Thursday, January 29

Safety pins holding up the things that make you mine. About your hair, you needn't care, You look beautiful all the time.

Eurgh. January has proved itself to be a big pile of smelly pants. I know there's a day in January which is known as the most depressing day of the year, but I wonder if the month as a whole is just as guilty. The entire country seems to be in a funk. Even the optimistic must be struggling with these blues.
Not surprisingly, work hasn't picked up any. It's usually quiet after the New Year, but I've found the whole month to be pretty dire. In an effort to push myself out there a little more I'm adopting the "got to speculate to accumulate" train of thought and am paying for additional local advertising. Others seem to be a lot more optimistic about the outcome than I am, and I'd love nothing more than to be proved wrong.
A car accident and cancer claimed two of my friends. 44 and 42 is way, way too early to leave this life as we know it. The universe has a strange way of behaving, sometimes.
If it wasn't for The Girl, I'd most likely be digging myself a nice hide-away right now. I'm really leaning on her at the moment and much as I love her, I'm being plagued more and more by the thought that I'm just not good enough for her. She's working so hard with her Uni work, and doing so well, and I'm often sat watching the days melt into each other. My confidence has been taking knocks on a regular basis. My resilience is dissolving.
I picked the wrong time to stop smoking. Well, so long as nobody's counting last Wednesday when the clutch in the van decided to give up the ghost. I've never had to be recovered before. It's nothing to write home about. I mean, it's not like riding in the back of an ambulance with the blue lights flashing.

And I'm bored with this place too.
And I used to be funny.

Wednesday, January 28

I can't believe he's so trusting, while I'm right behind you thrusting.

A little background info on The Shuffleathon 2008.
The names of those participating are put into a hat and drawn out in order to 'pair' people up. By the end of the exercise, each participant has a person to which they now choose, compile, burn and send a mix cd. Each recipient gives the cd a good listen and writes a review on their blog.

The great thing about The Shuffleathon is two-fold:
Firstly, the songs included on the disc to be sent can be anything you like. While there may be unwritten rules to follow, or more so guidelines, it's entirely in the hands of you the sender whether you want to make a compilation of songs that sums up your character and personality, whether you want to be as diverse and impressive as possible with a mix of the obscure, rare and eclectic or whether you just want to include some of your favourite songs. The possibilities are endless. And it's always great to read what your recipient thought of your choices; good, bad, impressed or indifferent.
And secondly, you also get to receive a mix cd from somebody else to listen to and review. This can often be the most rewarding part because you're playlist is entirely in the hands of somebody else. Sometimes there's songs on the disc that serve to remind you just how good a particular song is and why the hell haven't you listened to it yourself lately. Sometimes there's songs on there that you've never heard and catch your interest enough to make you want to dig further. And of course sometimes there's songs that just don't float your boat.

My shuffleathon disc went to Alan of Randomburblings this year and his review can be found here. The disc I received was from Cody Bones, coming all the way from Chicago and after many repeat listens, here's my thoughts....

One : Kanye West - All Fall Down.
I'm quite partial to a little of The Kanye. Ok, so he often gets his knickers in a twist from being in the public eye, which in turn does nothing to denounce his "I'm a bit of a twat" label, but that aside I think he can do pretty good music. This is one of his better known tracks from his first album, with a great sample that doubles as a perfect hook. The female background vocals are the balls of this song and it's a shame that his more recent songs have favoured more of a focus on his own vocals rather than laying out good samples and great hooks.

Two : Junior Walker - Shake And Finger Pop.
Yeah, some old skool soul. I don't know the song, but you gotta have time for a little soul in your life. Carefree and loose is what this song's all about. And good horns. This is the type of song I like to have playing on the cd player in the van, with the windows rolled down on a sunny day. Not that we get many of those over here. Yep, like it.

Three : Vampire Weekend - A~Punk.
Brilliant example of a damn near perfect song. Short, punchy and to the point. I was a little disappointed with their album, but this is good enough to kick start them in the right direction. That hissing hi hat is infectious. That guitar hook is genius. And those floaty keyboards.... A great, great song.

Four : The Outlaws - Green Grass And High Tides.
It starts off all ominous. Grand and epic. It's a good intro. And then, oh dear. It's turned into an upbeat MOR song that I imagine would sit very comfortably on the playlist on some American Country Music radio station. I just keep wanting to "Big wheel's gonna keep on turnin'." And it makes me feel uncomfortable. I'm afraid this does nothing for me and at a running time of almost 10 minutes, it's almost 10 minutes too long.

