I'm always up for a bit of musical experimentation. Even with my (sometimes) diverse tastes and listening choices, artists inevitably pass me by. I strive to remain open to suggestions of different stuff (old and new) to load into my player and with this in mind, swisstoni's shuffleathon provides a great opportunity to listen to music that for one reason or another has either never graced my ears before or has fell into that 'old, but not not forgotten' category.
The idea is simple:
First of all there needs to be a list of participants who are willing (and able) to make a mix-cd. The names of the people taking part are then placed in a 'hat' and drawn out in typical lottery stylee, the results being that we are then informed which other person we are to send our beloved mix-cd. Simple no?
What goes on the cd that we send is down to personal preference. Some people like to make a compilation of songs that reflect a certain something about themselves. Some people like to tailor their cd towards the person they know will be receiving it. And some people probably like to include something quite 'different', especially if they already know who's gonna be on the receiving end, just to add more interest.
The final rule is that the recipient gives the cd a 'good listen' before posting a summary and review on their own blog. Repeat plays are not only heavily encouraged, but also essential, because a lot of love, time, effort, care and attention has gone into compiling said cd and to post a blasé summary and review after a couple of spins would be as welcome as a smack in the chops for the person who compiled and sent it. Not to mention being a big piss take of the entire project.
My shuffleathon sender was sarah, who apparently used to have a blog, but now resides more on Flickr here. I don't know who she is, although I've seen her dotting about on PostOfTheWeek and the occasional comments box, so I went and had a looksie at the pictures she posts on Flickr. Needless to say, apart from seeing she is a budding photographer, it's not given me much more to go on. The fact that I know little about my shuffle-buddy is neither here nor there for me anyway. It's much more important to me what's on the cd. So without anymore waffling....here's what I thought....
Before I say anything else, I would like to say that the cover she made for me was great and obviously took some thought. There was also a little note giving excuses for the delay in posting (much the same as mine - swapping tracks at the last minute etc), a little about herself, including her now defunct blog arestisasgoodasachange and flickr address sabbat1cal, and a hidden track listing (just in case I wanted to be surprised).
Oh and I should also mention that when I did finally look at the track listing that was tucked away behind the plastic cd insert, I was initially thrown because there was a track missing. The cd has 18 tracks on it but the list only shows 17. Was this the elusive 'hidden track' that graces so many cd's nowadays or simply an error. Was there a subtle message being given, was it something more 'in depth', or did sarah simply forget to list it? Who knows? Maybe I should get scooby doo on the case.
So, without any more waffling, here we go:
One : The Streets - Turn The Page.
I really like their 'Original Pirate Material' album. In fact, I think it's my favourite of theirs. I really liked 'A Grand Don't Come For Free', but lost my love for it when everybody else seemed to jump on the wagon and it got killed by radio overplay. Let's not mention 'The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living' eh!
Anyway, great way to begin. Strings (I love strings - even sampled ones). Fantastic programmed beats and some clever rhymes. When Mike Skinner gets it right, he gets it right. When this came on, I cranked the volume right up and enjoyed every minute of it. Brilliant!
"Stand by me my apprentice."
Two : ....And You Will Know Us From The Trail Of Dead - Will You Smile Again.
I've heard some of their stuff, but this track doesn't ring any bells. Guitar driven, with crashing drums and pounding bass that builds up an intro that lasts 1 minute 40, before it falls down into a gentle sound complimented by a little brass and haunting vocals. I like it. This is the sort of stuff I listen to and I'll certainly be delving into more of their back catalogue. I find his vocals touching on Liam (Oasis) and even Brian Molko (Placebo) at times, which in my books is a good thing. The changes in tempo work really well and make it stand out as a very listenable song. Yeah, I really like this and this track is a perfect example of why I joined in with the shuffleathon. I bet they're a great live band too.
"Would you smile again for me."
Three : The Beatles - Helter Skelter.
Some four piece bunch of likely lads from Liverpool. Ok, so I may get shot down in flames for saying this (it happens with my friends and family often), but I just don't get The Beatles. Yes, I recognise how influential they have been. Yes, I realise they were seen as head and shoulders above everything else at the time. Yes, I realise that there was a certain amount of genius in their (John and Paul's) song-writing, but purlease. This track reminds me of U2 from their Rattle and Hum days and I had a real hard time with that album. I'm afraid this track is tainted for me. Perhaps a different track by the 'Fab Four' would have been better received by me. For me, the best parts of this track are the 'false' endings.
