Saturday, September 27, 2008

October 2008

Album Of The Month

My Morning Jacket : It Still Moves

The recent announcement of the first group of bands scheduled for Big Day Out 2009 left the Nevstar panting in eagerness. Headline acts included a Godfather of Rock (Neil Young), one of the all-time great BDO acts (Prodigy), the sensational Arctic Monkeys and those likely lads from Cambridge in The Datsuns. However, nestled in obscurity amongst this list of high profile bands was the name My Morning Jacket, who few in New Zealand know much about. However, like Wilco at BDO 2003, these guys are deserving of much more fame and acclaim. So, in a slight departure from the standard template, I thought I would feature their best album, It Still Moves from 2003 in order to broaden awareness of the subtle and whimsical delights offered by these Kentucky natives.

My Morning Jacket formed in 1998 in Louisville, Kentucky a town notable for being at least the 'middle' of nowhere (it houses the worldwide central depot for UPS!). They began as an alternative country band releasing two albums (The Tennessee Fire and At Dawn) which featured warm and initimate tales which could easily be sung around the campfire in central United States.

However, with It Still Moves, they began expanding the repertoire noticeably reflecting a wide ranging array of influences from Neil Young to such experimenters as The Velvet Underground. They are constant innovators which ensures that each album is a progression albeit a pleasant diversion such that now they are more aptly described as a neo-psychedelic or dreamy pop band. Regardless of the arbitrary genre they are denominated with, what you need to know is that My Morning Jacket are an extremely talented band with an ear for a catchy melody, an eye for a haunting lyric, and a nose for the right instrumental accompanient.

Many of the songs contain lengthy instrumental sections ebbing and flowing like great orchestral pieces. My particular favourite is the title track It Still Moves which begins with a consistently elongated repeating guitar riff. Some vocals appear after a couple of minutes followed by another lengthy instrumental section featuring a range of different sounds until the song revisits the original guitar riff completing its encirclement. Its wonderful stuff.

My Morning Jacket have completed two more studio albums since It Still Moves. They released Z in 2005 which is a move back into roots/rockabilly type sound but still remains relevant. And they have just released Evil Urges which Im yet to hear, but has been reviewed very positively on both sides of the Atlantic combining a classic rock approach with alt-country tempo.

Albums which are immediately engaging whilst remaining stimulating over time are rare indeed. My Morning Jacket's It Still Moves is such an album. A great place to start familiaring yourself with them before they hit our shores in January next year.

Listen or purchase here.

Try this if you like:

Neil Young
Flaming Lips

If you like this try :

Band of Horses...............Everything All The Time
Mercury Rev..................Deserters Songs

Essential Classic Album

The Go-Betweens : 16 Lovers Lane (1988)

The Go-Betweens are an Australian indie band that laboured anonymously and ignominiously for years before managing to capture lightning in a bottle once with the absolutely wondrous album, 16 Lovers Lane. Recorded in 1988, (just before they split) the second verse from the first track “Love Goes On” clearly sets the scene for whats to come.

The people next door they got problems / They got things they can't name
I know about things about lovers / Lovers don't feel any shame
Late at night when the light's down low / The candle burns to the end/
I know a thing about darkness / Darkness ain't my friend

And so the album continues on this delightful tangent. It contains a breathtaking collection of perfect pop melodies and harmonies which are so achingly beautiful, they mask the angst, longing and desparation evinced by the dual songwriters. Indeed some of the longing and angst was internal within the band as several sources denote romantic trysts between band members during the albums recording. It seems seeking to sample forbidden love is fertile ground for these songsmiths.

The band has produced some other worthy albums, notably a 2001 release titled Oceans Apart, recorded after they reunited in the new millennium. But 16 Lovers Lane stands above all others like a volcanic cone on a wide open savannah. It belongs on a pedestal alongside Bob Dylan’sBlood on The Tracks’ and Fleetwood Mac’sRumours’ as the most intimate and heartbreaking invasions of the human heart set music.

Do yourself a favour and purchase this immediately. Play it when you are happy or when you are sad and it will paradoxically enhance either mood. But do yourself a favour and play it. A lot.

Best Track : Quiet Heart

Listen If You Like :

Stone Roses....................Stones Roses
Fleetwood Mac.................Rumours
The Smiths.....................The Queen Is Dead

Top Ten List

The new James Bond film, the awkwardly titled Quantum of Solace, premieres in London on October 29th. It will accompanied by another Bond theme song, this time a collaboration between the diversely talented Alicia Keys and Jack White. Bond theme songs have varied in quality over recent years (the last effort from Casino Royale was lamentable) but the best are absolutely cracking tracks existing as perfect accomplices to the respective film while enduring as great songs in their own right. But what are the BEST Bond theme songs. Never fear; your intrepid correspondent shirks no mighty challenge. Thus here are the :

The Top Ten James Bond Theme Songs

10. Thunderball - Tom Jones (listen here)

With its full blown orchestral accompaniement, this just SOUNDS like a Bond theme song should. Grand, spectacular and monumental describe both the song and the underground lairs of the evil master criminals. Interesting to note that the theme song was originally going to be a song called Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Shirley Bassey doing the honours. This was nixed by the producers who felt they needed a song with the same title as the movie (a tradition later scrapped). It was a busy year for Tom Jones, who also released his classic, Its Not Unusual, in 1965 as well as garnering a Best New Artist Grammy. He certainly put everything into the vocals for Thunderball. Legend has it that he fainted in the studio singing the elongated last note!

