Just Played’s Festive Jangle

Every year I put together a substantial Christmas playlist which then goes everywhere around the house and on the iPod for travelling. It keeps us suitably festive for the several weeks in which listening to such merriment is considered the norm. This year’s is particularly ace. Unfortunately, I can’t share about half of it because its on charity albums, an old free band download or just not on Spotify. However, I do have a 12 track sample on Spotify for you, along with some tips for what else to go hunting for now that your mind is fully on trees, mince pies and low-level arguments.

Click HERE for JUST PLAYED’S FESTIVE JANGLE – Spotify Edit

Plus… go here and buy the two For Folk’s Sake Christmas albums, which are for charity and bloody lovely. If you have to narrow it down, get this year’s for lovely stuff from Caitlin Rose, Kathryn Williams and The Leisure Society, not to mention Paper Aeroplanes and numerous other spiffers.

Then, go here for a free and utterly beautiful version of ‘Last Christmas’ by Ohbijou which will warm even the coldest heart.

Go here to download Lucky Soul’s lovely version of ‘Lonely This Christmas’ and then here is the lovely Caitlin Rose track ‘You Never Come Home From Christmas’ (if you need you appetite whetting before shelling out for all of the For Folk’s Sake Christmas album.)

You can get a sample of the lovely Rosie Thomas Christmas album, ‘A Very Rosie Christmas’ here and then the whole thing for only $5 if you fancy a download.

Summer Camp’s well suited cover of ‘Christmas Wrapping’ is here or get hold of their mashup of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ and ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ here.

Finally, you can get the 6 Music Morning Show festive giveaways for the next few days for nowt from here.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

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25. Lucky Soul–A Coming Of Age

Best of 2010Sixties girl group pop is rightly revered by many music fans. It’s overtly saccharine, almost disarmingly chirpy and always sounds loud, no matter what volume you have it on at and yet it just makes you feel good. Just like proper pop music should. A few years ago, it looked like we were on the cusp of a whole glut of acts adopting this sound and it was genuinely rather exciting. But things seemed to fizzle out a little and of the two most promising groups, The Pipettes fizzled out and had almost as many line-up changes as the Sugababes before releasing this year’s hugely disappointing follow up, while Lucky Soul didn’t quite capture the public’s hearts in the way I had rather hoped they would. ‘One Kiss Don’t Make A Summer’, from their debut, ‘The Great Unwanted’, was a compilation perennial for me for some twelve months after it first appeared and is as joyous a slice of pop as you’re likely to hear any time soon.

lucky soul coming of age

Come their second outing, it was a relief to notice that the Sixties stomp is still there but, even more excitingly, the songs themselves are much stronger, resulting in a consistently delightful listen. First single ‘White Russian Doll’ was a fair representation of the more upbeat numbers on ‘A Coming Of Age’, opener ‘Woah Billy!’ possibly just topping it for sheer exuberance. Singer Ali Howard has an absolutely adorable voice, knowing exactly when to go through the gears and when to rein herself in. It would be grossly unfair on the four blokes who stand behind her to say that it is Howard’s voice that makes this band truly exceptional – the music more than plays its part – but her pipes make her one of my very favourite contemporary singers and her performance on this record is, at times, breathtaking.

The pop influence shares the billing with some luscious, 70s singer-songwritery sounds like ‘Warm Water’ and the euphoric swing of ‘Southern Melancholy’. Add in the full blown country work out of ‘Love³’ and the sway-a-long splendour of ‘Upon Hilly Fields’ and you have a complex collection of emphatically ‘up’ classic pop. In addition to the spangle, there are some disarmingly honest lyrics across the twelve tracks on ‘A Coming Of Age’, along with evidence of a bitingly sharp sense of humour. ‘Some say I’m schizophrenic, but I walk in single file’ remains my lyric of the year. Straddling, as they do, the worlds of indie and vintage pop, it’s no surprise that this didn’t come close to setting the charts alight, but I can’t help thinking that if more people heard these wonderful songs, the success they deserve wouldn’t be all that far behind.

