2006 releases 2008 releases artists artists to watch for in 2008 digital downloads guitar live songs music

Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s

A friend recently alerted me to the fact that a new Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s track is floating around the wide wide world of the internets, and it is with much pleasure that I present it below.

Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s
Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s

Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s are a band that I, quite frankly, can’t believe haven’t cracked the big time yet. Their 2006 release, “The Dust of Retreat” is an amazing album, but one that – while it gained critical rave reviews – failed to set the main population alight. Which was a great shame, because the band regularly release cracking tunes.

There’s somethingcool, laid-back, and yet somewhat disconnected in songwriter Richard Edwards’ lyrics. He’s pointed out many a time that the “Margot” of their name was inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in “The Royal Tenenbaums”. And, has been pointed out before, this seems reflected in their songs. You could quite easily picture them being used in a Wes Anderson soundtrack.

The new song below is from their forthcoming album, “Animal“. Entitled “Children’s Crusade on Acid“, it’s a live performance from their appearance on Sirius radio. However, I thought I would include one of their older songs here as well, for those who haven’t heard the band before. The first track is called, “Skeleton Key“, and is from the “The Dust of Retreat” album.

Listen to both, and fall in love.

Listen: Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s – Skeleton Key
Listen: Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s – Children’s Crusade on Acid (live)

Oh yeah. And if you want to be the subject of one of Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s future albums, then check out their myspace blog. Richard says:

I’m planning to compose, and record, a collection of three albums about three specific people. I’d like to take applications from people who would like to have an album composed about them.

2008 releases artists digital downloads live songs music

Stephin Merritt – A Nun’s Litany (live on Fair Game)

Stephen Merritt - The Nun’s Litany
The Magnetic Fields (with Stephin Merritt – middle)

For close on twenty years now, Stephin Merritt has been recording what can only be described as pop masterpieces under the name “Magnetic Fields”. Stephen’s songs have a way of crawling inside you, and then filling you with raw emotion until you explode. Cliched that may be, but it certainly doesn’t make it any less true.

Recently, Stephin appeared on PRI’s “Fair Game” show, and performed his heartbreaking single, “The Nun’s Litany“, live, with just his ukelele as accompaniment. Magnetic Fields fans will know that this is not the first time he’s done so live; in fact, there is a Channel 4 video of him doing just that.

That said, this version, to me, is filled with even more longing, even more yearning, and even more heartbreak.

I just wished that he performed the vocals on this song in the recorded version, which appeared on their latest release, “Distortion“. Instead, those were performed by Shirley Simms. While she does so admirably on the record, nothing could live up to this version, for me.

I want to be a brothel worker,
I’ve always been treated like one.

– Stephin Merrit, “The Nun’s Litany”

Listen. Love. Support.

Stephin Merritt – The Nun’s Litany (Live on Fair Game)

2007 Releases artists artists to watch for in 2008 digital downloads music

Julian Velard – Jimmy Dean and Steve McQueen & A Dream

Julian Velard
Julian Velard

You know, I came across Julian Velard very late in the game; in fact, it was only through a passing comment a few months ago by Alex Dezen of The Damnwells that I learned of his name. Of course, anyone who knows of my love for all things Damnwells-related wouldn’t be surprised to know that I headed straight over to Julian’s site, to see what the fuss was all about.
I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Julian Velard has one of the most enticing voices I’ve ever heard, with a sound that is difficult to pigeonhole. Not only is there a jazz slant (Velard trained as a jazz pianist under Kirk Lightsey), there is also a strong pop-rock feel there. The more tracks you listen to of Julian Velard’s, in fact, the more you begin to think that this guy could do… well, pretty much anything he wanted to, really.

“Believe in the little demons
’cause I know they believe in you”.

– Julian Velard, “Little Demons”

Velard, like Alex Dezen, a New York boy, seems to draw much inspiration from Americana when it comes to his lyrics.Nowhere is this more apparent than in the track below, “Jimmy Dean and Steve McQueen“. Once you get past the desperately cheesy Grease-like screeching tyre opening, you’re left with one of the catchiest, most upbeat songs about mourning the way things have turned out that I’ve ever heard.

