Friday, March 31, 2006

Next couple of days

Well I'm off to Cambridge tonight to see Heather, and then onto London to go to school and be tutored in my studies before going 'oop North'. Consequently about the music may see little activity until my return from the mainland.

I got a couple of cds that I'll be listening to for Alternative Ulster. The first is by an Amercian band called
The Essex Green. The album is called Cannibal Sea and it's out soon. It's a little folky, but with a bit of electronics and whatnot.

The second is a chap called Kelly Stoltz. Kelley Stoltz is originally from Detroit, but he lives in San Francisco now. He's put out a couple of records: 1999's The Past Was Faster (The Telegraph Company), 2003's Antique Glow (Jackpine Social Club), and, most recently, his own version of Echo and the Bunnymen's Crocodiles entitled Crock-O-Dials.

I also got another cd with a cover of birds flying in formation, unfortunately I can't remember the name. Anyway, until later take it easy (I know you will).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A couple of gigs to be aware of

For those of us in Belfast there are a couple of good gigs on the horizon. I hope to see you all there.

The first is on Sunday 14 May at the lovely Empire Music Hall. Performing his new LP, The Animal Years, is Josh Ritter. I'm a big fan of his new album, check out my review here.

Ticket master are selling tickets priced at £13.50 here or you could give the Empire a call. Funny thing about the Empire, evey time I have been to a gig there I have had trouble with the bouncer about the guestlist. Hopefully it won't happen this time.

The second, and earlier gig to attend is the foxy Jenny Lewis, touring with the Watson Twins in support of her solo album
Rabbit Fur Coat. She's playing the Mandella Hall near Queen's University on Thursday 20 April. Click here to buy tickets at £12.50 a go.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Calexico interview

Pitchfork has a couple of other readable things at the moment. Check out the Calexico interview.

Pitchfork: How does press in Europe look at Calexico differently?

Burns: There they understand the subtleties more. If you're going to say what a "Calexico Sound" is-- [I'd] say that it's allowing the nuances to come through, the space in the music. It's paying attention to the subtlety of brushes on the drums or the vibraphone. It's not trumpets.

They also have a review of the new Jeff Tweedy side project "Loose Fur" record, rating it a respectable 7.3. Read the Loose Fur review here.

More Daniel Johnston

I posted the other day about a feature length Daniel Johnston documentary that is about to recieve a theatrical release in the US. It seems we'll be hearing a lot more about this 44 year-old who has spent most of his life struggling with bipolar disorder. The renowned singer/songwriter and Magic Marker artist is to release a greatest hits album, a gallery exhibit and a spot in a museum show.

"The main thing you get from the documentary, if you're anything like me, is just plain depressed. It's tough to watch a person be ill, especially when you met him a week ago and saw him happy. It's just as tough to see how that's affected everyone around him: As much as the art has thrilled many, the real Daniel has required a lot of sacrifice and put people thought a lot of difficult times."

Read the Pitchfork article here

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

I went to see/hear the Frames front man Glen Hansard perform acoustically in Lisburn last summer. It was a fantastic gig, and among the many Van Morrison covers he performed a song by Daniel Johnston.

I had never heard of him before. But after that night I went out and bought
Daniel Johnston - 1990. Apparently it's "Not the best album to choose if its your first experience of Daniel Johnston", and I can agree. However it has a haunting track called 'True Love will find you in the end'. Anyway, for the uninitiated, Johnston is a manic depressive singer/songwriter/artist who used to play into a little tape recorder in a hospital as a means of therapy. He would record a tape, wander outside and sell it (eventually) to a passer by. Then he would go back to his tape recorder and start again. Eventually more and more of these tapes circulated, and started to become sought after. Word spread and studio owner Mark Kramer brought Johnston to his own Shimmy-Disc label.

Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth were fans many cite Johnston as a genius. Simple sketches fetch $100 easily and his music is credited with re-igniting the low-fi genre. So it is a wonder he has sustained his anonymity.

This is soon to pass. Jeff Feuerzeig's documentary, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" is soon to get theatrical release in the USA, after a year on the festival circuit. He is a fascinating subject and Stylus review the film with an 'A' grade. I can't wait to see it.

Read the review here.

New Mountain Goats EP

After a brief foray into the highly charged world of religion, theology and literal truth, I return with some music news which should be of interest.