April Reviews

Below can be found the latest instalment of what has become a regular feature. These are the six reviews of April releases I wrote for Clash Magazine which can be found in the print edition that should have just about hit the shelves as you read this. Some very good records in amongst this lot, including a splendid Doves career retrospective and the increasingly marvellous sounding debut from ex-Czars man, John Grant.

april jp1

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT – ‘All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu’ (UNIVERSAL)

Never one to hide his emotions previously, Rufus Wainwright offers a sparse but staggeringly heartfelt collection of songs for voice and piano, influenced, at least in part, by the long-term illness and recent passing of his mother. After the suffocating arrangements that dogged parts of his last album, the relative simplicity is welcome. While three Shakespearean sonnets set to music are successful without being showy, Wainwright saves the very best till last. Lyrically, album closer ‘Zebulon’ is endearingly direct, “my mother’s in the hospital, my sister’s at the opera, I’m in love, but let’s not talk about it,” and home to his best vocal performance to date. 8/10

I think I’ve briefly mentioned this record here before, but it’s worth restating how much of a breath of fresh air this is after the overcooked swamp of a record that was ‘Release The Stars’. New converts will not be found, but those who’ve been in love before will be in love again.

DOVES – ‘The Places Between: The Best of Doves’ (HEAVENLY / VIRGIN)

Quietly labouring away for some twelve years, Doves have amassed an outstanding catalogue of work. As a result, the deluxe edition is an essential purchase, with a second disc of b-sides, rarities and the odd album track too good to leave off. Sequenced by the band, both discs are remarkably cohesive; ‘Black And White Town’ and ‘Pounding’ nestle alongside atmospheric monster ‘The Cedar Room’ and new single ‘Andalucia’. The finest of the three new songs, ‘Blue Water’, kicks off disc two in style, deploying the same hiccupping drum pattern that served early single ‘Here It Comes’ so well. ‘The Places Between’ is a beguiling celebration of truly excellent music. 9/10

The new tracks on this make it well worth seeking out as it is, but the second disc is a tour de force in showing what Doves are really capable of. Stitching together b-sides, album tracks, session recordings and a few unreleased moments, it is a quite staggering listen and proof if it be needed that they are one of our great bands of the last ten years or so. If you have one of their previous albums on CD, click here to get £2 off the special edition.

JOHN GRANT– ‘Queen Of Denmark’ (BELLA UNION)

There’s a chugging seventies soft-rock quality to this record, giving it a warmth that’s hard to resist. The entire album’s beautifully measured musical backdrop is especially noteworthy, provided as it is by Midlake and, yes, that makes it as good as you might expect. ‘Queen Of Denmark’ is a luxurious sounding collection but what sets it apart from so many decent sounding folk-rock albums is the rich drawl of Grant’s baritone voice. Sweeping, epic ballads are his forte, but there’s something ludicrously charming about the skulking ‘Chicken Bones’, which sounds like a Scissor Sisters track played at half-speed. Odd though it seems, that’s a good thing. 7/10

An example of an album continuing to grow on me after reviewing, this one. I’d already sussed that it’s a good ‘un, but I’ve kept coming back to this and would now be tempted to budge it up to at least an 8. Nagging melodies and beautiful musicianship make this an absolute must. Simon at Bella Union reckons the vinyl edition will be something pretty special too.

april jp2

SHE & HIM – ‘Volume Two (DOUBLE SIX)

Sometimes it’s nice to find music that doesn’t require five listens before a tune emerges, to hear songs that capture a rapturous love of music and to spend the entire duration of an album grinning like an arse. Ludicrously talented pairing Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have kept everything that made their debut great and added a little more jangle and some absolutely beautiful vocal effects for this second outing. While Ward is responsible for the arrangements and production, it’s Deschanel who can take all the credit for writing these timeless, sun-kissed pop hugs. ‘In The Sun’ is the masterpiece, but you’ll keep coming back to it all. 9/10

It’s albums like this that make you rue your absolutely miniscule word count. I could have happily rhapsodised about this one for several pages – and may still do at some point. Building on the greatness of the debut, this one is meticulously produced and perfectly suited to the six days of sunshine we’ll get between now and Christmas.

LUCKY SOUL – ‘A Coming Of Age’ (RUFFA LANE)

Marrying bittersweet lyrics with unashamed killer pop hooks is a tricky business. The Smiths were masters of the art form and, while they may not sound especially alike, Lucky Soul share a similar knack for musical alchemy. Singer Ali Howard possesses an absolutely adorable voice, knowing exactly when to go through the gears and when to rein herself in, and The Smiths comparison holds up with such lyrical delights as ‘some say I’m schizophrenic, but I walk in single file’. Part pop, part soul, part country and with a sprinkle of the classic girl-group sound, Lucky Soul make music to soundtrack the good times. 8/10

If you haven’t already figured out that I love this one, then you need to do some reading. Click here for the FUTUREMUSIC piece from earlier this year.

