Soundtrack to February

Album of the Month 

Album cover is an abstract painting with black, yellow and pink shapes hovering above what looks like a green sky and green and blue landscape below

Tanya Donelly, Swan Song Series (2016)

This three-CD set brings together all the Swan Song series releases. In style, I’d say the music is a combination of the more poppy Lovesongs for Underdogs and the melodic, country-inflected This Hungry Life.  It’s a wealth of gorgeous songs.

Top tracks: Making Light, Why So Sad, VivaKaraoke

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Soundtrack to January

Album of the Month

Album cover is a black and white abstract painting with black shapes against a grey background

Kristin Hersh, Possible Dust Clouds (2018)

Hersh’s latest has a rough-edged, vigorous and gritty sound. It’s more percussive and textured than some of her other solo work. I’ve got my tickets booked for her UK tour.

Top tracks: No Shade in Shadow and Tulum

Album cover is a colour photocopy of the the artist

Album cover is a colour photograph of the artist against a background of stylised flowers

Tori Amos, From the Choir Girl Hotel (1998) and The Beekeeper (2005)

My partner is a big Tori Amos fan. Choirgirl is one of my own favourites. It marked a shift for her musically and I remember how startled we all were back in 1998. I loved it, though. I like The Beekeeper, but I think it’s one of her least innovative works and is more of a background album for me.

I love pretty much everything on Choirgirl, but I’ll go with Spark because it just blows the album open and Playboy Mommy for its grappling with the experience of miscarriage. My favourite track on The Beekeeper is Sweet the Sting.

Album cover is a black and white photograph of a bare foot

Patti Smith, Trampin’ (2004)

Not one my top Patti Smith albums, but still a good listen.

Top track: In my Blakean Year

Album cover is a watercolour painting of mountains above a blue lake

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Greatest Palace Music (2004)

An album of Will Oldham covering himself! These are all versions of songs originally released under his various Palace incarnations. He basically turns them into (slightly) more upbeat country songs.

Top track: Riding (this one’s still creepy)

Album cover is a colour photograph of the artist lying on a dirty floor

Neko Case, Furnace Room Lullaby (2000)

This was my first encounter with Neko Case. It’s not her best and is much more of a straightforward country album than her later work, but it has some great songs and foregrounds her amazing voice.

Top tracks: Set out Running and Twist the Knife

Album cover is gold chain with a gold boxing glove pendant against a hot pink background

Cat Power, The Greatest (2006)

This is a beautiful, warm soulful album.

Top track: Love & Communication

Album cover is a close up photograph of Leonard Cohen's head. He is staring directly into the camera.

Leonard Cohen, Field Commander Cohen, Tour of 1979

Cohen at the height of his live performance powers here, with bonus jazz band.

Top track: Lover, Lover, Lover

Album cover is an abstract painting in blues, greys and yellows

Joseph Arthur, The Graduation Ceremony (2011)

I don’t know much about Joseph Arthur, but I like this album. It’s a gentle collection of quality songs.

Top track: Out on a Limb

Soundtrack to Last Week

I somehow managed to publish this post yesterday before it was ready. I must have hit ‘publish’ instead of ‘update’. Anyway, properly updated now.

Album cover is a blurred photograph of Hersh's son, Wyatt,with a purple filter. He is looking down and wearing a white t-shirt and dark trousers. The track listing is in white text on the left

Kristin Hersh, Wyatt at the Coyote Palace (2016)

I love everything Kristin Hersh has ever done. This is a beautiful, spiky, life-affirming album.

Top track: Bright

Album cover is a stylised drawing of a skull on a black background

Album cover is a colour photograph of a rough track leading towards the sea

Bonnie prince Billy, I See a Darkness (1999) and The Letting Go (2006)

My two favourite albums from Will Oldham. Both winter listens for me.

Top tracks: I See a Darkness and Strange Form of Life

Album cover shows a faded bunch of flowers against an off-white background

Sleater Kinney, No Cities to Love (2015)

Always enjoy listening to Sleater Kinney. I cleaned the kitchen to this last night.

Top track: Surface

Recent Listening

Album cover shows the band dancing in a field against a low sun wearing richly patterned robes

First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar (2012)

First Aid Kit have been my band of 2018 and I think this is my favourite of their albums. It might be the most folk-influenced.

Top track, Wolf

Album cover shows an abstract painting in black, blues and purples

Kristin Hersh, Hips & Makers (1994)

Kristin Hersh’s first solo album has this incredible, raw energy. Stripped down to voice, acoustic guitar and cello, the songs have a purity and sharpness that goes right through you. Painful but cathartic.

Top tracks, Your Ghost and The Letter

Album cover is a head and shoulder photograph of Brandi Carlile in yello sepia tones. She is wearing a wide-brimmed hat and looking directly into the camera

Brandi Carlile, The Firewatcher’s Daughter (2015)

I went off Brandi Carlile for a while, but I seem to be back into her again after listening to this album. Big tunes, great vocals, full of heart.

Top track, The Eye

Album cover is an abstract photographic image with faded typeset lyrics

Thea Gilmore, Songs from the Gutter (2002)

Songs from the Gutter is more of a collection of odds and ends than a coherent album, but it contains some of my favourite tracks.

Top tracks, I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine and December in New York 

 

Album cover is a yellow-toned photograph of the artist standing outside on a street. She is facing the camera and wearing a black top with thin straps

Corinne Bailey Rae, Corinne Bailey Rae (2006)

Lovely, warm, summary album, one that I put on to cheer myself up.

