you say homage, I say ripoff

Can you tell the difference?

(awesome sleuthing by fegmaniax)

goin’ up to eleven for twenty ten

This is the music that powered the year for me:

  • Bertrand Belin — Hypernuit: heard this on the radio. He has an awesome voice. Seeing as it’s all in French, I have no idea what it’s about, but that’s okay.
  • Calvin, don’t Jump! — Under Bridges: Kirk Pleasant’s first major outing from his Canadian location. Combines E6 ambient and skronk with some thoughtful songwriting.
  • Colleen and Paul — Colleen and Paul: happy, sunny, folky, lovely. Enjoy it before it becomes car ads.
  • Dum Dum Girls — I Will Be: Motown meets The Jesus & Mary Chain, with screamy lofi fuzz. Like Strawberry Switchblade (DDG are big fans) with maximal noise.
  • Entertainment For The Braindead — Roadkill: Julia did a banjo album! It’s great — and free!
  • Frightened Rabbit — The Winter of Mixed Drinks: juddery Scottish gloriousness with full miserability ahead.
  • Jónsi — Go: this album’s so sunny it farts marigolds.
  • Peter Stampfel & Baby Gramps — Outertainment: dementedly demented, with demented bits gleefully stuck to it. Gramps sings like Popeye’s ancestor, and Peter’s got the caterwauling yawp down pat. They’re having so much fun making this, they don’t care what you think.
  • The Ruby Suns — Fight Softly: don’t you dare call them Animal Collective Lite. They can dance better, for one thing.
  • Stereo Total — Baby Ouh!: “irritating” is not usually a word one associates with a favourite album, but Stereo Total are completely annoying. I love them for it.
  • Sufjan Stevens — The Age of Adz: this is a hard album to like. I was about to completely give up on it when I played it on a long subway ride home. I’m sold. Charming, but difficult.

Here’s six not from 2010 that also helped make the year:

  • Brett Dennen — Brett Dennen (2005): he’s got a weird little voice in his first album, but Don’t Forget is as catchy as anything.
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg — IRM (2009): it’s a Beck album! Not sung by Beck!!
  • Kyle Creed — Liberty (1977): this is the clawhammer album. Kyle played such a clean banjo; e-v-e-r-y note’s in the right place, the volume’s right, he doesn’t dominate (bluegrass pickers, take note). So brilliant, and finally available on something other than cassette.
  • Major Organ And The Adding Machine — Major Organ and the Adding Machine (re-release): squee! An expanded version of 2001’s mad outing complete with the movie. Spot all your favourite E6 musicians!
  • Raymond Scott — Soothing Sounds For Baby (1963): The first volume (designated for one to six months) is about my level. I’d have been tripping spheroids if this had been playing near my crib.
  • The Turtles — The Turtles Present The Battle of the Bands (1968): a delightful confection of phenomenal songwriting and playing making a very silly concept album. You’d hardly believe it was all done by one band.

Podcast: scruss-best_of_2010 [mp3]

2010 contenders

Dammit, is it really December? Anyway, this is what I listened to this year:

