Time for the second in an infrequent series of sonic showdowns featuring two musical bloggers armed only with their favourite mp3’s. Last timeStop me if you’ve heard this before” introduced me to the UK hiphop of Akala, badmouthed Gnarls Barkley, and opened my eyes to the delights of Morrissey to such an extent that I now rarely leave the house without my “Meat Is Murder” T-shirt. In return he indulged my obvious choice of bloggers favourite Beirut, got very excited about new UK wordsmith Scroobius Pip, and rudely nodded off during a genius piece of Carl Craig remix work.

This time around its the turn of Londoner “The Daily Growl“, who’s essential blog almost lives up to its “daily” moniker (putting my irregular musings to shame). In the past seven days alone he’s featured archive Jockey Slut Cd’s, The Early Years @ Madame Jo Jo’s, King Creosote in Archway, some gorgeous Gospel and of course no music blog worth its salt would be complete without a little Lily.

So to start its my first selection:

Stickboy

MUSIC LIKE DIRT CHOICE 1:

StickboyPills for the pain (MP3)

Buy: Stickboy @ Piccadilly Records

MLD: 18 months on from his 2004 3” Demo CD “Odd Little Moments” and Stickboy continues to release gems like this on a frighteningly regular basis. Like Badly Drawn Boy before he became leaden, over 30 tracks have emerged from Craig Edmondson’s Manchester lair, each one a beguiling mix of pop, folk, and Indie. Some serious cutting will be needed for the debut Stickboy album, as I believe triple Lp’s are frowned on these days.

Laughing at the lines on the old man’s face, and the sorrow that’s buried inside, if only he knew his life was over, the day that his true love died
“Pills for the pain” may just be his best yet. Its not exactly cheery stuff, but if it ever gets a full release it should come with a “May Induce Goosebumps” warning sticker. This needs to be heard by more than just a few Myspacer’s. Craig sounds more like Dylan than ever (but don’t let you put you off), and it grabs the heartstrings early on before drums kick in midway to mark a much fuller sound.

Right at the death a magical loop of what sounds like an accordion floats into the mix, stealing the show, before frustratingly fading out almost as soon as its arrived. “Pills” demands the touch of a Fourtet or Theo Parrish to stretch out the accordion loop, strip the track down to its Sunday best only to rebuild it as a Balearic, chill out, Café Del Mar style monster! That’s not to say it isn’t already a classic.

Get over to Piccadilly records to buy his new sublime 11 track CD while you still can (including the wonderful “Green Eyes”), although I missed one of his limited releases before and he was kind enough to send me a cd-r 🙂 but perhaps I shouldn’t encourage that!

Growl: Singer songwriters. Are there too many of them these days? Sometimes it seems like there are. I guess that we pay our money and we take our choice. There’s enough out there to keep everyone happy and tickle the parts others don’t reach.

Stickboy? Well, here’s another, and on the strength of this song, Stickboy (aka Craig Edmondson) is pretty good. I like the mournful countryish sound which sits nicely with the sad lyrics. It’s also got a pleasing lo-fi aesthetic, and it’s definitely recommended. But is there anything which stands out and makes it totally essential? Not sure.

But then again, you could probably argue the same point for artists that I’ve been pushing on my blog, like Emmy the Great and M. Craft. I love them, but they may well be only talented singer-songwriters in a sea of other talented people. Only a few will rise to fame and fortune, but that doesn’t mean that they’re the best.

Emmys great

DAILY GROWL CHOICE 1:

Emmy The GreatSecret Circus (MP3)

Buy: Secret Circus

Growl: Anyone who had read my blog over the past few months will know how keen I am on Emmy the Great, a Hong Kong-born north Londoner, whose grandiose name belies her slight stature. I’ve seen her three time this year so far, and each time it’s been a short but delightful set of acoustic songs. She has a fine way with words and a tune, has a good voice and is a confident and assured performer. She does dramatic tales, wistful narratives, and gorgeous folk-pop melodies.

She’s only released one 7 inch single, and this is the A-side. It’s not even her best song either. After hearing it solo acoustic, it’s a bit of a surprise to hear the other instruments – the mournful violin, the slowly building drumming, and brass, then the fade away to the gently picked guitar and hushed vocals. It’s a slightly different song, but still quite lovely.

