A Week With… 5. Lawrence Arabia – Chant Darling


I’ve never had a problem with artists wearing their influences on their sleeves. Provided they’ve come up with something new and exciting, I don’t really care if part of that sound harks back a little to the work of The Beatles or Beach Boys. Those acts don’t have a copyright on ‘ooooh-ooooh’ harmonies and falsetto choruses.

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All of which is rather lucky, as ‘Chant Master’ flags up those very influences on a number of occasions. James Milne, the rather more successfully Google-able real name of ‘Lawrence Arabia’, clearly takes his songwriting very seriously and has crafted ten beautiful pieces of music. Melody and harmony come before everything else, and if you like your guitar music to have a perfect mix of jangle and wistful reminiscence then you will find much to love about ‘Chant Darling’.

Apple Pie Bed’ has a swooping falsetto chorus that will lay siege to your every waking moment, while ‘Fine Old Friends’ has a ridiculously huge guitar line which is near impossible to air guitar along too satisfactorily, but you’ll try anyway. The Sixites and early-Seventies sounds are fairly prominent, ranging for classic upbeat indie-pop through the more soulful sound of ‘I’ve Smoked Too Much’ and on into the more intricately layered textures of ‘The Beautiful Young Crew’ and yet the whole thing holds together perfectly, coasting along on a wave of irresistible exuberance.

Whether you like your melodies sweet and honed a la Neil Finn or rough around the edges and careering along with rare aplomb in a similar fashion to Jens Lekman or Sondre Lerche, it’s hard to imagine you not being pretty satisfied with the ten little gems on offer her. Bella Union are fast becoming invincible and I’m almost at the stage now where the fact that an album’s coming out on that label means I’ll buy it. Along with ‘Chant Darling’, they’ve already released the gorgeous Laura Veirs record, ‘July Flame’ and Beach House’s genuinely rather special, ‘Teen Dream’, this year, with Midlake’s new one about to enter the world. The Kissaway Trail’s new record, ‘Sleep Mountain’, follows in March and fans of Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral’ can start getting excited about that one now. It used to be Secretly Canadian who I may as well have had a standing order with, but I can feel my loyalties shifting. Buy all the others I mentioned too, but start with ‘Chant Darling’; it’s a heartening and joyous record, perfectly designed as a lullaby to help you sleep off the rest of this biting winter.

(A free download of the aforementioned ‘The Beautiful Young Crew’ is available from the Bella Union site here)

2010 on the record

Song Of The Day 25: Beth Orton – Live As You Dream

Quite why Beth Orton isn’t at least a bit more famous than she is, is beyond me. Her debut album, ‘Trailer Park’, landed right in the midst of the Britpop/Electronica scene to which it was ideally suited and yet it never quite took off. The follow-up, the elegant and really rather well-structured ‘Central Reservation’, which leant more towards the folk influence than the electronic sounds that had been so well combined on the debut, contains some of her best work but still it only sold, well, reasonably. By the time ‘Daybreaker’ appeared, it appeared to only be playing to the previously converted. The delicious ‘Comfort Of Strangers’, as charmingly basic and organic a sounding as I’ve heard in a long, long time, was a thoroughly endearing left-turn and an effective ‘I’m never going to sell millions so I’ll do exactly what I want’ kind of gesture and it remains one of my favourite albums, hence its recent showing in 40 From The Noughties.

Here’s one of her jauntier numbers from her debut, as it’s the weekend and all that. If she’s an artist you’ve never spent much time with, click here to explore her catalogue on Spotify or you could even take a punt on her very reasonably priced back catalogue from your local music emporium. You’ll not be disappointed.

Song Of The Day 24: Kris Drever – Honk Toot

I’ve just put to bed my review of his splendid new album, ‘Mark The Hard Earth’, and my thoughts returned to one of the standout moments from his debut. It was one of the Reveal Records releases that I simply bought on trust because I loved the now defunct shop and knew that if Tom Rose, formerly shop owner and now label boss, liked it then I probably would too. I wasn’t disappointed. This is folk music with blood pulsing through the veins. It’s 21st century music that happens to use traditional sounds rather than traditional music trying to sound contemporary. This particular track is a force of nature and never fails to stun. No YouTube options for this one, so it’s Spotify or you can always attempt more nefarious ways to hear it, if you wish. Click the image below to be able to play it.