  • Albemarle Ramblers — Gentleman from Virginia
  • Amanda Palmer — Amanda Palmer Performs The Popular Hits Of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukulele
  • The Apples in stereo — Travellers in Space and Time
  • Arcade Fire — The Suburbs
  • Bart Veerman — Some o’ Mine and Some I Like (2003)
  • Basia Bulat — Heart Of My Own
  • Belle & Sebastian — Write About Love
  • Ben Veneer — Ben Veneer
  • Bertrand Belin — Hypernuit
  • Bill Holt — Dreamies (1973)
  • Brett Dennen — Brett Dennen (2005)
  • Brian Wilson — Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin
  • Broken Social Scene — Forgiveness Rock Record
  • Calvin, Don’t Jump! — Under Bridges
  • Caribou — Swim
  • Carolina Chocolate Drops — Genuine Negro Jig
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg — IRM (2009)
  • Chris Coole & Ivan Rosenberg — Farewell Trion
  • Colleen and Paul — Colleen and Paul
  • The Corin Tucker Band — 1,000 Years
  • Dan Jones — Dan Jones and The Squids:Live 09
  • Dan Jones & Peter Wilde — My Name Is John Smith
  • The Delgados — The Great Eastern (2000)
  • Dum Dum Girls — I Will Be
  • Eels — End Times
  • Eels — Tomorrow Morning
  • Elf Power — Elf Power
  • Entertainment For The Braindead — Roadkill
  • Final Fantasy — Heartland
  • Forest City Lovers — Carriage
  • Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People — The Sacred Prune Of Remembrance
  • Frightened Rabbit — The Winter of Mixed Drinks
  • Frontier Ruckus — Deadmalls and Nightfalls
  • Germans — Elf Shot Lame Witch (2008)
  • Goldfrapp — Head First
  • Gonja Sufi — A Sufi And A Killer
  • The Good Right Arm Stringband — The Good Right Arm Stringband
  • High Places — High Places vs. Mankind
  • Hold Your Horses! — 70 Million
  • The Hungry Moment — Phantom 45
  • Hurray for the Riff Raff — Young Blood Blues
  • James Blackshaw — All Is Falling
  • Joanna Newsom — Have One On Me
  • Jónsi — Go
  • Kyle Creed — Liberty (1977)
  • Ladies of the Canyon — Haunted Woman
  • M.I.A. — Maya
  • Macy Gray — The Sellout
  • Major Organ And The Adding Machine — Major Organ and the Adding Machine (re-release)
  • MGMT — Congratulations
  • Miles Kurosky — The Desert of Shallow Effects
  • Mojave 3 — Ask Me Tomorrow (1995)
  • Nana Grizol — “Ruth”
  • Nesey Gallons — Southern Winter by Smouldering Porches
  • The New Pornographers — Together
  • of Montreal — False Priest
  • Old Man Luedecke — My Hands Are On Fire and Other Love Songs
  • The Open Letters — Bicycle EP
  • Peter Stampfel & Baby Gramps — Outertainment
  • Peter Stampfel & Zöe Stampfel — Ass in the Air
  • Pocahaunted — Make It Real
  • Princess Pangolin — Princess Pangolin
  • Raymond Scott — Soothing Sounds For Baby (1963)
  • Robyn Hitchcock — Propellor Time
  • The Ruby Suns — Fight Softly
  • Smoosh — Withershins
  • Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin — Let It Sway
  • Stereo Total — Baby Ouh!
  • Suckers — Wild Smile
  • Sufjan Stevens — All Delighted People EP
  • Sufjan Stevens — The Age of Adz
  • Sunbear — Moonbath
  • The Superions — the Superions
  • The Tallest Man On Earth — The Wild Hunt
  • Tune-Yards — Bird-Brains (2009)
  • The Turtles — The Turtles Present The Battle of the Bands (1968)
  • Vampire Weekend — Contra

Must be getting old; two of the albums (Bertrand Belin and Brett Dennen) I bought because I heard tracks on the radio. Consequently, I predict Lawrence Welk in my best of 2011.

done with emusic – or trying to be

I knew that nothing good would come of emusic’s plan changes. I mean, dumping all your favourite indie labels and replacing them with mainstream crud; how’s that working out for you, yeah?

Just to show you how things have changed, here’s a list of the most recent artists I’d downloaded pre-plan changes. The ones in red are ones you can’t get any more:

  • Barry Louis Polisar
  • Belle and Sebastian
  • Boards Of Canada — only one album available
  • Dum Dum Girls
  • Eels
  • Elizabeth Cotten
  • Elsinore
  • Euros Childs
  • Forest City Lovers
  • Frontier Ruckus
  • Gonja Sufi
  • Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci
  • Hold Your Horses!
  • Macy Gray
  • Michael Hurley
  • Mount Eerie
  • Pocahaunted
  • Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
  • Sun Kil Moon
  • The Delgados
  • The Moldy Peaches
  • The Tallest Man On Earth
  • The Turtles
  • The Whitlams
  • Will Powers

And here was me on a major Delgados kick, and they’re gone.

So cancelled my plan on the weekend, and got this:

Yep, if you’re on an annual plan, you’ve got to sit it out. They don’t offer refunds. So now I have to remember to go in every thirty days for the next nine months to find something – anything! – to download. It’s extremely shabby that emusic are holding over $100 of my balance to ransom. I guess they’re just trying to fit in with the mainstream music industry …

emusic canada changes its pricing

What with the sad loss of Wild East Compact Sounds this summer, my sources of music are now limited. eMusic, bless ’em, have been my source of indie stuff since about 2003. They were cheap, had a fixed price per download, and carried a raft of indie stuff and no major label tat.

Not much longer; got this in my inbox:

So, yeah, the full announcement: major label content, minimum 49¢/track, and variable pricing. Exactly all the reasons I wouldn’t want to use them. Good call, eMusic, for a battered-about subscriber since 2003.

I was initially confused by the pricing. I pay 36¢/track, so I couldn’t see how their promise that “your monthly payments will not change and you will still be able to download the same number of tracks available today, if not more, depending upon your current plan“. Then I see their new menu:

So basically they’re crediting me with a fake $4.48 a month (oh wait; “30 days”, not a month; they so want you to forget to download stuff by making the cycle date change) so I can still get my 35 downloads. Since they hint that there will now be variable pricing, I’ll bet the new stuff will be >49¢, so I really won’t be able to download as many per month after all.

