Wednesday, 18 May 2011


Choose My Music has been doing so well it is already starting to outgrow Blogger.

So the site has moved to

Come over and say Hi...but wipe your carpet

18th May 2011: B:A:26 - Nothing Like Dying To Make A Killing

Choose My Music this week was picked by a really top guy by the name of Mark Cann. You can find him on twitter right here. Mark and I only live a town or two apart, we frequent the same comedy club on occasions and followed each other on three different social networks over a period of 5 years. Oddly we have never met....maybe it is better that way.

I should also point out that this site now has its own Twitter account. So please follow @ChooseMyMusic

Anyway, Mark kindly picked the combination B:A:26 this morning which lead me to this album.

Johnny Cash - My Mother's Hymn Book
Amazon Link: My Mother's Hymn Book

The resurgence of Johhny Cash in the late 1990's and at the turn on the millennium was nothing but spectacular.

Like many musicians who plied their trade in the 60's & 70's, the 1980's was perhaps not the kindest period for the self proclaimed Man in Black. His record sales were in serious decline and he battled yet further addiction to painkillers thanks to being kicked in the stomach by an ostrich. By the end of the decade he was dropped by Colombia Records, who he was signed to for over 20 years.....Johnny Cash's mainstream music career was effectively over.

That was until U2 came along, which provided Cash with an appearance on the Zooropa album, which lead to a recording contract with Rick Rubin's American Recordings record label.

The first two releases barely scratched the surface, but Cash was finding a new audience and when American III: Solitary Man was released in 2000 the big time had returned.

As for this album, this is perhaps the only one in the series which solely relies on Johnny Cash's vocal and acoustic guitar. No guest appearances, no bass, no drums  - and this is perhaps what Cash does best.

As the album title suggests, the track list is made up of old hymns that Cash remembers singing with his mother while growing up amongst the cotton fields in perhaps the appropriately named Kingsland in Arkansas.

Originally the album was released as part of the 'Unearthed' box set, which as a big Cash fan at the time, caused significant anger from me.

From memory, the original release date was already set prior to Cash's death in September 2003 as was a perfectly acceptable price point (of around £40-£50). As soon as news of his passing broke the release date was shelved and fans were left hanging. A new date was set for November 2003 and so was a new price of between £80 to £100. Nothing like someone dying to make companies a bit more money.

Since that point I have always felt uneasy buying anything else released under the American Recordings banner. American V and VI has since been released, both topping the US charts - but I don't think those albums will ever grace my collection. It no longer feels right.

Of course a huge part of me is grateful of American Recordings. There is a significant possibility that without hearing his version of U2's One while updating the album chart wall in Tower Records, I may have never bothered to give Johnny Cash a listen....

....But there are some things which just need to be left alone.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Audiophiles - Ha Ha Tonka


Twitter: @Hahatonka
Amazon Links: Death of a Decade (MP3)
                        Death of a Decade (CD)

There a few things sweeter in music than:

1) Close harmony singing.
2) Despite my staunch atheism, a style that instantly makes me think of religion and superstition
3) A little bit of mandolin every now and then.

Fortunately for me, the first time I heard Ha Ha Tonka they presented all of the above and as a consequence I have not listened to anything else for three days straight. I even went for a two mile walk this morning just so I could enjoy the album from start to finish.

Signed to independent Chicago based label Bloodshot Records, you could be mistaken to liken these Missouri boys to Kings of Leon. Indeed growing up in the Midwest bible belt has no doubt created a similar sound to the Tennessee 4 piece.

But there is more to it than that. Hidden behind the southern rock guitars lays a folk sentiment which would be familiar to more recent UK folk breakthrough artists like Stornaway or even Mumford & Sons. You could even be bold enough during aspects of their new album 'Death of a Decade' to point odd fingers towards Arcade Fire with its driving drum rhythms.

Since 2005 Ha Ha Tonka have released four albums and one EP, gaining more and more friends each time. Indeed 'Death of a Decade was hailed as the 'birth of an important band' by the Austin Chronicle, while Spin Magazine, CMJ Essentials while various websites not called Choose My Music have also been extremely forthcoming in celebrating this band

Thanks to the efforts of Bloodshot Records and Ha Ha Tonka's management I have been lucky enough to obtain a short interview with the band to discuss their influences, touring the United States and the state of live music in general. But before that I urge you to have a quick listen to their new single and opening track of 'Death of a Decade' and check out the awesome video for "Caney Mountain"
"Usual Suspects" by Ha Ha Tonka by Bloodshot Records

I hope that has given you a big enough appetite to find out more about Ha Ha Tonka.  Please welcome singer and guitarist Brian Roberts, who has been kind enough to answer my questions.

CMM: Welcome to Choose My Music, could you please introduce the people who make up your band?

BR: Ha Ha Tonka consists of Brett Anderson (guitar, mandolin, keys), Lennon Bone (drums), Luke Long (bass) and me (vocals, rhythm guitar).

CMM: How long has Ha Ha Tonka be going for?

BR: Ha Ha Tonka has been active for 5 years.

CMM: Are you currently running the band on a full time basis or do you have to supplement your music with full time jobs?

BR: It's a full time job with part time pay.

CMM: There are many bands and artists which come to mind when I hear your music. Almost apologetically Kings of Leon come into my head, as does shades of Ben Harper and some recent UK folk bands such as Stornaway and Mumford and Son. Who, what or where do your influences come from?

BR:Those comparisons are very flattering!  Individually, we each have different influences.  Personally, I'm influenced by everything from REM to Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver.  I also feel that the region we hail from, the Ozarks, has a big influence on all of us.

CMM: Your video to "Caney Mountain" has an almost biblical feel. I also got this impression from the first of your songs I ever heard 'Hold My Feet To The Fire". You also have recorded an album Buckle in the Bible Belt. Is there a religious aspect to your band or is this imagery ingrained from your surroundings?