Song Of The Day 23: Trashcan Sinatras – How Can I Apply…?

Sometimes you just need one of the most beautiful songs ever written to give you a little pick-me-up. It’s time like that I turn to this. Ludicrously underrated and yet crafters of some of the finest pop songs ever written, let this be the moment when the Trashcans melt your heart.

For some reason, the audio on the video of the studio version of this song is screwed unless you go direct to the following link. So, splendid as this live version is, you might want to click here.

Song Of The Day 22: She & Him – In The Sun

One of 2008’s finest albums, ‘Volume One’ by She & Him, arrived in my world a few weeks from the end of that particular year and yet it charmed the proverbial musical pants off me. I remember bunging the disc in the car CD player as set out from the shopping centre car park and five minutes later I was wondering how I had gone this long without giving that record any attention. It soon became a firm favourite, deserving with hindsight to have been much higher in the end of year list, and ‘Volume One’ made a very respectable showing in 40 From The Noughties at Number 21.

The magical pairing of Zooey Deschanel (She) and M. Ward (Him) has been reunited for what I’m hoping will be a fitting companion to that wonderful debut, cunningly entitled ‘Volume Two’. It’ll be arriving in the UK at the start of April, but consider your appetite sufficiently whetted by this teaser track, ‘In The Sun’, which was offered up for download briefly by those Pitchfork types, but which you’ll like be able to acquire with a cursory search of music blogs. While you do that, stream the audio from YouTube below. Classic song writing to make you smile. You’ll love it.

A Week With… Number Four

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Slightly later than normal, and a bit of a cop-out, this is the original text of my review of this wonderful album which appeared in a slightly edited form (and with its score dropped by 1) in the latest issue of Clash.  As it hasn’t appeared on their site today, I thought I’d post it up here as I did spent much of last week listening to this particular record. It truly is a great record and, as I suggest in the piece, one of their very finest releases. Anyway, over to me.


As the slightly discordant trumpet weaves sleazily across the opening bars of the title track, it could be 1995 all over again. The arrestingly claustrophobic world of the band’s early albums was, for many, a potent protective layer against the slightly shit world outside. The rejigged line up that emerged in 2008 offered up ‘The Hungry Saw’, an excellent record but one which represented a slightly tentative regeneration. ‘Falling Down A Mountain’ marks the return of a bolder spirit and, as a result, there is another truly great Tindersticks album to add to your collection.

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While ‘Harmony Around My Table’ is the closest relation to that last record, ‘Keep You Beautiful’ mines the languid, soulful side of the ‘Sticks’ output and with ‘Peanuts’ their reputation for perfectly executed and utterly beguiling duets is once again kept intact.

“She rode me like a train, like a hurtling, steaming train” sings frontman Stuart Staples during the gallopingly randy ‘She Rode Me Down’, one of the album’s numerous highlights. Two instrumentals in only ten tracks is pushing it a bit, but album closer, ‘Piano Music’, is the better of the two, resolutely disobeying its title and demonstrating how strings in rock music are meant to work.

Not that Tindersticks have ever needed any help in evoking those difficult feelings. Few bands can convey aching sadness with such beauty and ‘Factory Girls’ is not only the album’s finest example of this but also one of the best songs that they have ever released. Plaintive piano underlines the sorrow at the heart of the message, “it’s the wine that makes me sad, not the love I never had.” It is an alarmingly raw song and if it doesn’t stir something inside you then you have a cold, cold heart.


2010 on the record

Song Of The Day 21: Maps – Die Happy, Die Smiling

Regular readers will be well aware of my love affair with all things Maps. It would be fair to say that I ensured that nobody was in any doubt about how great the recent album ‘Turning The Mind’ is or when it was available to purchase. It’s fair to say that it didn’t exactly set the chart alight, but I’d hope it’s done well enough to keep James Chapman making splendid music under the Maps moniker for some time to come.

