Hi, I’m Ross and I first met Neil whenever the spacecraft I was piloting was sent on a suicide mission to… oh, hold on… no, that was Mass Effect 2. My memory circuits must be playing up again. What was I saying? Yes, I’m Ross, and I write for various places, blether on various podcasts, take my dog for long walks in the park, watch American television series (currently: Mad Men Season 3 and Caprica) and play too much Xbox.
You can find my blog here – www.fakechozostatue.wordpress.com
This is the blog for one of the magazines I write for : – iheartau.com
and if you want to hear one of the podcasts I do – : http://panicdots.com/2010/03/film-podcast-eps-2/
In my spare time I run a monkey juggling troupe. A troupe with juggling monkeys, that is, not a troupe who juggles monkeys. Here’s a top ten of the angsty indie nonsense I listen to whilst I do so.
10. Grandaddy – The Crystal Lake
It is with a heavy heart and a lumpen throat that I say that Grandaddy, like so many of my favourite bands, are no more. They remain one of the most accomplished and interesting bands I have ever seen live: once in a big tent in a sodden field at a Scottish festival, and twice in different venues in sweaty clubs in Glasgow. All three times they made my heart jolt, my blood quicken and my ears tingle. Singer Jason Lytle has a unique knack for blending melody with fuzzy discord, and while he is still making solo records, his finest moment remains ‘The Crystal Lake’.
9. Pixies – Hey
I’ve said it countless times before, but for me music is a memory rolodex: I hear a particular song and my soul immediately rewinds to the moment and place I heard it. I first encountered The Pixies whilst on a school camp on the North Coast. I should probably have been playing football or sneaking off to the chip shop like my fellow campers, or trying to weld pennies to the nearby railway tracks, but instead I was inside the centre listening to the album Surfer Rosa by The Pixies. I clearly remember quivering with an intoxicating mixture of curiosity, thrill and abject terror. No other band is as adept as mixing chaos and harmony like Frank Black / Black Francis / Charles Thompson and the gang of equally odd oddballs he plays with. ‘Hey’ isn’t on Surfer Rosa – it’s on the peerless Doolittle – but it has long since become one of my most loved songs. Perhaps it is even my most loved song. I could witter on about why I hold it dear, but it’s best you listen and discover why yourself.
8. Pavement – Grounded
These eternal college slackers have recently reformed, presumably because they need to pay for the education of their children, before complaining that said children are slackers. Pavement were a staple of the student union disco whenever I was at university. I can still recall the sight of a drunken miscreant in a Pavement t-shirt bopping incoherently to something predictably horrible by The Stone Roses before spilling beer all over himself (I saw him the next afternoon doddering down the street, still wearing the same clothes). ‘Grounded’ is taken from the band’s Wowee Zowee album, where Steve Malkmus et al. went all out on the weird front, pulling the music in every possible direction, tossing off pop ditties, punky nuggets and experimental wigouts with something approaching gay abandon. As gay and abandoned as college slackers can be. The lyrics to ‘Grounded’ probably don’t make a lick of sense, but they are sad and yearning for something which slacking at college can not provide.
7. Wilco – Impossible Germany
Jeff Tweedy and his ever revolving band of brothers may have started life in an alternative country pestle and mortar, but over the course of several outstanding albums they have morphed into one of the most interesting bands around. Live, they are nothing short of a revelation, as demonstrated on this studio performance of one of the gems from ‘Sky Blue Sky’.
6. Damien Jurado – Caskets
Most people have bands and artists of their own. They keep their music a secret, make it their own soundtrack, grow jealous when a friend or neighbour starts to listen to them. They put tracks onto mixtapes (or mix CDs, as they are now) for that person they quite fancy but can’t bring themselves to brave a proper conversation with, and then get speedily irked when that person passes said tape onto someone else, thus spreading the good news about their favourite artist. (Note how I use the pronoun “they” here instead of the pronoun “I”. This blurb, of course, is all purely speculative and in no way based on bitter experience). Damien Jurado is one of those musicians.
5. Bon Iver – For Emma (Acapella)
One of the biggest whoops in the big whoop almanac of 2008, Bon Iver produced in the album ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ the kind of soulful backwoods balladeering Conor Oberst would give his floppy fringe and dripping doe eyes for. Listen to it and you will hear Justin Vernon padding about that cabin in the Wisconsin woods, listening to the rain battering the roof, peeking out the windows for wolves, checking the locks, mending his broken heart. It’s difficult to predict how he will follow it (The Blood Bank EP was recorded at roughly the same time, so it doesn’t count, if anyone as pedantic as me is reading), or if he can follow it. As for this impromptu performance, captured on the spur of the moment in a Paris hotel foyer… I could watch it every day and not grow bored. And I’m not that easily amused.
4. dEUS – Hotellounge (Be The Death Of Me)
Belgium. Art. Rock. Three words destined to strike fear into the heart of even the most precocious of music fans. They’re right up there with, say, Mongolian Bongo Skiffle or Scouting For Girls. But do not fear, for the criminally underrated dEUS are phenomenal. Their debut album proper ‘Worst Case Scenario’, which has recently been re-released with a bongload of extras for a snipped price, mixes Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart, Black Flag and any other name you could care to drop. The video for ‘Hotellounge’ is admittedly naff, a gloopy slice of early 90s MTV-istry, but the song is beautiful. Incidentally, the squall of guitar which beckons the chorus is the sound of an amp accidentally bursting into flames.
3. David Bazan – Curse Your Branches
Once of Christian rock outfit Pedro The Lion, David Bazan tried to shake off his faith as the trees shed their leaves before winter, but found it clinging to him, pinning him down to the ground like the Lilliputians with Gulliver. The resultant album ‘Curse Your Branches’ is an emotive, rewarding, stirring listen. Here’s the title track, performed live for a radio session.
2. Radiohead – Nude
Radiohead were another of my secret personal bands until they inconsiderately decided to sell millions of records. I had the privilege of seeing them play in Glasgow, two days before The Bends was released. In that tiny venue, packed to capacity with around three hundred musos, each wearing plaid shirts and ripped denim jeans, each tweaking on Buckfast and teenage frustration, you could tell – sense, even – that the band were teetering on the brink of big things. Just six months after that, I saw them play in a significantly larger venue in the same city, where they were greeted with the kind of rapturous applause lavished upon Derren Brown and Barack Obama. Most recently, I watched them play live at Malahide Castle, where Thom Yorke did a weird slow-motion underwater dance to this very track. It was spellbinding. For me, they remain the most adventurous, fearless, consistent band on the planet.
1. Sparklehorse – Saturday
I can’t say much about the recent passing of Mark Linkous without sounding trite or mawkish. It’s a sad end to a life which, by all accounts, was a long slog out of the darkness towards the light. He never quite reached it, though. I’ve been listening to his back catalogue all week and trying not to feel too sad about it. I’ve been thinking about the time I interviewed him, and how happy and effusive he sounded, even over the phone. I wouldn’t like to guess what dark-eyed demons haunted him, but you can’t really listen to the music without knowing that they’re there, scratching in-between the notes. Thankfully, every sour bubble is burst by a spark of joy. It’s a balancing act which Linkous had perfected, albeit one that eventually claimed his life. But let’s not dwell on the maudlin side of the street. Linkous was a brilliant musician who collaborated with the great and the good of indie rock, and who left behind him a clutch of wonderful albums.