Ain't Nothing Fresher

There’s an Indian Summer blazing away in Britain. It’s even managed to show it’s face in Manchester, a city famed for year round drizzle. Adding to that the fact that universities are now back in full swing, means Oxford Road has been a very vibrant and colourful place this week.

Seeing all the bright eyed Freshers, student loans in pocket, snakebites in hand, got me reminiscing about the “best years of my life”. Memories of those (not too) distant uni times always come coupled with sounds, music, particular songs that really punctuated the whole experience for me. I’m going to remind some, and introduce others to three songs that may have passed you by but certainly left their mark on me. Oh, and because we’re all lazy bastards these days, I’ll even post some links so you can listen whilst you read.

Fat Freddy’s Drop – Wandering Eye

This track is one of ten phenomenal tracks from the debut full length offering from New Zealand’s most soulful dubists, Fat Freddy’s Drop. I treated myself to a copy of Based on a True Story for my birthday in the winter of my final year and boy did it see my through those dreary final exam days.

The album’s a journey, waking you up with the piano stabs of “Ernie”, walking you down the stairs to breakfast with the gentle shuffle of “Cay’s Crays” as you still brush the sleep from your eyes. It takes you to more melancholy, reflective places as you reach midday and “Dark Days” before firing up the end of the day party with “Roady” and “Wandering Eye”. Finally you’re eased into the early morning post party lull by the softest of Joe Dukie vocals and watery, dream like soundscapes of “Del Fuego”.

Why, Wandering Eye? That song does for me in one track what the whole album combined also achieves, it takes you on a journey. It has the time to do it as well, being nearly ten minutes in length. But at no point do you feel it’s gone on too long. I’m sitting back with a satisfied sigh as I think about this track.

Tom Vek – Music Television

You won’t know this song, well if you do, you’re more in tune with the work of Tom Vernon-Kell (a.k.a. Tom Vek) than I first gave you credit for.

I first heard of Tom Vek when Ed told me he’d managed to blag us not only a couple of tickets to his gig in Nottingham, but a little chin wag pre show. I’ll be honest, I’d not heard any of his music before I wandered up the street leading to the door of the Rescue Rooms where he was going to be playing later that night. From behind the half closed door I could hear three chords blasting out with rhythmic simplicity, the line “I’d be lost without you” ringing almost shrilly over the top. I had a feeling I was going to like this guy.

We chatted for half an hour or so about the usual unintelligent stuff junior interviewers babble on about; What’s your favourite type of fish? How much was your bus fare to the venue? What fascinated me most about Vek as we spoke was how wide and varied his abilities were. Not only was he writing and playing pretty much everything on his recordings, he spoke excitedly about the design process for his album and single artwork that he was also a heavy contributor towards. I have a feeling he also had a hand in coming up with the video concepts too (the video for C-C (You Set The Fire In Me) is a cracking example).

But what was that track I heard? It’s called “Music Television”. Not on any of his albums, you could only get it as a B-side to the 7″ single of “Nothing But Green Lights”. I suggest you go out and get it, pitch it up 1.5% on the turntable, sit back and enjoy. Failing that, I managed to find this clip on YouTube of him performing it at the gig in Nottingham back in 2005. Happy Days.

Roy Davis Jr. – Gabrielle feat. Peven Everett (Live Garage Mix)

But this song is ooooold! Yeah I know it is, nearly 15 years old now. Regardless of when this was released, this was one of those songs that just kept cropping up at exactly the right time for me. I remember buzzing after Quellequs expertly slid it into a radio show one Tuesday night, then hearing it as a closing track at the end of an awesome night out a few weeks later (I think Brackles was the selector that time).

Peven Everett’s vocal is like a relaxing mug of warm milk pre bed time over the top of the garage/disco beat. The hum-a-long horn line (also performed by Everett I am informed) that comes in at the chorus bringing the track to the boil.

I catch this song on the radio maybe once a year and instantly lose interest in everything else that’s going on around me, I can’t help but give it my undivided attention. This track could be my “Love Shack”, and by that I mean a track that I should not be allowed to hear whilst in control of a car (my dad once drove straight into a farmer’s field after missing a 90 degree corner whilst singing along to the B52’s Love Shack).

Drop this one on the stereo as you return home from your Friday night session, it will set you up nicely for the weekend ahead. It certainly has for me.

Picture Book

I’ve decided to keep it close to home for my first blog post. Every month until the end of the year, I’m going to fill you in on four top drawer artistes – a band, a producer, a singer and a photographer – all of whom I am fortunate enough to know personally.

