I’m fully aware that these two songs will split audiences entirely, so I leave it to you all to make up your own minds. Windmill are a new band I’ve come across recently, and I have every album released by Matthew Ryan – and both will divide audiences for the same reason: the vocalists.

“Tilting Trains” begins with an insistent piano motif, but it’s when lead singer (and sole member) Thomas Dillon’s voice chimes in that you’ll very quickly make up your mind whether you’ll keep listening. Coming across like Neil Young crossed with Mercury Rev, with a very introspective slant, this is what the Flaming Lips would sound like if you took all their instruments & toys away except a piano, and told Wayne Coyne to cop on and make proper sad songs, and that Ben Folds would be playing the piano sections. And the more I listen to it, the more it gets under my skin.

Following on quite quickly, my current favourite album is Matthew Ryan’s “From A Late Night High Rise”, written & released after his brother was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and the death of a close friend. The album is haunting to say the least – Ryan’s trademark whiskey-soaked voice over songs that throw together elements of rock, acoustic, and electronica in varying amounts. “Everybody Always Leaves” is one of the high points of the album – with a synthesized drumbeat, followed by piano, and Ryan’s vocals traded off after the second verse with what passes for a chorus sung by a female vocalist, and the heartbreaking yearning at the 2 minute 50 second mark, where the lyrics Ryan sings earlier…

I remember sometimes, when you never came home. How I crawled inside those sad and lovely bones that you left behind, rarely held nor seen. Everybody always, everybody always leaves

…are reinforced with his repetitive…

Don’t leave…

…underpinning the very final acceptance.

Sometimes I can’t remember nothing, sometimes it shadows everything
Some Sundays it’s as loud as thunder in the morning when the telephone rings
Clearer days in some distant forecast, dark days in this present past
In the blur of some phantom widescreen, I’ll let go of what I never had

Say what you want about these two artists vocal styles, if these songs don’t send a chill down your spine, nothing will….

Windmill – Tilting Trains

Matthew Ryan – Everybody Always Leaves

I recently read that Goldfrapp had gone folk, much to the consternation of those in love with their electro roots (and apprently more in line with their first album release, “Felt Mountain”). While I’m not a huge fan of electro or dance, a couple of Goldfrapp’s tunes have found their way onto my MP3 player and into my head. However, none of this prepared me for this absolutely gorgeous tune – “A&E” is a folk ditty with some very slight electronic leanings.

The lessening of the electronic beats also allow Alison Goldfrapp’s vocals to come to the fore, and “A&E” showcases her voice – reminiscent of “Hounds of Love”-era Kate Bush, her trademark deep, throaty purrs are diluted, to be superceded throughout most of the song with a high, clear pitch.

And the video is pretty.

Goldfrapp – A&E

The polar opposite to Joshua James (see my last post, you irregular reader…), as soon as I heard this, I couldn’t help but post it. In line with the happy-clappy songs I love (there are some well-hidden on the site), and my love of Rock Espanol, check out El Cuarteto De Nos, with “Nada Es Gratis En La Vida” (“Nothing is Free in Life”) (check out my limited Spanish!). With a start that hearkens back to the Strokes “Last Night”, and a melody that develops into something that sounds like Travis shoved into a washing machine with Reel Big Fish and Mana.

Formed in 1980 in Uruguay…I have no idea what else to say, as this is the most substantial part I managed to translate off the Wikipedia entry. Just enjoy, and apologies for my limited language ability. I blame loud music…

El Cuarteto De Nos – Nada Es Gratis En La Vida

Over the last couple of weeks, I haven’t been able to dedicate as much time as I should to music – something I’m vowing to change over the coming months. In order to gain your forgiveness, please accept Joshua James with a little red bow on.

While working my way through a large number of slow acoustic songs on my hard disk, this jumped out at me for a number of reasons – initially for the seemlingly happy name, the insistent strumming, and the short running time…but after a couple of listens, I found the lyrics haunting me quite strongly. And the more I listen, the genuinely sadder this song makes me….

I heard about, I heard about your daddy got sick.
Drove down to the river to die alone.
Seven days, seven days till they found him all wrapped up in a blanket on the boat.
So we put him in the ground. Down, Down, Down.
Your momma said “stay strong, don’t cry.” So that is what you did.

Years later, years down later down the road.
On a bus with your FM Radio, half drunk, a cigarrette hangin’ out.
What happened to your lonely soul? Crying out. What happened to your lonely soul? Screamin’ out.
You said try and lose.
You said try and lose.
Everything you’ve known, everything you’ve seen, everything you’ve loved, everything you’ve been
And everywhere you walk, every song you sing, every time you wake, it haunts you once again.
My Daddy ain’t comin home.
Daddy ain’t comin’ home.
My Daddy ain’t comin home.
Daddy ain’t comin home.
My Daddy ain’t comin home.