BR: We aren't a "religious band" per se, however I was raised in a relatively fundamentalist environment and I'm sure that elements of gospel music seep into our songs.  As I mentioned earlier, the Ozarks play a big role in our music.  We try to sing about the people, places and things we know.

CMM: You are currently touring the United States with your new album 'Death Of A Decade'. I have recently discussed the death of the local UK music scene here with venues closing on a regular basis. Are things any better in the USA?

BR: Actually, I think the music scene is pretty strong in most markets here in the US.  Obviously, record stores aren't doing so well what with the decline of record sales, however shows seem to be doing well.

CMM: I've seen nothing but positive reviews for Ha Ha Tonka. How is the tour going for you?

BR: It's been the best tour we've ever done!  There have been several sold out shows and lots of rowdy crowds, which we absolutely love.

CMM: You are signed to Chicago's Bloodshot Records, what attracted you to the label?

BR: Well, they were really the only label actively courting us!  And the fact that the Old 97s and Ryan Adams were both on the label at one point, that didn't hurt.  Not a bad roster to be a part of. 

CMM: And finally, as around 70% of my readers are from the UK & Europe - do you have any plans to visit us in the near future?

Yes!  There are plans in the works for a Fall tour of the UK & Europe!  Working out the details now.

So there you have it. Ha Ha Tonka are very busy at the moment so I really appreciate their time with this. I hope to see them smash up the UK in the very near future.

I am certain many of you reading this will enjoy this band very much. If you have...why not tell a friend or two?

As always, your comments are always welcome. 

To finish off, a little Ha Ha Tonka appearing on TV in the USA:

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

11th May 2011: F:B:15: I Was A Teenage Punk

Today's Choose My Music was picked by a man known only to me as @Geek_Tone. His random selection was F:B:15 which has lead me to this selection.

Rancid - Rancid
Released: 1993
Purchase Link: Amazon

Now, for the sake of order and my own sanity, I should point out that there are two self titled Rancid albums - this is the original which was released in 1993.

I really do not think it is possible to underestimate the influence and affect Rancid had on me during my latter teenage years. Being born in the summer of 1979 I missed out on the original Punk scene by a considerable amount of years. Rancid were perhaps the first true alternative bands I got in to.

I was introduced to the Californian group by Mike Hartley, he was the guitarist of my 2nd band Arctic Space-Man. I had already got into the Pistols, Clash and various other original punk bands but he played me a tape with the track Ruby Soho on it (from their 3rd album ....And Out Comes The Wolves) and I was instantly hooked.

Sadly our band sounded nothing like Rancid, and it wasn't for another 5 years or so until I set up my very short lived punk band Chunk, but more about that later.

Rancid played a huge part in the resurgence of punk in the mid 1990s, along with Green Day and Offspring, yet unlike the other two bands, Rancid showed their true punk colours by releasing all their early albums on independent labels (Lookout, Epitaph and Hellcat, which is owned by singer/guitarist Tim Armstrong)

Armstrong and bass player Matt Freeman originally played together in cult underground band Operation Ivy. When they split up in 1989, Armstrong suffered with homelessness brought on through alcohol addiction. The story goes that Matt Freeman stumbled upon him one day and took him in to help him get clean - it was out of this act of friendship that Rancid was formed. Tim has credited this as saving his life.

This was the first of Rancid's 7 albums they have released to this point, all with virtually the same line up. For their 2nd release, 'Lets Go' a year later in 1994 they recruited Lars Fredrickson from UK Subs. The position was originally offered to Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day fame, who would often play live with the band during their formative years, but he turned down the offer to concentrate on breaking his own band.

Sadly, I have found myself over the years drifting away from Rancid. Their 2003 album Indestructible was panned by some of their fan base, not helped by them recruiting Kelly Osborne and members of Blink 182 to appear in the video for the single 'Fall Back Down'. Also Rancid decided to use Warner Brothers to distribute the album, they would only do so on the condition it had a parental advisory sticker on the front....for true hardcore punk fans this small detail is a big no no.

Even sadder still is upon the release of their 2009 album Let The Dominoes Fall, I actually found myself cringing at some it it during my first listen - and I haven't played it again since.

I am not sure if I have outgrown Rancid, or if they have outgrown me.

As for my punk band Chunk? Well we were always pretty bad - there exists on MiniDisc the only live recording of the group ever - which was a horrible gig in Newcastle Under Lyme (which we blagged the promoter saying we were a well established local band, when in truth we had never played a gig) - we were generally abused by a pissed up old man, who you can hear at one point in the recording asking us if we knew "any good ones". I guess the world wasn't ready for songs like "All My Friends Are Shit"....ahhhh...happy memories

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Audiophiles - The Salvadors

Well, what a huge week for Choose My Music. I am truly humbled by the amount of people reading this site on a regular basis.

Within a week of May this little music ramble of mine has already had over 50% of the total hits for the whole of April.

So I am starting this Audiophiles post with a little thank you for all of you who have seen fit to read, comment and share this site of mine. If you would like to continue doing what you are doing then I won't be stopping you.

There are share buttons knocking about somewhere and there is also a Facebook group. If you are visiting this site for the first time then get involved by following me on Twitter

All that aside, lets get down to business with another band I hope you will like.

The Salvadors

I was introduced to The Salvadors via a new music website called GroopEase.

The site has been made to not only promote new, up and coming bands but also to give its members the opportunity to buy GroopEase's featured bands album at a very stupidly low price for a limited period (usually about a week) with 5% of your money also going to charity.

You may have noticed I used the word members, it is because this site is by invite only - but lucky for you my dear reader - I have a little invite especially for you! Just click here - joining is free and is well worth it.

So, what do I know about The Salvadors....well very little to be honest, apart from they are Australian.

I did contact them via their Myspace to ask if they fancied doing an interview in the same vein as Ortolan Soup last week, but they have not got back to me as yet. 