"I'm coming down fast, but don't let me break you"
Four : The Smiths - You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby.
Aah, yes. Can anybody go wrong with The Smiths? Not in my eyes (or ears). This track has made me dig out all my old Smiths tracks and for that I'm truly grateful. I always liked the fact that they were a love 'em or hate 'em band. Jangly guitars, off key vocals and clever lyrics. What more could you want. I hope that they will never be swayed to reform, because that will just kill the magic for me.
"If you're wondering why. When all I wanted from life was to be famous"
Five : Japan - Life In Tokyo.
Blimey, I haven't heard this for ages. Why don't we hear more of this? It's a bloody classic. Nu-Romantic at it's best. You can keep your Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox et al. This is pure classic. It could, and probably was all played on one or two synths, but who gives a fuck. This is the sort of song that would sit perfectly in a soundtrack for a film based in the 80's starring John Cusack. David Sylvian's voice doesn't shine too much on this track, but I've got some of his solo stuff and it's just brilliant. A lot more mellow, but brilliant none-the-less. A nice trip back in time for me.
"Somewhere there's a sound of distant living "
Six : We Are Scientists - Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt.
Thumping track from a great album. A track driven by crashing drums and noisy guitar. Nice vocals from the lead singer and a great use of the 'stop/start' technique. A good example of a song with a chorus hook that digs into your skin and wont let up for at least a few weeks.
"The day, you move, I'm probably gonna explode."
Seven : Cud - Hey, Boots.
Who? I'm not so sure about this one. A short track coming in at just under 3 minutes with fast strumming guitar, tinny drums and a repetitive vocal. Nothing is grabbing me with this track, which is surprising because it's reminding me of stuff like The Cure (which I like). I've given it loads of repeat plays and it's just not grabbing me. I do like the cow-bell though. You can never have enough cow-bell. I really tried with this one, but it did little to grab my attention. Sorry.
"Questions asked and doubts arose. He should've seen beyond his nose."
Eight : Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit.
I know the band. I even know the title of the track. Have I heard it before? Well, possibly, but it's not something that's stuck with me over the years. Is this really the band that evolved into Starship that did that awful "We built this city". I fucking hate that song. Military style drums on the snare, with pickety guitar and a nice female vocal all make this a nice song. After a couple of listens to the song, I wondered if I was right about the subject matter; drugs. Yep, I think I'm bang on there. I quite like the way the song slowly builds up. I just wish it didn't end so abruptly. Good song though.
"And you've just had some kind of mushroom. And your mind is moving low"
Nine : Pet Shop Boys feat Rufus Wainwright - Casanova In Hell.
When they were in the charts all the time, I never really gelled with the PSB. If I'm honest, I found them a little boring. The only time their songs managed to raise my eyebrows were when they got remixed and it's only then when I found them interesting. Ok, so maybe that's a little harsh. I like this track though, mainly because it a small dose of The Pet Shop Boys and a large dose of Rufus and let's face it....Rufus has got a wonderful voice. So mellow. Lots of harmonised vocals on this track, meandering along with the programmed synths. It's a live track and it makes me wonder if I already have it somewhere on my pc. Ultimately a nice song, saved by the vocal talents of Mr Wainwright.
"Her sharp suggestion. He couldn't get an erection."
Ten : Dusty Springfield - If You Go Away.
R.I.P Dusty. A wonderful voice. Another track that I wanted to turn right up to 'eleven'. Strings drive this song along and it's a beautiful journey. Dusty's vocals make me all moist and when she sings in French...Oh My gdfjfk;sieoywt[ort. Sorry, I think I've just cum!
Wonderful production and arrangement on this song, reminiscent of Spector's Wall Of Sound. Strings, harps, flutes....Yep, this is a wonderful, wonderful song. That final line is shit though. It should never have been there.
"I'll sail on your smile, I"ll ride on your touch, I"ll talk to your eyes, that I love so much."
Eleven : Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music - Oh Yeah.
For me Roxy Music are only memorable for two songs; Love is the drug and Virginia Plain. I could never understand their appeal and Bryan's voice does absolutely nothing for my ears. I also thought he was a bit of a cock too. I actually quite like the song, it's just his voice. All I can think of when this song plays is karaoke bars. Sorry, I tried my best.
