Claudia Brücken / Jerome Froese – Beginn

16 05 2018

beginnBeginn is a new collaborative project between Claudia Brücken from German 80s electronic group Propaganda, and Jerome Froese the son of electronic music pioneer Edgar Froese and former member of his father’s band, Tangerine Dream.

Album opener [the] Last Dance is a slow-paced piece that sets the mood perfectly. A Roland CR-78 drum machine programme provides the rhythm, underpinned by deep piano notes, as layer after layer of synths build as the song develops. A lovely, under-stated guitar line ushers out the track.

Claudia Brücken’s vocals sound so good on Beginn, particularly on Wounded, one of the albums darker pieces.

“And I wait, till I’m free, from your memory”

Flight [of] Fancy lifts the mood. The most uplifting song on the album has a White Willow, almost progressive pop feel to it. Cards feels a little like a more modern take on the ZTT / Propaganda sound. Edgy synth lines dart out from beneath heavily processed, frantic beats. The music on Cards is a feast for synth lovers.

Light [of the] Rising Sun is a moving piece. Beatless, and sparesely adorned with piano and electronic shards, the short song flows into Whispers [of] Immortality. Softly spoken verses from Brücken, and an adventurous arrangement from Froese make this one of my favourite moments on Beginn.

beginn2

Beginn is clearly a well-sequenced album. The songs seem to get stronger as the album progresses. Sound [of the] Waves was one of my early favourites, and has a feel of Brücken’s work with Paul Humphreys (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) as Onetwo, mixed with the Björk / David Arnold Play Dead single (particularly the percussion).

“a fleeting sound, a silence inside”

Stars Walking Backwards ramps up the feeling of unease. Breakbeats and pulsating sequenced riffs drive the song forward. All thats missing is a Holly Johnson chant of “Who-ha” to make this a piece of pure ZTT synthpop.

Sweet Sense [of] Liberation features Claudia’s co-vocalist in Propaganda, Susanne Freytag. Claudia and Susanne have recently reunited as xPropaganda, and this track certainly has some of the old Propaganda spirit. Another adventurous arrangement lifts the track to another level.

The album ends, as it started, with a slow-burner in Unbound Spaces. Found sounds and deep wave synths ebb and flow through the dreamy album closer.

Beginn is an intriguing first offering, and is probably not what you would expect from Claudia Brücken and Jerome Froese. It’s most definitely not Propaganda with Tangerine Dream keyboards. Whilst the DNA of both bands can be found at times in Beginn, the album has a sound and identity of its own.

Beginn is released on CD / LP by Cherry Red on 15 June 2018.

[the] Last Dance
Wounded
Flight [of] Fancy
Cards
Light [of the] Rising Sun
Whispers [of] Immortality
Sound [of the] Waves
Stars Walking Backwards
Forevermore
Sweet Sense [of] Liberation
Unbound Spaces

Buy Beginn on CD

Buy Beginn on Vinyl

Buy A Secret Wish by Propaganda on CD

Buy A Secret Wish by Propaganda on Vinyl

Buy Noise And Girls Come Out To Play: A Compact Introduction To Propaganda on CD

Buy Wishful Thinking Collector’s Edition by Propaganda on CD

 





John Foxx – Metamatic (Deluxe Edition)

30 04 2018

meta500John Foxx releases a 3 CD deluxe edition of his Metamatic album on 25 May 2018. The original 10-track album, recorded in 1979 and originally released in 1980 was remastered from analogue tapes back in 2014, along with various B-sides. A few tapes full of instrumental music from the sessions were also set aside for remastering but these revealed further discoveries, including alternative mixes and the song Miss Machinery – a mutant, electro-punk twist on Foxx B-side, 20th Century.

Jonathan Barnbrook (regular Foxx collaborator and Bowie’s Blackstar designer) worked on the new 2018 reissue design as the project grew to 49 tracks across 3 CDs. This includes the 15 instrumentals contained on CD3 which collectively sound like a lost electronic soundtrack with echoes of Quatermass, BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and the dark DIY electronics of Thomas Leer and Robert Rental.

