A Guide to Record Store Day 2012

Big names, big crowds and big spending are all set to combine once more for 2012’s Record Store Day on Saturday April 21st. With somewhere in the region of four hundred ‘exclusive’ titles being foisted on the potentially music-buying public, it’s hard to imagine anyone not finding something they might like. Provided they like vinyl, of course. But then why wouldn’t they? Last year, I spoke to a number of record shops around the UK for a piece primarily concerned with allocation of stock, the quantities produced and the effect of the day on their shops and their customers. Having proved to be one of the most read things I’ve ever written on this here site, I thought I should offer some sort of shameless follow up. So, incorporating some of the various search terms which have guided people to the site in the last few weeks, allow me to present my guide to surviving Record Store Day:

Should I make the effort to get to an independent record shop for RSD?

Without a doubt. In fact, you should make an effort to get to an independent record shop full stop. You clearly like your music if you’re loitering on a site like this and where better to get recommendations, bargains and all round musical bonhomie than your local record shop? Many of the UK’s finest indies are putting on all kinds of entertainment for the day, be it live performances, discounted regular stock or alcohol. This is a day primarily about celebrating the shops which have kept us in decent tunes for many years and will hopefully continue to do so for many more, rather than focusing on how many times you can sell catalogue titles by pressing them on 10” or tartan vinyl.

I had wanted to ask about the records being released. What should I be looking out for?

Well, unless you’re an obsessive collector of a certain band, multi-coloured vinyl reissues are best avoided. Yes, they’re labelled as ‘limited’, but don’t let that word fool you into thinking that it also means ‘essential’. £27 for a Kinks album is not what this is all about and I’d imagine you can track down a pretty decent original with that kind of money from one of the UK’s many splendid second hand vinyl shops. Check out the full list of items before you venture out next week and be absolutely certain about what you want and what you think you really need. It’s easy to get swept up in the mania in the store when the last copy of Viva Batshit’s see-through, poster-bag, first time on vinyl of a poor demo version of an old b-side special release is batting its eyelids at you, only for you to get home and realise you bought a turkey. Just ask everyone who bought the Death Cab For Cutie album sampler 7” last year. There is some great stuff out this year, but the sheer number of items is ludicrous. On the plus side, it should ensure that eBay scalpers should get shafted on plenty of records this time out.

Ah, yes. Imagine I’m a shameless music-hating, money-grabbing bastard. Is it worth my while getting my camping chairs out next week and taking a flask of bovril and a graphic novel down to my local store at 4am?

Ultimately, a few things will sell for shitloads, but there seem to be fewer GLARINGLY OBVIOUS EASY MONEY items this year, unlike the Blur, Beatles, Stones and Radiohead singles of the past. Anyone who overpays for Elbow and Marling bonus tracks, pressed on vinyl from a digital file, deserves what they’re getting in my book. Just ask any scalpers who fell for the Black Friday nonsense in November. Aping a similar event in the US, UK stores were encouraged to stock all kinds of steaming shite at super-inflated prices. Oddly enough, it didn’t sell that well. NirvanaNevermind‘ singles 10” boxset? Still, very much, available. Pink Floyd triple 7” boxset with jigsaw? Actually being sold off at a reduced price. Ludicrously marked up Lennon Imagine‘ box? You get the picture. I actually saw The Doors‘ ‘LA Woman’ 7” box, which retailed around £50, being sold off by a dealer at a record fair last week for £25. With so many titles available, there will be easy money to be made due to ridiculously limited runs on certain key items – the Gorillaz 10” picture disc springs to mind, along with the rabid Beatles fans who’ll snap up the overpriced 7” box – but you pays your money, you takes your chance with all of this stuff. Frankly, as long as the thoroughly splendid people who run our independent record shops make their money on it all, I find it hard to get too angry about it. However, when limited numbers bring out the quick-buck-brigade and leave empty-handed those tempted out for the first time in ages, it does tarnish the event a little. The scalpers will be there – the best approach is not to buy stuff from them on eBay until the price drops below what it cost in the shop.

Ok, ok. I’m not a scalper. I’m just a fan. When should I start queuing for Record Store Day?

