singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)
15 April 2017
(listening with headphones)Avid Acutus
Funk F·XRII
Linn Kilmax DS (Renew)
TEAD Mastergroove
TEAD Vibe 1.5 / Pulse 2
Lehmann Black Cube Linear
Sennheiser HD800

“Iiiiiit’s Chriiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaaaaaas”. My favourite record shop had a sale, and I bought a stack of 7” singles. Many of them were festive.

The first of a few tonight in the Snowflake Christmas Singles Club.

“Snowflake” is a word I am beginning to find unbearable, due to its re-appropriation as the most pathetically ineffectual “insult”. Call someone a “snowflake”, and whatever they’ve done, you’ve just put yourself beneath them in my book. Chump.

This one came out in 2013. It’s on white vinyl. I never heard of the band before, and I didn’t get on too well with their first song. Bit too busy and a bit too bland.

The b-side is Stop the Cavalry. I have two excellent versions of this already, one instrumental by, off the top of my head, The Zoltan Kadinsky School for Girls, and one utter work of genius by Shrag, which changes the words. It’s not really about Christmas of course, it just mentions it in the course of being an anti-war song. Like Stay Another Day isn’t a Christmas song: it just snows in the (hilarious) video. This is okay. Nice arrangement. Better than Stay Another Day, but not as good as Shrag.

2

This one’s from 2015, same drill, white vinyl, original ‘a’, cover on the ‘b’.

I got excited at first, because I got Terminal Gods mixed up with The Pocket Gods, who always do a song on the Very Cherry Christmas compilations, including Wnking for Christmas (sic), one of my absolute favourite festive tunes. But it’s not, it’s Terminal Gods. Maybe they’ll be just as good.

They ‘re not. It’s pretty boring again.

Driving Home for Christmas, a song I hate, is here turned into something that would have worked as a good soundtrack to a montage scene in an 80s film. It’s way better than the original.

2

From Christmas 2014, Nancy Wallace has a nice voice, and plays a very fine guitar. Her original song is folky, and pretty, and melancholy.

This time the b-side cover is the Pretenders’ song, 2000 Miles.

I’m not a Chrissy Hynde fan, but I always kind of respect how un-afraid she is to embrace the obvious in her songwriting. Pretenders songs always go exactly the way you think they’re going to, and there’s something comforting about that. And also crap.

Anyway, I like 2000 Miles, and this is a lovely version. Again, is it actually a Christmas song? It does mention Christmas, I’ll grant you, but states that “he’ll be back at Christmas time”, so it clearly isn’t Christmas now; and later that it felt like Christmas time, so, presumably, it wasn’t Christmas then either, because no one, at Christmas, remarks that, “hey, it feels like Christmas”.

But maybe that’s what makes it a Christmas record, because Christmas records mostly get played in November. The music channels are in “New Year’s Party Warm-Up” mode by the time Only Fools and Horses has done.

4

I am familiar with Hannah Peel because of her music box gimmick. It ought to be incredibly irritating, like a girl with a ukulele and big glasses that she doesn’t need, but somehow it’s not. There’s a lot more to Hannah Peel than music box hipsterism.

On her original a-side, her accompaniment is hard-edged, old-skool electronica, a bit like St Vincent on a budget and with a bad attitude. Perhaps goes on a bit, but it’s not bad, and I like her voice.

B-side is I Believe in Father Christmas and, look out, here comes the music box, with a low frequency throb to give things a bit of body. I know I called it a gimmick, but it works, and I’ve never heard it work better than here. I also never realised what a good song this is. Cracker. And the whooshy pandemonium that builds up at the end works so well. Easily the best of the Snowflake series.

4

Poor Luke Haines. Doomed, Cassandra-like, for his genius to never be believed. The only person who truly understands just how good Luke Haines is, is Luke Haines.

Here we get one cut from, and one explicitly not from, New York in the 70s. Which, of course, is entirely about New York in the 70s. The title track more or less repeats the titular hero’s name for its entirety, whilst the ‘b’, Jeff Starship Super Hero burns a great tune on a slightly twisted parody of the kind of thing Bowie was doing in the early 70s.

The sleeve, of course, is brilliant. The artist has painted a picture of Lou Reed which, whilst looking like Lou, also looks not entirely unlike the artist. There’s an engaging, crudely comic style to Luke Haines’ paintings. I like them. On the back are the lyrics to Lou Reed Lou Reed, which are almost entirely “Lou Reed Lou Reed (Lou Reed Lou Reed).

You suckers don’t deserve Luke Haines.

