A bout of shuffle (A not particularly challenging ‘Spill Challenge)

I tried to make a playlist. I thought of a theme, an arc, a storyline. It came out all wrong, though, I started to feel like I was putting a Glee episode together.

Thanks, but no, thanks. No theme, no arc, no storyline.


So, I thought I’d use sound, rather than lyrics, as the driving concept. But I don’t know what a good playlist sounds like, let alone how to compile one. I hit the rocks with that one too.

Then, I finally did what I usually do in these cases: Procrastinate.

Eventually, as it happens everytime procrastinating stops being an option anymore. I decided random would save the day. So, I went through my files and started to press shuffle, until I got 12 songs I like, from 12 acts I haven’t seen mentioned around these parts.

That particular plan wasn’t really coming together either, so I did what I do when things aren’t going the way I want them to: I cheated. I left stuff out that I thought it would fit best somewhere else, or that stuck like a sore thumb in this context. And self-censored. Generously.

Finally, I got a dozen I was somewhat happy with (I’ve used a couple of them in the Mothership before, but those trees fell down in an empty forest, anyway, so we’ll pretend that never happened).

Guidelines? Simple enough. These are 12 artists I know very little about. They’re people I’ve been meaning to investigate for a long time now, in most cases, but it just never happened. So, what do you think? Which ones would make you dig deeper, if any? Which ones are nothing but a few seconds of your life that will never come back?

(Many thanks to Amylee for techie support and general encouragement. If this post ever sees the light of day, it will be because of her. So, you know who to blame now…)

36 thoughts on “A bout of shuffle (A not particularly challenging ‘Spill Challenge)

  1. Can’t listen tonight (or tomorrow either, probably), but it’ll be an adventure for me: there’s only two of those artists I’ve even heard of!

  2. Ok Lambre –

    I pretty much liked everything on the list. In fact, couldn’t pick one to toss either. But – there was also a bit of saminess to a lot of the songs, so as to which ones to investivate further – these for me would be the ones that stood out from the pack a bit. Both of the instrumentals – Ben Reynolds, and especially Gravenhurst. that was lovely. I also really liked Alina Simone a lot, and Katie Stelmanis. Also the Sarcastic Dharma Society tickled my funny bone.

    I know what you mean about not having time to follow up. I hear a lot of one off tunes that i like, especially farting around on Indie Shuffle and Arsebook follows. But i never get around to listening to whole albums, let alone back catalogs.

    Thanks Lambre!

    • Hi, Amylee
      Yep, the list could have done with some of the stuff I left out, probably. It was a less cohesive lot, but it might have made things more interesting, too. Truth be told, I didn’t want to go over it again and again. I think I’ll go with my gut feeling next time. Thanks for listening, though!.

      Nicole is from “This is England” soundtrack, apparently (haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t comment)

      There are very few records I’ve paid attention to, back to back, this century. Truth be told, I don’t miss the format all that much.

  3. this was great – lots of new to me – and it flowed well as a playlist.
    too much little details to go into on each track – I did start, but had real life get in the way of typing out analysis (including DsD asking about my summer logistics – will sort it better soon – promise boss)

    so first up the build up and then the chilled instrumental interludes were great – if you took it as sides of an LP the week track on side A would be track 3 – nothing wrong with it and I did enjoy it – but the tunes around it were shoutier about their ambition (if that makes sense) so on a one shot playlist Alina drifted for me.

    one line notes read a little like this:
    1 – jagged guitar – whispered bits – la las – self depreciation – that’ll do nicely.
    2 – music pulls me in – early part of vocal nearly pushes me away but I get used to it – false endings aplenty – good.
    3 – nothing wrong – but nothing to stand out.
    4 – great contrast between soft vocal and squealy music – enjoyed.
    5 – so much to fit in – so little time and multiple chanted vocals – that’s my teenage years.
    6 – very affable interlude

    tracks 7-12 didn’t get as much concentration –

    8 – had elvis written next to it (that’ll be costello)
    9 – had ‘really enjoying’ – in the way I enjoy Zola Jesus – she be the one I seek instantly.

    last three all passed my enjoyment sensors – but would need to listen to everything again to work out why – what was instant gratification but not long term – and what would be a keeper.

