Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Other Side

I have been (impatiently) waiting for the release of Public Service Broadcasting's latest offering ever since I heard the excellent 'Gagarin' and learned that the next album would be a concept based around the Superpowers' race for space in the 60s and 70s. I was expecting tales straight out of the library text books of my childhood, and I wasn't disappointed - Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin, Apollo 11 all feature - but the track that has taken my imagination, emotion and breath away is 'The Other Side'.

It describes the moments on Christmas Eve 1968 when the astronauts of Apollo 8 became the first humans to orbit the moon and therefore see the dark side. The point at which the craft disappears into radio silence as it traverses the other side is very powerful and second only to the euphoria of the re-emergence 45 minutes later.

Whether you like electronic music or not, this is the most powerful and emotive thing I've heard in a long while. Have a listen to it. Wear headphones, close your eyes and imagine you are there, at the vanguard of human endeavour. Imagine what's going through the minds of the astronauts and the controller on the ground in Huston, who narrates the events as they unfold.

Top stuff, Public Service Broadcasting, top stuff.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Latest Apple Ad - The Orwells: Who Needs You

When I started this blog one of the things I looked at was the music from TV adverts. Often you hear the song but at the time it was hard to track them down (even with Google). Now with Shazam it's a easier and no doubt will get easier. So adverts no longer tend to be non mainstream tracks as people can hunt them down so much easier. I'm particularly enjoying the latest tune to accompany an Apple commercial. The Orwells. With a nudge from my musical friends I've started trialing Spotify so I'm also going to check out their album. Again something that has got easier. Now what am I going to do with all that time I've saved.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Latest Discoveries from Spotify

I really wish I could easily share a Spotify playlist. I've started trawling through the 'New Music Tuesday' playlist that they publish every week, and if I find anything of interest, I put it into the 'Good New Music' playlist. I've not been at it for very long, and the playlist is currently just over an hour long.

OK - here's 'East Of Tennessee' by Beta Radio from 'Colony Of Bees', which I have to admit to not having listened to yet (the album). My feel for genres isn't very well defined, but I would liken this to Mumford & Sons - the harmonies are lovely - a bit country, but really well done. The song just ticks along really well.

'Paper Trails' by Darkside from 'Psychic'

I love this. Again - quite a downbeat track - the album (only really listened to once) is something different - mellow, instrumental in many places. I don't know what it is, but there's something about this track that reminds me of 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone' without the wah guitar.

The Killing Kind by White Fever from Beating Of Wings

It doesn't look like this has met with much public attention yet (only 178 plays on the Soundcloud site at the time of writing). This is a great tune from what would appear to be a new group with - another with just a solitary EP to their name thus far. Melodic, haunting, catchy, atmospheric. I want to say 'Echo and The Bunnymen' with a female singer,

Why Don't You Save Me? by Kan Wakan from Moving On

Very mellow (another, I know) and stripped back. This reminds me quite a lot of Portishead.

Ooh look - this track is downloadable! DOWNLOAD IT NOW.

When Will We Be Free? by Young Lions from Blue Isla (as yet unreleased)

This song gets going about a minute in - it reminds me of a few things which I can't quite bring to the front of my mind - it is much more upbeat. Maybe its a cross between Temper Trap (Sweet Disposition) and a Doves track, but I can't think which. Any suggestions?

Nowhere To Go by Hurricane Love (sadly all I can find by them at the moment)

What a fantastic track - just give it a listen.

Let Go by Coasts (again these seem to be newcomers with not much out)

Another good song. These lot remind me of Two Door Cinema Club.

That will do for now - there are others, but probably a bit more 'Mainstream' (Belle & Sebastian, Fall Out Boy, Imagine Dragons)

Comments welcome - I'd love to know if anyone else likes these?

Saturday, 17 January 2015

2014 and a few thoughts (Part II)

OK, so where was I? June? Well a couple more mentions for June I suppose.

Firstly, Kasabian - 48:13

There is a very similar story here as with Fanfarlo and Elbow. I'm a big fan of Kasabian, especially their first album. Subsequent albums have struggled to meet the standards it set, but I think that this is the best of the rest to date. However, it is one that I have listened to a good few times, but would struggle to sing you a track from. I love the cello riff on this track.

Secondly, Ian Anderson - Homo Erraticus

What to say here? I've been pursuing an interest in 'prog', but I think I'm a fairly fussy 'prog' fan. I need it to be musical. I'm also more interested in modern prog. I like the idea of concept albums, and this places a massive tick in that box. Ian Anderson (he of Jethro Tull) produced a very interesting album. I can do no better to summarise the album than to link to the Wikipedia article but basically the songs represent the tales of a man who believed he had various past (and future) lives spanning Britain through the ages. Also you can't beat a bit of jazz flute.

OK - on now to ...

October Kate Miller - Neophyte

OK I think this EP illustrates a couple of points I'd like to raise about Spotify. This was listed as a new release by Spotify, and I listened and loved it so immediately sought out more. Well it turns out that Kate Miller is a new-comer and this is all she's released. A 5-track EP. Well I wanted to do my bit to support a new starter and paid for a download of an EP. This is probably only the second EP I've bought and I'm not sure how I feel about it - on balance, I think it's a good thing - maybe EPs are all I'm up to handling now as these songs have stuck in my mind.