While having my first listen to the band a couple of months ago, I scouted around the internet and found some half arsed lazy reviews going on about how they would appeal to fans of Arcade Fire. I am not disputing this per say. Fans of the Canadian 8-piece do have great music taste, but to liken the two bands as similar is a little but lazy.  I am sure most female vocalists who try their luck in the next 12 months will have the same issues with depressing chart botherer Adele.

Without taking anything away from The Salvadors, the only likeness is that they have a female in the group who sometimes does vocals. The similarities appear to end there.

What you have got with The Salvadors is a band that could be played at any social event, and you will be sure that someone will say "who's this playing now", thus giving you an awesome musical star rating of 5 amongst your friends.

I am not sure who The Salvadors remind me of, they have aspects of Californian band The Little Ones, if only in summer bounciness as opposed to actual style. They do also remind me a little of last weeks Choose My Music entry Bound Stems.

Really though, they just remind me how great music can be when done right.

You can hear some of The Salvadors below and you can buy their 8 track Misspent Youth album from the Groopease site for just $7 - that is about £4.27 for the Brits among us.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

4th May 2011 A:B:27 - I've Been Keeping This Family Afloat For Years

This weeks Choose My Music was picked by Dom Walsh, a man I have communicated with on an almost daily basis, collaborated on the A2Z music project with and interviewed on my football website - yet we have never met. Oddly on the couple of occasions he has picked on Choose My Music he has managed to pull out a couple of crackers. This week is no exception and would also qualify as an Audiophile post as this group was relatively unknown before their break up a year or so ago.

In keeping with tradition though, lets get the formalities out of the way. This morning Dom Walsh, at random, picked the combination A:B:27 (Bay A, Row B, CD 27) which lead me to this little gem of an album.

Bound Stems - The Family Afloat

Quite where I first heard this band I am not quite sure. Sadly with the array of music websites filling the internet over the past few years, my memory starts to get a little fuzzy when it comes to more recent purchases.

Looking back it was either on the brilliant Daytrotter website or on Last FM. Considering I do appear to have 6 Bound Stems songs in my Last FM played library and taking into account that due to my recent redundancy, I have a lot of time to watch Columbo, my powers of deduction lead me to the latter as the source on this occasion.

Bound Stems were formed in September 2002 and released a bunch of EPs between 2003 and 2005. By 2006 a full album was recorded and received some very favourable reviews amongst both the indie press and major publications like Rolling Stone and The New York Times. A national tour was booked, including an appearance at Lollapalooza. Things were looking good enough that all the band members decided it was time to quit their day jobs in order to become a fully fledged full time touring band.

12 months later it already became clear to Bound Stems that the lack of a stable income was causing problems. Feeling the need for stability and 'strong roots', they returned to their days jobs and got on to recording The Family Afloat.

I'll be honest, I have no idea how to describe this album. I don't feel exactly safe in my own mind using niche terms like "math rock" (it does exist). Whereas the bog standard 'indie rock" is just a little too vague for my liking too.

What you do have is a really well textured album where every track stands on its own merit. The opening track on its own changes rhythm and direction so much you feel like you have listened to a full album in the first 4 minutes and 20 seconds. My ears and brain tell me is a very good thing.

Often, a lot of the songs follow this pattern. Sometimes it feels like they have managed to merge three or four song ideas into one, yet magically make it sound perfectly natural, which suggests a collaborative approach to writing that many bands could no doubt learn a thing or two from. Oddly, listening to this album as I write I feel the urge to have a bit of an indie boogie....and I hate dancing... luckily no one is home.

The first time I listened to this album I was driving to work. I noticed when I arrived in the car park, that I only had two songs left on the CD so I sat there in my car until every last note was processed by my ears. Like a good book, I just had to know how it all ends.

I actually emailed the band after listening to The Family Afloat for the first time to tell them how much I enjoyed it. I got a lovely email back, then two weeks later, got another one to say they have split up.

If anything this CD demonstrates how difficult it is to break through in this industry. I imagine there are not many people who could not enjoy listening to it. The last track on this album contains the refrain 'I've been keeping this family afloat for years'. Sadly, like most families, the struggle appeared to be too great in this modern age.

On a positive note. Member of Bound Stems now make up the band Like Pioneers and you can listen to them here

Monday, 2 May 2011

Audiophiles - Ortolan Soup

This could be a long please allow me this slight ramble

Growing up in a small cathedral city in Staffordshire it may surprise many that myself and my friends got the opportunity to see quite a few bands, even Radiohead visited during their Pablo Honey tour.

Just 20 minutes drive away, in a rather nondescript town, there was a decent enough music venue in which we regularly got to see bands on their way up. Shed 7, Supergrass, Feeder and Reef to name but a few groups who made their name during the 1990's.

The off-shoot of this was the influence it gave me and my friends to start bands, and because of the promoter's generous booking policy it was often the case that many of us were able to play our first gigs at the same venue we used to go to week in week. Bands were formed in the venue bar, gigs at other venues were arranged by bands hooking up back stage - this place meant the world to us.

Fast forward at least 15 years to the present day and I shall present you with a discussion I had with someone involved with the local arts scene in Derby, or to be honest the lack of it. I happened to bring up the business that the city has struggled to maintain any consistent music venue for many years. Few have opened, barely any remain.

This then made me wonder how this affects the local music scene. To be honest Derby is not best known for producing music, some could argue White Town's 1997 number 1 single 'Woman' was the last significant piece of music to break through.

I decided to dig further and what I found was generally shocking. Bands were still citing Oasis as their influences, almost as if the last 10 years never happened. There was nothing, and I felt the weight of heavy despair and a tinge of sadness.

Last week, out of nowhere, I was follwed on Twitter by an account in Derby by the name of Ortolan Soup. This account had never tweeted and had no followers - usually enough for me to ignore - but for some reason I followed back. I asked the owner of this mystery account if they had any music.