    Just looked up Katie Stelmanis – she’s Austra – that explains it. Love Austra.

    great fun – will listen again tomorrow/tonight – cheers.

    • Thanks a lot for the feedback, shane, it’s greatly appreciated. I really don’t know how you find the time, you’re a hero!

      There’s a story behind that Katie Stelmanis track, actually. It has been in my computer, mislabeled, for 4-5 years, I think, I was pretty obsessed with the song, but Katie S was all the info I had. and the lyrics I could make out were of no help until very recently. (Apparently, her new band, Austra, is having a bigger impact, enough for new Google search of her back catalog’s lyrics to be more fruitful. – Note, check Austra’s stuff asap…)

      One thing you mention in passing, but I’ve always been curious about, is the topic of annoying singing voices. I can only recognize those as such in my native language, but not in English. I’ve often heard comments about an artist’s voice being off-putting, but I can’t tell exactly why (unless it’s in Spanish)

      • hey ya lambre,

        I find the time because I’m tied to the computer – trying to finish off designs that go into and exhibition in 1 week 2 days…. the more I panic, the more I engulf myself in music – heehee.

        I liked the – Katie Stelmanis so much I brought the album with that track from e-music last night and am now ever so obsessed with her cover of – Natural Woman.
        I already own the Austra album ‘Feel It Break’ the newer one is poppier, I think I read (I scan reviews nowadays but never take anything in – and there’s no need to – because you can easily listen and make your own mind up) … love the story – I had the band ‘The Postal Service’ linked on my first computer under a totally different name – it really confused me and friends when I burnt CD’s for them – I think the early days of RR some of my nominations were very strange indeed… because I just believed what came up, or ticking the wrong box, when I was ripping the CD.

        Anyway – artists voices being off putting?.
        Don’t think it’s any different to say the sound of an 80’s drum machine (being off putting for Chris) or a vocoder (never used to mind it – but I hear it now and my skin crawls)

        Voices are just the same to me, say the singing sound of Emo bands – if you are a fan and have grown up with them as your first taste of obsessive music appreciation – you can tell the little differences in tone and texture – the unique character between singers and songs. But as an old fart – it sounds like one voice. In England we have ‘Estuary English’ it took over the accents – the great accents of this country. The teenagers have a uniform sound – the indie landfill has that vocal (speaking – think Mike Skinner from the Streets). The Emo American felt the same to me….. something like that puts me off.
        I imagine the same is true there – so many distinct accent – with some people holding on to them, but the youth getting Americanised)

        But unique voice appeal – Dylan has a wonderful sounding voice, to me – it’s just his song feel so entwined in the 60’s – that the actual baggage puts me off his songs – yet Cohen with his timeless words and gruff voice will live for ever, again, with me (yet I do cringe at his musicianship and sound in some of the 80’s output)…. all of it is very personal – and in a way, I use it to discard having ‘too much’ music .. an instant “will this start annoying the crap out of me?” – saves time.

        Here it’s Plastic Constellations – it’s nearly that universal ‘American’ (but as I said it grows as the song progresses) – I’m probably biased because English bands sung in a similar accent in my youth – instead of their own voices – this pissed me off as a big fan of accent and area identity, where ever in the world …

        I also don’t see anything wrong in singing in what is NOT your native tongue – as long as you don’t come out sounding universal ‘English/America’n – it can twist language in a way an native speaker wouldn’t. But these bands don’t have to – If I’m listening to a Spanish band – the voice becomes an merged part of the music – rather than a separate part that I need to analyse.

        It’s all good, or just a way to quickly dismiss something – I don’t feel bad – because every band or singer will have something to please someone.

        I’ll stop now – as you can probably tell – I really need to be working!

      • re: voices

        There are two elements in voices. The first one is tone, and that’s universal… Say, I agree on Dylan’s voice, it’s the right voice for him. Others can’t stand it, that’s ok. That’s a matter of taste, as you say. And, in terms of drawing a line about how far you want to go, is as good a line in the sand as any. Otherwise, it never ends…

        The other element is accents, though, and that’s where I’m out of my depth with foreign (to me) singers. Because I can’t quite spot fake accents, for instance, or even if I do, I don’t have a background that would make them bothersome to me. It’s very much the same as you and Spanish. Lyrics and voices blend into the whole, don’t stand out unless I make an effort. One good thing is that it’s very easy for me to overlook clunky lyrics, for instance. But of course there are things I miss.