Five : Rise Against - Drones.
A terrific balls out rock track. The singer isn't anything special and frequently sounds like any other punk/rock outfit with a shouty/screaming singer, but the music is great. It's noisy, loud and I want to hear more. This track is a big winner for me 'cos I've been pointed in the direction of something new to me and I want to hear more.

Six : ZZ Top - Sharp Dressed Man.
Oh dear. I almost used the word hate here, but hate is such a strong word. I dislike ZZ Top. It's boogy-woogy guitar plodding pop/rock that sounds as dated as their famous beards. Next!

Seven : Elbow (No, not that Elbow) - Hog The Bed.
Say hello to AOR. It's ok with it's loose drums, strumming acoustics and nice hammond sound, but loses it with that guitar solo. The banjo in the background keeps the pace jollying along but ultimately the song never reaches anything other than just another AOR song. Unfortunately forgettable and not really anything like the sort of thing I'd been found listening to.

Eight : Grateful Dead - Playing In The Band.
More AOR which sounds very dated, but I'm not sure if it's a modern track given that nostalgic sound. I know very little about The Dead, apart from them being consistently name dropped as an influential band by others and this song is ok, but to me, nothing special. The keyboards parts are the nicest thing about it, but they are few and far between, and not up in the mix enough. Nice enough song, but....nah, I just don't feel anything from this.

Nine : Dick Holliday And The Bamboo Gang - Everybody Knows.
Funky bassline for the then....oh dear....this reminds me of that horrible double time, happy horn pop stuff the likes Matt Bianco, Kid Creole et al used to produce. Out of everything on the shuffleathon cd, this track is my least favourite.

Ten : Lynyrd Skynrd - Working For The MCA.
Sounds a little like a Lenny Kravitz track to me. Even the vocals aren't that far off. I'd like to award them extra kudos for the simple fact that they named their band without any vowels. This is the sort of song that would probably be found playing in the background on an episode of Starsky And Hutch, with the strippers slithering up and down the poles and Starsky was turning on his charm while Hutch was trying to get Huggy Bear to give up some info. It's kitch 70's and it's agreeable. I'm not sure I could take a whole load of Lynrd Skynrd in one go, but as a song that comes on during random play, it's a good choice.

Eleven : Pat Benetar - Heartbreaker.
I think I might have had a crush on Pat, back in the day. Mid tempo guitar driven rock with Pat's easily recognisable vocals and already I'm cast back to any number of John Hughes movie soundtracks. Not one of her better known tracks, but easy enough on the ear to listen to. Sounding a little dated nowadays, but not enough to take away the nice nostalgic feeling it emotes.

Twelve : Lustra - Scotty Doesn't Know.
Well, I'm not sure that I care what it is that Scotty doesn't know, but from the annoyingly repetitive chorus it appears much more important that he doesn't know, rather than what it is that he doesn't know. Whatever. The song itself is ok. I'd put this in the same area as All American Rejects and the like, and as much as the music itself is cool enough, that fucking chorus drives me nuts.
"Scotty doesn't know, Scotty doesn't know, Scotty doesn't know....Don't tell Scotty"
Well, Scotty can just fuck right off. If it wasn't for the crap lyrics this would be a pretty good song. Shame.

Thirteen : The Fray - Over My Head.
I got The Fray album when it came out and thought it was ok. The stand out tracks have all been released as singles now and their popularity has quite rightly grown. Nice mellow vocals over a piano riff driven pop song. This is the sort of song I'd expect to hear on Grey's Anatomy, or one of those other American teen-type dramas that I don't even watch. Good song. I know it, I like it.

Fourteen : Neil Diamond - Kentucky Women.
Well, I recognise the voice, but I don't know the song. I like some of his stuff, but probably more so because it reminds me of when my folks used to play him. Acoustic guitar and skiffle type drums. I know he's still releasing stuff, some of it gaining critical acclaim, but I don't think I can get away with playing too much of his stuff without feeling like I'd turned into my dad. And that thought doesn't even bear thinking about!

Fifteen : The Beat - Save It For Later.
I know The Beat from their reign over the charts back in the Ska hey day. "Can't get used to losing you" and "Mirror in the bathroom" are classics and two of my favourites from those days. Known as 'English Beat' in America so there was no confusion with an established band already over there, their upbeat ska and two tone sounds formed the soundtrack for many a schoolboy's growing pains in the eighties. It might be time to dig out some old skool ska and soul tunes, thanks to this little gem.