A day or so later I received an message back linking me to this website. To be fair, I wasn't expecting much. Perhaps some guy with an acoustic guitar, or maybe just a standard pub band affair. What I actually found was this:

Ortolan Soup EP by Ortolan Soup

I was actually quite stunned. What I discovered was a rather brilliant, self recorded EP which instantly made me think of Elliot Smith and how much I missed his music. I heard depth and texture not often attributed to home recorded music. In short, I was very impressed.

Keen to find out more, I contacted the individual responsible who agreed to be interviewed.

CMM: Welcome to Choose My Music. This is the first interview I have done on here so you are honoured. Lets start with you telling us a little bit about yourself.

OS: I'm from Stoke-on-Trent, but I'm living in Derby - on a music and music tech course at the university. I'm currently a solo musician considering forming a band around my existing material. I'm not a great player or singer technically, but I like to think I've got some good ideas, and my songwriting has been improving a lot lately.

CMM: When I first heard your EP I mentioned to you that I felt it had a very Elliot Smith sound to it. What other artists influence you?

OS: I feel great about being compared to Elliot Smith, but other than that I'm really infuenced by indie folk artists like Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, Lost in the Trees and Sufjan Stevens (along with many others). Older stuff like The Beatles, Big Star, Love and the Kinks too. The list doesn't really end, and I'm always finding new bands and styles I want to incorporate into my own material.

CMM: What other music projects have you been involved in over the years?

OS: My first real band was a punk rock group called Cynical Protest. We played together for a few years and did okay, but never really pushed ourselves. The closest thing to that was a group formed in college, called Hot Rats. I liked it, but it wasn't a very musical period for me, and I never really commited myself. Then I left Stoke to go to university, so it would have been hard to stay in the band. I spent my first year, and most of this second year, trying to be a better songwriter.

CMM: You mention on your Bandcamp bio that you tried to be as autonomous as possible during making the EP - why did you decide to go it alone?

OS: I did the EP as a university project. I've always told myself that I could do this kind of thing if I wanted to, but never really did it. But the only way you can do something is if you do it. With a grade riding on it, I knew I had to get it done. As for doing it alone - I just worked to my strengths I think. I don't really have all these musicians around me to reach out to, and I don't have the cash to pay someone to design artwork and create a website. I think I have a pretty good eye for professionalism, so I made something that I'd like.

CMM: I was lamenting the music scene in Derby the other week. I suggested that there are very few bands doing anything remotely interesting in the area. One of the issues, I feel, is the lack of a good solid music venue to attract bands.What are your thoughts about the local scene and the problems that surround it?

OS: In Stoke, there's two venues and not much else. I typed into Google 'open mic Derby', and was more than happy with the results. It depends on the music though; Ortolan Soup is not yet a 'band' and I haven't been part of one whilst I've been in Derby, so I don't really know about that kind of thing. That said, I've not really noticed any real promotion for local bands - and that can't be a good sign.

CMM: How has the reaction been to your EP?

OS: Slow. It hasn't provoked any reactions - but it's new, and I'm new. I need to learn everything - including promotion. It's hard to get anyone to listen to anything, even music fans. I'm not well versed in this kind of thing, so it's learning curve. If I'm being honest, I've started to think of this EP as a precursor to what I'll do next. I haven't made a massive fuss about putting this EP out there because I'm still developing my writing and recording skills - and I'm not saying what I want to say yet, musically.

CMM: What are you plans for Ortolan Soup going forward?

OS: I'm uncertain. I might look for a songwriting partner, find band members, and write and record new material. Or I might stick at it alone, but that's pretty hard because you don't have anyone to bounce ideas off, so it takes ten times longer to finish songs (which is why my EP is so short). I plan to get into open mics before I get into real gigging anyway, to get a bit more experience under my belt, and test out songs. I've already got a lot of material and ideas for an album, so hopefully I''ll get that done by the end of ths year.

And there you have it. I have never been impressed by a self recorded, self produced début release before and I strongly urge you to download Ortolan Soup's EP...for

You can also follow Ortolan Soup on Twitter here

As always, comments and the sharing of this site is more than welcome.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

28th April 2011: H:B:19: How Nirvana Made Some Bands But Broke Others

Todays album was picked at random by Craig Wijckaans who you can follow on Twitter here

Craig picked the combination H:B:19 which lead me to this album.

Weezer - Weezer (Blue Album)

Major label record companies are generally idiots.

I am sure you don't need me to tell you that and you are perhaps wondering what area of idiocy I am pinpointing too exactly when it comes to Weezer's début album. The list is surely long and endless. To explain my point we need to go way back to late 1991 / early 1992. This is when Nirvana's Nevermind was released and changed the face of music for some years to come.

The release of Nevermind was a rather small affair with rather modest aspirations from both DGC Records (Geffen) and the band itself. But off the back of the success of Smells Like Teen Sprit, Nirvana found themselves knocking Michael Jackson's 'Dangerous' album off the number 1 spot in America. Alternative rock music was suddenly in the mainstream.

As soon as the major labels cottoned on, every A&R man in the country was dispatched with the instructions "find another one of those and make us some money"

Similar groups were signed at an alarming rate and many fell by the wayside. A feature on these bands in Punk Planet magazine sometime in 2000 still resonates in my mind, as bands, relationships and financial security were all destroyed by this short sighted scramble for the 'next Nirvana'

One such band was an American outfit from Berkeley, California (a hotbed of brilliant punk and rock bands of the 1990's) called Samiam. By 1994 they had already released three albums through independent label New Red Archives before Atlantic Records came knocking.

The relationship between the two bands didn't last long. Atlantic were expecting immediate success for very little financial outlay and, if memory serves me right, were trying to get involved on an artistic level, in the music being produced by the band at the time. One album later (Clumsy) and the deal was off.

Oddly if you listen to Samiam's 1997 follow up album 'You Are Freaking Me Out'  released on another major label, you will notice a passing resemblance to Foo Fighters, who were also achieving huge success at this time. Again it could be right to assume outside influences were involved.