MLD: The mp3 blog is a mixed blessing… its opened up more music than ever before, but I just don’t have the time to take it all in. The end result, if I don’t like something the first time it disappears into the mp3 pit perhaps only ever to emerge again on shuffle. Two of the Growls selections didn’t grab me at all on first listen, including this, and in all probability that would have been that – Emmy may have gone to mp3 heaven.

Thank god then that I had to listen again in order to say something more eloquent than meh! Somewhere around listen four or five something clicked and now the only debate is if I prefer the demo acoustic or this the released “band” version. The instrumentation is a treat from the lovely plucked sound on “it only hurts”, soft bells, the mournful violins, subtle guitar, and that’s just the first two minutes. At about 2′ 09 the track takes off with blasts of a repeated treated horn blast (I cant describe the instrument, any better descriptions gladly accepted :S), the military drum builds and builds, much deeper brass takes over, and Emmy’s voice soars, only to subside as suddenly – leaving you wanting more – into a lovely acoustic ending.

On this form the circus may be secret, but Emmy won’t be for much longer.

One-sided delight

MUSIC LIKE DIRT CHOICE 2:

BrubekkEarthshaker (MP3)

MLD: To any one who may have seen a gangly bloke dancing around his back garden last weekend… don’t worry it wasn’t Peter Crouch practising his goal celebrations… its just the combination of summer sun, and the Earthshaker effect on me.

It may be true to say that anyone can make a mash up or “Bastard Pop” tune. A basic home PC will fuse together two disparate elements into one harmonious whole, or at least that’s the theory. Sadly most end up mixing together about as well as Mills & McCartney. A select few however like Richard X or in this case the Gamm boys are 100% Paul & Linda – two combined into inseparable one.

Each Gamm release is eagerly awaited, and this is another goodie. Take one part of Jeru The Damaja’s hip hop anthem “Ya Playin’ Yaself” – stir in a few extra rhymes from Dr Dre, Snoop, The Beatnuts & Big Pun – and then play it over the top of John Gregory’s rare groove classic “Earthshaker”. The result is glorious – not a shoe horn in sight – the brass section soars, horns blast out your speakers, and on top the rappers sound as if they’re performing live to a big band backing. To label this as just a Mash-up doesn’t do it any justice at all.

Growl:
This is just the thing to re-ignite my interest in hip-hop. I used to have serious backpacker tendencies back in the day, but of late I seem to have reverted to my indie default. This however, is the business! There are big names on this record (like Dre), which often is a bad thing, but here it works so well. Nice slow buildup. Slick delivery. Then come the horns, and by the end the whole mix of beats, brass, vox and Hammond turn this into a bit of a monster. There are a couple of dodgy bits: the gangsta-isms are still there (“my bitch got the meanest ass”) and the big-name rappers trying to convince us that they’ve “still got love for the streets” (yeah right), but this is exactly what hip-hip should be – funky, fun and genuinely butt-shaking. It put a swagger in this white boy’s step as he walked along the empty platform at Lambeth North station the other day. And as fellow Scottish white boy Bobby Gillespie might say: “it’s pure soul, man”. Earthshaker indeed.

bOARDS oF CANADA

DAILY GROWL CHOICE 2:

Boards Of CanadaDayvan Cowboy (MP3) / (Mov)

Buy: Boards Of Canada

Growl: Somehow I didn’t really notice this tune on the Boards’ album The Campfire Headphase last year, but I don’t really know how. It fits into the classic BOC formula, but there’s something extra special about it. Maybe the warm fuzzy guitar sounds at the start. Maybe the different lovely melodies that weave their way throughout the track. Maybe the layered electronic soundscapes. Maybe the whole combination – there’s so many elements to this song, and together they’re quite brilliant.