The second track, “A Dream“, breaks me everytime I hear it. Who else can honestly say they haven’t had a dream like that?

Last night I had a dream I was dead
Somebody shot an arrow through my head
They were aiming at the apple
But I guess that they missed
Couldn’t help be reminded
Of the first time we kissed

– Julian Velard, “A Dream”

Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: Julian Velard – Jimmy Dean and Steve McQueen
Listen: Julian Velard – A Dream

While Julian’s certainly been around more than a while, I think 2008 might just be his year, as he’s finally been picked up by a major label, EMI (the UK branch, of all places). Add this one to your “Artist to watch for in 2008”.

artists guitar live songs music music videos

Mr. A to the Z… yes I’m excited.

Last year was a great year for live shows. After seeing (just to mention a few) Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, The Frames, Jeremy Fisher, Xavier Rudd, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Crosby Stills & Nash, The Beautiful Girls and State Radio live, I was looking forward to another great year in 2008.

So it was with much excitement that I discovered my Jason Mraz tickets had arrived in my postbox this morning.

Jason Mraz, I feel, is a much overlooked performer… at least, by the more elitist of music critics. Mainly known for his pop-breakthrough songs, his more jazz-influenced songs have fallen by the wayside for the majority. Which is a shame. His sophisticated phrasing, tonality and wordplay lyrics are something to behold live.

So, I thought to help you share in that “live” feeling, some live clips were called for. The first comes courtesy of the always-amazing French blog, La Blogotheqhue. The concept on La Blogotheque’s “Takeaway Shows” is simple. Take an artist, put them in an urban environment, and tell them to perform. No cuts, no second take; all spontaneous. With a set-up like that, you can tell why La Blogotheque is regularly a must-stop for me online.

This clip sees Jason Mraz performing his song, “Live High” for them, in the streets of France.

The second clip is one of my favourite Jason clips, largely due to the fact that it sees him performing with one of my major musical crushes for the past few years now, Tristan Prettyman. When these two play together, there’s a certain something in the air.


If you enjoyed the clips, Jason’s going to be performing at The Tivoli on 20 March, and I think there are still a few tickets left. And, in fact, Wilco are playing there the night before Jason, and G Love two nights after. It’s a great week for the Tiv, one of my favourite music spots.

2008 releases artists digital downloads guitar music rock gods

Perez are back. That’s a good thing… right?

So if you’ve read my past post, “30 South African bands you SHOULD hear”, you would know my extreme love for the band, Perez. If you haven’t read it though (and can’t be bothered to click through to that link), here’s a short recap:

Perez were, without question, my favourite South African band of all time. Take away that qualifier, “South Africa”, and they would still qualify as one of my favourite bands, full stop. No other band fuelled my desire to enter this world of music as much as Perez did. Point blank, for a long time Perez were – to me at least – South African music.

The fact that Mike Goddard, the drummer, had been just a few years ahead of me at my school only engendered more loyalty to them. In fact, all the boys were familiar faces around my hometown of Umhlanga; so it was no surprise that they sustained a near cult-like following. Within 18 months of their debut show they managed to clock up four number 1 singles, and sell out just about every live venue in South Africa – still holding attendance records at some of them.

Perez… undoubtedly my favourite SA band ever.

But then the unthinkable happened.
Perez broke up. And, as I said in that post mentioned above:

I don’t think South African music ever quite got over it. They represented every hope, and every dream we had, of exposing South African rock to an international audience. I remember the exact moment I received the news they were breaking up. It was at a band rehearsal, and we all just looked at each other; it was like we had lost the heart and soul of everything we were trying to do.

Fast forward a few years. Perez had played a reunion gig here and there, whenever they found themselves in the same country. I travelled the world, and ended up in Australia. So imagine my surprise when I received word from back home (yes, I still use the term “home”) that Perez were officially (“it’s for real this time, I swear!”) back together… and not only were they jamming, but recording too! It was possibly the best news I had ever heard. Or was it?