Speaking from past experience, I was eighth (although curiously eleventh by the time the doors opened and the camping-chair-bovril-wanker chums had turned up) in the queue at Rise in Bristol last year by arriving a little after 6am. The first twenty were let in to get initial dibs and I got everything I wanted. This varies from city to city and based on access to indies. I know that Rockaboom in Leicester had early hours queues for 2010 and 2011, but the East Midlands is a barren wasteland for indie stores. There were some fairly eye-watering photos of the queue at Rough Trade East posted on Twitter last year and the message is pretty clear: if you’re after one of the really rare items, get there as early as you can. Between 5 and 6am should ensure you’re ok, but don’t hold me to that.

5am? Really?

Or, rock up at noon, pick up the odd overpriced 7”, grab some decent new music from the normal racks and catch a live performance from a band. Your choice. Remember, we’re celebrating independent record stores here, not major labels and their capacity to make money by endlessly reissuing records you already have.

Alright then, grumpy. Let me try again: what should I actually be looking out for?

Well, it depends on your taste, but Bella Union have some lovely looking stuff coming out, including a gorgeously retro Jonathan Wilson 12” featuring three covers and a belated vinyl pressing for The Czars‘ (John Grant‘s old band) final album, ‘Sorry I Made You Cry‘. Field Music are offering up two Pet Shop Boys covers, wrapped in a charming sleeve, while Richard Hawley is launching his 10” single club. The wondrous Erased Tapes folks are issuing a 10” featuring a collaboration between Olafur Arnalds and the truly brilliant Nils Frahm, entitled ‘Stare‘. It’s gorgeously sparse, floaty, electronic ambient music and well worth a listen if you’ve previously enjoyed the work of either artist. Here are some tracks to whet your appetite.

Any last tips then?

Set yourself a financial limit. It’s very easy to get lured in by limited, exclusive, one-off, today only style gubbins but far harder to find the willpower to actually play the bloody thing three months down the line. Don’t take it too seriously – there’s every chance that some of the stuff you want will have sold out by the time you get to the racks. Is it the end of the world? Probably not. Very few items were impossible to get hold of over the last few years, and many remain available today. Hot Chip and Slow Club vinyl album pressings from RSD 2010 were remainder for £7 a year later, while the Flaming Lips box from RSD 2011 can still be found in numerous shops for a £100 to this day. Remember, it’s about the places selling these items. Take them a cake, a smile and an interesting conversational nugget and you’ll have a wonderful day. But, most importantly, make sure you go back again before Record Store Day 2013. 

Turntable Tales – Or Why I Love Vinyl

The last few weeks have been a curious process of learning not how to walk again but how to walk properly. I’d developed a perfunctory, flat-footed semblance of ambulation which allowed me to shuffle from A to B without too much of an ungainly wonk and minor discomfort in my recently rearranged ankle. When I went for some physio, it took them all of thirty seconds to explain what I was doing wrong and how I could get it right. The first day I went out without crutches was euphoric, despite cobbled streets keeping me at a shuffle and the headbutting of a light in the coffee shop as I focused solely on my foot and forgot about the remainder of my body. In the time since that day, each one has been better than the last and, this week in particular, I’ve been visiting some of my preferred haunts. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that they largely specialise in the retail of vinyl records. 

When I couldn’t walk, shuffle or even attain any kind of vertical presence, it wasn’t just record shopping but also vinyl listening which went out of the window. Unable to browse the racks, retrieve the discs, dust off the records and cue up the turntable, the sizeable Expedit, crammed with all sorts of wonderful albums, would taunt me from the back of the living room. Wireless streaming of iTunes and Spotify filled the gap as best it could, but it was no substitute for the ritual which is at the heart of my enjoyment of music. This afternoon, as I listened to ‘Ceremony‘ from a recently acquired original copy of ‘Substance‘, it struck me just how much I love the actual sound of vinyl as a medium for transmitting music. Yes, I’ve said before that my return to the turntable was down to the chronically awful mastering of CDs which reached its peak in the mid-Noughties, but it’s not really that which I’m talking about here.

