Category Archives: Features

Miyazaki/Ghibli Retrospective: Spirited Away

By Sam Giddings

What can I say about Spirited Away that hasn’t already been said?  It won the Oscar for “Best Animated Feature Film” in 2003; that probably sums it up nicely.  It’s an animation of sublime detail, vivid characters, and genuine warmth.  With Spirited Away, Miyazaki crystallised his place as one of the most brilliant animators of all time – arguably even one of the greatest directors of all time.

Spirited Away is a simple tale told with beautiful complexity, an absorbing mix of the familiar and the alien.  After exploring an abandoned theme park with her parents, ten-year-old Chihiro finds an enormous buffet.  As her parents tuck in to this decadent feast, Chihiro continues her exploration of the eerie site.  Night falls, and Chihiro returns to find her parents have now turned to pigs, in a deliciously spiteful nod to the closing stages of Pinocchio.  As a nearby derelict bath-house springs to life, Chihiro finds herself trapped in a fantastical world of bizarre creatures and spirits set around this aquatic hub, trying to restore her parents to human form.  Her parents’ gluttony always remains the underlying motivation for all that befalls Chihiro, but the film transcends this simple beginning to touch on aspects of self and identity, of home and of responsibility, and of wonder.

Perhaps it is this wonder that is the single most astounding facet of Miyazaki’s most critically and commercially successful film.  Chihiro soon loses her name, starting to forget who she is and why she is staying in this world of talking frogs, spirits called No-Face, and spider-limbed boiler attendants.  Chihiro is given the new name “Sen” by her peers, and manages to secure herself a job in the bath house so that she can stay, avoiding detection by the evil with Yubaba who holds dominion over it.  Sen tackles her new responsibilities with the straightforward acceptance only children possess, and it is through her eyes that we, the audience, truly appreciate the magical brilliance of the bath-house and its world.  It is almost a curious inversion, her stoic approach conflicting with our own continuing surprise as the unfamiliar spirit world is revealed to us.  Sen acts as a raw, unpolished prism, her unassuming innocence gently luring us into the perfect oddness of Spirited Away.

Written down, this sounds like a ridiculous sequence of events, but rest assured – woven together in Miyazaki’s deft hands, every action and consequence obeys a curious logic.  Never does Sen’s new world feel over-elaborate, or explanations far-fetched – Sen’s adventures consistently delight with their rich layers of imagination and persistent subtlety.

In many ways, Spirited Away is a culmination of all that Miyazaki has created before.  The heart of My Neighbour Totoro mingles with the epic scope of Princess Mononoke to create a perfect, singular episode of cinema.  It is more focused than Princess Mononoke, more ambitious than Totoro, and daring in ways that most conventional films are not.  The appeal of Spirited Away is truly familial, with plenty of beautiful moments for both parents and children alike.  I cannot recommend it enough if you haven’t seen it, and if you have, well – perhaps this retrospective is reason enough to dig it out again.

Next week John O’Connell takes a look back at ‘Grave Of The Fireflies’


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Miyazaki/Ghibli Retrospective: My Neighbour Totoro

By Steven Wright

My Neighbour Totoro is one of the greatest family films of all time, in my opinion, of course. But it depresses me how many people have never seen it. You really have no excuse, with there now being a multitude of versions in many different languages, although the original subtitled version is my personal favourite.

The story is so simple, almost coming second to the wonder of the world and the fantastical creatures within it. It tells the tale of Satsuki, Mei and their father, who are moving to a new house in the beautiful Japanese countryside, while their mother, and wife, recovers from a nameless illness. The house resides beside a forest with a massive Camphor tree at the heart of it, which we later find is home to the keeper of the forest, Totoro.

The story does not really feature much else besides the kids interactions with the forest spirits, all the while their mother is hoping to come home. The biggest plot point is near the end, when Mei runs away after an argument to see her sick mother, leaving Satsuki to ask for Totoro’s help to find her.

A lot of the scenes do nothing to drive the plot forward, instead favouring on building the characters and the relationships between them. But these are some of the best scenes in the film, with most of them featuring the loveable little tyke, Mei. One scene for example, features Mei picking flowers for her father who his stressed with work,  and placing them one by one on the desk beside him. Although it sounds like nothing, it’s so well directed and animated that is speaks volumes about the characters, giving them, like the roving forest around them, room to grow.