The wonderful mountain Goats, fronted by "the best lyricist in America", John Darnielle, have announced a tiny tour. And a pretty insignificant one unless you live in Australia or New Zealand, which I don't. Still, of more interest is that they have released a small record to match the small tour. The EP, to use its proper term, is called the Babylon Springs EP, contains five tracks recorded by Tony Doogan (Mogwai) at the Castle of Doom studio in Glasgow.

While Babylon Spring isn't available outside Oz just yet, don't despair. Say the Goats via their website, "Beggars Banquet are working to make this EP available to stores who buy direct from them in the U.S., so don't anybody go buying expensive imports or taxing the Soulseek engine about it. If people trying to find leaked copies of Chinese Democracy get frustrated in their efforts, we'll all suffer."

A new full length album is promised to be on the way soon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

God etc

Michele Hanson in the Guardian yesterday bemoaned what she percieves as the crumbling of secularism. Secularism, which the media likes to hold as the epitome of civilised society, apparently is giving way to people interested in faith. Fundamentalists is the term used by our print media friends.

Similar to the article I linked to a couple of months ago Michele is seeing Churches spring up around the corner and missionaries on the street. 'Missionary,' she seethes, 'is my least favourite word'. It seems as if something is going on, a revolution perhaps. Click on the link below to read the story:

Oh, pity the poor infidel who just wants to be left alone.

Also of interest to me, and in the news today is the Intelligent Design v Creationism v Evolution debate. The Archbishop of Cantebury, Rowan Williams has said that he doesn't think Creationism should be taught in schools. He thinks it could detract from the doctrine. The Guardian has the interview here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Eef Barzelay

Like I said before, I'm a fan of Clem Snide. The lead singer with the funny name of Eef Barzelay has just released his debut solo album, Bitter Honey.. The highly critical Pitchfork thinks it's pretty good.

When they settle down domestically, many rock artists seem to lose some of their spark, their hard-won happiness diluting the angst that made them so compelling in the first place. But on Bitter Honey, Barzelay thrives on the secret fears that lie beneath the surface of even the most secure relationships, torn by unwanted thoughts of personal freedom and suspicions that warmth and happiness are ultimately hollow and meaningless.


La La

Here's the next revolution in the internet and music. I'd buy your shares now if I were you. Launching July 6 2006, La La takes CD trading to a new level. Traditionally it's an activity enjoyed by avid live music enthusiasts trading legally dubious 'boots'of their favourity artists.

La La is so simple, but like e-bay and iTunes, a good idea. You scroll through the La La database, ticking albums you have and albums you'd like. You create a wanted list. Pretty soon the offers for your rare Wishbone Ash CD will fill your in-box, and as they know what you want, you may be tempted to trade. At $1.49 a go, you can afford to.

It's easy to create your lists using the iTunes plug in. When you play a song, then click the Visualizer, using the La La program the screen shows an album by the artist you’re playing, plus a host of similar albums. You can say if you have or want each album displayed, and as the song plays, more albums appear.

It pays to play fair. To get CDs you have to trade CDs. Like Flickr and MySpace, La La is building a real community amongst like minded music enthusiasts. It's better than iTunes in that it is album focused, and not restricted by the artists who have agreed to sign up: there's nothign stopping you trading your old Beatles or Led Zeppelin discs.

The site founders are music fans who respect the idea of paying artists for what they produce. They urge users to 'do the right thing' and not keep an iTunes copy on your Pod after you send the CD. They are taking the unprecendented step of donating 20% of their revenues to the artists. Find a second hand bookshop who does that.

It's only available in the US, if you live there and want to sign up click here. I'm sure it will be in Europe before too long, and when it is, I plan to be the first to sign up.

Street Warriors

We had a blast from the past last night. Dave brought Street Fighter 2 Anniversary Edition to the flat. Like most kids growing up in the early '90s I played my fair share of the original fighting game. As it came bundled with almost every SNES, performing a Hadouken, was a pretty essential social skill.

Street Fighter 2 is responsible for a generation of kids with above average hand-eye-coordination a rapid button pressing skills. Last night we had the first of what will undoubtedly be many 'winner-stays-on' tournaments. It was good to play the old game again, now all we need is NBA Jam Tournament Edition and Super Mario Kart. Perhaps we should just buy a SNES.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A joke for St. Patrick

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day. To celebrate, we in Ireland have a public holiday. In an attempt to get in the mood I have my annual St. Patrick's joke.