They’re saying that the new pricing will allow them to do a bunch of fun stuff:

We’re also committed to making eMusic a better member experience. We recently rolled out improvements to Browse and Search pages. And we’re hard at work on a host of new features and enhancements including a music locker, which should allow you to stream your music collection from any desktop or mobile device. In addition, improvements to eMusic’s social features, to better connect you with our editors, other members, artists, labels and your friends, are also in the works. We’ve sketched out an ambitious slate, and it will take a little while to get there. We hope you’ll continue on the journey with us.

I don’t want all that social fluff. The MP3s work just fine on any mobile device, so streaming them just adds more crud. I want fixed price downloads, not some half-assed music locker. Where, oh where is Frank Hecker and swindleeeee when you need them?

Please Be Kind | Colleen and Paul

<a href="">Please Be Kind by Colleen and Paul</a>

I like this album a lot. Colleen and Paul have been working together for years (I saw ’em as Jack and Ginger in 2006), and this music needs to be heard!

mississippi john dalek

I really, really don’t know what my iPod was thinking when it rendered a perfectly good mono MP3 of Mississippi John Hurt like this:

Mississippi John Hurt – Frankie (accidental robot mix)

Mississippi John Hurt - Frankie (accidental robot mix)

Robyn Hitchcock Live at Dancebase on 2001-08-22 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Robyn Hitchcock Live at Dancebase on 2001-08-22 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.

Robyn Hitchcock
Dancebase, Edinburgh
Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 Andy Kershaw show, 2001-08-24

FM-Radio > SB-16 > WAV > CD-R
CD-R > XLD > FLAC-16

Sound is occasionally slightly buzzy, but generally pretty clear.

     1	Gene Hackman
     2	Cheese Alarm
     3	Arms Of Love
     4	Surgery
     5	I Often Dream Of Trains
     6	Autumn Is Your Last Chance
     7	Freeze
     8	(Interview with Andy Kershaw)

Support was The Bhundu Boys.

Recorded and transferred by Stewart C. Russell -
(who also has a mono AUD on minidisc of this - enquire if interested)

Robyn Hitchcock Live at The Assembly Rooms on 2001-08-05 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Robyn Hitchcock Live at The Assembly Rooms on 2001-08-05 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.

Robyn Hitchcock
The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

AUD > lapel mic > Sharp MD-SR50 MD (mono mode)
MD-SR60 > Marantz PMD-620 > Audacity > FLAC
(analogue connection from MD to PMD-620)

Note: recording is *MONO*, and is 24-bit FLAC.

Partial set - had to leave to catch last train home ... but this was
the last night of a great three gig series, and Robyn was on top form.

     1	talk: "he went elsewhere"
     2	Mexican God
     3	talk: "meat ... meat ..."
     4	The Devil's Coachman
     5	talk: "when you die"			(*** truncated)
     6	When I Was Dead				(*** mostly)
     7	Raining Twilight Coast
     8	talk: "god came along, and the mars bar was ashamed"
     9	1974
    10	talk: "pumpkin A and pumpkin A"
    11	Chinese Bones
    12	talk: "frank recorded this"
    13	My Wife And My Dead Wife
    14	talk: "intro to your feelings are the last thing to die"
    15	Your Feelings Are the Last Thing To Die
    16	She Doesn't Exist Any More
    17	talk: "special strings made for him by a halibut"
    18	I Feel Beautiful
    19	talk: "madonner of the bees"
    20	Madonna Of The Wasps
    21	talk: "see how much of it I can remember"
    22	La Cherité

No encore recorded, though one was likely played.

Tracks marked '***' have MD dropouts from faulty Maxell XL-II 74

Audience recording by Stewart C. Russell,

Robyn Hitchcock Live at The Assembly Rooms on 2001-08-04 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

Robyn Hitchcock Live at The Assembly Rooms on 2001-08-04 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.

Robyn Hitchcock
The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

AUD > lapel mic > Sharp MD-SR50 MD (mono mode)
MD-SR60 > Marantz PMD-620 > Audacity > FLAC
(analogue connection from MD to PMD-620)

Note: recording is *MONO*, and is 24-bit FLAC.