Music history of the time is littered with these stories and there were a lot of bands who never recovered and some who were left with record company bills at the end of it.

What have Weezer got to do with this I hear you ask? Well they were one of the few success stories of the era.

Despite hailing from California, Weezer found success thanks to signing with Geffen, who had already successfully sold Nirvana to the masses. They were the pros at this and initially decided not to release a single to try and succeed initially through word of mouth alone.

The tactic was a master stroke. Firstly the reduced overheads must have created less pressure on the band to gain an instant hit and second it made the very influential Seattle DJs interested enough to check Weezer out.

Two Spike Jonze directed videos later - which were both massive hits to the new MTV generation - and Geffen had another platinum seller on their hands.

Weezer were one of the ones that made it, but sadly I find they often make me think of the bands who fell by the wayside on their way up.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Audiophiles - Fake Four

A bit of a different Audiophile post today as it is not about any particular artist, but is actually about a record label I per-chanced upon a week or so ago.

This actually came about through the Choose My Music Facebook page where it was suggested I check out the Connecticut based label Fake Four....I have been obsessed with their output ever since.

Fake Four was founded in May 2008 by brothers David and Ceschi Ramos. The label loves an strives to release full length albums in physical formats, although digital downloads are also available.

The majority of artists I am going to cover here would generally be classed as Hip Hop but that is down to my own laziness as opposed to anything else, the music here crosses so many boundaries it is very hard to pigeon hole.

Onry Ozzborn

Label Link PageHere
Spotify LinkHere

The Fake Four track I heard was 'The O.O' by Onry Ozzborn (Seattle) and it was the perfect track to get me hooked. The track is perfect old school sample based hip hop with an intelligent lyricist who is clearly not willing to join the mainstream with the usual rap clichés.

The strength of 'The O.O' lead me straight to Spotify to listen to the full length album 'Hold On For Dear Life' which is now on my shopping list and well worth checking out.


Label Link PageHere
Spotify LinkHere

Next up we have label founder Ceschi, who describes his music as Indie Folk Hip Hop, and who I am to argue with that.
As soon as I mentioned Fake Four I was very quickly informed by a wonderful music lover know as Geoff Owen, to check Ceschi out - and thanks to a free label sampler his track 'Bad Jokes' has been playing on my stereo every since.
The fact that my partner Anna took an interest in this track, despite her general dislike of anything remotely hip hop means that this is clearly an artist I need to investigate more.

Myka 9

Label PageHere
Spotify Link: Not Available

Next up we have Myka 9 - who has already provided me with a track which will forever remind me of the glorious weather we have been having here this Easter. One thing I always look for in a hip hop artist is an interesting delivery style, and Myka 9 certinly has that. It actually reminds me a little of Busdriver, which is no bad thing at all.
I have been advised that Myka 9 was also part of a collective called Freestyle Fellowship, who have now been added to my 'listen too' list.

There are so many artists I could cover in this post, but I would be here all night.

Through my Fake Four journey I have discovered a brilliant array or artists, many of whom I will no doubt cover in more detail as I get round to purchasing albums.

In the meantime I would really urge you download the free Fake Four label samplers from the Circle into Square website.

Fake Four Album Sampler Vol 1
Fake Four Album Sampler Vol 2

Fake Four has also produced a benefit EP for Japan - please support it here It is only $8.00 (approx £5)

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

19th April 2011. C:B:22

I have been thinking about music A LOT lately. This is perhaps due to the fact that not only am I volunteering on a very small, very local hospital radio station, but also because in light of the new job I should be starting soon, I will eventually be responsible for managing a record label and radio station of my own.

Oddly the Choose My Music selection this week has also given me some additional food for thought. But lets start from the beginning.

This weeks Choose My Music was picked by Charlie Greenwood (or @LottieDean on Twitter). The fact that she decided to choose my music and thus appear on this blog is, I am told, rather ironic considering she spent most of yesterday morning lamenting about pointless blogs. If there is a blog as pointless as this I would love to read it.

Anyway, Charlie kindly picked the random combination of C:B:22 - which lead me to.....

Fugazi - Steady Diet of Nothing

I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive when my finger counted across to CD number 22. It was a beautiful early spring morning and I was about to take a short drive to Derby - secretly I was hoping for something a little more 'summery', but thems are the breaks when you insist that your music habits will be dictated at random by strangers....but to be fair, once I got going down the A38 I am rather quite pleased and saw fit to crank up the volume.

I was a late comer to Fugazi, which is no surprise as I was 8 years old when they formed. I knew of their existence during my latter school days, mainly thanks to a brilliant drummer by the name of Kalvin (a few years later in 1999, we did eventually start a band which was very good - I still miss them to this day) . But it wasn't until perhaps my early 20's when I really started to take notice.

Looking at the CD cover, inlay and sleeve notes (as is my love - hence why digital downloads are a struggle for me) I registered that the album was recorded in 1991,which got me thinking. If I had heard this album at 11 or 12 years old, as I would have been at the time, would I have liked it?

I am guessing the answer is likely to be NO for many reasons. First, I wouldn't have "got it" as it were. Social / Political punk was not really my thing at that age and to be honest, I have no idea how I would have even heard anything from this album in the early 90's - I can't imagine Simon Mayo cranking out Dear Justice Letter on his Monday morning breakfast show.

As much as I love the body of work produced by Fugazi, I am rather grateful that I didn't hear them until later in my life as I feel many of us music obsessives will reach a point where we stop just liking music and move on to actual appreciation. Not solely enjoying a song because it is there, but listening to the intricate details, the clever rhythm changes, a self serving bass line which doesn't just hit root notes, instruments being dropped in when you least expect them and so on.

As sad as you may think it is, I love listening to music and letting my brain pick out the individual parts which make up the whole and just appreciating the entire ensemble - this explains why The Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds' album is my all time favourite and perhaps why people who do not listen to music in this way do not see it as anything special. I enjoy listening to Fugazi in this way to.