The sound of nascent New Order was floating out across the room, lodging itself in my head in the way I find vinyl so often does. It didn’t burst out at me so much as share the same space. I’ll pay the price of the odd bit of crackle to hear some Bert Jansch breathing between the speakers or Moby Grape pushing to the edges of the room. CD sound is still, largely anyway, pretty good, but it’s not the same. As Echo & The Bunnymen‘s ‘Lips Like Sugar‘ was playing from the ‘Crystal Days‘ boxset earlier, the sound was rich, bold and full but I could tell it wasn’t vinyl. It sounded professional and it sounded good, but it didn’t set off the same process in my brain that vinyl does. I’m willing to accept that this might, in some way at least, be due to personal experience rather than scientifically provable discrepancies between one method of playback and another. And any such emotional attachment goes back a very long way.

I hadn’t asked for it and I can’t remember where it had come from. It looked second hand and was almost certainly the sort of thing which destroyed everything it came into contact with. It was my first record player and it was given to me at the age of six, so the wall full of vinyl behind me as I type this is all my dad’s fault. It’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. It had a stacker as part of the spindle so you could line up five discs at once which would drop down automatically, one by one, as each finished. It made an awful noise, as vinyl crashed onto vinyl, but it was a fascinating and tactile experience for someone so young. This having happened in 1988, my first acquisitions included Kylie Minogue and Jive Bunny‘s many sterling megamix releases. They all came from the remaindered and ex-jukebox 7″ racks in BeWise in Newport, where such classic tracks could be added to your collection for 69p, if you didn’t fancy poorly made beige jumpers or shiny Eighties ties. I’d buy things that caught my eye, generally picking up one a week and having a fairly terrible strike rate. I have a vague memory of owning a Van Morrison and Cliff Richard duet and vague is probably the best way to keep it.

Since relocating last summer, I’m now blessed with having both an excellent independent record store and a wonderful second hand vinyl shop nearby. Thumbing the racks is one of life’s little pleasures, made all the more pleasurable by the knowledge that new stuff is getting added frequently and that, by and large, it’s all pretty decent. In many ways, the same palpable thrills that I got from swinging the rickety rack in Newport round in the late Eighties are present as I hunch over boxes of previously cherished records. Music by Emmylou Harris, Islet, Harry Nilsson, Gonjasufi, The Louvin Brothers, Michael Chapman, First Aid Kit, The Lovely Eggs, Mark Lanegan, Loudon Wainwright III and a number of others has entered this house on vinyl since the turn of the year. The combination of new and old is all part of the enjoyment, the purchasing of second vinyl rather more pleasant than rummaging through racks of scuffed, faded or cracked used CDs.

But let’s get back to that New Order record. I turned to the good lady at that point and commented that there’s something about the sound of a (well made) vinyl record which allows the sound to get inside your head. Nick Coleman, in his fantastic if terrifying account of losing the emotions surrounding music through hearing loss ‘The Train In The Night, talks of how he always associated what he listened to with architecture, the soundstage representing some sort of palpable 3D presence before him. I know what he means, and while a well-mastered CD can still be a pleasure to listen to, it’s often just there in front of you: an aural tart flaunting its wares. But, with so much of my vinyl collection, the music hovers above, around and inside me. New Order demonstrate this particularly well thanks to the nimble digits of Peter Hook producing basslines which pulse gently at my temples.

Listening to vinyl can be a frustrating experience at times, whether it’s the stubborn crackle worn into a record by equipment presumably rather similar to that which I received aged six or the dreaded and permanent blight of a skip. Tackling static isn’t always as easy as I’d like and off-centre pressings and warping can also present their own problems but they’re all things I’m willing to put up with for the emotional reward, the indescribable tingle, the very personal euphoria that a great song on a good pressing can provoke.

Why is vinyl’s popularity increasing? There are plenty of theories surrounding the need for a tactile involvement with music, the increased availability of new titles and the usual audiophile arguments, but I’d wager some of the rose-tinted, sentimental, misty-eyed waftiness I’ve detailed above has its part to play too. I’m sure I’d have found vinyl one way or another if it hadn’t been ingrained in me when I was young, but I remain incredibly glad that I was given that disc-destroying behemoth, instead of any number of gifts which might be bestowed upon a child only just starting to understand the world. I will forever remain both a fan and propagandist for vinyl, mainly because I hope that I’m not the only one who gets that familiar buzz from lowering the stylus into run-in groove and cranking up the volume. And then there’s the rhythmic and repetitive crackle of the runout groove, a firmly analogue reminder that there’s currently no music playing. And we can’t have that, can we?