"There's a band playing on the radio and it's drowning the sound of my tears."
(Hidden Track) : Ben Folds Five - Don't Change Your Plans.
I've heard a fair bit of Ben & co and really like them. I'm sure I caught them on one of the stages at a Virgin Music Festival, but to be honest....I may have been very stoned. He's got a great voice. Really lustrous. Piano driven and a jolly vocal, loose drumming and bulging basslines make for a really good song. This has 'summer song' written all over it. I particularly like the way it comes to a faltered tempo when the chorus kicks in and there's some great harmonies in it too. It's a feel good song, which is a strange thing to say considering it's a sad love song and it's been a firm favourite on the cd, which is interesting if indeed it was 'hidden' intentionally. Fantastic piano!
"All I really wanna say is you're the reason I wanna stay."
Twelvety : The House Of Love - Shine On.
Wow. Some good memories attached to this track for me. I remember when this track hit the radio and it always stood out for me as something 'different' at the time. It has a great nostalgic feel to it, a la Joy Division and still stands the test of time. Catchy chorus and a great guitar riff that sticks like glue. I don't remember them doing anything anywhere near as good, which is a shame. Yet another track that I reached for the volume control.
"I don't know why I dream this way. The sky is purple and things are right every day."
Thirteen : Divine Comedy - Our Mutual Friend.
For some reason, I decided to miss out on who-ever was playing the Pyramid Stage and the Other Stage at Glastonbury one year to watch Neil and co play in some tent to end the festival jollities. Actually, the reason may have had something to do with being stoned. Yes, yes, I know! Anyway....they were great! And you know what? I didn't even like them. But watching them close the Festival (in a tent) was a great experience and it was at that point I decided to stop disliking them.
I love the pulsating strings in this track. In fact the whole arrangement is great. Typical vocals by Neil, delivered in almost a Morrissey style. Hate the tambourine though. Yeah, the tambourine can fuck right off. And the brass doesn't do much for me either. That said, it's a quaint song that trips along quite nicely and has nothing really offensive in it. Helped along massively by the clever lyrics, delivered in a story type way and I've found myself listening to this one quite a lot too. Maybe I should dig out some of their old stuff again.
"And we sang a song that I can't sing anymore. And then we kissed and fell unconscious."
Fourteen : Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy.
How refreshing to see that sarah used the correct title and not 'Unfinished Symphony' as many other numb-nuts do. It's a fucking great song. Cow bells, haunting synths, great vocals.... Great video too. Apparently shot in one take. It's one of those songs that many people know, without actually knowing who it's by. It's a sample fiesta with cello, strings, scratching, female vocal samples and tinkering percussion that all come together in a song that's nothing short of genius.
"You're the book that I have opened and now I've got to know much more."
Fifteen : LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum.
I'm not too familiar with this band, although I know the name. I like the bleeps married with the programmed beats. If this is a good example of what they are like, then I'm gonna be investigating further. In fact, why am I saying that. I'm gonna anyway, so fuck you. A little repetitive but after a few listens it's certainly stuck in my head.
"So throw a party till the cops come in and bust it up."
Sixteen : Carole King - I Feel The Earth Move.
Do I sound horrible if I say that I really like her songs, but when somebody else sings them. Nice jangly piano and old skool feel with smoothe, smoothe vocals but I find the passion lacking when she sings. She was probably off her face on something. Who knows. It's a cool background kind of song. Something to have on when friends are round.
"I know that my emotions are something that I can't tame. I've just got to have you, baby."
Seventeen : Johnny Cash - Five Feet High And Rising.
Strange and quirky choice to end the cd, but it works well. Echo on the plucky guitar and typical old style harmonies give this a very listenable feel. Is it almost skiffle? I dunno? Johnny's voice pounds along and I can't help being left with a "the end already?" feeling due to the short length. It's a "more, more!" track. Nice way to end a varied collection though.
"We can't come back 'til the water goes down, five feet high and risin'."
And that's about it. All in all a complete success, even if I do say so myself.
I'd like to thank sarah for taking the time and effort to put this together. I'd also like to thank swisstoni for bringing it all together and give a name-check to yokospungeon for being the inspiration.
It's been a pleasure.