intoxicated I saw them again at the Liquid Rooms on their ‘Dreamt For Light Years’ tour, the album seemed to be a return to form in my opinion, Linkous’ guitar playing really came through on it and as a album was a lot more upbeat than the previous work…..almost…..happy, well as happy as you can get with a Sparklehorse album.  But like every Sparklehorse album it’s his lyrics that got me, it’s always his lyrics.

‘Most Beautiful Widow In Town’ from the first album quickly became the swan song at the end of every mixtape/cd I made, back when people still did that.  For my version I felt I was going to have to change it somewhat as no cover could ever compare to the stripped back original.  I dunno, I wanted to make my version almost a celebration.

You may hate it and think I’ve ruined a great song, I don’t care, for me recording it was the right thing to do.

Mark Linkous rest in peace.

Many thanks to Euan for organising such a thoughtful project.

Kieran.

Please check out Deserter’s Deserve Death here.  Mark Linkous and Sparklehorse here.  And download the track HERE.

Buy Be Still This Gentle Morning NOW!!

Well it is official; The Kays Lavelle’s debut album ‘Be Still This Gentle Morning’ is now available to buy from the interweb HERE. It’s only £7 and we hope that you will support the band and buy the physical record.  Links to The Kays shop will be going up shortly on our bandcamp, myspace and facebook pages.  You should be able to buy the record direct from the Wiseblood site soon too.  In addition, you will also be able to download the record shortly from a variety of pages including bandcamp, itunes, napster, emusic and a few other online sources. The record is also available from indie record stores in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.  So yeah, whatever you like, please drop by and buy the record and support the Kays.  We greatly appreciate it.  For anyone who is interested, we have started a blog, which you can check out here.  If you can’t find the bigcartel page, there is also a link to it on the blog under the heading ‘BUY THE ALBUM’.  Please do.

And, you can read some really nice reviews of the record if you need some convincing at:

Love Shack Baby

Stereokill

Argos Barks

Enjoy.