20 from ‘11 so far – Part 1

I like lists. Even a brief browse of the site should make that pretty clear. As a result, read on for the first half of Just Played’s Top 20 albums from the first half of 2011. Where I’ve already reviewed the album in question, there is a link through to it, along with a listen link to Spotify and a buy link through to the marvellous Rise site, who’ll sort you out with the tunes pretty sharpish. Feel free to agree, mutter abuse or supply your own lists below. Right then…

20. Noah And The Whale – ‘Last Night On Earth’ (MERCURY)

Noah WhaleI didn’t see this coming. The debut annoyed the hell out of me and, as a result, I came late to their rather lovely, if raw, second outing, ‘The First Days Of Spring’. This is a long way from either and is a record which took some time to learn to love. However, it’s one of the feel-good indie pop records of the year to date and will sound amazing should we get much more sun. Lovely vinyl pressing comes with bonus 7” too.

“‘Last Night On Earth’, however, is the one I’ll be merrily recommending to all who’ll listen and cherry picking for my end of year compilation. Only the ruptured heart of a self-loathing blowhard could find anything to dislike about ‘Waiting For My Chance To Come’.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy

19. Wild Beasts – Smother’ (DOMINO)

Wild-Beasts-SmotherThe bold and sizeable leap from ‘Limbo, Panto’ to ‘Two Dancers’ was an impressive enough feat, but with ‘Smother’ Wild Beasts have honed their craft and perfected their sound. There’s been much talk of Talk Talk in recent pieces about the band and there’s certainly something of the Hollis sound to parts of this album but it’s far from being derivative. Slightly less wilfully and protrudingly pervy than its predecessor, ‘Smother’ possesses a layered and fluid sound and has been produced superbly. Guitar lines are contorted and extended, serving to underline emotions conveyed by the typically forthright lyrics. A gloriously musical album, if that doesn’t sound too stupid, Wild Beasts’ third outing is one which I still think has plenty to reveal, even at this stage.

Listen / Buy

18. The Leisure Society – ‘Into The Murky Water’ (FULL TIME HOBBY)

the-leisure-society-into-murky-waterThe first album resulted in Ivor Novello triumphs and bemused Five Live presenters having to interview frontman Nick Hemming, despite seeming to know nothing about him or his music. While ‘The Sleeper’ featured a number of beautifully constructed songs, it’s on ‘Into The Murky Water’ that they’ve truly blossomed. Although frequently described as folky, this is orchestrated indie pop with an arch sensibility and a raised eyebrow. I’m reminded, and I mean this as a compliment, of some of Mull Historical Society’s finer moments at times and ‘You Could Keep Me Talking’, a ludicrously catchy little tune, is a good snapshot of the album’s joyous sound.

Listen / Buy

17. Radiohead – The King Of Limbs’ (XL RECORDINGS)

KoLIt’s not perfect and it’s not their best. But, that doesn’t make it bad or, to these ears at least, a disappointment. There’s much to love here and the more I’ve played it, the more I’ve warmed to its eight tracks. Wonderful moments like ‘Little By Little’, ‘Codex’ and ‘Giving Up The Ghost’ are enduring delights which all have aspects of the familiar Radiohead approach People seem to be complaining that the band haven’t taken a massive leap forward with their sound and yet eleven years ago there were cries about them failing to do another ‘OK Computer’ and fourteen years ago there were some complaints when ‘OK Computer’ wasn’t another ‘The Bends’. Yep, the band have got familiar with a certain sound but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some wonderful songs here. Forgive the defensive tone of this comment, but I do really think there are some great songs here, some months after all the hype, and, as I said in the original review, people would benefit from switching all desire to judge and simply listening…a lot.

“Once it clicks, you’ll likely find yourself sitting there wondering what exactly it was about it that confused you in the first place. Just like walking down dark streets to find somewhere you’ve never previously been to before only to find the return journey seems much quicker and considerably less threatening, the more full plays you give ‘The King Of Limbs’, the less any of it jars or seems wilfully perverse.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy

16. Sarabeth Tucek – ‘Get Well Soon’ (SONIC CATHEDRAL)

Sarabeth Tucek Get Well SoonFollowing up a debut which was already no slouch, Sarabeth Tucek’s next step was this utterly beautiful record; a soundtrack to a number of difficult and distressing events, packaged like a late Sixties, cult singer/songwriter album of note. And that’s sort of how it sounds too. Cat Power, Callahan and Karen Dalton fans should all check in here for some wonderfully understated and finely crafted music for the soul.