MLD: Have commercials ruined ambient music… discuss? “Dayvan Cowboy” is another electronic masterpiece from the ambient dons BOC, yet I find most of it unlistenable. I’m not sure if it has actually been used in an advert, or if this is just the kind of tune so ubiquitous in the world of 30something hoxton promo producers that it just sounds like it has? The end result through is that throughout the opening 2 minute brooding guitar refrain, mentally I’m seeing sped up images of people rushing about their business, mixed with dramatic shots of the planet… building up to one of those deep booming advert voices intoning something along the lines of “Barclaycard…?because you’re amazing!”.??
Thankfully at about 2′ 06 a more relaxed strum of guitar changes the mood, and this coupled with dramatic drums and an absolutely beautiful swirling orchestral motif saves the tune from advert hell. It makes even more sense as a track when watched with visuals (Mov/ipod/windows downloads here). Apparently its the very first BOC promo video and it fits the track perfectly using archive footage from Joseph Kittinger’s breathtaking 1960 skydive from just outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
My favourite BOC track is actually strictly speaking not by them but a remix they did of Cloudeads “Dead Dogs Two”. Its phenomenal… try to imagine what the Beatles would have sounded like if Lennon & McCartney had got into Hip Hop as well as tape loops and you’re somewhere close. Odd Nosdam from Cloudead remixes Dayvan Cowboy on the recent “Trans Canada Highway EP” from which this is taken but sadly he doesn’t return the favour creating a fairly dull unadventurous mix, that fades in and out of silence for no particular reason or effect. A chance missed.

Woman

MUSIC LIKE DIRT CHOICE 3:

WolfmotherWoman (Avalanches Millstream Remix) (MP3)

Buy: Wolfmother

Video: Original version (YouTube)

MLD: My neighbour enquired what the hell I was listening to, while a Wolfmother fan at work made the same face I make eating olives when I played it to them on my ipod for what I thought would be their listening pleasure… but what the hell do they know… this is fantastic!

Its a joy to have the Avalanches back even if its just for a remix or two (next album please!), and they throw every one of their trademark tricks right into this mix. Old school hip hop breaks, sampled toy pianos, reversed chipmunk vocals, zeppelin style guitar stabs – all here in one massive audio soup. Snatches of the Robert Plant impersonators voice are kept, but put through the mangler, chopped, spliced, & diced.

The Avalanches may not do anything very groundbreaking, but everything they do seems precisely programmed to induce a massive cheek to cheek grin on anyone who listens. I heard the original for the first time the other day, and can safely say that at a conservative estimate this is around 4000% times better!

Growl: Oh Avalanches! Why do you tempt us so? It’s been six years since Since I Left You. Every so often, you toss out a remix to keep us reminded of how good you are. A couple of years back it was The Concretes getting the treatment. This year it’s fellow-Aussie rockers Wolfmother turn to get the Avalanches rub-down. And what a result!

Australia’s finest prove that it’s not only possible to polish a turd, it’s possible to make it into a glowing gem! Well, maybe that’s being a bit harsh. OK, the original has a fine riff and some good rock vocals, but it’s a bit of a plodder. So the Avalanches remove most traces of geetar, restricting it to regular stabs of noise, fitting in perfectly with their funky breakbeat and great little piano riff. Suddenly it’s transformed into a song for the beach rather than the moshpit. Which being summer, is a good thing.

Its time to come together

DAILY GROWL CHOICE 3:

CelebrationDiamonds (MP3)

More info and “Stars (MP3)” over on The Daily Growl.

Buy: Celebration

Growl: From an album that may take a while to fully appreciate, this track is one of the more immediate. That’s not to say it’s pop, but there’s something about this theatrical funereal waltz, with its soaring vocals and haunting organ sounds, that totally grabbed me and worked its way into my head.

I can imagine it being performed in a dark old music hall, and if you’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing the Celebration live experience, you’ll know that would be something special.

MLD:
“Christ… this track is really irritating and over blown” were my thoughts when first downloaded. How can I possibly review it without being offensive to the person who suggested it?
“Dear Growl… have you ever had a hearing test???”

What’s that… their main instrument is something called a guitorgan, a hybrid organ / guitar… right you’re just taking the piss now!

Again however I have to bow to the Growl’s sound judgement, “Diamonds” slowly sucked me in, but it was listening to album closer “Stars” that finally convinced. Where Diamonds is moody, funereal of pace and ultimately uneasy but rewarding listening, “Stars” is upbeat and celebratory. “Stars” also has a fantastic instrumental breakdown 4 minutes in with a mesmeric electronic pulse, and madcap percussion. Its the sort of thing that I can imagine being amazing live, in fact according to Growl its only live that they can be properly appreciated.
Anyway apologies for reviewing the wrong track, now I must dash I’m off to buy one of those Guitorgan things.