9. Licence To Kill - Gladys Knight (listen or buy here)

Often overlooked in appraisals of Bond theme songs probably because the movie is often forgotten as well. The second of Timothy Dalton's efforts, Licence to Kill is not widely remembered with fondness. That is a shame because the theme song is an absolute stonker. Featuring the sultry vocals of Gladys Knight, it starts slowly and builds into a crescendo of sound reprising the brilliant earlier efforts of Shirley Bassey. Great stuff.

Watch the video here.

8. From Russia With Love - Matt Munro (listen or buy here)

The best named of the Bond films, this is one of the great Bond movies, perhaps the best of Connery's efforts (although Goldfinger also very worthy). And it comes with a pretty strong theme song with Frank Sinatra clone Matt Munro doing the honours. The song is a laid back lounge act effort in keeping with the romantic title and scenes of sailing on the Bosphorous which make up part of the film.

Watch video of the opening sequence here.

7. All Time High (from Octopussy) - Rita Coolidge (listen or buy here
All Time High was notable for the fact that it was the first Bond theme song not to feature the name of the movie in either title or even the lyrics of the song. No matter, it is a stunning song with Rita Coolidge's beautiful vocals complementing a languid tempo and a dynamic catchy chorus. Great stuff.

6. Goldfinger - Shirley Bassey

Perhaps the most iconic and memorable Bond theme song, it set the template for all to follow (as indeed did the film). It was big, bombastic and brilliant. Shirley Bassey's incredible classically trained vocals are the standout feature somehow simultaneously assaulting and assuaging the listener. Bassey is the only repeat Bond artist providing the vocals for three Bond films in total. The other two were the passable Diamonds Are Forever and the forgettable Moonraker.

5. Nobody Does It Better (from The Spy Who Loved Me) - Carly Simon (listen or buy here

Certainly the most appropriate title song; this one line sums up the appeal of the Bond character in the first place. First theme song to not have the film name in the title although it does appear in the lyrics. Certainly right up there alongside Youre So Vain as Carly Simon's best (if not only) moments.

See the intro here.

4. For Your Eyes Only - Sheena Easton (listen here)

The first time is always the best. This was the first Bond film I saw in the movies, and it remains a personal favourite. This was in no small part due to the fantastic theme song sung by Sheena Easton (before she dated Prince and got weird!). A ghostly, hypnotic opening segues into a soaring climatic chorus as Sheena implores us to "see what no one else can see". The song was composed by the immortal Bill Conti who repetoire also includes the unforgettable Rocky theme "Gonna Fly Now", film scores for Thomas Crown Affair and The Right Stuff and the tune played during the tournament fight sequence in the Karate Kid! What a CV.

Watch film opening sequence with song here.

3. A View To A Kill - Duran Duran (listen or buy here)

The first and so far only Bond theme song to achieve #1 on US charts. Duran Duran were actually a slightly controversial choice at the time, but they do a great job and its one of their best songs. The video featuring the band cavorting as spies around the Eiffel Tower is also brilliant particularly when Nick Rhodes gets blown up at the end!

See the fantastic video here.

2. Dr No - Monty Norman (listen or buy here)

The theme to Dr No is better known as the James Bond theme featuring the unforgettable four note coda played throughout the film series, particularly when Bond is in imminent danger of a fate worse than a fate worse than death. Monty Norman is the credited composer but was ably assisted by John Barry who led the orchestra in playing the soon to be famous tune. Barry went on to compose another 11 Bond movie scores including the likes of Goldfinger, Moonraker and Thunderball.

And the number one Bond theme song of all time is........

1. Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney & Wings (listen or buy here)

In the end, Live and Let Die is the greatest Bond theme. It has all the elements, a quiet intro leading to a crashing chorus accompanied by a gigantic orchestral riff. Great stuff. The only Bond theme worthy of being covered by Guns and Roses. Apparently its not just me that likes this track. as it was also the first Bond theme song to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It also soared to #2 on the US single charts as well.

See film clip here.


Well, had a deluge of responses about iconic 80s songs. Seems its an era that has a lot of passionate enthusiasts. Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond.

Many suggested some of the best from the likes of Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen or Madonna should be considered for iconic 80s tunes. While not impugning the great recorded output of these stars, they all released important material either before the 80s or after it. Talking about Madonna today and many younger folks are more familiar with her dance efforts such as the compelling Confessions On A Dance Floor. We were looking for those songs from artists who were only of the 80s. Here are a few of the best alternative suggestions I received for iconic 80s songs with accompanying videos for your enjoyment. The last one in particular is a must see. What were they thinking!

Vienna : Ultravox - watch here
Respectable : Mel & Kim - watch here
Born To Be Alive : Patrick Hernandez - watch here
Funky Town : Pseudo Echo - watch here
What I Like About You : The Romantics -watch here
Ghostbusters : Ray Parker Jnr - watch here
Keep On Loving You : REO Speedwagon - watch here
Total Eclipse Of The Heart : Bonnie Tyler - watch here
We Built This City : Starship - watch here
We Close Our Eyes : Go West - watch here
Centrefold : J Geils Band - watch here
Shout : Tears For Fears - watch here
Jesses Girl : Rick Springfield - watch here
You Spin Me A Round : Dead Or Alive - watch here
Cmon Eileen - Dexys Midnight Runners - watch here
Safety Dance : Men Without Hats - watch here

Hope that brings back a few memories for all you children of the 80s.

Until next month.

The Nevstar