Top track, Put Your Records On

Album cover is a photograph of Martha Wainwright's face under a pinkish read filter

Martha Wainwright, Martha Wainwright (2005)

This is one of those albums which feels like an artist finally getting to release all the work they’ve had stored up for ages. It’s a beautiful burst of energy and that song about her Dad ….

Top Track, Bloody Motherfucking Asshole

Album cover is a cartoon image if a yellow octopus wearing a crown against a purple background with stars

Veruca Salt, Eight Arms to Hold You (1997)

I listened to this for the first time in ages and I’d forgotten how good it is, just a mighty album full of drums and huge riffs. I love it all.

Top tracks: Volcano Girls  and Shutterbug 

Album cover is a vintage black and white photograph of people fighting or having fun (I'm not sure!)

Sleater Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One (2000)

My second favourite from their earlier albums (my fave is Dig Me Out). Loud, in-your-face and a lot of fun.

Top track, You’re No Rock n’ Roll Fun

Soundtrack to a Week in the Country

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We spent last week in rural Mid Wales.  There was a crispness on the air and the scent of wood smoke as the local pubs started lighting up their fires. You could feel winter moving in.

Time to break out the folk and Americana.

Recent Listening

The Butchies, Make Your Life (2004)

This album is SO much fun. It’s just catchy, dumb, lesbian pop/rock tunes from beginning to end.

 

Image shows the album cover which is a red and black painting, showing a stylised man and woman at the centre with black plant designs around the edges

Tanya Donelly, This Hungry Life (2006)

I love everything Tanya Donelly’s done. This album feels less innovative than most of her other work, but it’s lovely.  Top tracks: “Kundalini Slide” and the title track, which makes me think of my grandmother for some reason.

This hungry life won’t let you out whole
But you can change a thing or two
Before you go
This hungry life
Might not leave you with much
But you can change your story
And throw a hand up from the mud

 

The album cover features a close-up photograph of PJ Harvey's mouth with smeared lipstick on the lens

PJ Harvey, Dry (1992)

I first heard this when I was about nineteen, which is the perfect age for it. It undid my brain and is probably still in my top twenty albums ever. Powerful, emotional and totally uncompromising. Top tracks: Dress and Sheela-Na-Gig.

The album cover features a widescreen photograph of the lead singer, Beth Gibbons, with a blue filter.

Portishead, Dummy (1994)

I remember my housemates at university listening to this when they broke up with people. Personally, I prefer the second album, but this wears well and still sounds classy. Top tracks: Roads and Glory Box

The album cover shows a sepia photograph of a naked man lying on a bed below an opened window.

Suede, Dog Man Star (1994)

Completely over the top and, yeah, maybe pretentious, but I like Dog Man Star. It’s an album to wallow in. Top tracks: This Hollywood Life and The Asphalt World.

The ablum cover features a collage of small black and white photographs

Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street (1972)

It’s a good time. Top track: Shine a Light

The album cover features a large pink flower with a yellow iris with orange flowers on the left and below

Lucinda Williams, Essence (2001)

Beautiful, melancholy songs and one of my Dad’s favourite albums. Top track: Blue

Soundtrack to last week

Image shows the cover of Lauryn Hill's album The Miseducation of Lauryn hill. The cover features a sepia headshot of the artist

Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)

I hadn’t listened to this for years. The production is amazing and it still sounds incredibly fresh and vibrant, but you can also hear the influence its had on a lot of artists since it was released. A classic album. Top track, Ex-Factor

Image shows the cover of the Bonnie Prince Billy album, Ease Down the Road. It is a photograph of an empty green field on a cloudy day

Bonnie Prince Billy, Ease Down the Road (2001)

This isn’t one of my favourite BPB albums, but I like it. It’s mostly about sex and is fairly upbeat for Will Oldham. Top track, At Break of Day

Image shows the cover of Pulp's album Different Class. It is a photograph of a wedding party with a black border

Pulp, Different Class (1995)

Woah! This was a nostalgia trip and a half. Some of the lyrics seem a bit dated and immature now, but these are still great songs. I saw Pulp live twice, once when they played the entirety of their grim This is Hardcore album, and a second time when they were a lot more friendly! There was nothing like a storming ‘Common People’ encore. Tops track, Something Changed (because I am a sap).

Image shows the cover of Morcheeba's album Big Clam. It is a photograph of a blond white woman relaxed in a chair listening to a record player in a red room.

Morcheeba, Big Calm (1998)

I’d forgotten how much I like this album. It’s warm and comforting and lovely. I saw Morcheeba live once too and they were brilliant. Top track, Part of the Process 

Image shows the cover of Mary Gauthier's album Drag Queens in Limousines. It shows a blurry, sepia toned photograph of the artist reflected in a mirror

Mary Gauthier, Drag Queens in Limousines (1999)

I first saw Mary Gauthier live back in 2003 in a tiny coffee shop. It was incredible, everyone was crying and I was so drunk. I’ve seen her three times since and she’s always fantastic. This is a great album, sad but full of life and compassion. I love every song, so it’s very hard to pick a fave, but I’ll go with Our Lady of the Shooting Stars

Image shows the cover a greatest hits collection. The cover features three black and white photographs of Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin, Respect: The Very Best of

I had to listen to some Aretha #RIP