I suppose I should point out for fear of pompousness, that I know I am not the only one who does this...heck, producers get paid by the bucket load for a similar, but even more proficient, listening style.

Speaking of producers. Looking at the history of this album, Fugazi wanted to employ the producer of their first album (Ted Nicely) to work on this release with them. Oddly, Nicely has gone from producing awesome records to being a Chef  so the band landed up doing it themselves.

To be fair, there isn't too much to say about this album. You ether love Fugazi or your don't. They have a very set sound, a very distinguishable style. I sometimes find it hard to distinguish from one album to the other. I suppose if this is a band someone would want to get into then I would suggest starting at the beginning with 'Repeater' or at the end with 'The Argument' and work your way back.

Prior to writing this post, I rightly assumed it would be difficult to find some tracks off this album to post here. So I am sticking on whatever I can find.

Fugazi - Waiting Room - Fugazi by SoundKreep
Fugazi - Merchandise by Rudimentor

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Audiophiles - Egyptian Hip Hop

Following on from my discovery of Pokey LaFarge a few weeks ago I thought I should share with you another band I stumbled across towards the back end of 2010.

Egyptian Hip Hop

Album: Some Reptiles Grew Wings (EP)
Released: 2010
Discovered At: Spotify
Twitter: @egypitianhiphop
MySpace: Egypitian Hip Hop

This four piece from Manchester have no connection with Egypt nor do they play Hip Hop - but the name was enough to intrigue me when it popped up on my Spotify list. Needless to say it wasn'tt quite what I expected.

The band was formed in 2008 and through playing some small shows across Manchester they started to attract attention from the mainstream music press, especially the music maligned (by me) NME, who gave away a demo version of the track Rad Pitt on a free MP3 mixtape.
I must admit my knowledge of the band is limited to the above facts and releases by the band are a little thin of the ground. So far there has been one single and an EP (which appears to be only available digitally). As yet, as far as I can tell, there is no news about an album. The most recent interview I have found suggested they have not even considered signing a record deal as they completed their college studies.

I'm not sure which out of the usual made up genres of indie music this group would come under. They certainly have an 80's electronic sound and the singer's voice at times is not too dissimilar to Robert Smith.

The available 4 track EP has some really great songs, 2 of which would make any Radio One playlist - which will no doubt mean at some stage I will go off them as the inevitable press coo-ing commences. But for now I am enjoying them for what they are - a good band that write some truly catchy songs

Monday, 11 April 2011

10th April 2011 G:B:16

Back to usual business after setting up my Audiophiles page and participating in the brilliant Masterpieces website. I figured after a couple of weeks break it was time to get back on with Choose My Music.

As always please try and share this site when are where you can. Thanks to you guys this site continues to grow and I have got in contact with some great musical obsessive types. I'd like to keep that going. So if you would be kind enough to let people know about this site then I would be most grateful.

So Choose My Music today was selected by Jeanette Leech who, amongst other things, is a published author with the book 'Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid & Psychedelic Folk'. You can follow her on twitter here

Jeanette chose the combination G:B:14 which lead me to...

The Stranglers - The Collection

Ahhh the last day of school. What a happy time, spending the last few hours with the people you have hung out with for the last 5 years. Taking the opportunity to say thanks to the Teachers who have helped you develop and grow.

Not for me.....

On the last day of school I found myself sitting in the same room as my good friend Jamie Baker.

"Have you heard who's in Birmingham at lunchtime?" he asked me. "The Stranglers are doing an in-store at HMV. Want to go?"
Birmingham was about a 40 minute direct train ride and we figured that we could hang out at school and walk out just after morning break and be there in plenty of time. And this is exactly what we did. 

It was a rather odd decision to take to be honest. I was never really a Stranglers fan. They were always lumped in with Punk music but never quite fit into what my own personal definition of punk was. To be honest, that hasn't really changed over the years.

Of course The Stranglers we met was not the original line up with Paul Roberts replacing Hugh Cornwell on vocals and I think it was fair to say that the 1990's were not a kind period for the band.

I remember distinctly Jamie and I spent the ensuing train journey home sniggering about how fat 'Jet Black' was and why a man of his age would still be signing autographs using his pseudonym - oddly it is still a topic of discussion whenever we speak 18 years later.

This is a rather unusual collection released by EMI in 1997. It contains music from 1978 through to 1982 so it misses Peaches and Something Better Change while Nice N Sleazy is a notable omission which fits into the time period. For reason I cannot understand the sleeve notes for the CD spends more time talking about the songs that are missing from this hodge podge collection as opposed to the ones that made it on to the album. 

You may be asking yourself why I even own this album. Well the truth is that my Dad turned up with it at my house sometime in 2001. I didn't ask for it and I don't think I have ever even discussed The Stranglers with him - he just said he bought it for me. It has rarely been played since.

I guess the one redeeming feature is that the album does contain the rather excellent cover of 'Walk On By' - but considering that track is first, the rest of the CD is a bit of a hard slog.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Masterpieces - My Seletions - Day 4 & 5

Following on from my previous article (here) this is part two of my Masterpieces selections.

DAY 4 - Pela - Anytown Graffiti

As far as I am aware Pela was my first internet music discovery which was made through a slightly dodgy Pandora account (thanks to the use of a made up US zip code). At the time this album had not even been recorded.

I am never quite sure how to describe Pela. I guess if you imagined what would happen if Doves were from New York and U2 didn't go up their own arses then you might be about there.

Again this is a an album which has literally lived in my car since I bought it and I everyone I have ever played it too has appeared to enjoy it - so it had to be included.

Sadly, for various reasons a 2nd album was never recorded and the band parted ways but like all good stories it does have a happy ending. Billy (vocals) and Eric (Bass / multi instrumentalist) have since commenced on a new band called We Are Augustines (link here) and to say they are absolutely fantastic is understatement of the year. I have had the great pleasure of seeing them live twice this year during a brief tour of the UK and they will be back here in June so keep your eyes and ears open for them.