“It’s the sort of album you’ll tell people about excitedly and buy for the sensitive types in your life. The album’s final lines offer a measured sense of optimism and triumph: “It just takes time, get well soon. I was once just like you, get well soon.” Many great records have been birthed out of traumatic or intense periods of an artist’s life, and to that list of fine albums can be added ‘Get Well Soon’.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy

15. The Middle East‘I Want That You Are Always Happy’ (PIAS)

I_Want_That_You_Are_Always_Happy-ArtworkThis was a complete punt, having been drawn in by the artwork and its appearance on a couple of record shops’ recommended lists. Parts of it are hauntingly lo-fi, some bits are winningly janglesome and there are occasional moments of genuinely bleak introspection. It makes for a varied and curious early listen and my first impressions were muddled. Whilst at first the fluid approach to genre and sound can make the record seem fragmented, repeated plays give it space to breathe and time to ensnare you. For me, it was a walk in the rain, with the album seeping up from the background to suddenly coalesce into something which has held my attention ever since. I haven’t yet written in detail about ‘I Want That You Are Always Happy’ because it’s so hard to categorise but I may have to work on that, as I suspect it will be higher up the list when I come to put together the more detailed end of year overview. Hugely recommended, but make sure you give it a few plays.

Listen / Buy

14. R.E.M. – ‘Collapse Into Now’ (WARNERS)

rem-collapse-into-nowIt’s not perfect and it’s not their best. But, as a long time fan of R.E.M., it was a joyous listen and it is their best since the turn of the millennium. Yes, ‘Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter’ does contain some pretty shit lyrics and, no, I don’t know why there’s that needless reprise at the end of ‘Blue’ either but there are some wonderful songs here and, for the first time in a while, their capacity to genuinely move me is back. The chorus of ‘Uberlin’ is vintage mid-paced R.E.M. while the short, sharp adrenalin burst of ‘That Someone Is You’ is close to melodic pop perfection, departing just shy of the two minute mark. ‘Walk It Back’ is the album highlight and its shuffling, understated delivery is one of Stipe’s finest recorded moments since ‘I’ve Been High’. If you want them to sound like Eighties R.E.M. then move along now and buy the ‘Lifes Rich Pageant’ reissue but if you still have time for this band then I would be very surprised to hear that you were anything other than pleased with this largely excellent record.

Listen / Buy

13. Iron & Wine – ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’ (4AD)

I&WThis album is curiously evocative of snow for me, despite sounding like it belongs in the sunshine. I was reviewing it during the ludicrously heavy snow fall of early December 2010 and, as such, I sometimes forget that this is actually a 2011 release. The cover is, clearly, ace and the music follows suit. While the gentle, lulling swoop of older material is rather less prominent now, Sam Beam’s music is never less than meticulously crafted and deeply affecting. ‘Godless Brother In Love’ and ‘Tree By The River’ are both absolute gems and just nudge several other tracks to be the highlights, but it’s a pretty close run thing. The music has smoother edges than on ‘The Shepherd’s Dog’ and the Seventies FM radio references in the early press material do make sense, but this is still clearly Iron & Wine and, by extension, tremendous.

“These ten songs ooze warmth, littered with classic rock gear changes, acoustic thrums and shuffling bass but the rhythmic schizophrenia from the last outing still remains intact. Although ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’ is yet further down the road from ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’, it is still quite distinctively Iron & Wine. That said, if early outings left you cold and wishing that there was a little more meat on the bones, then this might be the time to commit some cash for a re-evaluation.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy

12. My Morning Jacket – ‘Circuital’ (V2)

My-Morning-Jacket-CircuitalOccasionally a song is so good it can eclipse the rest of an album, somewhat. That is the case with ‘Holdin’ On To Black Metal’, a song so absolutely enormous it is impossible to hear on headphones without commencing a strutting swagger replete with the sensation that you are now eight foot tall and completely invincible. It’s a song you’ll play five times in a row, a song with a children’s choir and a song with horn stabs to which you can thrust limbs in an angular fashion. And the rest of it’s pretty special too. Opener ‘Victory Dance’ is a thundering way to begin while ‘Wonderful (The Way I Feel)’ is intimate and positive without ever bordering on being saccharine, despite its title. There’s a cracking 45rpm double vinyl pressing which is the best way to experience such a sonically pleasing record.