Metamatic is one of the most influential electronic albums from the early 80s. Following his departure from Ultravox, Foxx stripped the sound back to just voice and electronics. The stark, at times industrial electronica still sounds like the future, 38 years after the albums original release. That is some testimony to the quality of the material.

johnfoxx

Most people will be aware of the singles Underpass and No-one Driving, but dig a little deeper and there is much more to savour.  He’s a Liquid is a key track, with lyrics that have always made me feel ill at ease.

“She’s elusive
He’s adhesive”

A New Kind of Man ups the tempo and hearing this track, I am instantly transported back to the late 70s / early 80s. A sense of detachment and isolation drip from Foxx’s lyrics on most of the songs on Metamatic. The off-kilter Tidal Wave conjures up the spirit of J. G. Ballard and would have sounded great as part of the soundtrack to High Rise.

Blurred Girl is almost a template of the sound of 1980. The classic Roland CR-78 rhythm and the plaintive synths add a rare warmth to what is often an icy cold musical landscape.

“Standing so close, Never quite touching…”

Touch and Go is probably the most commercial track on the album. I love the way that the synths rise like waves in the songs outro, smoothing the metronomic beat. The end section is by far my favourite musical performance on the album.

“There’s motorway sparks
And meetings in the park
And fires from years ago
You can watch your friends
Through this tiny lens
Then you’ll know that there’s no way home

John Foxx would leave the sound of Metamatic for his next studio albums but returned to the cold electronica for some of his more recent work, particularly with Louis Gordon and The Maths.

Discs 2 and 3 of the deluxe Metamatic are a treasure trove for Foxx fanatics. Disc 2 brings together B sides, radio edit / single mixes, the wonderful single Burning Car and alternative versions of album tracks. Like A Miracle (Alternative Version) is an early version of the song that was released as a single in much fuller form in 1983. Underpass (Extended Version) and Blurred Girl (Longer Fade Version) are another two highlights of the second disc.

Another key track from Disc 2 is My Face, originally a flexi-disc release, and almost acting as a hint to the sound of the second John Foxx album (and my personal favourite) The Garden.

Disc 3 includes 15 instrumentals – some more fully formed than others. The sparse instrumentals are interesting to hear as part of the history of the album, but I don’t think I will return to them often. My favourites on disc 3 include a mournful alternative version of Glimmer, and the haunted ballroom piano of Fragmentary City (that predates the work of The Caretaker aka James Leyland Kirby by several decades).

Disc 3 is rounded off with Miss Machinery, a cold twist on B side 20th Century, a fascinating Giorgio Moroder-like take of No-One Driving, and an early version of Burning Car (with a Fade To Grey like bassline).

Disc 3 ends with a lo-fi Like A Miracle and a warmer , more fully realised and piano under-pinned take on No-One Driving, that feels like it was recorded nearer to The Garden.

This definitive version of Metamatic is released by Metamatic Records on 25 May 2018.

Disc: 1
1. Plaza
2. He’s a Liquid
3. Underpass
4. Metal Beat
5. No-one Driving
6. A New Kind of Man
7. Blurred Girl
8. 030
9. Tidal Wave
10. Touch and Go

Disc: 2
1. Film One
2. This City
3. To Be With You
4. Cinemascope
5. Burning Car
6. Glimmer
7. Mr. No
8. Young Love
9. 20th Century
10. My Face
11. Underpass (Radio Edit)
12. Non-one Driving (Single Version)
13. Like a Miracle (Alternative Version)
14. A New Kind of Man (Alternative Version)
15. He’s a Liquid (Alternative Version)
16. Plaza (Extended Version)
17. Underpass (Extended Version)
18. Blurred Girl (Longer Fade Version)

Disc: 3
1. A Frozen Moment
2. He’s a Liquid (Instrumental Dub)
3. Mr. No (Alternative Version)
4. The Uranium Committee
5. A Man Alone
6. Over Tokyo
7. Terminal Zone
8. Urban Code
9. A Version of You
10. Glimmer (Alternative Version)
11. Fragmentary City
12. Metamorphosis
13. Approaching the Monument
14. Critical Mass
15. Alamogordo Logic
16. Touch and Go (Early Version)
17. Miss Machinery
18. No-one Driving (Early Version)
19. Burning Car (Early Version)
20. Like a Miracle (Early Version)
21. No-one Driving (Alternative Version)

Pre-order Metamatic Deluxe 3-CD from Amazon
meta500





Plenty – It Could Be Home

14 04 2018

It Could Be HomePlenty was Tim Bowness’s immediate pre-no-man band. In 2016 and 2017, Bowness and fellow founder members Brian Hulse and David K Jones re-recorded Plenty’s catalogue of 1980s songs, revising some of them and even adding a newly written song (The Good Man). The end result is the debut album, It Could Be Home released on 27 April 2018 on Karisma Records.

