Category Archives: Alternative

The National – The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness (2017)

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This month, The National released a new song, ‘The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness’. Rejoice. While the dulcet tones of Matt Berninger are still there, there is a definite pop swagger that might be more expected from the likes of Spoon. I really like the shift and the Aaron Dessner’s guitar solo is an added bonus. The new album Sleep Well Beast is out in September.

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The Handsome Family – Far From Any Road (2003)

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Husband-and-wife duo Brett and Rennie Sparks explore some dark, wistful americana on their 2003 album Singing Bones. With its mandolin and trumpet, ‘Far From Any Road’ evokes dusty backcountry, far removed from The Handsome Family’s Chicago.

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Pavement – Spit On A Stranger (1999)

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Pavement’s last album had some serious back catalogue competition. The Nigel Godrich-produced Terror Twilight may not be their best, but it was really good and it featured ‘Spit On A Stranger’. Have a great week.

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The Cure – From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea (1992)

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The Cure’s 1992 studio album Wish succeeded some hard competition in the band’s acclaimed Disintegration. But from out of its shadow, the band produced a couple of gems: hit single ‘Friday I’m In Love’, of course; but the real deal is the jangling, dancey hook-laden ‘From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea’, blessfully included as the longest track on the album.

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Broadcast – Corporeal (2005)

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Shortly before they released their 2005 album Tender Buttons, Broadcast had reduced to a duo. This change brought about a more stripped-back sound. On ‘Corporeal’, Trish Keenan and James Cargill create a pulsing beat and bass line that reminds me of the work of Yo La Tengo, albeit a touch more sultry. Have a great week.

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9 of the best – sounds of 2000

A compilation for the weekend. My favourite songs of 2000 in no particular order:

Radiohead – Idioteque

Blonde Redhead ‎- For The Damaged

Lambchop – Up With The People

The Avalanches – Since I Left You

Alan Braxe & Fred Falke – Intro

Outkast – Ms. Jackson

Marah – Round Eye Blues

Richard Ashcroft – A Song For The Lovers

Phoenix – Too Young

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Honourable mentions also go to: Grandaddy for ‘He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot‘; Erykah Badu for ‘Didn’t Cha Know‘; Daft Punk for ‘One More Time‘; Augie March for ‘The Hole In Your Roof‘; Missy Elliott for ‘Get Ur Freak On‘; D’Angelo for ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)‘; and Edu K for his remix of Otto’s ‘Bob‘.

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Radiohead – Idioteque (2000)

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And then on 2 October 2000, wiping more than their own slate clean, Radiohead released Kid A. Seven tracks in, there’s a break in the mysterious ‘In Limbo’ with all seemingly lost at sea, and out of the mist blasts ‘Idioteque’. Its sound is a wave of intelligent electronica pulsing against the rocks, while Thom Yorke delivers a haunting siren to suit. “Women and children first, And children first, And children.” This song mattered.

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Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill (2010)

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Last month, “Gorillaz” announced that their new album will be entitled Humanz and is due out on 28 April. Looking back at their discography, I’ve plucked out Plastic Beach. It may not have beaten ‘Stylo’ and ‘Superfast Jellyfish’ to early release as a single, but ‘Melancholy Hill’ is its standout track. All wistful, pizzicato strings, jaunty keyboards and Damon’s whispers: “Up on melancholy hill/There’s a plastic tree/Are you here with me/Just looking out on the day/Of another dream”. Like an uplifting sequel to 2005’s ‘Hong Kong’.

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The Stone Roses – Ten Storey Love Song (1995)

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I thought about The Stone Roses yesterday. It doesn’t happen everyday, but certainly not as much as it used to. Five years in the making, the second album, The Second Coming, would inevitably disappoint. However, ‘Ten Story Love Song’ is classic Roses – a 4-min-plus slice of glorious uplifting alt pop. It wasn’t worth that very long wait, but we would take what we could get. Perversely, by 1994/1995, Britpop, which was arguably a product of the Roses phenomenon, was in full flow.

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Jay Som – Baybee (2017)

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It’s been a while sine I’ve featured some contemporary dream pop; so here it is. Musical project Jay Som, the creation of Oakland-based songwriter Melina Duterte, released a new long player, Everybody Works, last month. Duterte also recently commissioned a ski-lift themed video for standout track ‘Baybee’. Now that’s style. Enjoy.

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Guided By Voices – Hold On Hope (1999)

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GBV! GBV! Fans of Guided By Voices will be over the moon that Bob Pollard and pals have released their first double album August By Cake this year, 30 years after their first record. To mark the moment, I feature one of the band’s more accessible tracks; the classic ‘Hold On Hope’ from their 1999 album Do The Collapse. Have a great week.

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The Smiths – This Charming Man (1983)

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Michael Stipe and Morrissey have been oft been compared, but the really interesting equivalence is between their bands’ lead guitarists. Whatever Peter Buck got up to, Johnny Marr could more than match in his songwriting and fretwork. After the relative failure of ‘Hand In Glove’, Johnny Marr wrote The Smiths’ second single ‘This Charming Man’ as something a little more upbeat. Full of jangling and chiming guitar, the song was an immediate breakthrough.

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R.E.M. – Talk About The Passion (1983)

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While synth pop continued to eat up the charts both sides of the pond, something very different was happening in Athens, Georgia. 1983 saw R.E.M. release their debut album Murmur, revealing a sound that didn’t sound half as transient as daytime radio play. The heady mix of West Coast pop, Michael Stipe’s new wave vocals and Peter Buck’s jangly guitar signal the signs of greatness to come. ‘Talk About The Passion’ my friends, talk about the passion.

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Cage The Elephant – Cigarette Daydreams (2014)

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Released as the fourth single from Cage The Elephant’s third studio album Melophobia, ‘Cigarette Daydreams’ closes out the record. Matt Shultz sings “You sigh, look away/I can see it clear as day/Close your eyes, so afraid/Hide behind that baby face” against a backdrop of piano, strings and acoustic guitar. Well, what can so say to top that? Have a great week.

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alt-J – 3WW (2017)

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It’s Friday and time for something slightly otherwordly.  ‘3WW’ is the lead single off alt-J’s upcoming third album Relaxer. Over its five minutes, one can hear ambience, early Floyd-like psych-folk, beauty, a country tinge, serenity, the duelling vocals of Joe Newman and Gus Unger-Hamilton, the guest spot for Wolf Alice’s Ellie Roswell, and the strings by the London Metropolitan Orchestra. “Oh, these three worn words/Oh, let me whisper like the rubbing hands/Of tourists in Verona/I just want to love you in my own language.” Have a great weekend.

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