Doing my usual Sunday perusal of newly released downloads, I stumbled across this single release, despite having no idea that it was actually coming out. Some of the obligatory remixes are of little interest to most, but I would recommend seeking out the remix by A Place To Bury Strangers which recasts it as a speedy rock track. It’s surprisingly successful.

Still, none of these remixes can eclipse the majesty of the original track which is one of my favourites on what is a wonderfully strong album. I can’t imagine anyone reading this now has still not heard some music by Maps, but it certainly does no harm to remind people of these great tunes from time to time. You can YouTube below, purchase downloads here or listen to the album here. (Old FUTUREMUSIC feature here)

Song Of The Day 20: Tom Williams & The Boat – Concentrate

Regular readers of this particular corner of the internet will remember the first batch of FUTUREMUSIC features from last year. A week or so before the next run begins, it’s a pleasure to report that one of the Class of 2009 is about to take the next step.

Last summer, I was raving about the vast number of quaintly rough around the edges indie-folk tunes Mr Williams and his seafaring vessel has already foisted upon the word and it is one of those aforementioned tracks that has been re-tooled in order to launch him properly into the nation’s collective ears. On March 8th Unlabel, along with his original home – Wire Boat Recordings, will put out ‘Concentrate’ as a digital download and 7” vinyl. It’s now a little muddier and a bit more guitars with attitude than it was originally. It’s a bit weird hearing it after playing the early version so many times, but it’s still a wonderful, catchy slice of indie pop and a track I can wholeheartedly recommend. I suspect the album will be something special when it arrives towards the summer. Give it a few plays and little bits will start to stick, not least the line “Fifty-something balding racist.” Just Played will endeavour to have a word with Tom closer to the release of the single, just to whet your appetite a little further.

Song Of The Day 19: Pet Shop Boys – You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk

Tonight, ITV1 will be showing ‘BRITs Hits 30’, a compilation of some of the more memorable performances from past BRIT award shows. In what can only be considered an act of casting genius, the person overseeing proceedings will be Mel B! Was Myleene Klass busy? Was Jeff Brazier detained by a particularly tricky wordsearch? Still, in amongst the inevitable detritus we’ll be able to see the gloriously camp performance of ‘Go West’ by the Pet Shop Boys. It often surprises people that I’m a big fan of the PSBs, but I can’t even begin to see why people wouldn’t love them. Intelligent, hooky pop which makes you smile like an absolute tit. Their Christmas single was absolute genius (‘Bing Crosby!’) and I am genuinely looking forward to their 95th live DVD, ‘Pandemonium’, which comes in out in a few weeks.

Picking ‘Go West’ would have been too easy. So, instead, I thought I’d go with one of their less well known gems. Although it was released as a single, ‘Drunk’, as it came to be known, is housed on the not especially well regarded ‘Nightlife’ album. A beautiful, understated (not exactly a word you would expect in a piece about these two) little tune, it still manages to be remarkably catchy without going for all out bombast or an easy to chant chorus. YouTube embedding appears to have been banned so you can click here for that or click the slightly grainy, really rather small image below to play it via Spotify. Either way, enjoy. Speaking of enjoyment, it might be worth recording tonight’s show and then skipping the vast majority of it.


Song Of The Day 18: These New Puritans – We Want War

No glib introduction for this one. No merry little summary of this or its parent record. Taken from a truly unique album, ‘Hidden’, ‘We Want War’ is an absolute beast of a tune. I was all about to launch into my ‘most menacingly claustrophobic record since Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’’ but then I put that into Google and realised that pretty much ever other person who has written about ‘Hidden’ has said that. So, in an attempt to be original, I’m going to say that this is considerably less cheery than a Michael Bublé record. It’s also considerably less shit than a Michael Bublé record. Hmm. Bugger it. It’s the most menacingly claustrophobic record I’ve heard since Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’. The whole album is startling and I would imagine that it will play a fairly sizeable part in soundtracking this year for me.

Or, why not listen to the whole album here.