Q. What did St. Patrick say as he was driving the snakes out of Ireland?
A. "You all right in the back there lads?"

Most Irish jokes are terrible, but this one wasn't bad.

On Saint Patrick's Day, an Irishman who had a little to much to drink was driving home from the city and his car was weaving violently all over the road. A cop pulled him over.
"So," said the cop to the driver, "Where have you been?"
"Why, I've been to the pub of course," slurs the drunk.
"Well," says the cop, "it looks like you've had quite a few to drink this evening."
"I did all right," the drunk says with a smile.
"Did you know," says the cop, standing straight and folding his arms across his chest, "that a few intersections back, your wife fell out of your car?"
"Oh, thank heavens," sighs the drunk. "For a minute there, I thought I'd gone deaf."
Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Retrospective: Who's gonna ride your wild horses

I remember the first time I heard Actung Baby. I was falling asleep and the dull thud came drifting through the wall from my brother's stereo next door. Who's gonna ride your wild horses (henceforth called Wild horses) was the song that won me over. U2 played it when I saw them in Croke Park and reminded me how much I loved it.

On the album it starts with wildly distorted guitar playing simple chords and as Bono sings to his lover "You're dangerous, 'cause you're honest". The song is inspired by The Edge's divorce. It has the dirty, gritty sound, the discordant nature and the feel of an argument. He realises that she can't be tamed, "you don't know what you want", that honesty has gone, "would you lie to me?" It has probably the most soaring chorus on Actung Baby, one that will stick in your head for days. It is an underrated song, perhaps a problem of being another song on an album choc-full of greats.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Mogwai - Mr. Beast

Dave pre-ordered the new Mogwai record and it came, along with my Primer DVD, the other day. Every new Mogwai release is a very exciting thing. Stylus magazine gives it a C+ here. Stylus says that

"Mr. Beast suffers from this increase in skill more obviously than any previous album. The band has never sounded more composed, accomplished, or in control of their art, but they have also rarely sounded more sterile."

Meanwhile Pitchfork reviews it at 6.8/10 saying

"Mr. Beast's shortcomings lie not with what's present, but with what's missing. Mogwai are capable of tremendous beauty, poignant gloom, and ear-splitting sonic pyrotechnics, but only transcend when they combine each of these elements. Here, they rarely give themselves enough building room to conjoin these moods and styles. Resultantly, despite its peaks, the album is no match for Mogwai's best work."

Last time we spoke Dave hadn't formed an opinion on the album. As our resident Mogwai guru perhaps he could leave a comment with his rating?

My Favourite Music



The other night I dug out a record I hadn't listened to in a while, Clem Snide's Your Favourite Music. I hit the play button, lay back on my bed and entered a near comatose state as the lilting, sweet melodies and transported me back to when I first heard it. My friend, and one-time producer Andrew McCully made me a mixed tape of music I really should be listening to. I've been listening to the artists on the tape ever since. It started off with some Matthew Sweet, from the album 100% Fun, then introduced me to a Heartbreaker era Ryan Adams, the early Ed Harcourt Maplewood EP, the Amazing Pilots and the wonderful Clem Snide. I remember driving in the rare but glorious sunshine as the gentle opening horns of The Diary Queen first met my ears. I was hooked. Eef sings with his tongue very close to his cheek, and while the irony was lost on Pitchfork who gave it 2.1/10, the joy he finds in the little things in life is unique.

I played it to my friend Tim, who mocked it for weeks. It's a slow record, with no hint of a distortion peddle, let alone a drum roll. At first glance it's sad, melancholy and morose. But listen a little deeper to the lyrics, and it's a celebration of happiness, and our addiction to sad music. Eef writes about breaking his heart and trying exercises to make it stronger, his girlfriend smelling of bread, his lack of a tan, and the pointlessness of drifting.

Clem Snide stand up for the nerd, the last-picked, the uncool and the not-sporty enough. I can't guarantee that you won't be bored by it, but I love it.

"Your favourite music/ well it just makes you sad/ but you like it/ 'cause you feel special that way"

a good day

a good day
Originally uploaded by andymanjo.
I'm trying to link abouthemusic to my flickr site. Not having done it before this is something of a test. Here's a picture of me with a beard, the one and only time I have dabbled with facial hair.