Plenty are joined on the album by no-man live band members Michael Bearpark and Steve Bingham, Tim’s Bowness / Chilvers collaborator Peter Chilvers and Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow / Opium Cartel).

Whilst the album is understandably shot through with a real 80s sensibility, with touches of The Blue Nile, David Sylvian, Peter Gabriel, Thomas Dolby, and David Bowie lingering in the sounds and arrangements, It Could Be Home deserves to be listened to as more than just a work of pure nostalgia.

The album opens with a synth heavy, lightly delivered Jagger / Richards As Tears Go By, that is more Stranger Things than Lost in the Ghost Light. Hide delivers an Associates vibe to the music, and signals an album that is much more upbeat than recent Bowness releases. I think that the recent Bowness solo album’s have delivered some of his finest work, with material that is often comparable to a lot of his work in no-man, but it is good to hear a different side with Plenty. Vive la différence.

By far my favourite track on the album, the melancholic Never Needing is the one track on It Could Be Home that would fit onto one of Tim’s recent albums. Fans of no-man’s early work will recognise the song – previously recorded by no-man as Life is Elsewhere, and nowadays mostly existing on dusty old bootlegs or sitting as an (original “dodgy”) Napster-era, hiss-filled mp3 file on people’s hard-drives.

The Plenty version is a revelation. Sparse, brooding and slow-building, with an aching synth line and some of Tim’s most personal and direct lyrics and vocals. This is one of those occasions where I can confidently say that it is worth buying the album just for this song.

“You live in your world and I die in mine.
But I’m hopeful life is elsewhere”

Broken Nights really lifts towards the middle section of the song, before a key 80s stalwart (synth marimba bells) usher in the rest of the song.

Foolish Waking is another of my favourites from the album. Beatless and with some wonderful guitar lines from Michael Bearpark, and feeling a little like the work of the only Tim Bowness/Samuel Smiles studio album, World of Bright Futures from way back in 1999.

plenty

Strange Gods is underpinned by a delicious Mick Karn like bass-line, has hints of Bowie in the verses and a chorus seemingly inspired by The Blue Nile. So how can you not like the song? The mix, carried out with obvious love and attention by Norwegian guitarist, composer and producer Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow / The Opium Cartel) is colourful and warm throughout the album, but especially on Strange Gods.

Every Stranger’s Voice features Peter Chilvers on piano and the forensically detailed lyrics are filled with memories of an intense but long dead relationship. A powerful Michael Bearpark solo lifts the song towards its conclusion.

Another uptempo track is Climb, which has a real post-punk meets The Associates taking a quick detour via The Comsat Angels (circa the Fiction album). What a marvellous melting pot.

The Good Man is a new song that emerged during the recording sessions, and lyrically is tied to the album’s key track, Never Needing. The music has a late 80s feel, and lyrics that signal regret at letting go and giving up the fight too soon. The Good Man and the album’s closing title track offers something very different from recent Bowness releases.

The fact that the recording sessions produced new material of this quality, along with out-takes (such as a wonderful version of Forest Almost Burning, that I hope is revisited) suggest that there is a future for Plenty beyond this album.

If you pre-order It Could Be Home by Plenty from Burning Shed, on CD, vinyl or exclusive limited edition blue vinyl, you will receive an exclusive postcard and a free download EP of four of the band’s 1980s demos. Please note – this exclusive offer is only available until 27-04-2018 and only From Burning Shed.

Order Plenty – It Could Be Home on CD from Amazon

Order Plenty – It Could Be Home on vinyl from Amazon

As Tears go by
Hide
Never Needing
Broken Nights
Foolish Waking
Strange Gods
Every Stranger’s Voice
Climb
The Good Man
It could be Home

Band website: www.weareplenty.com





Near Future – Ideal Home

8 04 2018

near_future_-_ideal_homeIdeal Home is the debut album from Near Future, a collaboration between Blancmange’s Neil Arthur and electronic artist Bernholz (who also performs live as part of Gazelle Twin).

