Soundtracking #13 – S

I like a clever band name as much as the next music addict but I have my limits.

One of those limits is when a band decides on a title so prosaic and prolific in the English language that they become un-Googleable. Oh the frustration! Fine examples of this are Real Estate and Traveller. Their hope, clearly, to become bigger than the original meaning and sometimes this happens. Search for Prince or Pulp and you will quickly find their musical web presence.

Jenn Ghetto has, however, taken the biscuit. The former member of Carissa’s Wierd goes by the name of  “S”. These are trying  times for tinterweb music lovers…

That said, I still have a tiny crush and her latest offerings are rather enjoyable. Take the song Vampires from her new album Cool Choices (out September 2014 on Hardly Art). It still has the same Ghetto light, breathy vocals, the quietness contrasting with the solidness of the rhythms that underpin every track. Vampires does have a echo of something else which perhaps invites comparisons to Tegan and Sara’s 2007 album The Con. That something else is Chris Walla,  from Death Cab for Cutie, who produced that album and this song. Despite the alt-pop injection making it decidedly more cheery than usual, it is definitely Ghetto behind the sad lyrics. She skillfully treads the path between pensively miserable and damn catchy, and I love it.

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Soundtracking #12 The Struts

I confess I’m not sure why I love this track.

Perhaps it’s the retro feel to the chord sequences and the backing vocals; even the lyrics are bordering on late 90’s pastiche. Or perhaps it is because for some bizarre reason the lead singer reminds me of Justin Hawkins from The Darkness, except without the nuts-in-a-mangle high notes and the rehab. If their forthcoming album has a song about STDs then it will definitely make my summer…

Regardless, The Struts don’t seem to take themselves too seriously and that can only be a good thing. Come on…I dare you not to sing along to that ‘Oh yeah!’.

Soundtracking #11 – Eyes for Gertrude

Chantelle Pike and Hannah Dean, AKA Eyes for Gertrude,  use folky vocal harmonies, waltzing piano and accordian to deliver their particular brand of songwriting. It could indeed be classified as folk pop. The duo from South West England craft catchy hooks and verse laced with humour to illuminate the everyday. And it just sounds good.
They are due  to release a full length album this year and if you can catch them live, I’d highly recommend it. This is their most recent single, Messing Around.
 

Soundtracking #10 Waxahatchee

Waxahatchee, perfect for days when you need your aching sadness accompanied by indie folk and a comforting drawl. Stripped down to the basics of six strings and a single heartbreaking, cracked vocal, Catfish is the saddest song I’ve heard in a long while. This is singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield at her most raw. Other musical offerings from Waxahatchee are more cheerful and I’d recommend checking out both LP’s Cerulean Salt and American Weekend. For now though, here’s Catfish.

“You’re a ghost and I can’t breathe”

Enid

They met when they were teenagers.

On fire watch, when incendiary bombs rained flames over the school roof, they spent the nights playing games and eating black market biscuits.

That was in the war. Back then she was graceful and quick witted. Back then he was sharp and handsome.

“She was a looker even then,” he said. “I fancied her but we weren’t courtin’.”

National service and nursing training meant separate ways for a while. A few years later they met again. At a dance, down Roker, he saw her. He was with his mates, and a girl called Robson on his arm.
“I saw her. She was dancing with this lad, he was a hunch back mind but he could dance. I got me mates all lined round the room and every time he went to ask her they buzzed him off.”
“Buzzed him off?”
“Aye, you know, cut in,” He explained. “So in the end she had to dance with me. She was a good dancer too.”
They danced ‘til the band finished playing. He walked her home, across the river, five mile out the wrong way. That was the start of it. They courted and eventually married. He never said what happened to Robson.

He taught me to dance as a child; foxtrot, waltz, quickstep. I don’t remember her dancing at all. I barely remember her walking or moving from her sitting room chair. I wish I’d known them both before age, illness and the inevitable grind of life shrunk them down. An impossible wish.

Old memories are patchy, misleadingly highlighted with photographs and over-told exaggerated tales. An unreliable slide show of family mythology. Mostly I am left to wonder.

I imagine her as a young woman; smart, athletic, stylish. Her hair perfectly arranged in her trademark coiffure. Her waist was, as she said frequently, a mere 21 inches then. Wearing a beautifully tailored dress which spun out as he twirled her around the dance floor. She would have laughed at his charming and ever-so-silly stories. One marriage, four children, seven grandchildren and a great grandchild later, he still tells those stories. I’ll never know if they are true or not.

They had a long run, a whole lifetime of stories, and some are now lost forever. Theirs is story of a boy and a girl in the blackout, and of dancing and family and love.

A team of two for seventy four years.
Married for most of it.
Argued for some of it.
Loved for all of it.

It’s unimaginable to have one without the other.

Soundtracking #9 – Kate Tempest

In honour of her appearance at Glastonbury this weekend (a full live set in The Rum Shack), here’s the brilliant Kate Tempest.

Tempest first made her name as a spoken word artist and poet, though according to her label she would describe herself as a rapper who writes. She’s pretty big in the poetry world, winning the prestigious Ted Hughes Prize for her play, Brand New Ancients, and generally being the poster girl for young British poetry. She’s released a single on Greco-Roman and been featured on numerous tracks with people like Bastille and Sinead O’Connor. After a few years of treading the edges of the mainstream, Tempest cemented her cross-over by signing to hip hop label Big Dada and releasing a full length album, Everybody Down, in May this year.

And it’s bloody good.

Blunt, witty lines race over hip hop beats as her stories of everyday people and London lives unfold. There’s little in the way of melodic vocal hooks, this is rap…with a lot of bass. Each of the twelve tracks on the album is a chapter, another story, with a mosaic of fully grown characters and rich drama.  
Here’s your gateway track – The Beigeness.

Soundtracking #8 – Sharon Van Etten

This one came via The Editor who suggested Van Etten’s music would be a sweet balm for my woes. He was right.

The indie rock singer-songwriter manages to imbue almost every line and riff with intense emotion. Her four album back catalogue is filled with stark stories of relationships and wonderfully drawling yet velvety vocals. This is one of my favourite tracks.

Oh and she’s doing a UK mini tour in November 2014, tickets went on sale today. Road trip anyone?