Sixteen : R.E.M - The One I Love.
Well, I really like R.E.M so this is a good, solid choice. One from their earlier days and still sounding good, this bluesy rock number complete with Michael Stipes great vocals reminds me of why I fell in love with them all those years ago. The guitar takes turns to be jangly, then deep and blurry, while the drums pound along and Stipey howls out that chorus. Classic.

Seventeen : The Blues Brothers - Sweet Home Chicago.
See the connection there? Subtle! Ten years ago I would have appreciated this track on the shuffleathon cd a lot more. As it just feels so old. So dated. So....empty. The beauty of the songs from the soundtrack is completely lost without the visual delights of Jake and Elwood, and without that what I'm left with is a song that I'm familiar with, sure, but I'm left feeling short changed. This is felt in all its glory about half way through the song where it just goes on and on and on. In the movie, this is where Jake and Elwood exit the stage and make their escape from all the fuzz. I just really wish this hadn't been the last track on the cd.

So, there you go. Some nice reminders for me to influence my listening habits and some new stuff to search out and enjoy. I'm not sure if there was any theme attached to the tracks included on the cd. Obviously I spotted the Chicago link.
Much thanks to Swiss Toni for all the effort he puts in organising this thing. It's always a fun and enjoyable experience. Thanks to Alan for giving his time to listen to and review my cd. And thanks to Cody Bones for taking the time and effort to do this one for me.

Thursday, January 22

Thursday, January 8

You can't do that. And it's such an easy way out.

My third involvement with the shuffleathon, painstakingly organised by SwissToni, proved itself to be a bit of a bugger. The main hindrance for me was that 99% of my music is boxed up and out of reach, leaving me with a rather large hole where the inspiration should have come from.
As with most things, there are certain rules....or let's say guidelines that go hand in hand with making a compilation and much as I'd like to admit that I like to bend the rules....this time I feel more like I wiped my arse on them and hung them out to dry.
I could list a baker's dozen reasons why this time it was much more difficult to put the CD together, but I won't. However, what I will say is that the sixteen tracks that made the final cut, only one of which survived the numerous culls since day one, all hold a certain something for me. This hasn't been a project of trumpet blowing proportions, not by any means. I threw out the idea of opening with a blinding track that kicks the listener in the bollocks, grabbing their attention, then continuing with an array of musical selections that were chosen to leave them with an admirable impression of wonderfully varied and eclectic musical tastes and selections.
No, this is much, much more me.

I don't know Alan of Random Burblings, the receiver of my shuffleathon disc. I purposely stayed away from his blog, so as not to find myself swayed by him in my musical choices. After all, this is my shuffleathon disc to him, not vice-versa. Now my disc is in his hands, I shall be reading back through his writings and sticking around, because from what little I've read so far I can't help but like the guy. I'm sure I've stumbled on him before, but in the completely different scenario of a Jack The Ripper message board. How very strange. And to add even more weirdness into the mix, I think he used to verbose with The Girl, back in her blogging days. Small world, huh.

For that cloud reaching guitar hook, for that wonderful mix of different instruments dipping in and out, for the simple reason that they were obviously a talented band even right back in the beginning, for the proof that they weren't always a bunch of 'up their own arses' wankers, for that ingenious angelic choir, for that brilliant banjo intro, for that bassline....that guitar hook....and that anthemic chorus that makes me wanna scream my lungs out, for his voice and those words that could surely touch anybody, for those cheekily clever lyrics, for that dreamy fairytale ending, for her screaming vocals, for that hammond sound that keeps creeping in and those wonderfully strange instruments, for that damned cow-bell, for that building and building of pace and layer, for the way it grows from a simple ditty into a screaming and crashing wall of noise, for that absolutely amazing piano ending that kicks in at 3 minutes 52 that defines the 'hair standing on the back of your neck' moment.
And for a million other reasons....

Thirteen Senses - Thru The Glass
Albert Hammond Jr - Lisa
Elbow - George Lassoes The Moon
Genesis - Duchess
Fightstar - The English Way
Gomez - How We Operate
Jet - Lazy Gun
Radiohead - Last Flowers
The Seahorses - Love Is The Law
Jem feat Vusi Mahlasela - You Will Make It
Paramore - Decode
Talk Talk - Inheritance
Portishead - Magic Door
DJ Shadow feat Christina Carter - What Have I Done
Broken Family Band - It's All Over
Leaves - Epitaph