Listen / Buy

11. Bon Iver‘Bon Iver’ (4AD)

bon iverIt was always going to be tough to follow up critics’ choice and all rounder indie sleeper smash, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ but Justin Vernon doesn’t seem to have struggled too much, on this evidence. While I liked the debut, I grew a little tired of it due largely to the good lady’s borderline obsession with it which ensured it was playing somewhere in the house almost every day for a year. This is a leap on, with a different mood, subject matter and sonic palette. Oh, the saxophone. It’s still relatively early days for this one and I can envisage it getting plenty of plays during hazy summer evenings and slowly becoming as well-worn as its predecessor. It hangs together splendidly and I’m even inclined to forgive ‘Beth/Rest’ its excesses the more I play it. Be sure to check out the cover of ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ I mentioned previously, which appeared as a b-side to first single ‘Calgary’.

“It’s an album which sounds curiously out of time. Which is not to say it is timeless, far from it in fact. ‘Bon Iver’ sounds pointedly dated at certain moments, not least on album closer ‘Beth/Rest’, which has predictably provoked buckets of wrath for its Eighties soft-rock tones. While there are undeniably contemporary references here and there, it has the feeling of a moderately successful record of old, its beauty shining through despite the particular clothes of the time it has come from.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy


Record Store Week – RSD and then some

It’s a sunny and surprisingly mild early morning in mid-April. I’m stood on Queen’s Road in Bristol, behind nine other people in a queue which begins with three camping chairs. I’m a little disappointed that so many people have arrived before me – it’s currently 6:10am – but pleased to know I’ll be in the first twenty allowed in when the doors open at 8. I have a list in my pocket and an iPod in my bag, but they’re my backup plan in the unlikely event that  nobody wants to chat about music. Luckily, both those ahead of me and those to arrive soon after are happy to wax lyrical about, er, wax and the relative merits of both the Low and Bill Callahan back catalogues are explored in some detail. It’s now a little after seven and some exceedingly good cakes are passed down the line by the staff as the sun starts to grace us fully with its presence. Various people, or to be specific – men, nip out of the queue to peer through the glass, trying to locate their desired items ahead of opening so as to finalise their plans of attack. With the moment of truth nearly upon us, lists are clenched and muscles flexed ahead of the charge.


And, when the doors did open, it was all perfectly civilised and everyone around me seemed pretty chuffed with their hauls. This was to mark the beginning of what was to become Record Store Week, a largely improvised tour of ten record shops across the South West or thereabouts. Rise Bristol deserve an enormous amount of credit for how they organised, priced and arranged every element of Record Store Day. Having been privy to some of the discussions about where to put stock (“From a geeky perspective, make sure all of the Third Man stuff is with the White Stripes singles”) and how the morning would operate, I’m pleased to report that the experience as a customer was great. I might not be quite so chuffed if I’d got there at eight and found the enormous queue ahead of me, but it’s not like the need to be there early for the special stuff wasn’t made clear in advance. The community spirit was a delight to behold and a number of us were keeping an eye out for various things we knew others wanted. The only brief hint of tension came when I advised a fellow vinyl obsessive about the location of the Doctor Who 7” in earshot of someone rather more manic and slightly less keen on my queue-chum getting hold of this particular item. Luckily, there were two so geek meltdown was narrowly averted.

Continue reading “Record Store Week – RSD and then some”

The Just Played Verdict–Frankie & The Heartstrings ‘Hunger’

Shameless jangly indie is a good thing. A charismatic frontman with a distinctive yelp seals the deal. Now that we’ve escaped the new year’s hype wagon of gobshites with bad hair, it’s time for the pure pleasure of a debut album by one of last year’s most promising bunch of slow-burning, guitar-wielding upstarts. Imagine the Housemartins doing a cover album of Strokes singles and you’ll have some sense of what ‘Hunger’ sounds like.


