Marvelous Middle Eights – Discuss

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Better late than not at all….


A spooky thing happened to me last week on my way home from work and when cooking dinner a bit later.  I had a random playlist on in the car (always far too loud so as to distract me from the annoying traffic), for once I was really listening to the music rather than allowing the issues of the day to invade my subconscious and begin to worry me.  A song called Shining Light by Ash came on.  It’s a sweet tune from 2001 with some lovely lyrics you could send to someone in the hope they’d pick up your meaning…it’s not as rocky as Girl from Mars, but still passable commute listening.  As the song progressed, it suddenly changed tempo and key “Ah that’s a lovely little middle eight right there” I thought to myself – I never think of these things generally, so it was a weird thought to have.  End of little anecdote number 1.

Here’s the track as a reminder:

Later I was cooking dinner with a new releases round table discussion on the radio in the background.  They played the new St Vincent release called Los Ageless. (which is a great track btw).  The panel members loved it, but one of the guests (Jimbob from Carter USM) mentioned how brilliant the middle eight was in her track.  How bloody weird!  I’ve never really thought about middle eights and there it was; twice in the space of a couple of hours.

I agree with Jimbob; a good middle eight keeps you interested and moves the track on.   There are loads of great Motown tracks I can think of with very good middle eights – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough as a starter.  The Beatles and The Beach Boys were pretty good at middle eights too.  I love the middle eights in Stevie Nicks’ Edge Of Seventeen and in Justin Timberlake’s Rock Your Body.  Both tracks ramp back up after their middle eight lulls, propelling the tune to its end.

Since last week I have tuned into so many middle eights in the songs I’ve listened to; I notice them even when I’m not really paying attention.  There was a middle eight RR topic back in 2009 and the songs that made the list are all good examples (although I can’t claim to like all the songs – Kaiser Chiefs???).  So, yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to discuss this issue. What do you know about all of this? What are your favourite middle eights?  Or maybe you think they are a waste of time and an attempt by the artist to self indulgently show off?  Discuss.

Does an album sound better if there’s a tragic story behind it? – Discuss

A few weeks back I stumbled on a track called “Nothing More to Say” by a band called The Frightnrs. One of my favourite DJs added it to his essential listening list and it immediately caught my attention. If you regularly read these rambling Discuss pieces, you’ve probably already predicted what I did next; dear reader, having never heard of them, I looked them up.

The story of The Frightnrs is a sad one. I read this NPR article with their album on in the background. As I read, the music touched me more. It is undoubtedly an accomplished piece of work; lyrically, musically and vocally. It’s reminiscent of classic, smooth 70s reggae – straight out of New York. Even the album artwork has the style of that era. I listened to the album a few times and although it’s by no means a classic, it’s certainly lovely.

However – and here’s the “discuss” bit – I wonder whether I’d think of it as fondly had it been produced in straightforward and more happy circumstances. The story makes it a remarkable and poignant piece of work, without it, the album is good and would have held my attention for a while, but perhaps no more than that. Does this make me a bit of a hypocrite?

Yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to discuss this issue. What do you know about all of this? Are average albums made better because of a sad back story, or does the back story make the album a much better piece of work?

While you think about it, here’s my favourite song from The Frightnrs album.

Till Then.

The Mercury Music Prize – Discuss

Yesterday saw the shortlist for this year’s Mercury Music Prize announced.  As a reminder, this is what it is about (from the website):

The Mercury Music Prize promotes the best of UK and Irish music and the artists who produce it. This is done through the celebration of the 12 ‘Albums of the Year’, recognising artistic achievement across a range of contemporary music genres.

The winner is announced in September.  There is a good pedigree of past winners and only one artist has won it twice; PJ Harvey in 2001 and 2011.  Both The XX and Alt-J have been nominated this year, both have won it before, so we could see another multi-nominated winner in 2017.

Here’s the announcement as made on BBC 6 Music – for those who can’t play that, check out the website linked above.  Previous winners are also listed.

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Does anyone fancy reviewing any of these?  or perhaps giving a view of any of the nominated albums over the coming weeks?

For today though…

Yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to discuss this issue.  What do you think of the nominations?  Are there any obvious omissions? What’s your favourite previous winning album etc etc.