I had just finished the last of my finals. Myself and a few others went to the Granta by the River Cam to celbrate.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

My review of the new Josh Rouse album, as featured in Alternative Ulster. In short it's good, a bit like a less produced Nashville, with a bit of 1972 thrown in the mix. It's pretty standard Josh Rouse, perhaps not as honest as Nebraska and not the classic that Under Cold Blue Stars is, but if you're a fan of Josh, and if you're not you should be, then this is a record you'll enjoy. 7.5/10






Josh Rouse is vying for the 'prolific' tag. Just over a year since his farewell record to the town that raised him, Subtitulo, the first album on his own imprint, reflects Josh's migration from big-hat Nashville to small town Spain. Josh describes his transition as 'packing a guitar and two big suitcases and renting an apartment on the coast. I've been here ever since'.

The sun-drenched, relaxed Spanish way of life pervades the album. Due to his relocation Josh recorded with a small band of musicians, creating a mainly nylon string guitar and voice album. Opener 'Quiet Town' pays homage to the community that welcomed Josh on his arrival. It's relaxed and reflective, mellow and tuneful. 'Summertime' and 'It looks like love' hark back to a less-produced 1972 style sound, keeping the catchy melodies that Josh is renowned for.

Josh treads new ground later on, teaming up with female vocalist Paz Suay on 'The Man Who'. It's a trick that works well as their voices complement each other. The strong narrative on Subtitulo, especially 'Jersey Clowns', a song about the characters Josh left behind in America, and 'His Majesty Rides', about life as a touring musician recall earlier Rouse albums. A couple of songs misfire and it's not of the high standard of
Under Cold Blue Stars but on the whole Subtitulo is strong. There's nothing unexpected, no new directions, just a bunch of great summertime melodies.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Eats shoots and roots

My friend Aaron has recently joined the blogosphere. His blog Shoots and Roots about 'faith, theology, church, society, music, growing up, finding your voice, becoming...' is well worth a read. It seems that anybody with even a passing interest in faith or theology has a blog. My Brother's blog is becoming a Karl Barth fan page, but also has an interesting post about Johnny Cash.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Not too fast

Click here to download a great song (totally legally) by Slowrunner. It's called Break Your Mama's Back, taken from their album, No Dissasemble. It's catchy as bird-flu and full of hooks big enough to snare Moby Dick. A thumping rhythm, and great synth, I started my morning with it, and it's been in my head ever since. Slow Runner are indie/alternative kids, a wee bit like The Shins and Brendan Benson. Check it out.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

How to win friends and influence

Warning! By reading this post you may be influenced by 'under-the-radar, non-traditional, viral marketing'. About the music has been identified by hip, cool, New York media company Cornerstone (who represents Diesel, Tommy Hilfiger, Coke etc) as an 'early adopter' or 'influencer'. From blogs like mine, bands are launched and stars are born.


So in a seamless link to plug the next big thing (beware the influence), I'm gonna check out The Working Title . All set for their major label debut, the South-Carolina band will follow up several EPs and limited runs with About Face, their first album proper. Produced by Smashing Pumpkins Brad Wood and Counting Crows guitarist David Bryson we're sure to hear more about them soon. I'll post a review when I've had a listen.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Let down

"Let down and hanging around,
crushed like a bug in the ground"

The aforementioned apple announcment didn't so much go off with a bang, as it fizzled out with a small pop. Was there a widescreen video ipod? No. Does iTunes now offer feature film downloads? No. Is there a tablet mac? No. So what is there? Well a new intel powered mini mac, great, and a hi-fi to plug your ipod into. Bose have been offering a great ipod hi-fi for years.

Good one Apple.

On the first day of March

Happy first of March! On this day in 86 BC - Lucius Cornelius Sulla, at the head of a Roman Republic army, enters in Athens, removing the tyrant Aristion who was supported by troops of Mithridates VI of Pontus. In 1803 Ohio is admitted as the 17th US State. In 1912 Albert Berry makes the first parachute jump from a moving airplane, and in 1983 Swatch introduces their first timepieces.

In 2006 Belfast is covered in snow. I slipped and slided all the way to the bus. My feet are still thawing. Meterological Spring begins today in the Northern Hemisphere, so goodbye winter!