4

Blimey, are they still going? Kinda. Apparently they reformed a couple of years ago, with more wrinkles and a bigger sound. I love the cover, because Eugene looks the dead spit of Edward Elizabeth Hitler. Frances looks like someone else too, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Actually, I think she just looks like Frances from out of off of the Vaselines. Anyway. Doesn’t matter. They still sound like the Vaselines of the 80s, albeit with a bigger bottom end, which happens to the best of us once we hit our late thirties.

There aren’t many people who have a better handle on a tune than these two. Had me grinning all the way through both sides. Never look back; leave the past be; I hate reunions etc etc, but this is a bloody belter.

5

On Sonic Cathedral, which is usually a guarantee of at least all-right-ness. Here we get the same song twice: first as a Sonic Boom remix, second as “version Francais”. Le grill? What the hell is “le grill”? Vinyl as white as the horses.

Anything Dean Wareham related is fine by me, but I particularly enjoy the stuff with Britta. I like her wispy girly voice. This is apparently some cover of some foreign TV theme or something. I googled it because I was certain I recognized it, but I can’t think that I actually have heard it before. It may remind me of French Navy by Camera Obscura. The French version uses pleasingly little to embellish Britta’s sexy-cool Bardot-ish singing, but Sonic Boom has added lots of funny noises and spacey echoes in his remix. Whoda’ thunk it?

4

The second of two on Sonic Cathedral, and the first of two by whoever the heck Daniel Land and the Modern Painters are.

The ‘a’ is strongly reminiscent of the first Slowdive album. The ‘b’ is a little tiny bit country. Possibly it reminds me of Phonocomb, if you remember them. Nice record.

4

Them again, this time on Club AC30, and on white vinyl. At least half the records tonight have been on white vinyl. It’s like white cars. Everyone’s got one. I wasn’t keen on this one. Sort of AOR dream-pop that even a pedal-steel can’t save. Not offensive, but very dull.

4

I first heard of the Voluntary Butler Scheme through one of the Indietracks CDs, and liked the song so much that I decided to see what else I could get. I quickly found both albums for sale, for 1p each. I bought them, but it made me feel sad that music made with so much craft and love could be worth so little, especially in a world where people are queueing up to pay 30 quid for shitty beatles reisssues.

This is on “honey coloured” vinyl, and, it really is honey coloured. Clear, and golden-orange. The sleeve requests that we ensure perfect groove cleanliness. I don’t need telling. It’s already been on the Loricraft. Nothing goes under the Benz without visiting the Loricraft.

In the six minutes or so this record runs, we get whiffs of chirpy swingy brass, gospel, seaside organs, melancholy, wit, and wisdom, all fitting together like the proverbial Swiss-effing-watch.

There is now a jukebox musical of Take That songs, promoted by a proven tax-evader on a public service channel. Said tax-evader never has, never will, and never could, put together a song with half the skill and imagination Mr Voluntary Butler seems able to do in his sleep. But no one cares about him. They sell his albums on tax-avoiding auction sites for 1p.

4

No idea why I bought this, or even what it is. The ‘a’ has massive retro synth riffs, with dubbish slapback echo vocals. The ‘b’ has a nauseating drunken seasick wooziness that would perfectly soundtrack some slow-motion waking nightmare in a club as the lights come on, I would love to hear this through some massive transmission line speakers,

3

I always found Tim Booth’s eternal gap-year persona pretty insufferable, but I couldn’t help but like a lot of James’ songs. Really Hard, Hymn from a Village, Say Something, Lots, really. And Stop Making Sense aside, One Man Clapping is the only live album I’d ever give any serious thought to playing.

This is the original, 1989, version of Sit Down, to which, so far as I know, no one sat down on a student disco floor sticky with pound-a-pint John Smith’s. It’s remarkable how much it, and the band, changed by the time Gold Mother came out a year later. Here they still haven’t traded their jangly twitch for the stadium swagger.

4

Closing things off with a lovely Box Bedroom Rebels artefact. In our folded-bagged sleeve we get beautifully melancholic urban photography, stickers, a kind-of press-release, BBR#26 heart-confetti, a lyric sheet, and a manifesto for de-stigmatising poor mental health. At this point, do you even care what the music’s like? You’ve had your money’s worth.

Might as well give it a spin though, eh? Clearly someone’s gone to a lot of trouble. The first time I played this, it kind of floated past me. The second time wasn’t much different, but I started to get the idea that perhaps it was a little too polite, but it was worth more attention.

So sit, listen, concentrate on whats happening in the space in front of you, and you’ll be rewarded with sad, sweetly poetic lyrics and music pared down to a carrier wave for a performance of subtle emotion.

And if you still don’t think you’ve had your money’s worth, the enclosed FLAC download code gets you eleven songs. And they’re all really good. Every single one.

5