     1	talk: "not horribly caramelized or mellow"
     2	Surgery
     3	talk: "clint eastwood, for it is he"
     4	A Man's Gotta Know His Limitations, Briggs
     5	talk: "exciting and miserable time"
     6	Wax Doll
     7	talk: "a totem of misery"
     8	The Veins Of The Queen
     9	talk: "watch out for igor the dragon"
    10	Viva! Sea-Tac
    11	Glass Hotel
    12	talk: "the only reason we can have, um, courtney cox"
    13	Queen Elvis
    14	I Am Not Me
    15	Raymond Chandler Evening
    16	talk: "good news: charles knocked out"
    17	Sally Was A Legend
    18	talk: "that amp contained a dybbuk"
    19	Only The Stones Remain
    20	Nightfall

    21	encore intro: "got another half hour"
    22	Gene Hackman
    23	The Ghost In You
    24	talk: "already preparing to go somewhere else"
    25	Think For Yourself

Audience recording by Stewart C. Russell,

Robyn Hitchcock Live at The Assembly Rooms on 2001-08-03 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

I finally got around to transferring the first of the Robyn Hitchcock shows I recorded back in 2001 in Edinburgh: Robyn Hitchcock Live at The Assembly Rooms on 2001-08-03 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.

There are three more. Two of them (plus the one I just uploaded) have dropouts from dodgy Maxell MD media.

I did transfer these back in 2001, and distribute them on CD to several people. Audacity and a solid-state recorder makes this a lot easier. My old workflow was:

  1. Save the recording to wav through the sound card and GramoFile.
  2. Burn the recording to CD-R (yay, 2x CD writers …)
  3. Delete the wav file (I don’t think I had space to keep multiple copies)
  4. Listen to the CD, noting track end times in a text file
  5. Rip the CD with CDDA Paranoia, using the notes as a cue sheet
  6. Burn the final CDs.

The Smiths, Benny and me

A review of The Smiths written for fegmaniax:

So then, The Smiths. Or rather, mostly Benny, who is so closely linked to the sound of The Smiths for me that I can’t hear Morrissey without picturing Benny.

I knew Benny from the first day of primary school. Within the year, we knew he was a creative kid. He made weekly comics for all his friends, comics scrawled on offcuts from his dad’s stationery shop. Each comic was different, with different characters and careful story arcs (in my case, mostly fart gags) for each friend. We’d forgive Benny’s at best phonetic spelling, ‘cos we were each of us six at the time.

A few years passed, and Benny and I went to different schools. At age 12, tho’, we ended up in the same secondary school. A bit taller, fractionally better at spelling, he was one of the weird kids of the year. He was one of the first indie kids on my radar, and his frantic indie cool kept him from being picked on.

It was easy to be indie in the UK in the 1980s; you still listened to BBC radio, but you tuned to John Peel at night, just like everyone else. If you wanted to be identified as indie, you talked about what John Peel played. There was only one alternative. We’d only just got a fourth TV channel, and we needed alternatives so badly in the Age of Thatch that we’d even wait eagerly for Richard Whiteley to come on …

So there was Benny on the school bus; the clapped-out, clearly illegal motor coach with the brutish owner-driver Spamheid crashing gears and smoking furiously. Benny would be waving his arms about “Woa-hay … Morrissey … This Charming Man … he’s great, woa-hay”, then fall into the smokers at the back as Spamheid took the roundabout at Pollokshaws too fast.

So dedicated to the Smiths was Benny that he’d bring his albums into school. Not that there was any place to play them, it was just the awe of the medium, and his reverence for the sounds that they represented. 12″ was a lot of real estate in a teen bag, especially on transit.

And those sounds … the album starts with an impossible 80’s drum track, but Reel Around the Fountain is so lush and lengthy you can forgive that. You’ve got to have a tolerance for warble and jangle to even get a handle on this album, but the next two tracks kind of lead you away. “Pretty Girls Make Graves” is a surprisingly sweet fourth, “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” does almost nothing, and then there’s the album’s stormer, “This Charming Man”, so short it’s almost over by the time you’ve sat up to take notice. You had to live in the now back then. Blink and you’d miss it.

TCM is the first of a run of four epic tracks, with “Still Ill” being the handbook of eighties indie disaffection, “Hand in Glove” adding the bit of depth to the proceedings (I remember seeing Benny’s notes on the song, and what he thought it all meant. I suspect it’s still classified). And then, “What Difference Does it Make?”, the whirling anthem of the album – where the re-enactment of Morrissey’s stage antics got the only marginally-coordinated Benny pitched into the fag pit again as Spamheid gunned the beat-up Plaxton up the Ayr Road.

Last two tracks? Who cares? If you’re not spent and reclining by the end of WDDIM?, you weren’t listening to the same album.

Robyn Covers Syd

Robyn Hitchcock plays The Drake this weekend. Last night he covered Syd Barrett’s Terrapin. His Fylde has never sounded better.

Robyn Hitchcock - Terrapin