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4
Nov 19

My Thoughts Big I Just Can’t Define (THE VERVE – “Bitter Sweet Symphony”)

New York London Paris Munich14 comments • 1,025 views

(Reached #2, June 1997)

One of the repeating themes in British indie music is bands hitting the rocks because the guitarist and singer can’t work together. The Smiths, The House Of Love, The Stone Roses, Suede, The Verve – for a decade some of the biggest names in British guitar rock kept flaring out like this, until the music became boring enough that it stopped being an issue (you can’t have creative differences when nobody’s doing anything creative).

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13
Oct 19

All one can do is die (CRASH TEST DUMMIES – “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”)

New York London Paris Munich2 comments • 471 views

(#2 in April 1994)

Fortune is the issue here: the blind bad luck of the song’s kid subjects, the random chance of us ever hearing about them. “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” is a fluke, but a fluke brought forth from a particular moment, the end of the alt-rock gold rush. First there were the years when major labels pushed Nirvana’s peers, rivals and sometimes elders out across the world (even I bought a lumberjack shirt). Later, alt-rock became modern rock, a settled category in the US and barely a concern elsewhere. But alongside all that were the chancers, the one-hit wonders, the unlikelies, trawled up by the industry’s tuna nets as it tried to meet MTV and radio demand. Green Jelly. Ugly Kid Joe. 4 Non Blondes. This.

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3
Oct 19

It’s A Day For Catching Sun (LOUCHIE LOU AND MICHIE ONE – “Shout”)

New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 262 views

Less Popular is an occasional series where I write about hits that didn’t get to #1. It’s made possible by the Patreon – thanks to all my patrons.

Popular’s actual coverage of the ’93 Summer Of Ragga suffers a bit from the Number Ones showing up as the nights drew in – Chaka Demus and Pliers were cosy and languid, Shaggy a bit livelier but still heavy-lidded compared to “Shout (It Out)”, ragga gone unashamedly, noisily pop.

Louchie Lou And Michie One never had another big hit on their own, and only had one at all by teaming up with Suggs, bit parts to a bit part in the Britpop story. But Britpop is where you might reach for a comparison – Louchie and Michie are the Shampoo of ragga, snotty and loud and enjoying every minute of snatched fame. The duo had previous – they had worked with the Rebel MC, whose take on British hip-hop (“Street Tuff”) had been just as delightedly inauthentic, and just as catchy.

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15
Sep 19

In These Old Familiar Rooms (THE EAGLES – “Hotel California”)

New York London Paris Munich4 comments • 551 views

(Reached #8 in May 1977)

A byword for monolithic biggitude in their homeland, The Eagles never came close to a Number One in Britain. They did a solid trade in LPs, but they’re one of those groups who kept finding a ready British audience for “Greatest Hits” albums which – technically – are nothing of the sort. Their size and fame was more rumour and maybe wish, men buying CDs in service stations and dreaming of a denim-draped land far away where soft rock ruled the desert night.

Like most big album acts, The Eagles did have a signature song, and like many signature songs, it was long and ponderous and vaguely allusive, a rebuke to the idea that pop worked best as sharp jabs of feeling. I admit it, there’s a base appeal for me in the idea of the Prestige Rock epic as a grand statement, one I’ve protested too much against sometimes. It took years – decades! – for me to admit that while “Stairway To Heaven” is stupid in a dozen different ways, none of them actually stop it being great. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is distended and lumbering, mercury mourned by lead, but maybe more poignant because of that. Could you say something similar about “Hotel California”?

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18
Apr 19

Album-A-Day #9: Nothing Of The Thresher

New York London Paris Munich2 comments • 313 views

This is a document of my album-a-day listening project. Each entry originally comes out as a tinyletter and subscribers to that get framing content and non-music miscellanea as well as the LP reviews. When a new letter goes out, the previous letter goes up here.

#56 Ray Charles – Yes Indeed!! (1958)
#57 Adina Howard – Do You Wanna Ride? (1995)
#58 Various Artists – Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental And New Age Music, 1980-1990 (2019)
#59 Solange – When I Get Home (2019)
#60 Julia Kent – Temporal (2019)
#61 Chubby Wolf – Ornitheology (2010)
#62 The Japanese House – Good At Falling (2019)

The remuneration structure of Spotify is opaque in places but the broad outlines are well known – Musicians are paid by the play, and paid by the track. Thirty seconds is the magic number – keep someone’s attention that long and you’ve earned your fraction. This structure incentivises particular behaviours – releases with a lot of short tracks, most obviously. UK Meds

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8
Apr 19

Album-A-Day #8: The Unquiet Groove

New York London Paris Munich6 comments • 324 views

This is a document of my album-a-day listening project. Each entry originally comes out as a tinyletter and subscribers to that get framing content and non-music miscellanea as well as the LP reviews. When a new letter goes out, the previous letter goes up here.