        Here it’s different, because the politics involved are different. There is not a substantial pressure, or the perception that you’d need to hide your natural accent to reach a wider audience. (both Spain and Spanish America are small ponds, so there’s no incentive) Accents are an issue in other contexts, but not music, funnily enough. Here, local accents are very alive, for now. Again, different politics, different cultural identities at play. The dynamic at play here is central vs periphery, but Madrid is not London… But that’s another story.

        People singing in other languages… I’m an skeptic, there. Too many singers making vocal tourism trying to reach a wider audience, but not making a real effort to make sure they’re doing a good job about it have made me so.

        Oh, and that Natural Woman cover… wow, just wow!

  4. Thanks Lambre and Amy. All these are new to me, so here goes:

    Peabody – Catchy. Unexpectedly strong vocal.
    Plastic Constellations – Similarly energetic.
    Alina Simone – Love the lyrics, like the song. Tells a story.
    Aaron Stout – Strong intro and guitar, though not so keen on the vocal.
    Despistado – Slightly manic, but that’s OK.
    Gravenhurst – Lovely, reminds me slightly of The Civil Wars.
    The Jet Age – And this reminds me of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
    The Fletcher Pratt – Like this too.
    Katie Stelmanis – No complaints here, either.
    Menomena – Hmm, sort of Adam Ant on permanent climax. Not too sure about this one.
    Ben Reynolds – Lovely instrumental, thoughts of Adam Ant now gone.
    Sarcastic Dharma Society – Ha ha! Hope he felt better after this.

    A really interesting listen; in terms of jettisoning one it would have to be Menomena but in terms of further investigation it will be Alina Simone, Gravenhurst and Ben Reynolds. And possibly the Sarcastic Dharma Society. Thank you!

    • Thanks for listening, Ali! you and Amylee seem to be on the same wavelength there…

      P.S. That Adam Ant comment made me chuckle 😉

  5. I haven’t heard of any of these people. I will try and listen to it later today.

    By the way, did I volunteer to do a list in the next couple of weeks?

    • You didn’t pick a date. I think Mnemonic said she’d do one too. And Leavey too. Don’t have anyone lined up anywhere so pick any Tuesday that you’d like.

      • It’s all yours. It’s really kind of DIY now, so grab your date. Next week is still open if anyone wants to jump in. I think Fuel hinted something somewhere, you know you’re free to use my account anytime you want.

      • Hi, RTJ. I’m on my laptop out on the island and would have to do it from what I have on here. Just checked and will do one for next week, if that’s okay.

      • Awesome. So here’s a current schedule –

        Jul 23 – Fuel
        Jul 30 – Carole
        Aug 6 –
        Aug 13 – Leavey
        Aug 20 –
        Aug 27 –

        Anyone else who wants to grab a date go ahead – and you don’t need my approval. I’m going to be unreliable – really need to get moved during Aug.

  6. Ha. I had the same idea of listing 11 songs by 11 acts I hadn’t mentioned before or mentioned only infrequently. (I tend to forget on-topic songs by bands I’ve discovered only in the last few years.)

    Maybe I’ll do that theme some other time, or maybe I’ll just do an electronica-based theme instead. Like Punky’s excellent list of a couple of weeks back it will be a couple of days before I get round to this. Looks ace, although I only know four of these acts.

  7. an excellent listen all round – would keep the Gravenhurst or Katie Stelmanis, not really sure which one to lose, but maybe the Alina Simone – cheers!

  8. Hi Lambretinha,

    Good idea for a Spill Challenge and must say all of them were new to me.

    Real stand out was Alina Simone– loved it and will definitely be exploring some more.

    Enjoyed Gravenhurst– “nice” instrumental.

    Really enjoyed the Katie Stelmanis too.

    Menomena reminded me of Peter Gabriel not Adam Ant but hey what do I know!

    Had to listen to Peabody again because I wasn’t too sure first time round but the one I’d lose, that did nothing for me was Despistado!