It’s these interactions between the family and the spirits that make the film so memorable. Mei, again, is the driving force behind these interactions with her inquisitive nature getting her in lots of places she should not be. From catching a soot sprite in the most adorably cute manner, to chasing the little magical Totoro-like creatures into the forest and eventually falling through the camphor three onto the belly of the sleeping Totoro.

I adore the way Miyazaki has animated the children, perfectly capturing their innocence and wonder of everything that happens, and he has transferred this care into the spirits. Whether it’s the soot sprites, the little Totoro’s, the big Totoro or the psychedelic Catbus, they are all so full of character. The biggest difference to Western animation is the fact that these characters don’t speak – besides the guttural yell of TO-TO-ROOOOO, of course.

This is the first of many things that defy the classic recipe of a children’s animation. Gone are talking lobsters, gone are the Princesses, gone are the songs and most importantly, gone are the villains. This is something that I did not pick up on throughout my many viewings of the film, having to be told recently by a friend, and it really is a huge thing.

Although the film does not have a villain it does not suffer for it, instead having some real human worries in it; Satsuki worrying about the health of her mother when an alarming telegraph turns up; the disapearence of Mei, and the finding of a little girls sandal in the lake is genuinely worrying; all of these scenes are very adult, almost too real for a standard kids film.

And yet that’s why it’s not just a film for the children, it’s something that adults can love too. Miyazaki understands this and can walk the fine line between cute and  deep, with a lot of his films having deeper meanings. One theme that I have noticed as being present in a lot if his films is nature, and it is present in Totoro, although in a lesser way than the likes of Mononoke.

I could gush about My Neighbour Totoro for hours as it is such a special film, balancing humour, magic, wonder, love and just downright fuzzy warmth. I have to stress: if you have not seen it then please do, because even though it’s 22 years old, and even though it’s a cliché, this film is a timeless classic.

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Next week, Sam Giddings takes a look back at ‘Spirited Away’

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Ten Random Ipod Tracks – Ross Thompson

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.

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Ten Random Ipod Tracks – Simon Brown

My name is Simon Brown and I live a double life. For 4 days a week I have the immense ‘pleasure’ of working with Electro Candy guru Neil McCormick. Its tough going I tell you. Sometimes I think he was put on this earth to annoy me. Luckily though my other life is much more fulfilling and rewarding.

Because I am also a landscape photographer who travels around Northern Ireland trying to capture images showing my homeland at its beautiful best. You can see my work at www.myphotographyjourney.com.

I recently had my first book published. Its called Portrait of County Down and you should all buy 10 copies of it each so that I can quit my day job and never have to work with Neil McCormick again….

10 MGMT – Time to Pretend
This is a great wee tune. It’s a happy sounding song to put me in a good mood. I have no idea what the lyrics are about or if they are as happy sounding as the melody. I’ve never really paid any attention to them – for all I know it might actually be a song about death and misery. But to me it’s my happy song.

9 Ray Lamontagne – Narrow Escape
I’m currently taking guitar lessons for the first time in my life and if I could choose a singer/songwriter to eventually be able to play like it would be Ray Lamontagne. There’s sod all chance of it happening though. I’m rubbish.

8 Radiohead – No Surprises
I love Radiohead and this is one of my favourite songs. Again it’s a happy sounding song with its constant high/low background chime. Though the lyrics then go and spoil it with lines such as ‘a job that slowly kills you’. Which incidentally is the kind of job I have because I work with Electro Candy’s Neil McCormick and he is so annoying he is going to drive me to an early grave.

7
Dinosaur Jr – Get Me

J Mascis can’t sing. He has a truly awful voice. But for some reason it sounds kinda beautiful alongside his wailing guitar playing. This is a song I fell in love with back in my teenage years and I still love listening to it to this day.

6 The Prodigy – Poison
I normally hate dance music but I love the Prodigy. I go jogging a few times a week and this song is a great one to listen to when you are struggling up a hill or feeling totally knackered. But then when it finishes and something like Damien Rice follows it on my mp3 player I suddenly regret the burst of energy the Prodigy gave me and I want to collapse in a heap.