The opening track, with its alarm-like electronics and 80s drum-machine toms, is a real statement of intent. I love the twin vocals on this track, they really remind me of the more experimental side of Godley & Creme (such as the Freeze Frame album from 1979).

Field This is a sparse, edgy piece of electronica, with off-kilter live and processed vocals.

“I remember when this was a car-park, I remember when this was a field”

Overwhelmed is one of the album’s highlights. At times reminding me of the title track to John Foxx’s The Garden, the glacial beauty of the strings work well with the heavily processed vocals and the kitchen sink drama of the lyrics.

Thought Terminating In Your Night builds from scratchy, discordant noise to a more fully formed piece, but the unnerving digital undertones remain to the songs end.

Come And Play is a warmer electronic track that builds from the sounds of children playing. I love the reverb-heavy, almost early Clannad like vocal lines that decorate the second part of this trance-like (mostly instrumental) song.  Along with the title track, this is my other favourite from the album.

near_future

Dawn is the album’s longest track, and another song that utilises found sounds before mutating into something far removed from the beautiful birdsong that ushers in the dawn. Heavily processed, at times robotic spoken words sit atop a mixture of harsh pulses and softer synth lines. The mixture of the two extremes is unsettling and suits the track perfectly.

Gap In The Curtain is another juxtaposition – the edgy, paranoid vocals jostling for dominance over the optimistic, rich synth backing makes this a unique track on the album.

The song that is nearest to the work of Neil Arthur’s main band Blancmange is Kites Over Waitrose. The arrangement reminds me a little of the dark mood of This Mortal Coil, the 80s 4AD collective. Abrasive saw synths and audio seepage underpin the spoken vocals on Kites Over Waitrose.

Album closer Bulk Erase could easily have been recorded in 1983 / 84, with its metronomic kick drum and slowly building keyboard lines.

“Too much has happened, that I need to forget
To be moving forward, without all this regret”

There are further strong hints of John Foxx in Bulk Erase as well as a more recent electronic artist, Deptford Goth.

This is an interesting debut release from Near Future, and adds to a very productive period for Neil Arthur – with recent releases from Blancmange as well as another alternative electronic project Fader.

If you have not heard the work of Bernholz, the other half of Near Future,  some of his releases are available on Spotify, including the album How Things Are Made which has some great songs including the wonderful title track.

Near Future – Ideal Home

1. Ideal Home
2. Field This
3. Overwhelmed
4. Fish And Chips
5. Thought Terminating In Your Night
6. Come And Play
7. Dawn
8. Gap In The Curtain
9. Kites Over Waitrose
10. Bulk Erase

Pre-order Near Future – Ideal Home on Amazon





Yes – Fly From Here – Return Trip

1 04 2018

Fly From Here – Return Trip is a new version of the 2011 Yes album, with the addition of the previously unreleased track Don’t Take No For An Answer and a full-length version of Hour Of Need, which was only previously available in Japan. The biggest change is that producer (and co-writer of many of the tracks) Trevor Horn has re-recorded the lead vocals, effectively making this the final Drama line-up Yes album. Drama is my favourite Yes album, and I am a huge fan of The Buggles, so this was a must-buy release from me.

fly from here return trip

From the opening instrumental that ushers in the Fly From Here suite, the influence of Trevor Horn and keyboard player Geoff Downes (aka The Buggles) looms large, and has many parallels to the second Buggles album, Adventures In Modern Recording.  The 2010 reissue of Adventures in Modern Recording contains a couple of early versions of songs from the Fly From Here suite, and two versions of the stunning track I Am A Camera (recorded by Yes on Drama as Into The Lens).

Fly From Here Pt 1 – We Can Fly is the first track to feature Trevor Horn’s re-recorded lead vocals. I never had a problem with the vocals of Benoît David on the 2011 version of the album, but hearing Horn on lead vocals is such a joy. As a side note, I loved The Producers Made in Basing Street album in 2012 but I was disappointed that Horn did not contribute more vocally to the album, so you can imagine how happy I am with Fly From Here – Return Trip.

The new version has some differences in arrangement and lengths of tracks – which includes a shortening of Fly From Here Pt 1 – We Can Fly, and some added production touches to the end section of the track.