Joshua James – FM Radio

I bet the title of this post makes you think “Mmmmm, not for me….”

But if you’ve read this far, you’re close to listening to one of my best discoveries in a long, long time. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be spending more time than I have been working through my collection, browsing the sites in my blogroll, and habitating as many online communities as I can, as I’ve found in the last few weeks, there’s so much reward to be had from some additional effort – I’ve come across more artists in the last few weeks than ever before; a number of whom are fast becoming personal favourites.

One of these is William Fitzsimmons. You can already get the vibe of what he sounds like from his admitted influences: Nick Drake, Iron & Wine, Aimee Mann, Elliott Smith, Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Gibbard, Cat Stevens. Now, take three songs that sound so gentle you’re afraid to listen too hard in case you break them, and for the song “Please Don’t Go”, lay down a repeating, hiccuping electronic beat underneath, and include lyrics such as “I saw you on my phone, on a contact list that isn’t up to date. Would have changed it with more time, that i require to rid my mind of all the freckles on your face” (“It’s Not True”) and “Is it misguided that I can recall the day you left my bed, and asked your mom and dad if maybe you could stay with them instead?” (“Hold On With My Open Hands”).

I think it says a lot for William that I spent nearly an hour trying to decide what songs to include here from his 2007 album “Goodnight”. I uploaded, deleted, and reuploaded a number of songs, eventually settling on the three here – but there are another ten that could easily have found their way here.

Enjoy.

William Fitzsimmons – Hold On With My Open Hands

William Fitzsimmons – It’s Not True

William Fitzsimmons – Please Don’t Go

I’ve recently come across a pair of rather excellent articles on the state of the music industry today. Some people may agree with these in their entirety; some may agree with some points but not with others; while some may argue vehemently against these. However, they’ll all get you thinking….

Rob at Demonbaby.com has written When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide, which is a strong argument for file-sharing and free access to music. I heavily recommend a read.

David Byrne, a personal favorite, discusses six strategies for emerging (and current) artists to survive, outlining how the Internet has changed the music distribution model, and explaining different strategies for ownership & distribution of said music. In addition, he comes up with some interesting (and downright terrifying) numbers for how much artists make off their music sales….

elitism

I’ll admit, I do, on occasion, turn up my nose at music, and I know I shouldn’t. I can be closed-minded, only letting down my guard after a long battle, when I finally admit I was wrong: that the genre I’ve been saying is crap throws me an album that I really like; that a band I’ve campaigned against liking for a long time finally releases an album I enjoy.

But recently I joined a music discussion forum that I’m an active member of, and I find myself shocked at the comments from most of the members to each other. The forum is populated by a large number of complete music snobs, who enjoy art-rock, white noise, drone, post-rock music that no-one else knows. And as soon as one of their liked artists becomes popular, they very quickly fall out of favour on the forum. Alongside this, anyone who confesses to not liking this music, or liking other music not accepted by the senior forum members, quickly finds themselves facing a deluge of abuse. It’s a scary place to be, to see a group of people who all think they are the greatest. Phrases used on said forum include music that is “far too popular at this point for any of “the cool kids” to keep listening to”, and references to themselves as “people who know more about music than anyone else”….

Faced with this attitude, I’ve vowed to open my mind a little more, and to not judge anyone on their tastes. I may sometimes do it, but at least I’ll be aware of it, and looking to lessen the number of times it happens.

Please – don’t be like this.

For those of you who didn’t see the comment by Colin, check it out now. Why? Because Colin gets a very large thank you from me for introducing me to my newest passion – J. Ralph.

From his Wikipedia entry: “Joshua Ralph, better known as J. Ralph, is a musician whose songs have been featured in modern commercial advertisements for companies including Porsche, Nike, Volkswagen and Volvo. J. Ralph is unable to read or write music.”

I’m not one of those music snobs who believes that music created for advertising is wrong (although I do believe advertising is just plain wrong, and I’m also not the greatest fan of artists who sell all the music they create for use in advertising (Moby, I’m looking in your direction….)). And if you are, I urge you to leave your closed-mindedness at the door, because the creations of J. Ralph are that breathtaking. I’m going to leave you with the one Colin sent on details for….”Mi Ricordo” – Italian opera accompanied by a plucked guitar, over a repeating drum beat….Stunning.

Colin, feel free to comment any time.

J. Ralph – Mi Ricordo