5
Radiohead – National Anthem

Radiohead again. This is from the Kid A album which many people consider to be their best one.Personally I think its just ok but this song is my favourite from the album.

4
Kings of Leon – Use Somebody

I’m not an avid fan of Kings of Leon. I have a couple of their albums but they don’t grab me as much as they seem to a lot of people. But this song is one I can’t get enough of.

3 Dinosaur Jr – What Else is New
This is from the same album (Where You Been) as Get Me. It and its predecessor Green Mind were both soundtracks from my late teenage years so as you can imagine they ain’t exactly full of easy listening, joyful tunes! But they are both full of brilliant songs of which this is one.

2 Damien Rice – Eskimo Friend
I am a huge Damien Rice fan. Which to some people suggests that I am a manic depressive who loves misery. I’m not though, I just think he’s an amazing songwriter. Eskimo Friend is my favourite song of his. The operatic swell that concludes the song never fails to give me goosebumps.

1 Radiohead – Everything in its right place
Radiohead again. I’m bored of writing about them now. Electro Candy has made me hate Radiohead. Thanks Electro Candy.

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Ten Random Ipod Tracks :- Sam Morris

I guess I should introduce myself. I’m Sam Morris, the Editor In Chief at Nidzumi, the frequent blogger at Blogizzle and a fledging Graphic Designer.

After seeing these articles pop-up through Twitter every week I decided to give it ago. Not because I want to show off my music collection, well that is part of it. Not that I have a massive one, actually quite recently I decided to shrink it down to music I actually listen to – it took days – but now I have a quality collection of music rather than quantity. Hopefully that’s reflected in my 10 tracks, otherwise I wasted a lot of time.

1. Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip – Waiting For The Beat To Kick In

I hate how hip-hop has been, essentially destroyed by commercial rap and I think wordsmith Scroobius Pip summed it up well when he said “guns, bitches and bling were never part of the four elements and never will be”. Alright, that isn’t a line from this song but it is a random selection tracks after all.

2. Art Brut – Slap Dash For No Cash

I originally got into Art Brut because they were supporting Maximo Park at a gig I went to a few years back. Ashamedly I enjoyed Art Brut more than the Park, there is something about Eddie Argos’ delivery and frank lyrics. By the time the third album rolled along I suspected the act would have gotten stale but it’s just as good as that first encounter at Southampton Guildhall.

3. Atmosphere – Shoulda Known

I always have mixed feelings towards the duo of Ant and Slug, otherwise known as Atmosphere. On one hand it’s great production with clever lyrics but on the other hand it’s verging on emotional rap. Luckily, the vocalist, Slug has evolved into storytelling even Slick Rick would be envious of. Shoulda Known is easily one of the stand out tracks from their most recent release.

4. Phantogram – Turn It Off

This track epitomises why I love the internet. I know you people shouldn’t support piracy but I stumbled upon an underground hip hop forum – because that’s the kind of guy I am – and found this electronica/trip hop offering from Phantogram. I’ve since bought the album and it’s been rooted to my… whatever iTunes calls a CD Tray ever since.

5. Ugly Duckling – Let It Out

I secretly hoped that Ugly Duckling would pop up during these ten tracks but now they have, I have no idea what to say about them. Excellent production and humorous lyrics result in my most listened to artist in the last three months by a country mile. Just listen to it.

6. Franz Ferdinand – You Could Have It So Much Better

I know I’m probably showing my age here but Franz Ferdinand were the first band I really got into. You know when you’re a kid and you just listen to whatever is on the radio or music channels (again, showing my age) but after hearing Take Me Out I was instantly transformed into a indie kid. I started to seek out more, listening to The Futureheads, Maximo Park, The Libertines, Good Shoes and more.

I don’t have much to say about the song specifically, except that it reminds me of Unreal Tournament 2004.

7. RJD2 – Get It

I spend most of my time either playing games, attempting to design or writing at my desk and I need a certain type of music while doing the latter. Nothing with words in, something quite mellow that won’t distract from the task at hand is suitable. RJD2 fits the bill perfectly. If you’re looking for something like this, he’s your man.