(The letter subsequent to this went out ages ago, sorry – midway through the next instalment already…)

#49 Betty Who – Betty (2019)
#50 Cherry Glazerr – Stuffed & Ready (2019)
#51 Horseface – Jaakautiset (2019)
#52 Dorothy Ashby – The Fantastic Jazz Harp Of Dorothy Ashby (1965)
#53 Kehlani – While We Wait (2019)
#54 Hank Mobley – A Caddy for Daddy (1965)
#55 Teeth Of The Sea – Wraith (2019)

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19
Mar 19

Album-A-Day #7: To The Finland Station

New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 447 views

This is a document of my album-a-day listening project. Each entry originally comes out as a tinyletter and subscribers to that get framing content and non-music miscellanea as well as the LP reviews. When a new letter goes out, the previous letter goes up here.

This instalment’s LPs:

#42 Ruusut – Ruusut (2018)
#43 Bbymutha – The Bastard Tape, Vol 1 (2018)
#44 Hama – Houmeissa (2019)
#45 Hauschka – A Different Forest (2019)
#46 Onyx Collective – Lower East Suite Parts 1-3 (2017-8)
#47 Silk Road Assassins – State Of Ruin (2019)
#48 Queen Latifah – All Hail The Queen (1989)

I listen to quite a lot of Finnish music. Why did I start doing this? I couldn’t tell you. I like Finland, certainly, its temperature, its mordancy, its taciturn people, neither overly friendly nor hostile. Perhaps it’s just a Moomin thing. I have come to very much enjoy how the Finnish language – famously knotty to learn – sounds, with all its soft vowels and sibilants. But since I don’t understand any, that might just be habit.

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5
Mar 19

Album-A-Day #6: Twilight Of The Dads

New York London Paris Munich2 comments • 423 views

This is a document of my album-a-day listening project. Each entry originally comes out as a tinyletter and subscribers to that get framing content and non-music miscellanea as well as the LP reviews. When a new letter goes out, the previous letter goes up here.

This instalment’s LPs:

#35 Sylvester – Step II (1979)
#36 Yusef Lateef – Psychicemotus (1966)
#37 James Ingram – It’s Your Night (1983)
#38 Julie London – Julie Is Her Name (1955)
#39 Isao Tomita – Kosmos (1978)
#40 Various Artists – A Day In The Life: Impressions Of Pepper (2018)
#41 Zadig The Jasp – In The Reflect Of The Sky (2018)

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15
Feb 19

Album-A-Day #5: Tarkus In Black Vinyl, Please

New York London Paris Munich2 comments • 365 views

This is a document of my album-a-day listening project. Each entry originally comes out as a tinyletter and subscribers to that get framing content and non-music miscellanea as well as the LP reviews. When a new letter goes out, the previous letter goes up here.

Here’s what I listened to for this edition:

#28: Deena Abdelwahed – Khonnar (2018)
#29: Trevor Horn – Trevor Horn Reimagines The Eighties (2019)
#30: Drebae – Babyboy (2018)
#31: Shmu – Lead Me To The Glow (2018)
#32: Nadia Struiwigh – WHRRu (2018)
#33: Busted – Half Way There (2019)
#34: Half Man Half Biscuit – No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin Hedge Cut (2018)

Let’s move through these from the abstract to the definite. One thing these listening projects have taught me is how many excellent female electronic producers there are working now. When I first listened to and read about dance music they were rare, or presented to us as rare. A novelty-hungry algorithm is better at bringing them to light than curators are – same goes for rappers, I suspect.

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3
Feb 19

Album-A-Day #4: A Postcard From Dead Charn

New York London Paris Munich2 comments • 275 views

This is a document of my album-a-day listening project. Each entry originally comes out as a tinyletter and subscribers to that get framing content and non-music miscellanea as well as the LP reviews. When a new letter goes out, the previous letter goes up here.

Here’s what I listened to for this edition:

#20 The B-52s – The B-52s (1979)
#21 Art Taylor – A.T.’s Delight (1960)
#22 Madeline Kenney – Perfect Shapes (2018)
#23 Maggie Rogers – Heard It In A Past Life (2019)
#24 James Ferraro – Four Pieces For Mirai (2018)
#25 Dawn Richard – new breed (2019)
#26 Barmy Army – The English Disease (1989)
#27 Shinichi Atobe – Heat (2018
)

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