My favourite song on the album is Fly From Here Pt 2 – Sad Night At The Airfield. A haunting, melancholic piece that sounds so much better on the revised version of the album.

“I want to be the one who always gives you shelter
Finds a way to keep you warm”

Some of the albums finest keyboard / synth lines from Geoff Downes add bright colours, and a simple, but powerful Chris Squire bass-line drives the song. This is one of the most moving pieces in the vast Yes catalogue.

Yes 2018

Fly from Here Pt III – Madman at the Screens is also shortened on The Return Trip. The Steve Howe composition Fly From Here Pt 4 – Bumpy Ride has always been my least favourite track on the album, but the Yes guitarist redeems himself with the much stronger The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be, one of Fly From Here‘s key tracks. There is a real fluidity and harmony to all the band members performances on this song.

Life On A Film Set (recorded as Riding A Tide on The Buggles second album) is another of my Fly From Here favourites. Horn’s vocals are so clear and strong, and he really is underrated as a vocalist. I love the acoustic and lead guitar interplay during the tracks mid-section, and Life On A Film Set is a song that I would imagine appeals to fans of the bands earlier work.

I’m glad I have finally got to hear the full-length version of Howe’s Hour of Need, which is so much more fully realised here.

I enjoyed the album on it’s 2011 release, but Fly From Here – Return Trip is the definitive version and has turned what was originally a very good album into a truly great album.

“Armies of angels are leading me on
Take me away from the heart of the storm”

At the time of writing this review, Fly From Here – Return Trip is only available from Pledgemusic – via this link. If it becomes available via other retailers, I will add the links to this page.

Fly From Here – Overture
Fly From Here Pt 1 – We Can Fly
Fly From Here Pt 2 – Sad Night At The Airfield
Fly From Here Pt 3 – Madman At The Screens
Fly From Here Pt 4 – Bumpy Ride
Fly From Here Pt 5 – We Can Fly (Reprise)
The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be
Life On A Film Set
Hour Of Need (full length version)
Solitaire
Don’t Take No For An Answer
Into The Storm

Read my review of The Producers – Made in Basing Street





The Stranglers – The Classic Collection

6 03 2018

Take a stroll over to your CD cabinet. Do you have a copy of the first 7 albums from The Stranglers? Nope? Ok now is your time to rectify this. Parlophone have reissued the bands 1977-1982 studio albums under the name The Classic Collection.

The Raven

These reasonable priced reissues (all single discs) have unfortunately not been remastered, which is a bit of a missed opportunity. So if you already own the albums, you will probably stick with what you have, but I would recommend purchasing the new expanded version of Live (X-Cert) which has an additional 8 previously unreleased on CD tracks from the original concerts at The Roundhouse in 1977 and Battersea Park in 1978. I dare you to listen to the version of Nice ‘n’ Sleazy from Battersea on this reissue without picturing in your mind the on-stage antics from the video. You know which one I mean.

If you don’t have the albums, The Classic Collection offers a quick and easy way to collect some of the finest albums of the late 70s / early 80s. Key non-album tracks from the period are included on each album, along with lyrics (that are more readable than previous CD releases), pictures from the era and a history of the band written by David Buckley (the same history appears in the sleeve-notes of each individual album).

The band’s debut album Rattus Norvegicus still sounds dangerous and raw, 40 years after its original release.

From the violence of Sometimes, the harsh beauty of Goodbye Toulouse through to the new wave classic Hanging Around, the band’s debut still delivers on so many levels.

Every time I hear Peaches, I’m transported back to my school-days, and album closer Down In The Sewer is a dripping with acid, punk-Prog powerhouse of a song.

1977 also saw the release of No More Heroes. The title track is one of the band’s enduring classics, but the album contains often overlooked tracks such as Bitching and English Towns.

This re-issue includes two of my favourite early Stranglers tracks, the edgy paranoia of Straighten Out and the precursor to the post-punk sound of the bands 3rd album, the single 5 Minutes.

“Got anything to say? No? Well shut up!”

1978 saw the release of the bands 3rd album, Black And White. To me, this was the best sounding Stranglers album. There is a real consistency that runs through every single song.