8. Blackalicious – Chemical Callisthenics

Who would have thought that a hip-hop song about chemistry would be one of the interesting things you’ve heard in years? Beats by Jurassic 5’s Cut Chemist – who’s album you should also check out for writing music – that are also reused for Alphabet Aerobics where Gift of Gab (half of Blackalicious) raps the entire alphabet. Both need to be heard.

9. Hideki Naganuma – Let Mom Sleep

I think my geek is showing. Sorry about that. Yes this is a track from Jet Set Radio but I’m not ashamed. Jet Set Radio had the best soundtrack of any game ever… yes I said it. It’s not a orchestral score that makes you feel emotions, it’s just a unique sound that still sounds great more than ten years on. I’ve recommended this to people who avoid video games like they contain swine flu and they’ve all enjoyed it. It’s a just a shame that Naganuma doesn’t get more work.

10. Maximo Park – Going Missing

I think this is the only track of the ten that I actually own on vinyl, a format that I foolishly decided to adopt a few years back. Nevertheless it makes me appreciate the music more. Something special happens when you take out a massive slab of black plastic out of the cardboard sleeve (Yes, not a flimsy plastic case) and drop a needle on it.
Going Missing is an excellent track, much better than anything on their last album, and I can’t think a track that I would like to drop the needle on more. Actually I’m off to do that now.

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Ten Random Ipod Tracks: R J Ellory

R J Ellory is a British author, who has released seven novels in the UK, the last one of which was ‘The Anniversary Man’ in September 2009. He is also an enthusiastic guitar player and songwriter. There is a rumour that his late 1980’s band ‘The Manta Rays’ will be reformed and head out on the road again in 2010, though in what guise and under what name is as yet unknown…

This was what his Ipod spat out and what he had to say about the tracks:-

10. ‘See My Jumper Hangin’ Out On The Line’ – Moreland & Arbuckle

Kansas Blues. A great big powerful sound. Aaron Moreland on electric, parlor, resonator and cigar box guitars, Dustin Arbuckle on vocals and harmonica and Brad Horner on drums. No bass player! Moreland builds his own guitars, one of them sporting three bass strings, three guitar strings and somehow it just works as a sound. The harmonica is redolent of Sonny Boy Williamson in the way it fills out the whole sound and makes it rich and vibrant. I latched onto these guys while chasing up on bands like ‘Left Lane Cruiser’. Really a great album – ‘1861’ – named after the year that Kansas became a state.


9. ‘The Man In The Station’ – John Martyn

Martyn, as we all know, is a legend. Now dead, he lived a life that three or four ordinary people could not have matched. His death was a great loss to English folk music. A truly wonderful voice, and arrangements that just swell like waves, coming at you time and again. Put a track like this on in the house – from the album ‘Solid Air’ – turn it up loud, and you’re transported elsewhere. Utterly magical.

8. ‘The Way Young Lovers Do’ – Van Morrison

From ‘Astral Weeks’ – voted, I believe – as the best album of all time to make love to! This was a benchmark in British music in so many ways. Combining blues, R&B, jazz, folk, country, all of it in Morrison’s own inimitable style. The raw power of his voice, the subtlety of the arrangements, practised and practised by his band and then recorded in three days or something crazy like that! From his entire body of work this album stands out – certainly for me – as one of the ultimate highs of a truly stellar catalogue. This track I love because of the way all the instruments converge and resolve at one point into a unified melody. Captivating.

*editor note – unfortunately could not get the Van Morrison version of the song – Jeff Buckley will have to do!

7. ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ – The Thirteenth Floor Elevators

West Coast Psychedelia. The best of the best. Roky Erickson, Stacy Sutherland, need we say more? That electronic clay jug sound effect running through everything. Awesome lyrics. And then Erickson went on to form ‘Roky Erickson and the Aliens’ and record the seminal ‘The Evil One’ album which so many people didn’t get, didn’t appreciate, and yet stands as a masterpiece in any category. I love this band. I mean love!



6. ‘Mendocino’ – The Sir Douglas Quintet

Doug Sahm, also recently passed away, was a master of West Texas Blues. Combining Tex-Mex rhythms, R&B, blues, everything you ever needed in a great dance music, he created a unique sound with semi-acoustics and Hammond B3 organs that just gets you jumping and jiving like never before! A wonderfully warm and rich voice, a full sound, and just great tunes. Superb for driving.