First up is one of my favourite bands on the scene today. They’re an eclectic trio, two brothers from New York / Liverpool (I think they’re actually from Manchester) and 1/50,000 of the population of the Faroe Islands. Individually they are Ash, Dario and Greta. Collectively, they are Picture Book. Their music is, well dance music, simply put. Crowd rockers like Explosions and Make A Move get you doing exactly what their titles suggest. But there’s diversity within their style, as songs like My Love and Sunshine showcase a more dramatic and heartfelt side. The way they stitch this all together in their live show is what sealed the deal for me.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember the first time I saw Picture Book live, I think it must have been at a sparse mid week gig in Night & Day Cafe, Manchester. The crowd might not have been many but the compulsion to dance was unavoidable. Ash flew between guitar, drum and keys, his snake like dreads attacking the air just as the mythical Medusa’s locks once did. Greta twisted and twirled physically, vocally and with the stroke of her bow, drawing you in to the dance. The fact that all three of them were on their feet as they played (Dario commands the beats from an SPD-S, kicking the bass pedal with the back of his foot), made it impossible for the audience to do anything but the same and join them on the floor.

Picture Book are a live experience, constantly upping their game to make the live shows bigger than the last. Since seeing them at Night & Day I’ve found myself returning time after time to get another fix. In that time I’ve seen full scale stage invasions, the addition of a string quartet, a legendary saxaphone solo from the one and only “Shwood” and the most unexpected but insanely delivered outro / breakdown to their show at the Paul McCartney Auditorium. My advice (for what it’s worth) is check out their gig listings – here – and get your ass along to a show. You can thank me for the tip later.

I guess all that’s left is to offer you some snippets to try for yourself before you head out for the live Picture Book experience. So, check out some sounds and let them know what you think on their facebook page, cos they love to get involved with their fans.

Sunshine by Picture Book

Explosions (Son Of Kong Remix) by Picture Book

Picture Book are signed to Blue Horizon (Warner), their debut release is (I hear) coming very soon.

Festival sounds (2011)

With Bestival marking the end of the festival season t’other week and summer dying long before, i thought I’d share my 2011 festival highlights with you.

It started for me at Glastonbury, a festival I’d always wanted to go to but never had much luck (or conviction) buying tickets for. Snapping up tickets by travelling from Taunton, nothing could stop me now. And it didn’t disappoint. I was impressed first of all by Metronomy whose lp The English Riveira has been a summer favourite. Everything Goes My Way set the tone for the rest of the day; we found ourselves wiling out to Wu Tang, on the periphery for the ever popular Beardyman, getting revived by Little Dragon (Swimming off their second lp standing out) and entranced by Radiohead, even if they didn’t play Feral.

On Saturday we indulged in proper pop: I’m unabashed to say Tinie Tempah was good. I was really happy about arriving at Gold Panda in time for Marriage – his lp Lucky Shiner has been on heavy rotation since it came out last year. Friendly Fires were typically energetic and the hula girls for Hawaiian Air made it the biggie of their set. James Blake was a little self-indulgent but the crowd came alive when he dropped his up-tempo stuff, cmyk smashing it as the kids might say.

Sundays highlights in a crabshell: Laura Marling (Rambling Man), Paul Simon (call me al), Jamie Woon (Spirals – so good) and of course Beyonce.

V Festival was a different beast altogether. I found myself enthralled by Bruno Mars and Example, digging Arctic Monkeys and avoiding all manner of acts, not least chipmunk for the second festival running. The controversial decision to miss Eminem paid off big time when we had a rumpus to Jaguar Skills.

Third and finally, we traded rock gods for chef gods at Jimmy’s Harvest Festival. Here, Jamie Oliver got a huge cheer, James Martin was electric and Gennaro Contaldo was my clear favourite. The food was immense and, er, The Feeling played.

A number of the tracks noted above can be found at the YouTube channel here.

So, what swept your hair off this summer?

Number 1

Ben and Ed used to present a radio show (Dash ‘n’ Verve) where they played music they really really liked. Everything from UK hip-hop to drum and bass, early dubstep to summertime soul.

After uni, they lived in a flat in London where they carried on playing the music they liked to each other on their other flatmates top notch stereo. After three years in London, Ed stayed, Ben moved to Manchester, now they don’t talk to each other about music enough.

This situation needed to be fixed, so they rekindled Dash ‘n’ Verve as a blog, so here it is. Read and subscribe to the blog, follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and let them know what you think about the stuff the waffle on about.

Devastatin’ Dave the Turntable Slave would, and he knows what it’s all about.

Much love.