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 January

I got Kristin Hersh’s live album Cats and Mice for Christmas.  Recorded in San Francisco in 2009, it has a generous 19 tracks drawn mostly from Learn to Sing Like a Star and Crooked, and an excellent production.  I gave the Throwing Muses’s 1996 album Limbo an outing, although I have to say this is the one album of their’s that I don’t entirely get.  I also listened to Star (1993) from Tanya Donnelly’s post-throwing Muses band Belly, an indie-pop album that stills sounds really fresh.

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Throwing Muses Live: 08.11.2011

Last night I ticked the “See the Throwing Muses play live” item off my ‘To Do’ list and they were awesome.  I can hardly believe I was standing about ten feet away from Kristin Hersh all night, and I’m not sure the band could believe they’d been put in a position quite so up-close-and-personal with the good people of Cardiff.   Kristin asked at one point if anyone could “smell Dave” (drummer David Narcizo) because apparently the band members were all a little ripe from travelling.  They also seemed a bit overawed by the venue – The Gate in Cardiff, an old church which has been refurbished and turned into a strangely posh community centre.   “It’s so beautiful here” said Kristin, “This isn’t going to go well, we’re not beautiful”.   But it was great and I think they’re all gorgeous.

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Soundtrack to June

Album of the Month

Kristin Hersh, Crooked (2010)

One of my absolute favourite artists releases yet another blistering album, but this time as a book.  You buy the book and then go to the website where you put in your password and get access to a lot of online content: the full album, plus EPs, audio commentary, video content, a forum, all sorts of things.  So far, I’ve only got around to listening to the album and I think it plays to all her strengths; it’s cathartic and has a rawness, but also really melodic with a lovely, layered production.   I can’t pick a favourite song yet, but ‘mississippi kate’, ‘fortune’, ‘crooked’ and ‘krait’ are already sticking in my mind.

Aimee Mann, The Forgotten Arm (2005)

Aimee Mann albums always grow on me and, though I haven’t really made friends with this one yet, it sounds like it has the usual strong song writing and, at some point, I’ll probably be playing it endlessly on repeat.   This one is a sort of concept album telling the story of a couple who’ take a road trip across the US in the 1970s.

David Bowie, The Best of Bowie

I prefer early Bowie, but I’ve mainly been listening to Disc 2 of this collection recently.  I love the campness of ‘Boys Keep Swinging’, and the intensity of the ‘Under Pressure’ duet with Queen, both of which take me straight back to dancing round the kitchen during my childhood.  ‘Ashes to Ashes’ is an amazing song, and I liked the later stuff better than I remembered.

Imogen Heap, Speak for Yourself (2005)

I like to listen to this album while cooking and my favourite tracks are ‘Headlock’ and ‘Have you got it in you?’ It’s just a fun album with a good sound.