Always a great singles band, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy was one of their finest. Like the earlier Peaches, Sleazy is a mutated version of reggae that is simply a classic Stranglers single. Outside Tokyo slows the pace before the snarling Sweden (All Quiet On The Eastern Front).

All 4  band members sound amazing throughout this album – with my favourite Hugh Cornwell guitar sound and the mighty barracuda bass from JJ Burnel. There is a beautiful symmetry on the epic Toiler On The Sea, and this reissue is topped off by the inclusion of yet another classic Stranglers single, their cover of Bacharach & David’s Walk On By. Better than the original, yes I think so.

As I mentioned earlier, the 2018 re-issue of Live X-Cert is the definitive version. The album captures the band in their most raw state.

Highlights include an incendiary 5 Minutes, a venomous Straighten Out and a speed-driven Hanging Around.

The extra tracks include a breakneck speed version of Down In The Sewer, with Bitching, Peaches and my favourite live version of  Nice ‘n’ Sleazy.

My only tattoo is of The Raven logo on my arm, so you can probably tell that this is my favourite Stranglers album. One of my few regrets is that there was no official live album released from this period, as the band switched up to another level live in 1979-1980. Track down footage of the band from this period on YouTube, you will not be disappointed.

The title track is many fans favourite song. To my ears, The Raven features JJ’s best vocal and some wonderfully inventive guitar lines from Hugh, topped with a driving, almost jazz-like percussion track from Jet and inventive, rhythmic synth lines from Dave Greenfield, delivering an absolutely beautiful song that I never tire of hearing. And I’ve heard it a lot.

Although I followed the band from early 1977, I was not allowed to see them live (my parents hated the band!) until 1979, with their gig as special guests of The Who at Wembley Stadium in August 1979 being my first live MIB experience. Hearing songs from their soon to be released album The Raven was a great way to start a long list of memorable Stranglers gigs.

nmh

Anyway, back to The Raven. Ice and Baroque Bordello still send shivers, and the band did not let up with the string of classic singles, delivering two more in the shape of Nuclear Device and Duchess. This 2018 reissue also includes the single and extended mix of one of the bands best later period singles, Bear Cage.

The most experimental Stranglers album, (The Gospel According To) The Meninblack was released in 1981. Apparently featuring a guest appearance from some bloke called Charlie, this album heralded in the darkest period in the band’s history. Just Like Nothing On Earth still sounds like the future, and Two Sunspots really should have been released as a single. Second Coming has grown into my favourite song from the album over the many years since the albums release.

Another great single (which cost me 79p back in the day, fact fans) is included on this 2018 reissue – Who Wants the World, along with a track that was only available at the time on a US import album,  Vietnamerica.

The final album in The Classic Collection reissue series is from later on in 1981, La Folie. Most people will know this album from the huge hit Golden Brown, but the album offered much more than this iconic single. Let Me Introduce You To The Family may not have performed well in the charts, but it was a great single, and sounded amazing live. Tramp, with its powerful chorus, is the one that got away, and should have been the follow-up to Golden Brown.

Ain’t Nothin’ To It and The Man They Love To Hate were standout album tracks, and the fine production from Tony Visconti gives the band a new edge for the emerging decade.

So there you have it – a welcome reissue of the first 7 classic albums from one of the UK’s best bands.

Buy The Classic Collection on Amazon

Rattus Norvegicus (1977)

No More Heroes (1977)

Black And White (1978)

Live X-Cert (1979)

The Raven (1979)

(The Gospel According To) The Meninblack (1981)

La Folie (1981)

 





Alternative Jewels (say hello to the modern)

4 03 2018

Alternative Jewels (say hello to the modern) is the second in a series of blog posts attached to Spotify playlists I will be putting together, alongside my regular reviews of new releases. Alternative Jewels (say hello to the modern) is the first of two playlists of some of my favourite alternative songs.

I hope my playlists will shine the light on artists that you might not be familiar with, and maybe remind you of some acts that have slipped off your radar. I would love to read your comments about the tracks I have chosen – please feel free to follow my playlists and share them.

I hope you enjoy listening to Alternative Jewels (say hello to the modern).