The whole record oozes that raw, manic indie sound which has been one of the main forces in popular music’s alleyways and backwaters, with a brief outpouring in the mid-Nineties, for over thirty years now. Yep, it’s more music about love chased, lost and briefly enjoyed, delivered by lads in skinny black trousers. Continue reading “The Just Played Verdict–Frankie & The Heartstrings ‘Hunger’”

Uplifting News

As the HMV culling begins, with eleven branches and a Fopp having shut their doors this weekend, it’s a pleasure to be able to inform you of some rather more positive news in the world of music retail. Rise, 2010’s winner of the UK Independent Retailer of the Year award, has finally unveiled its online store and it’s none too shabby. Competitively priced, beautifully designed and with a comprehensive search option, navigating your way around it is actually a pleasant experience.

rise web1

You’ll find some startlingly good vinyl prices at the moment on numerous indie label releases from the last couple of years, along with some genuinely rare stuff at silly prices. Even more vinyl goodness is going to be listed on the site by the end of this week, so I’d keep your eyes peeled for what are some undeniably ridiculous bargains. Now, drenching Rise in hyperbole as I am, I should declare again my minor involvement in this music retailing behemoth. I’m doing some of the reviews for the site and you can already find my wordsmithery on the pages for the newies by Iron & Wine, The Decemberists and Jonny. In addition to this, you can find my sizeable review of the new album by The Low Anthem, ‘Smart Flesh’, here. The album’s great and I’m rather pleased with the review too. It’ll appear here in due course, but why not pop over and have a read. Then buy some stuff. I’m deadly serious about that. As we continue to see shops struggling to stay afloat, the old adage of ‘use it or lose it’ has never been more apt. If you want Rise to open a store near you then you’ll need it to be operating as a viable and successful business, which means supporting it however you can. Don’t read into that, by the way. I have no insider knowledge, but as their Warwick Arts Centre branch will close in the coming months due to lack of custom, it’s worth remembering that these places are few and far between. Continue reading “Uplifting News”

The Just Played Verdict: Iron & Wine ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’

Iron & Wine’s ‘Passing Afternoon’ is quite possibly one of the most delicately constructed songs ever made, containing the lyric which brought about the name of its parent album, “there are things that drift away, like our endless numbered days.” Plaintive piano keeps time as gentle guitar lines provide subtle accompaniment to Sam Beam’s beautiful vocal. Nick Hornby once described Teenage Fanclub’s superlative record ‘Songs From Northern Britain’ as “the next best comfort food you can buy if you’ve already got ‘Rubber Soul’.” To that list you could arguably add that pristine album.


Things took a curious turn with 2007’s ‘The Shepherd’s Dog’, which pushed and pulled in different directions as Beam attempted to simultaneously explore and muddy his signature sound. Whilst it broke fewer hearts than its predecessor, it pointed the way to an intriguing future. But things have been quiet since, save for the excellent odds and sods collection, ‘Around The Well’, which only served to remind the listening public of the more sparse songs of old. Continue reading “The Just Played Verdict: Iron & Wine ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’”

January Reviews–Iron & Wine, The Decemberists & Joan As Police Woman

A little late with these, but here are this month’s Clash appearances. There’s also a splendid double page piece on David Bowie’s masterwork, ‘Station To Station’, but I’ll refrain from posting it just now as you can all purchase the magazine at the moment, should you wish to read it.


IRON & WINE – ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’ (4AD)

If some voices are like Marmite – you love them or you hate them – then Sam Beam’s is like chocolate – velvety, rich and comfortingly familiar. After the broader sonic palette of ‘The Shepherd’s Dog’, this is rather more conventional fare, ‘Tree By The River’ joining the Iron & wine cannon of beautiful lullabies. Less folksy, more funky, ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’ is a rather more lively, sometimes even poppy record. Even with increased early-Seventies polish, a song like ‘Godless Brother In Love’ serves to demonstrate Beam’s majestic knack for melody, his mellifluous vocal left to drift atop twinkling harp and piano. 8/10

This one has continued to delight and captivate since I wrote this back when it was all snowy at the start of December. There is a much longer, and frankly more insightful, review of this which I’ve written for the Rise website which will be going live any day now. I’ll cross post it here in due course but take my word for it, you’ll be wanting this one. It’s less jarring than aspects of the last one could be and with flashes of the laidback beauty of ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’.