Song titles within a song – Discuss


I’ve always loved the Arctic Monkeys from the first time I heard them.  Whatever you may think of Alex Turner’s morph into a parody of himself, there’s no denying his gift for lyrics.  To me his songs are like poetry that show me a glimpse of life as a teen in Sheffield or into the mind of a man making drunken lustful calls to a woman he’s obsessed with.  I find them constantly fascinating and appealing; it helps that I like the guitars and drums of their typical sound.  I listen to them less frequently now, but when I do, their tunes lighten my mood and lift my spirit.  There’s always something new to hear.  That’s where this post comes from.

I had their last album, AM, on in the background the other day and the song Knee Socks came on.  Another ditty about getting it on with someone you fancy.  Out of the blue I noticed a line which I’d clearly heard many times before but only just clocked – it’s near the back end of the song and finishes the chorus sections:

Like the beginning of Mean Streets
You could be my baby

As soon as I heard the line, the image of Harvey Keitel’s head hitting the pillow to The Ronette’s singing Be My Baby in the opening scene of that film flashed through my head.

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Lots of artists mention other musicians in their songs, but not many incorporate other song titles into their lyrics (Pavement don’t count – they only listed R.E.M song titles as an homage to Stipe et al).

Yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to discuss this issue.  What do you know about all of this?  Share your tracks where the band/musician has used a song title as part of their lyrics.

Songs for a Specific Purpose – Discuss

I’m sporty.  I’m not very good at any of it, but I’m happy to give it a go.   My current sport of choice is road cycling.  I say current, because I try new activities and they then become my new favourite thing.  I’ve only owned my road bike for just over a year.  I also have a mountain bike and take that out every now and again to give me an adrenaline rush.  I also run.  I also swim – summer lido life is my favourite time of the week.  I’ve given up netball – it’s too hard on my knees.  This summer I am spending 5 days learning how to surf.  You get the picture.  Sport keeps me fit, deals with any stress I’m feeling as I beast my body, it’s social and I get a sense of achievement when I do something I never thought I could manage.

When I run and in the winter when I use my bike on the turbo trainer, I have to listen to music.  It’s a way of distracting me from my ragged breathing and any pain I might be feeling, the beat also keeps me going.  Some of the music I use on my various running and turbo playlists is not at all what I would listen to on a day-to-day basis – it has a purpose; to motivate me.  I associate certain tracks with activity (I have a pavlov’s dog type reaction when I hear Pendulum – I just want to run!) and rarely listen to them when I’m not running or on the turbo trainer.  The music I use is varied, ranging from hard rock to dubstep to mainstream pop.  What the tracks have in common are high BPM or soaring melodies.

I mentioned Pendulum above;  I remember the first time I saw them perform.  I was blown away by the music and the light show.  Witchcraft, Watercolour and Propane Nightmares have all found their way onto my running playlist.  The way they all start quietly and lift to thrashing drums and synths helps me speed up and maintain a good fast pace, the gorse and heathers of my local common a blur in my peripheral vision as I concentrate on keeping up with the beat.

Then there’s Britney’s Toxic.  A good track for the front or back end of the running playlist.  Steady, pulsating beat for warming up or down.  The bass line played loud through headphones is awesome.  Crazy in Love by Beyonce is another good pop tune I’m very happy to plod to.  Rudimental’s Feel the Love is the sort of track you want to come on just as you are reaching the mid-point of that stubborn sandy hill that’s always such a bitch to get up.

Then there’s the heavier stuff; Clutch are a relatively recent addition to my running list.  Their track X-Ray Visions is a fabulously noisy tune to get my arse up most hills, as is Fuckshovel’s Long Time Dead, originally introduced to me by Darcey’s Dad on RR. Drowning Pool’s Bodies is one that is great when you are gritting your teeth to just get through.

In terms of turbo training on my bike, it’s dubstep all the way.  I love the undulating, off-kilter beats this sort of music offers.  It means I can pedal at high cadence and then just as the track kicks in, get out of the saddle and grind out and imaginary hill.  Skrillex and The Qemists both have great tracks for this sort of training.

I’ve put a little playlist together of some of these tunes for you to enjoy (?)

So, why am I telling you all of this?  These are pretty much all tracks I wouldn’t listen to at any other time other than to train.  I want to know your tracks you only listen to for a particular reason.

Yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to discuss this issue.  What do you know about all of this?  Do you have tracks that you train to, or that get your creative juices flowing?  Are there tunes you need to listen to at work to help you concentrate?  Do you have a favourite song that lulls you to sleep?  If you are a performer, is there something you need to listen to before heading on stage; a musical lucky charm?  What are your tracks you save for a particular purpose?

TV Theme Tunes – Discuss

I’m writing this whilst watching the TV.  I’ll be honest, I’m finding it difficult to come up with “discuss” topics.  But as I’ve been watching, I’ve thought of something.  It is likely to be lame so apologies up front.

I’m on my own this week.  I’m not good at being on my own and often do things I wouldn’t normally do to take my mind off the fact that I am on my own.  So I’m watching “Detectorists” on catch up; I have watched all 6 episodes of the first season back-to-back.  The BBC seem to be replaying it, probably in advance of a new season starting – I don’t keep up with these things, so I have no idea.  I never watched it first time round, but (and here’s the point), I have known the theme tune for a long time.  Ever since I was introduced to it as a nomination on RR shiny songs.  I don’t know who suggested it, but I listened to it and was instantly captivated, it has been a regular on my favourite playlist for some time now.  It’s a song as gentle as the programme itself.

Folk musician Johnny Flynn wrote the entire score and the theme tune.  He appears in episode 3 as a participant at an open mic night and sings it then.  It is a beautiful moment.  I loved this song before watching the programme.  Now I can associate the two together, I love it even more.  I know this won’t always be the case with theme songs.  I want to know what you guys think.

Yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to discuss this issue.  What do you know about all of this?  Have you been introduced to an awesome tune or song via a TV programme or film?  Has the use of a popular song as a theme tune spoilt its loveliness for you?

Btw – thanks for last week.  I feel much better for having got all that off my chest and for knowing I’m not alone.

Here’s the trailer for the programme in case you are interested.

Songs that are difficult to listen to – discuss

Almost 13 years ago I went through a traumatic event that ended with me in hospital undergoing a pretty grim surgical procedure.  My anxious and concerned husband and oblivious toddler collected me when I was discharged.  I couldn’t wait to get away from the hospital and back to everything familiar.  In the car on the way home a song came on the radio.  As it had just been released, I heard it almost constantly for weeks after.  It became inextricably linked to the trauma I had just experienced – it’s subject wasn’t a million miles from what I had gone through and it upset me every time I heard it.  It took me years to get over this event and every time I heard the song, it broke me again.  My husband was very good at anticipating the moments when I would disappear and he would then find me weeping in a quiet corner of the house.  Time has been a fantastic healer and I am reconciled to what happened to me; I know I did nothing to cause it and it was not my fault.  Because the song is now old and rarely played on the stations I listen to, I haven’t had a weepy meltdown for a very long time – I thought I was over that sort of thing too.  It seems not.  I heard this song on the radio today and instantly welled up, shedding big fat tears.  I hate that this song does this to me, I detest that it reminds me of things I want to forget.

There is another song I can’t hear without crying for very different reasons.  Tim Minchin’s song “When I Grow Up” from the musical Matilda gets me every time.  I insist, without observation to my demands, that my kids don’t sing this one around me.  They do, just to see me blub.  When my eldest child came to leave junior school, he and his school mates sang this as part of their leaver’s assembly.  There was not a dry eye in the audience.  Like the Athlete song, When I Grow Up is now linked in my subconscious to this passage from child to teen – it chokes me up.  My youngest child is about to go through this transition from junior to senior school.  I’ve been surreptitiously trying to find out what they are planning for their leaver’s assembly so I can stock up on tissues if necessary.  She knows my game.

Then there’s the song that makes me shed a wistful tear for my 18-year-old self.  I recall watching Jesus Jones in 1990 at Kilburn Ballroom (supported by Neds and Blur btw) and realising that I was very probably in love with the boy I’d gone there with.  It turned out I was right.  I know I shouldn’t hanker for my late teens, but I can’t help myself sometimes…

So, with a massive apology for the over-sharing confessional, yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to discuss this issue.  What do you know about all of this? Is there a track that gets you in the guts every time you hear it? Maybe you can’t bear to listen to it, maybe you put yourself through the mill of listening to it because it’s what you need….no need to go into detail if you’d rather not, I realise not everyone will want to share personal stuff.