    • Cheers, liab! and congratulations in your first Guru stint. A job well done 🙂 happy you liked the Taylor & Rodríguez song, by the way…

      Alina Simone is one of the few I had seen mentioned before. I think Shoegazer must have nominated some of her stuff in RR… I only know this song of hers. If there’s more stuff by her you fancy, let me know!

      • Morning lambretinha. Thanks for your good wishes. Loved T & R, though your post seemed quite cryptic but a fabulous song.

        Will Guru again as I thoroughly enjoyed it and there was so much good and often new to me music to listen to. 🙂 big smiley!

    • Hmmm, I can see where you’re coming from with Peter Gabriel – some of his older stuff, maybe. I’ve just listened to “Stand and Deliver” (Adam Ant) for my sins, and it’s not as shouty as I remembered. Still not a fan, though!

  9. What with the heat and everything, I’m quite breathless…. (just to show that I got the reference!)

    I started noodling along with these yesterday (several are grouped by key – deliberately?) but here are my semi-considered opinions on them as songs:
    Peabody – Perfectly acceptable guitar rock. Is there a reason for the French Count?
    Plastic Constellations – Slightly less acceptable guitar rock (a bit too thrashy for me) but with some interesting changes and breaks.
    Alina Simone – Nothing startlingly original but I like it well enough.
    Aaron Stout – An effective thing but it’s veering towards a collection of rock cliches (oscillators? takes me back (as I type this, there’s a truck reversing and bleeping outside – I wasn’t sure whether or not it was part of the track!)).
    Despistado – No, not for me.
    Gravenhurst – I checked this guy out a while ago, when the Graun raved over his last album, which contains some very interesting sounds and songs. Apathy was probably the only thing that stopped me buying the album.
    The Jet Age – I know that rhythm/riff from somewhere. Are they a rock Mumford & Sons?
    The Fletcher Pratt – OK but rather vanilla-flavoured (with a hint of The Move).
    Katie Stelmanis – I find this quite entrancing. And not just because it plays a video in my head of Amazonian women in leopard-skin outfits perspiring as they row their war canoe in unison to the beat of a big drum….
    Menomena – Not keen on the shouty vocal or the vigorous band, but it seems to have an objective.
    Ben Reynolds – Not Burt? How disappointing. A jam in D minor. Meh.
    Sarcastic Dharma Society – This is fab! It’s great to hear such language used so playfully (and not as in a rap song).

    Despistado can go straight to the remainder bin. The Sarcastic Dharma Society song was my favourite but I may check out Gravenhurst again. Ta, lambre.

    • Hi, Chris! and thank you for listening.

      No, I wasn’t grouping them by key, at least, not deliberately. I wouldn’t know how to do it,. I’m musically illiterate. I did choose this sequencing, and was looking for them to transition smoothly, with only an abrupt change of pace or two. If my sequencing choices made some musical sense, chances are it was just a happy coincidence..

      Glad you found something to enjoy in there, anyway! I’m sure shit on my heart is a very popular closing time pub singalong in an alternate universe. At least, I hope so!

      Oh, that Katie S. song won’t be the same again for me anymore. Thanks about that too 😉

  10. Loved the last seven songs. But my favourites were Jet Age, Aaron Stout, Katie Stelmanis and Gravenhurst. (Maybe KS wins on the playback.) Nothing I disliked, but maybe Plastic Constellations would be the one to go. Watching the cricket while listening to a RR playlist is perhaps not the best audio-visual combination.

  11. Good stuff Lambre – you should do this more often. All new to me, and nothing I disliked. Hate to go with the crowd, but I thought Gravenhurst was particularly lovely, and I’ll definitely be investigating more Katie Stelmanis.

  12. Apols for short response, lambre: I’m feeling the stress this weekend.

    Like / like / like / like best so far / unmoved / *sigh* lovely / annoying voice / meh-lvis / not tonight, Katie dear / got the album, but I don’t listen to it / in the wrong mood for this / nah (if you’re gonna swear, either put some venom into it, or use it sparingly as a bobby-trap).

    Gravenhurst confirm their already-held “really should investigate more” status.
    None of it is bad enough for me to use the CD as a coaster.

    Cheers, and goodnight.

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