November Superfood - Don't Say That

For one reason or another, I was using my wife's car for a while, and heard this song on 6music a couple of times and instantly liked it - Shazam pointed me in the right direction, only for me to become frustrated because the album hadn't yet been released - well it came out eventually and proved to be worth the wait - although, I think this is probably a stand-out track.

December Haken - Restoration

What a song to end on - all 19:25 minutes of it! For me, this track alone made 2014 worthwhile musically. Haken are a contemporary prog band from London, and their last album was sublime. Anyway, I was delighted to see a new release from them, but disappointed that it was only an EP. Well the disappointment didn't last long at all when I heard the quality of the product. Heavy in places, gentle in others, bizarre even for a couple of minutes towards the end, then it all comes together in a glorious uplifting denouement. A bit of effort is required to find the time to listen, but for me, this is pretty much the holy grail of music making.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

2014 and a few thoughts (part I)

*takes key handed to him by John*
*unlocks door*
*opens door*
*looks around*

So ... this is what a blog space looks like from the inside. John has seen fit to give me access to this blog, but what to do now?

I think ostensibly the idea was for me to give a reflection on the previous year's music from my perspective, and I'll probably do that after a fashion.

I've been thinking about music a lot recently, and more specifically on how to find and to get into good new music. I may go into this in other posts, or maybe I'll go into it a little now.

Songs don't seem to be sticking in my mind like they used to. Sometimes now, I get hold of an album and have to listen to it three or four times before much of it becomes familiar. Things seem to have been going this way for some time, but it perhaps seems quite striking now. Take for instance Tom Odell - I've just looked back through my music folder to see what music was new in 2014 for me, and there's this Tom Odell folder! I have no idea what it's doing there and what it's all about! *consults with family* Actually I haven't really listened to this before - no-one knows where it's come from. Grr. I'll start again.

February - Fanfarlo - Let's Go Extinct

Right - I like Fanfarlo, a lot. Their first album was the best, the second pretty good, the third, the one in question, is OK. I had high hopes for it with it being a concept album, exploring life from the earliest origins (possibly being delivered to Earth in the form of organic compounds riding on asteroids) to the end of humanity. I have listened to the album about 5 or 6 times, I'd say, but couldn't sing you any of the songs. This one is fairly typical:

March - Elbow - The Take Of And Landing Of Everything

I loved Seldom Seen Kid, and it is one album which goes against what I have said, in that I am pretty familiar with all of it, but I have listened to it a few times, including a couple of times watching the excellent BBC production of the album with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. Anyway, that was that, this is this. I've probably listened to it 3 times and liked it - probably a return to form after a slightly disappointing (to me) build a rocket boys! BUT .. I can't sing you any of the songs from it.

May - Kongos - Lunatic

Now actually, there's a lot to say about this album. It first appeared on Spotify as a new release. I was drawn to it because I'm rather taken with the name (John Kongos did the original 'Step On' back in the 70s, a fact which amazed me as I thought the Happy Monday's version was original). Anyway, this band are the sons of this bloke - they're from South Africa. I downloaded the album from Spotify and loved it pretty much straight away, and it gets an unreserved recommendation from me. Then it disappeared! Just vanished from Spotify ... and Amazon! However, it was available to buy as an import CD, so that's what I did. It has since been released in the UK (September kind of time). One of the tunes is used as backing music on BBC adverts or something like that.

June - Hayley Bonar - Last War

There's a bit of a story here too, but I will be brief ... one arm of my quest to discover new music is to organise a communal CD - a bunch of us pick tracks to share. Well for the CD in question, we had a theme of 'Travel' and I was a bit stumped, but then heard this song playing on 6Music, and it has the word 'travelling' in the lyrics ... job's a good 'un ... as is this track, and the album.

Actually, I'm rambling on more than anyone would care to read, so I'm going to leave it there for now.

*retreats back through door*
*closes door*
*locks door*

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Schönberg's Top 10 Albums of 2014

I would like to say that, owing to overwhelming pressure from the blog-reading public, my annual top 10 albums of the year countdown returns. However, when I say 'overwhelming pressure' I mean that one person, namely John Sills, has asked that the annual long-player summary of the year be resurrected once again. So, in true Wayne's World style, this is a special one-off blog for an audience of one, if you like what you read we're at Pine Way in Aurora, Illinois, so Ladies and Gentlemen I give you.... Schönberg's top 10 albums of 2014!!!

I wrote last year that 2013 had heralded a move from CDs to digital downloads in my music collection, and that this had made me listen to more albums rather than the predicted move to single track purchases. Well, 2014 saw another media-shift in the Schönberg collection, a move from owning music to 'renting' through streaming media supplier Spotify. I spend £10 per month on Spotify's premium service, the price of one or two albums, and have access to myriad of new releases and back-catalogues. Now there is no reason to not try an album out, for fear of buying a pup, a simple download and listen in the car on the way to work will normally give me an idea of whether the album is worth pursuing more, or whether I should delete it from my phone and replace with something else. This means that I have been able to be much more adventurous with my choices this year, something that I think shows in the broadness of my top 10.