5. Steve Earle – ‘Copperhead Road’

The bad boy of country music. I saw this track covered by Becki McLeod and her band in Nashville back in October, and from the first note you know what it is. They did a great version, but Earle is Earle, and nothing and no-one can take the place of Earle. I understand that this album put a few noses out of joint in the country music world as it is so raw and powerful and honest, but it is what it is. This is just an incredible track, and – as is the case with many of Earle’s songs – it tells a story.



4. ‘Rock This Town’ – The Stray Cats

A classically-trained guitarist, Brian Setzer took the world by storm with his rockabilly three-piece. I think it was Dave Edmunds who got the English listening to The Stray Cats, and thus we owe Edmunds a debt of enormous gratitude. Setzer is a phenomenal guitar player. The kind of guitar player that makes me think ‘Oh sod it, I might as well just give up!’, and yet you listen to him and he just inspires you to try even harder. A raw sound, reminiscent of the greats – Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Johnny Burnette, Scotty Moore. He now plays solo with the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

3. ‘Ruby’s Arms’ – Tom Waits

I have every album released by Tom Waits. Live, studio, doesn’t matter. Everything. There is no question in my mind about the importance of Tom Waits in my listening repertoire. He’s up there in the top five. Tom waits has dragged me through some rough times, let me tell you. He can write the most powerful love songs, the most heartrending ballads, the most awkward progressive incomprehensible ‘jazz’, and yet I love it all. It’s not just the music and the words, it’s the man, the identity, everything he represents and is. A staggering mountain of creativity, and so many songs – like this one, ‘Ruby’s Arms’ – that give you the impression that he is about as deep as a human being can be, about as empathetic as could be possible, and understands everyone who has ever had their heart broken by someone. Incredibly moving.



2. ‘Zig Zag Wanderer’ – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Again, like Waits, like Van Morrison, like The Elevators, Captain Beefheart has been there throughout my life (seriously, I started listening to this kind of music when I was seven or eight years old), and I won’t have a bad word said about him. Sure he can throw people into utter confusion with albums like ‘Trout Mask Replica’, but even that is entirely understandable when you’ve listened to it twelve or thirteen times. People get upset by unpredictable music. Music they can’t dance to. Listen to something enough and it becomes predictable because of familiarity, and then it sounds utterly different. Anyway, this track – out of all the Beefheart tracks on my iPod – is similarly great. Real name Don Van Vliet, I think he is now living in the desert somewhere and painting. An incredibly talented and big-hearted man, and a phenomenal catalogue of wonderful music.



1. Roy Buchanan – ‘Dual Soliloquy’

Twelve minutes of Buchanan, unaccompanied on a Telecaster. Breathtaking. Utterly breathtaking. Buchanan and Danny Gatton were the two finest Telecaster players of all time. Gatton was from D.C. whereas Buchanan was from Arkansas. Both apparently committed suicide, seemingly no question in Gatton’s case, but very definitely questionable in Buchanan’s as he was found hanging from a noose fashioned from his own shirt in a Police cell. The family have contested the coroner’s findings relentlessly. Anyway, both of their deaths were a great loss. Both had an infinite capacity to play in all styles – blues, jazz, country, Tex-Mex, soul, and on and on. Buchanan was the ultimate sideman, never interested in the limelight, and a humbler man you could not have found. A great sound, a great player, and despite the fact that this track is nothing more than him just playing in a studio by himself, he encompasses so many styles within one piece it’s hard to comprehend why he isn’t a household name. Perhaps, simply, because he was such a quiet and unassuming man.

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Steven Wrights 10 Random Ipod Tracks

Take this picture, add a bigger beard, and you will have me now.

I have been chomping at the bit to do one of these. The excitement is coloured with a drop of nerves though; I’m not ashamed of anything on my Ipod but there is a few hard to explain tracks on it. But what came out was a success. I missed out some really good bands/genres but I did avoid a few embarrassing ones.

Anyway, go have a look yourself.

10.
Song: X
Artist: System Of A Down
Album: Self Titled
Year: 2001

I remember disliking SOAD the first time I heard them as I found them a little intense. But when I heard their first album I fell in love, only then truly appreciating Toxicity. The album boasts a few big hits that but X is not one of them. However it is one of my favourites, with a fast beat and hard-hitting lyrics, it certainly is hard to forget.