PEARLY GATE MUSIC – ‘Pearly Gate Music’ (BELLA UNION)

Brother of Fleet Fox and fully-fledged solo artist J. Tillman, Zach Tillman opted for a more atmospheric stage name before foisting his recordings upon the listening public. The moniker serves this record well, for it’s an often gravelly, proudly lo-fi collection of beat-up folk. There’s plenty here to suggest that a few albums down the line Tillman could be responsible for something genuinely special, but even this wilfully shambolic collection has its moments. ‘I Was A River’ is a beautiful meditation on love lost while ‘Golden Funeral’ is an opening track so hymnal and atmospheric that it makes it difficult for anything else to come close. 6/10

I suspect that this one could have long-term appeal. The sort of record that after living with it for six months, it all clicks into place. There are moments of beauty to be found, even on the first play, but it’s not as consistent as most records bearing that reliable Bella Union moniker. On that note, the new album by The Acorn, ‘No Ghost’, is bloody marvellous and due in June.

2010 on the record

Song Of The Day 40: Lucky Soul – A Coming Of Age

This is the last of these for a little while and, weirdly, Popjustice beat me to it with this one. Thought I’d save this till the end of the week but, oh no, genius pop writer, Peter Robinson, has made me seem like a mere copycat.

lucky soul group

Still, this is a free download of a wonderful, wonderful song so no need to moan, eh? Click here and give them your name and email address and then you can sample the, quite magnificent, title track from their new album, out in April. If you like what you hear, why not revisit the FUTUREMUSIC 2010 feature from earlier this month by clicking here?

Futuremusic 2010: A Little Bit Of Soul

FM10LS

Sixties girl group pop is rightly revered by many music fans. It’s overtly saccharine, almost disarmingly chirpy and always sounds loud, no matter what volume you have it on at and yet it just makes you feel good. Just like proper pop music should. A few years ago, it looked like we were on the cusp of a whole glut of acts adopting this sound and it was genuinely rather exciting. But things seemed to fizzle out a little and of the two most promising groups, The Pipettes fizzled out and had almost as many line-up changes as the Sugababes, while Lucky Soul didn’t quite capture the public’s hearts in the way I had rather hoped they would. ‘One Kiss Don’t Make A Summer’, from their debut, ‘The Great Unwanted’, was a compilation perennial for me for some twelve months after if first appeared and is as joyous a slice of pop as you’re likely to hear any time soon. Come the start of April and their second album, ‘A Coming Of Age’, will be released and it’s a likely contender for the end of year lists. As a result of its release date getting pushed back a bit, I’ve been listening to this record since November and I happy to report that it is somehow both immediate and a grower.

LuckySoul

That Sixties stomp is still there but the songs themselves are much stronger, resulting in a consistently delightful listen. Recent single ‘White Russian Doll’ a fair representation of the more upbeat numbers on ‘A Coming Of Age’, opener ‘Woah Billy!’ possibly just topping it for sheer exuberance. Singer Ali Howard has an absolutely adorable voice, knowing exactly when to go through the gears and when to rein herself in. It would be grossly unfair on those four blokes above with nice hair to say that it is Howard’s voice that makes this band truly exceptional – the music more than plays its part – but her pipes make her one of my very favourite contemporary singers and her performance on this record is, at times, breathtaking.

lucky soul great unwanted

The pop influence shares the billing with some luscious, 70s singer-songwritery sounds like ‘Warm Water’ and the euphoric swing of ‘Southern Melancholy’. Add in the full blown country work out of ‘Love³’ and the sway-a-long splendour of ‘Upon Hilly Fields’ and you have a complex collection of emphatically ‘up’ classic pop.

lucky soul white russianDon’t think it’s only the music that makes this one to soundtrack the not especially sun kissed summer days. There are some disarmingly honest lyrics across the twelve tracks on ‘A Coming Of Age’, along with evidence of a bitingly sharp sense of humour. If ‘some say I’m schizophrenic, but I walk in single file’ is bettered this year, I’ll be surprised. Straddling, as they do, the worlds of indie and vintage pop, it’s hard to imagine this album sitting comfortably on the supermarket shelves alongside the usual suspects but I can’t help thinking that if more people heard these wonderful songs, the success they deserve wouldn’t be all that far behind. As it is, I’ve no idea how the album will do, but I do know that I will cherish every last note on it and if it’s not in my Top 20 list at the end of the year, feel free to call me a slightly naughty name. I’ll deserve it.

lucky soul coming of age

 

 

2010 on the record