Jan reviews


There are times during this record when it’s hard not to be reminded of R.E.M. in full jangle mode. Think somewhere between ‘Green’ and ‘Out Of Time’ and you’ll not be far wrong. But who’s that in the corner? Why, it’s Peter Buck, who plays on three tracks and makes the audible link a little easier to understand. Shorn of the extravagance of ‘The Hazards Of Love’ and harking back to the relative simplicity of ‘Picaresque’, this latest offering is a finessed folk-rock record to bring a little taste of long summer evening drives to the glacial January gloom. 7/10

Again, there is an extended version of this available which also graces said record shop’s website. All in good time, all in good time. However, I think this one pretty much captures the spirit of the record. There are better Decemberists albums available and there are far stranger Decemberists albums available but, is it a worthy addition to their catalogue? Absolutely. A fabulously warm sound to this one and plenty of uplifting sing-song moments.


No difficult third album syndrome for Joan Wasser, building on the sublime and slinky soulful rock which made parts of ‘To Survive’ such a delight to hear. A deceptively textured musical backdrop is, nevertheless, left to play second fiddle to consistently remarkable vocals. Album stand-out ‘Human Condition’, all hand claps and whirling bass, is destined for discerning Sunday morning soundtracks. 7/10

I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the printed version of this one. Clearly, one of the longer reviews had fallen through at the last minute as this text (60 words – one of the small pieces down the side) has been expanded into a 100 worder by splicing new phrases in amongst mine. I think it’s fairly clear that it’s not one voice speaking! Anyway, self-promotion aside, this is a slow-burner, I suspect, and will likely sound a lot better during long summer evenings. I do wish she could keep some of the songs a little nearer three than five minutes, mind you.


No More Broken Promises. Probably.

As per usual, there are various plans afoot for new features and the like as we enter a new year. Inevitably, some of these will then break down around May. A Week With… anyone? However, one splendid development is Just Played’s imminent association with the rather splendid music shop Rise, which you can find in Cheltenham, Warwick Arts Centre (if you’re quick) and, most impressively, at their flagship store in Bristol. Their new sales website goes live any day now and I’ll be doing my bit to keep them supplied with reviews. I can’t stress how supremely marvellous the shop is and please read this link as a massive endorsement of Rise as a place from which to get your tunes. If you’re near one now, dive in quickly for some amazing vinyl bargains, the likes of which I’ve mentioned on the Just Played Twitter feed of late. As my annual festive jaunt around the country has served to reinforce, there are very few decent record shops knocking around and I truly believe that it’s essential for people like us to support them and keep them alive. I have a sneaking suspicion that you’ll like the new Rise sales website, but I’ll leave you to all make up your own minds on that one. Their favourite albums of last year can be found here.


Please keep recommending stuff via the usual methods of email or Twitter – it really does influence what gets covered and it is impossible to grow tired of trying new music. 2010 was the most consistent year of this site’s existence, with new content appearing regularly and prompting plenty of visits. Naturally, I’m keen for that to continue this year and, once again, am happy to listen to any and all suggestions for where we go from here.

The new Gorillaz album, ‘The Fall’, is my intended listening of the choice over the next day or two, and I’ll report back for the first feature of the year thereafter. Iron & Wine, The Decemberists, Joan As Police Woman, Treefight For Sunlight, Tom Williams & The Boat and the rather special new album by The Low Anthem will all get some attention in these early weeks of the year. As has now become customary, all 2011 music coverage will be tagged as part of ‘2011 On The Record’ and, by clicking on the image found below, you’ll be able to access all of the writing concerning this year as we go along. Feel free to try it out with the ‘2010 On The Record’ tag from the cloud below right if you’d like to see such magic in action. Following on from the NME’s excellent ‘Lost Albums’ issue which was more about records which might have passed people buy, and did a thoroughly good job of convincing you to go and seek them out, Just Played will be shining a light on albums which either sold bugger all to start with or which have faded from public view as time has passed. They won’t necessarily be classics nor will they completely fit the category of ‘lost’. They’ll just be good. As I said earlier, if you wish to make any suggestions for this or any other feature, say hello on Twitter for the quickest response.

Happy New Year!