09.
Song: Eve At The Mansion
Artist: Katzenjammer Kabarett
Album: Self Titled
Year: 2006

I love this band. A 4 piece death rock cabaret (or multireferential post-punk, baroque krautpop? Take your pick) outfit hailing from Paris. Their music amazes me, eerie yet beautiful, calm yet chaotic, one of my favourite bands to come on randomly when your marching around town in the rain. Oddly enough, this album was often played while playing Gears Of War online. It seems to fit the mood of the game, specifically the grand Mansion level.

08.
Song: Let Go
Artist: Frou Frou
Album: Details
Year: 2002

Arguably the most famous track from the bands short lived career, Let Go has been used in numerous films and TV shows. The one film I remember it from is Garden State, making the band and the film even more special. Frou Frou make the perfect backing music to write or read to, and I don’t mean they are bland, far from it, but they just slide into your sub-conscience leaving you alert enough to work. The perfect song to sit back with a refreshing beverage and some good company.

07.
Song: Aint Nobody Gonna Hang Me In My Home
Artist: The Atomic Bitchwax
Album: The Atomic Bitchwax I
Year: 1999

Chris Kosnik of  Godspeed and Ed Mundell of Monster Magnet formed this ridiculously named group in the mid 90’s. The best way to describe them is guitar porn, and I love it. Not listened to enough of their albums but so far the first two are my favourite, favouring complex solos and a distinct lack of vocals. If you like guitars then you are going to like this.

06.
Song: Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt
Artist: DJ Shadow
Album: Endtroducing
Year: 1996

Is this album in your collection? No? Well go bloody buy it then. I can still remember the first time I listened to this album, going in with a negative mind and coming out amazed; it gave me the taste for alternative hip hop, something different to the rap on radio 1. Endtroducing was the first album made of completely sampled material and laid foundations that alternative hip-hop, trip hop, and whatever-else-hop still use today.  A masterpiece.

05.
Song: Ihabia
Artist: Deftones
Album: Around The Fur
Year: 1997

Did you  know that Deftones have been around for twenty two years? Shocking. I actually nicked this album off of a friend, starting a ten year love affair with Chino and co. This was the first album of theirs that I heard and I must have played it countless times. It’s one of those albums that I struggle to pick a favourite track, preferring to listen to the whole thing. Easily the best album the band have put out and possibly one of the best album covers ever (especially when you were a teenager).

04.
Song: Save Myself
Artist: Willy Mason
Album: If The Ocean Gets Rough
Year: 2007

I have not listened to this album enough but conveniently this the one track that I know (didn’t cheat, honest). I love his lazy style and lyrical content – slightly depressing but filled with hope. His first album has been played to death, maybe it’s time I do the same to this one?

03.
Song: Hysteric
Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Album: It’s Blitz
Year: 2009

This album is another one that I’ve not gave enough time to. I’ve listened to when my girlfriends has been playing it but I haven’t devoted myself to listening to it. Something that I have to do to really get to grips with an album. I do like the song though, but I don’ t think it’s my favourite off the album, that would probably go to Heads Will Roll. I actually saw the YYY’s live in Glasgow a few years back and have been mesmerized by Karen O ever since. Although she is not as amazing as the guitarists hair. It’s perfect.

02.
Song: Drive Slow
Artist: Kanye West
Album: Late Registration
Year: 2005

I have a love/hate affair with Mr. West. As talented as the lad is, he really is a bit of a twat. This tracks is not one of my favourites but I do love the horns. He has done some great songs throughout his first two albums. Don’t know what else to say about this one…skip to the end?

01.
Song: Steamer Trunk
Artist: Alkaline Trio
Album: From Here To Infirmary
Year: 2001

So many tracks of this album make up the soundtrack to my teenage years, but strangely I’ve just got into this band more in the last few months, racking up loads of plays on my Ipod. Firmly rooted in pop punk, yet their songs have some great lyrics conveying real emotions. They deserved more plays back in “the day” than a lot of the other bands got. I’m off to sing the entire album very loud, and very bad. Hope you enjoyed the list.

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