So, strap yourself in:

10. The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream

9. Johnny Marr - Playland

8. The Horrors - Luminous

7. Royal Blood - Royal Blood

6. Metronomy - Love Letters

5. Alvvays - Alvvays

4. Death from Above 1979 - The Physical World

3. Todd Terje - It's Album Time

2. Teleman - Breakfast

1. Allo' Darlin - We Come From The Same Place

So there you have it. An eclectic top 10 ranging from the indie-folk musings of Allo Darlin' through the funky club electronica of Todd Terje all the way to the down and dirty grunge rock of Death from Above 1979. I hope 2015 is as interesting and varied in a music sense as 2014 has been.

Footnote. My number one album of 2014 shows the power of Spotify. Back in 2010 I was blown away by Allo Darlin's debut album, but their 2012 follow up (Europe), save for a couple of cracking tracks, left me a bit cold. If it wasn't for the option to try out the third album without shelling out good money, I may have declined to purchase it and would therefore have been denied this beauty. I'm still not sure of whether the economics of Spotify work, or whether the smaller, independent bands get a good deal, maybe someone can educate me on this.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Candy Darling - Money

From Bristol, a meaner version of Call The Doctor. I think you'll like this.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


On June the 30th 1998, James released their Greatest Hits, The Best Of James and apart from a couple of missing tracks it was just that. The Best Of. At the time I couldn’t remember a band so due to release a singles collection, with track after track of pure gold it was no surprise that it went down such a storm and brought them in to the public consciousness more than even at their Sit Down peak.

Giving them their first chart topping album the compilation album went double platinum. Suddenly James were everywhere and everyone was discovering old gems they’d not heard before or revisiting old classics. Having just come through Britpop the nation were still loving their guitar bands and this chance to relive the Madchester scene, which came before, was not missed. Often bands release their ‘greatest hits’ when they are splitting up but not James (they’re a band, with lead singer called Tim Booth). They were still going strong and so their next album became eagerly awaited.

Millionaires was released in 1999, only a year after Best Of and actually only two years since their last studio album, Whiplash. Surely riding on the crest of this good feeling wave the band could do no wrong. Yet, for some reason the album wasn’t well received. Hitting only number two in the album charts it was a bit too poppy for some of the older fans and the newer fans didn’t latch on to the singles like they had done with the Best Of. Well apart from me. I loved the album, I played it non stop and while I did like them before Best Of (I bought Whiplash for my girlfriend at the time) it had been the compilation that had really got me in to them.

After that the band seemed to change direction, from a fans point of view they seemed to shirk their new found popular status and instead tried to earn the respect of the critics. Pleased To Meet You was a disappointing effort, charting only at position 11 and bringing them to the end of their contract and going their separate ways. I remember seeing them at this time and being disappointed, they were playing mainly new material and it wasn’t good. One fan next to me shouting “this is bollocks” and sadly I had to agree.

Since then they’ve reformed and Hey Ma, their first album after getting back together was not a bad effort. They’ve also performed live with a choir and orchestra and released a couple of mini albums but none of that gave us an indication they were about to return with an album of Le Petit Mort’s calibre. Wow. Out of nowhere, a cracking album harking back to Millionaires. Yet this time there’s something else there. I can’t work out if it’s maturity or just the confidence to be yourself that comes with age. Opener 'Walk Like You' is a clear example of this, at times complex (it’s over 7 minutes and essentially in three parts) other times it’s simplicity shines through – yes I heard him right he sings "do-be-do" as a lyric at one point.

This theme follows, unashamed to repeating a lyric James use words or lines over and over on many occasions, it can appear lazy with some bands with James it just seems laid back and catchy. Throughout the album they do this and it works. Backed up by synths that at times give the album a Pet Shop Boys feel it really is Millionaires part II.

Le Petit Mort, French of course for the small death, I’m guessing relates to the losses Tim Booth speaks of in the CD booklet. A bit more information on that at All Music, They state that the decorated skull on the cover is about the Mexican way of celebrating life. This album certainly does that. Don't preview it on iTunes, it doesn't do it any justice (I made that failing but my wife bought it me) just go ahead and order the album, you won't regret it.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Without A Car I'm A Bit Stranded

With my car breaking down recently I'm a bit stranded and as I contemplate scrapping it my heart sinks. I've only just invested in a new stereo allowing me to plug my iPhone and listen to 32GB of songs. So maybe it was perfect timing to receive The Sunshine Underground's new album on CD. Using one of those old fashioned things in my wife's car was the only way I was going to listen to any new music. It's a mixed bag as albums go, a real step away from their previous albums, certainly a long way from their first album which I particularly enjoyed. Out goes the guitars and in comes electronica. Not a big surprise as I'd already heard their new material when I saw them live. Album opener 'Start' particularly stood out live (I think they opened with it funnily enough) but I've really got hooked on the catchy 'It Is Only You' above. I just hope I don't get bored of it before I sort my car out. It will have been a month since it died tomorrow...