You see, the problem with Perez is that they now have to live up to the ghosts of their former selves. And, listening to the tracks that they’ve released so far, I’m not 100% sure I’m ready to commit to that; at least, not just yet.

Obviously you can’t expect a band to always stay the same. Nor would you want to, anyway. Listening to the same song, over and over again, would be interminably boring, not to mention depressing. So I’m stoked that Perez are taking a brave step in a new direction. After all, not only have they changed, but time has elapsed. We would have changed, too.

So it’s a good thing that they’re staying fresh with this new direction. And what a new direction it is, at that. An extreme departure from the majority of their past releases, the new tracks from Perez have them sounding like an updated version of The Beatles (post-India trip with Donovan Leitch, of course… their psychedelic foursome incarnation). And if anyone could pull off something like that, it would be Perez.

But I’m in two minds here. While I’m impressed with the new direction, and think that they pull off the style with veritable aplomb – I mean, the songs grow on you exponentially the more you listen to them… which is probably just a sign that it’s scarily new – there’s still something missing here. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say the heart and soul that used to shine through in their old music doesn’t seem to be there anymore; but that’s the description that keeps coming to mind. And as much as I hate myself for it, there it is.

Now, this is all purely based on the tracks that they’ve released thus far, so I’d be the first to admit that all this opinion is based on something that isn’t the finished product. Not by a long shot. And look… to be honest, this is Perez. These guys could release a load of steaming crap, and I’d still be prepared to hang on for their next release, hoping that it conjured back the magic of that first time I heard “Wasted Out”. I would, and that’s the truth. But I just hope that these new releases are made for the love of it all, and not just for the pressure to reform. Because at this stage, I’m not sure which of the two it is.

And if it turned out to be the latter, that would ruin a lot of beautiful, beautiful memories.

I’m being needlessly hard on them, and I know that. But that’s what happens when you mean something to people. I hope the guys take this in the way that it’s meant. I know they always welcome feedback, so hopefully they will. I’ll still be ordering the CD the very day it’s released, without question. I’m just voicing an opinion, that’s all.

Take a listen to the two tracks below, and see what you think. The first is the track “Caught in the Silence”, (with its disquieting, and quite frankly, awesome lyrics), and the second is “If it’s the End” (which shows again how well Matt and Nic’s voice complement each other). If you knew of Perez previously, drop a comment and let me know what you think of their new efforts. It would be nice to hear other people’s opinions.

(again, as always, simply click on the “play” icon to hear the tunes)

Listen: Perez – Caught In The Silence
Listen: Perez – If It’s The End

Oh yeah… and more tunes are available on their myspace page , and also on their facebook fan page. Check it out, seriously.

2007 Releases artists digital downloads guitar live songs music

The National – Slow Show (live on Fair Game)

Just a quickie post today; but thought I would delight you all with another offering from The National.

Despite the constant blogosphere hype about this group (which seems to have been going on for years now) that plagues them, The National continues to deliver on their initial promise.

The National - Slow Show
The National performed “Slow Show” live on “Fair Game”


They recently appeared on PRI’s “Live on Fair Game” show, and performed four tracks live in studio: “Fake Empire,” “Slow Show,” “Start A War,” and “You’ve Done It Again Virginia”.

The track I’ve included below is the haunting “Slow Show”.

I wanna hurry home to you
put on a slow, dumb show for you
and crack you up

Matt Berninger’s voice? Man, it still gets me every time. With such a distinctive tone, you might think it’s efficacy may wear off in time; you’d be wrong.

To hear the other tracks (and more releases from Fair Game), head here.

Listen: The National – Slow Show (live on Fair Game)

I know, I know, this is short. But hey, with a cracking tune like that I couldn’t let it slip by. Regular posting will resume once things quieten down at work.

Tomorrow? A band I love has reformed. And my thoughts…

2008 releases artists artists to watch for in 2008 digital downloads guitar music

Music for a rough morning-after…

Firstly, apologies for the lack of regular posting this week. I had my head buried in spreadsheets for most of it, and conferences took up the remainder. That said, the week is drawing to an end, and reports have been filed, so last night was a celebration.