Opening up the playlist are The Dear Hunter, with one of my favourite tracks from their Migrant album. Bring You Down is one of the band’s most accessible songs, and a great live track. That chorus!

migrant

The Dear Hunter now count one of my favourite singer-songwriters, Gavin Castleton, as one of their members, so I am even more keen to see them live again whenever they next head back to London. I also recommend The Color Spectrum and any of the Act albums, especially Act III: Life and Death.

Crowd Surf Off A Cliff by Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton is one of the most simple yet haunting songs of recent years. The key track on the Knives Don’t Have Your Back album never fails to move me.

Next up in my playlist is the more Fleetwood Mac than Fleetwood Mac pop/rock of Dreamworld by Rilo Kiley, taken from the Under The Blacklight album. I’m probably straying a little from the alternative music genre here, but its such a good song.

My most played track from St. Vincent is the short but achingly beautiful piano instrumental We Put A Pearl In The Ground from the Marry Me album. Cherokee by Cat Power, from her Sun album, is so evocative. Close your eyes and you can feel the blistering desert sun on your skin.

starsIn Our Bedroom After The War is my favourite Stars album (closely followed by Heart). Personal is a tale of dating ads and rejection, and one of Stars most heartbreaking songs. You and I Are A Gang Of Losers by The Dears is a great single, with an amazing chorus and powerful lyrics. The Gang of Losers album is the perfect starting point if you are new to the band.

Hello? Is This Thing On? by !!! or Chk Chk Chk as they are often known, is the song that first introduced me to this wonderful NYC based dance-punk band. I get real Sandanista mid-period The Clash vibes from this track. The paranoia is off the scale here, and you will not be able to keep still whilst listening to this song. Dance suckers!

open heart zooI had to include Danish prog-poppers Mew in this playlist. You can’t go wrong with any of Mews albums, but a good start would be No More Stories… from which Silas the Magic Car springs forth. The first UK artist on this playlist is Martin Grech, who has gone a little too quiet over the past few years. There have been rumblings of new material recently, so hopefully new music is not too far away. Tonight is one of my favourite songs from the Open Heart Zoo album. A lovely, beautifully paced arrangement and production.

Stay Tuned from Anja Garbarek’s Smiling & Waving features Richard Barbieri on atmospheric synths and co-production from Steven Wilson. An evolving, often stark production gives way to a delicious, Portishead like chorus.

I am a newcomer to the music of Destroyer, and whilst Poison Season and Kaputt are my favourite albums so far, Shooting Rockets (From The Desk of Night’s Ape) from Trouble In Dreams is one of their finest songs and so an obvious choice for my playlist. A bold, often discordant arrangement pays dividends after several listens.

midlakeShearwater are really an albums band, so it was hard to pick one track, but just for the vocal effects on the songs end section alone, I had to pick Leviathan, Bound from Rook. I fell in love with Midlake around the same time as Shearwater, and The Trials of Van Occupanther is such a  thoughtfully constructed album. Head Home could easily have been released in the early to mid-70s and the song surely would have been a staple of FM radio in that era.

Another stripped back song is up next, with Joseph Arthur’s A Smile That Explodes from Our Shadows Will Remain. This is the Joseph Arthur that I prefer – an intimate, natural performance from a great singer-songwriter.

Field Music cross so many genres. Whilst they clearly fit into the alternative genre, I hear shades of 10CC and other 70s acts in their adventurous arrangements. I recommend the short and sharp Plumb and their latest, Open HereThe Sexual Loneliness of Jesus Christ by the late Jackie Leven is the oldest track on this playlist. Leven was a Scottish songwriter who fronted the late 70s band Doll By Doll, and this song is a late career highlight.

lunatic-soul-IIThe final two tracks are worlds apart. I Need My Girl is taken from Trouble Will Find Me by The National, a band who I feel are making the best music of their career at the moment. Gravestone Hill is from Lunatic Soul II. Lunatic Soul is the progressive / electronic project from Riverside vocalist and bass guitarist Mariusz Duda. Lunatic Soul have gained a sizeable following and will shortly be releasing their sixth album. All of the albums are worth seeking out – but especially the two most recent albums – Walking On A Flashlight Beam and Fractured.

I hope you enjoyed listening to all of the songs, and maybe you’ve discovered some music you were not aware of. Feel free to leave a comment below and please share this blog / playlist. The next playlist will be the second Alternative Jewels – one of older songs – expect post-punk a-plenty.

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