There are no Pela tracks available on Mflow - so I hope they don't mind me putting some music on Soundcloud to share the wonderfulness of this hugely underrated release.
03 Drop Me Off by dominikrpaczko
04 The Trouble with River Cities by dominikrpaczko

DAY 5 - Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030

When I commented that this is the collaboration which kick started Gorrilaz, I was informed that this album has a lot to answer for.
To be fair, I understand this is where Damon Albarn made links to people who would eventually be part of Gorrilaz - such as Del The Funkee Homosapien and producer Dan the Automator. That is as far as any comparisons go
 I first heard this CD while I was working in Tower Records in Birmingham and at the time I was quite a big Kid Koala fan (who also appears, along with Albarn and Sean Lennon among others) so it was quite an easy purchase to make.
 Essentially this is a concept album based in the year 3030 and it follows Deltron Zero (Del the Funkee Homosapien) fight against the huge corporations who have taken over the universe.
This is perhaps one of my favourite hip hop albums ever made, which I know is a big claim - but it clearly is hugely underrated and one that always requires being listened to from start to finish.

All thee main artists involved in this album have, over the past 3 or 4 years, indicated that a follow up album is due (entitled Deltron: Event II). This is going to be a hugely anticipated release for me.

And that concludes my Masterpiece sections. Comments are of course most welcome, and please share this where you can.

If you would like to get involved and choose your 5 albums then please visit the Masterpieces site here

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Masterpieces - My Selections - Day 1 - 3

I know technically this site would be breaking the trade descriptions act -I haven't actually done a Choose My Music for a week or so now.

I have though raved about Pokey LaFarge and discussed how my record buying has changed over the years. Essentially there is so much I need to get out Music wise it would seem that this site is going to develop into something a little bit more varied - whether this is a good thing or not is down for you to decide I guess.

So a few weeks ago I was asked to participate in a project called Masterpieces. (link here)

The premise is easy enough. Pick 5 albums (1 a day Monday to Friday) which you feel can be listened to from start to finish without skipping any tracks. The only rule is that you cannot choose anything that has been picked before.

I made my selections two weeks ago but felt I should share them and explain why I chose each one.

DAY 1 - Television - Marquee Moon

I became interested in Television and this album especially after reading an article proclaiming the the Sex Pistols 'Never Mind The Bollocks' ruined this album.

Both were released in 1977 and both were début albums, yet they couldn't be more different. Where Rotten, Vicious et al went for the all out rawkus 3 minute blasts, Television took a slightly more composed route creating what could only be described as guitar masterpieces. The title track of this album clocks in at 10 minutes 40 seconds - that's nearly the entire first 4 tracks of Never Mind The Bollocks.

This really is a album that needs to be listened to fully to be appreciated and it would have been much much bigger if the Pistols explosion hadn't of happened which changed the face of music and diverted attention away from this much underrated band.

DAY 2 - Brother Ali - The Undisputed Truth

I am really struggling to remember how I first heard Minneapolis based rapper Brother Ali - I remember the song and know that I was at home but for some reason quite peg it down. Wherever it was I was instantly hooked.

Firstly I am a sucker for good political commentary in hip hop and as soon as I heard Uncle Sam Goddamn I knew I had made a significant hip hop discovery and one that would stay with me for a very long time.

There are a lot of things that stood out when I really started to look into Brother Ali's music. First he is a devout Musilm and second he was born with albinism. These traits do make Ali stand out but it is unfair to point to any of these issues when discussing his music.

Ultimately what you have is a very talented rapper who clearly knows how to write intelligent lyrics and deliver them with skill. He can write politcal and social commentary as demonstrated on 'Truth Is" or the previously mentioned 'Uncle Sam Goddam' while also dishing out the rather heartbreaking 'Walking Away' on the same album.

This album got me back in to hip hop after a short hiatus and it is still, after 4 years, an ever present in my car.

DAY 3 - The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

The first thing I looked at when I was asked to decide on my 5 albums was whether Pet Sounds had already been picked. To my surprise it wasn't.

I didn't get into the Beach Boys until I was at least 21. It was through a friend by the name of Dan Keeble, who I worked with at Andy's Records in Ipswich.

He once told me his theory about Pet Sounds. He believed that it has the power to answer any question or quandary you could possibly have and I will admit, it has come to my rescue many a time.

The unusual thing I have found about this album is that it only appears to work when listened in its entirety. I have often found, when having one of those mp3 player shuffle moments that when an individual Pet Sounds track comes on I feel an urge to skip it. Yet when I listen to it from the brilliant opening of "Wouldn't it be Nice" to the closing street sounds of "Caroline No" the entire 35 minutes and 36 seconds fly by in a haze of absolute beauty.

And this concludes the first part of my Masterpiece selections. Days 4 & 5 will be up soon.

If you would like to purchase any of the albums featured then you can below (Amazon links)

Television - Marquee Moon Here

Brother Ali - The Undisputed Truth Here

Beach Boys - Pet Sounds HERE

Please share this post - this site relies on you guys spreading the word.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Record Store Day

Influenced by my good friend Simon Jones blog post about Record Store Day I have been thinking about events that are due to take place up and down the country on April 16th and how my music consumption has changed over recent years. But first a little bit of background...

I have always had what many Radio 1 listeners might call an odd taste in music. Personally I would like to call it adventurous. Where this has come from I have no idea. As a teenager I had many friends who made significant impact on my music selections and their influence could perhaps be seen throughout my collection today. 

I still remember the exact location David Mudie (who was known as Mod) played me Sparklehorse's Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot at a house party sometime around 1996 and introducing me to Mega City Four while we were studying the Baroque era during GCSE Music. 

Jamie Baker (Jim) was the first person who played me Suede, Supergrass, Green Day, The Newcranes, Shed 7, Spiritualized and Blur among many others. 

Simon Hay introduced me to the world of Carter USM, 10,000 Maniacs and rather oddly for a 14 year old Jethro Tull and I will always remember when Mike Hartley playing me Rancid's "And Out Come The Wolves" album while driving his Dad's car round Lichfield.

All of these took place well before I had even commenced the early days of my working life.

From 1998 (a year or so after studying Music Business in Glasgow) I started working in Music retail. This started off in the rather non cool music department of WH Smith in Birmingham where I would get told off for playing Beck and Feeder - this lead me to chance upon a job at Tower Records.

Tower was perhaps one of the best jobs I have ever had, all of the staff were of similar age but with totally varied music tastes, here I was introduced to At The Drive In, Kid Koala, Television, Gram Parsons and so much Punk and Reggae I was made buyer for both departments.

I then was offered a chance to run my own record shop and moved to work for Andy's Records in Ipswich - where the rather excellent Dan Keeble got me to look beyond the surf era Beach Boys while I inflicted all kinds of Reggae into his ears

I then went and worked as a Manager for Music Zone and started to realise that the music industry was facing big problems and personally I started to realise that working in a record shop was really no different to working in Tesco - albeit with much more interesting produce. I left the industry, never to return.

During my years doing other things I have witnessed Tower, Andy's, Music Zone vanish. Most towns are now left with the option of buying from the Top 20 at their local Asda or from the hugely reduced music range now being held by HMV as their emphasis focuses more on DVD, Blu Ray, Ipod accessories and T-Shirts. In my town the only voice you hear now belongs to His Masters.

As sad as the gradual decline of Record Shops has been, looking through my collection of albums I have perhaps had more access to music than I have had before. I have always took advice from my friends and people I trust musically to help me navigate the waters. The explosion of the internet has done exactly that.

Pandora started it all for me back in 2006 when, through the use of a made up US Zip code I was opened up to a whole new world of music discovery - Pela and Micah P Hinson were just two of the artists that were induced into my collection - then along came Last Fm, Spotify, Mflow, Myspace, Amazon's recommendation service, BBC 6 Music, and of course Twitter. 

All of these help me discover music on an almost daily basis - the entire internet is now my record shop and you folks reading this are my Mod's, Jim's, Hay's and Hartley's as bands, songs and albums are shared, commented on and even purchase at quick lightning speed. Potentially I could suggest a band to you now and you could own their latest album in the time it takes you to make a cup of tea.

When I think of all the musical possibilities I feel conflicted. I love record shops - I always have done ever since I pestered my Mum at around 4 years old to buy me my first record but at the same time I also know that there isn't a record shop on earth that could supply me with the music I have discovered over the years - sure I could go into a record store an order the latest Pokey LaFarge album but I am sure that due to distribution and minimum order levels, it would take weeks to arrive and cost me twice as much as I paid for it to buy it direct online.

Don't get me wrong, I love record shops dearly. They are truly wondrous places where good things happen and Record Store Day is something we should all embrace and cherish, but due to lack of music buying options over recent years I have also grown to live without them. It makes me feel sad and a little guilty yet my music purchasing has not suffered as a result - it has grown more than I could ever imagine. 

But I do miss going into a record shop, I miss the rummaging - hours lost flicking through endless racks of CDs and glorious vinyl - the anticipation of the walk home, purchase in hand is much more satisfying than the anticipation of the Postman dropping your latest buy onto your doormat - and all of these are a millions times more wonderful than downloading what is essentially code from a website.

Support you local Record Store Day at

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

29th March 2011: E:B:4

You may have noticed that I didn't put a Choose My Music request on Twitter today. This is because my partner Anna wanted to have a go and pick my listening.

To make sure there was no fixing or anything like that going on I got Anna to write down her selection - and she chose Bay E, Row B, CD 4 which lead me to this.

Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom
This is going to so weird, but as a Reggae fan and an ex Reggae buyer for Tower Records, I'm not hugely into a lot of Bob Marley's material. He definitely wasn't the reason I got into the genre - that accolade is reserved for Lee Perry & The Upsetters. But my love for all things Black Ark did eventually lead me to Bob's early career. This era and all the preceded it is covered excellently in this 4 CD box set.

Bob Marley's early career started with local 'music entrepreneur' Leslie Kong in 1962 when he recorded the ska vocal track Judge Not which had a small amount of success. Two further releases were issued on Kong's Beverley's label - but after receiving no airplay on Jamaican radio Marley decided that the best way forward was to start a vocal group.

The Wailers were soon snapped up by Coxsone Dodd who ran by far the biggest studio on the island called Studio One. Here Bob recorded some hits he would eventually re-record later in his career - and this CD contains the early cuts of One Love & Stir It Up

After releasing around 30 tracks for Studio One financial difficulties lead to the break up of the Wailers - Bob moved to America but returned 8 months later to reform the group and sign to Lee Perry's Upsetter label. It was at this point that The Wailers, with the help of Perry, laid the foundations of what was going to turn Marley in to a legend.

My favourite Wailers tracks were recorded during this era - Small Axe, Duppy Conqueror and the brilliant Mr Brown were all released under Perry.

The Perry / Marley relationship didn't last too long after Bob recruited the bassist and drummer of Perry's studio band as full time members of The Wailers - causing a rift between the two that was never resolved.

Bob Marley and The Wailers eventually signed to Chris Blackwell's Island label and this for me is where my interest in Marley ends - the driving bass heavy rhythm session was diluted after Blackwell felt that the original recording for their Island debut album 'Catch A Fire' was "too black". One remix later, to add electric piano, synthesizers and additional guitars helped to make the album appeal to a more western audience.

There is one more reason I bought this set - it ends on a live version of Redemption Song - recorded in Pittsburgh on 23rd September 1980. Bob never performed live again and passed away just 8 months later.

There is a digital version of this set on Mflow for a bargain £14.99 or you can buy a CD copy from Amazon here which is a fair bit more expensive at just shy of £30.