Today? Today is the morning after.

So what am I listening to, feeling melancholic and slightly tender? Are you living through the morning after yourself? Then listen on, brother…

Destroyer – Foam Hands

Destroyer - Foam Hands

Dan Bejar, aka Destroyer, is one of the more prolific musicians about these days. From his work with New Pornographers, Swan Lake, Hello, and Blue Roses, many would have come into contact with his work at one time or another. However, in my opinion one of his musical outlets that has been criminally underrated, is his work put out under the “Destroyer” moniker.
Granted, it’s certainly not his most accessible work; but there’s definitely something there, even if it does take a listen or two to get into it.

This latest release, “Foam Hands” (from his forthcoming album, “Trouble In Dreams“) might be the track to change that, however. It’s certainly the most accessible of Destroyer’s releases to date, and just might be what most needed to drag them in deeper.

There’s something there that connects with me today.

I’m not the kind
to tell you what is true
and what is totally out of control.

Dan Bejar has this way of saying a lot; without needing to say very much at all. Here’s to more of this.

Listen: Destroyer – Foam Hands

The Republic Tigers – Building & Mountains

Republic Tigers - Buildings and Mountains

I think that The Republic Tigers are a band that automatically polarises opinion; people either wholeheartedly love them, or handle them with barely concealed disdain.
I’m of the former.

The Republic Tigers certainly challenge people. Combining elements of electronica, acoustic guitars, sweeping vocal harmonies, and epic lush texturing… well, it could be overwhelming. But it’s not. The Tigers manage the process with an aplomb that belies the fact that this track, “Buildings and Mountains“, is actually off their debut (yes, debut) forthcoming album, “Keep Colour”.

A track like this just exudes promise. I’ll certainly be waiting for their album with keen ears. When those breathy vocals kick in at the 0:30 second mark? Man…

Listen: The Republic Tigers – Buildings and Mountains

Tin Bangs – Your Sky Is Falling

Tin Bangs - Your Sky Is Falling

A strange choice, perhaps, considering the preceding two songs on this morning after. But I think Tin Bangs are a band to watch out for.

There’s something about this track, “Your Sky Is Falling“. The sense of urgency that Tin Bangs convey is certainly undeniable. In fact, I’ve heard it described as a sense of “god damn urgency”. That said, there’s something else hiding behind that urgency, to me. It’s not only urgent; it’s a sense of desperation. A sense of clutching at straws. A sense that this is our last chance. And the ultimate question… what have we done with it?

And if that’s not a suitable song for a morning after, then I don’t know what is.

Listen: Tin Bangs – Your Sky Is Falling

2008 releases artists artists to watch for in 2008 digital downloads guitar music

Dallas Green – City and Colour

Back in the day, I used to be a pretty big Alexisonfire fan. In fact, when I’m feeling like a bit of anger is called for, I still am. So it was with interest that I awaited the sophomore release from Alexisonfire’s guitarist, Dallas Green, under his acoustic side project called “City and Colour“.

And man, has it been worth the wait.

City and Colour - Bring Me Your Love
Dallas Green, aka City and Colour

City and Colour‘s latest release is entitled “Bring Me Your Love“, and follows up from the highly successful debut album, “Sometimes”.

You know, people often complain that hardcore / metal / post-core / whatever-trendy-heavy-label-you-want-to-use music is “just screaming” and that, “there’s no musicianship there at all”.
I’ve always been of the opinion that the so-called “heavy” musicians make some of the most melodic, and most meaningful music, and that if they just slowed it down and dropped the notches below 11, more people would be able to see that. And Dallas Green, aka City and Colour may just be the person who explains that to the mainstream population.

Dallas’s plaintive voice, and enchanting melodies craft an entire experience; the emotions are undeniable. While purists will claim that the tunes don’t stand up to similar tunesmiths such as Sam Beam and Elliot Smith, there’s something in these songs that resonates with people.

I hope they make you feel something. I really do.

Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: City and Colour – Waiting
Listen: City and Colour – Body In A Box

Want some visual to go with that auditory pleasure? Then check out the video for “Waiting” below: