Musical discovery of the year: Simon & Garfunkel

We’ve all got those musical interests that grab you by surprise. You know what I mean, those that creep up ever so subtlety. We’ve all got them. Yet before you know it – you’re listening to their records on loop. And then, you wonder why on earth it took you so long to find this gem of an artist. For me, Simon & Garfunkel have become a foremost example of that.

It’s especially funny, because if ever someone asked me was I a folk fan my response would be “not at all”. In fact it’s a genre of music that I’d consider one of my least favorites. And therein lies the beauty of Simon & Garfunkel. They had such beautiful harmonies and exceptional lyrics, that I don’t need to be a folk fan to appreciate them. Excellent songwriting is excellent songwriting and it will transcend the confines of categorisation. In short – it’s timeless music.

Perhaps rather unusually, I’ve listened to Paul Simon years before Simon & Garfunkel. Since about fourteen or fifteen. I’ve got to thank my father for that. He introduced me to his work, and I particularly loved Graceland. The African rhythms created quite a sound-scape for me. It practically transported me into another world. One that served as a complete contrast to my native Belfast.  Some further exploration followed suit and I came to really like Paul Simon’s solo work. But Simon & Garfunkel? I wasn’t so sure if they were for me. I mean – they’re folk music. As I said earlier, I don’t care much for folk music.

That view began to alter a few months ago. I was in the car with my parents: and Bridge Over Troubled Water came on. I know, overplayed but it is still a beautiful song. Besides, whilst I’ve always liked it I’ve never killed it with repeated listening. This time though, it hit me differently. It’d been a good few years since I last heard it, and I could appreciate more. All those little fine nuances lost on my younger ears. Like I could appreciate just how much of a beautiful voice Art Garfunkel had. And also, how his harmonising with Paul was equally as beautiful. Even the lyrics left more of an impression on me. “Hey, maybe I should think about checking them out!” was a thought that started to look quite appealing. After all – at an older age I could now appreciate the solo lyrics of Paul Simon better too. As we all know, Paul Simon was the songwriter of Simon & Garfunkel. Surely Simon & Garfunkel could offer me something then?

Amazingly, something rather remarkable happened. Maybe it was fate or destiny, I honestly don’t know. Although it was quite a coincidence. Within days of hearing Bridge Over Troubled Water, my mum said she had a little something for me. It was a random surprise. It turned out, a family friend had been in and for whatever reason had bought mum a gift. What was it? Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. You couldn’t make it up! Mum knew I wanted to investigate them, so she gave the album to me. Time to try them out properly…

I heard Mrs Robinson. Liked it. Wasn’t blown away, but I wanted to keep listening. The next track was called For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her. It was also a live version of the track. Again, I liked it. Until I got to the ending. The last lines when Art Garfunkel sings “I love you girl, oh I love you” knocked me for six. Seriously – I knew he could sing already, but that…. totally unexpected and unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Angelic vocals. And I mean every syllable of that. That was the song that demonstrated to me just how good they were. Following that, I started to see just what I’d been missing out on all these years.Then, I was hooked.

From then on, I’ve been completely converted. I heard all their albums and loved them all. Bookends; Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme and Bridge Over Troubled Water becoming particular favourites. I’ve already purchased The Columbia Studio Recordings boxset which has all of their albums. I’ve listened to them on a daily basis since becoming a fan. The last time I was this enamoured with a band was The Clash. And we all know how much I love The Clash and Joe Strummer, right? Honestly, I don’t know why I took so long to listen to Simon & Garfunkel. They are just that good. The moral of this story? Always be prepared to challenge yourself musically and try new styles and artists. I did it with Simon & Garfunkel and I’ve never looked back.

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New artist of the year: Jagwar Ma

It’s probably no surprise that Jagwar Ma are my new artist of the year. I heard of them for the first time about two weeks ago. Ironically, the song I heard of theirs I wasn’t sold on. It was pleasant, but not anything special to me. Although something made me decide I wanted to check their album. It was probably the fact many say it’s got a very late 80s/early 90s Manchester sound. Of course, that intrigued me, an I figured surely the album could offer me something. I’m so glad I did because honestly this is the best debut I’ve heard in years. Since Hot Fuss by The Killers really. Most ironically, the day before I heard their album for the first time they actually played in Belfast, supporting The XX. What I love most about Jagwar Ma is their ability to combine different influences. I can hear Primal Scream, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Hacienda style club music all at different points on Howlin. Cruically though the album always sounds cohesive. The really scary thing though is that they’re actually Australian even though they’ve got a very authentic Madchester type sound. I’ve rarely seen a style channeled so convincingly really. They played at Glastonbury yesterday and I’m itching to see a professional recording of their show – they are just superb. My guess is Jagwar Ma are going to go onto big things and honestly, I’d be surprised if an album tops Howlin for me this year.

Albums of the year (so far)

Well, June is now ending (scary) which means it’s officially halfway through the year. This year I have absolutely loved for music so far. I think it’s been one of the strongest years for music in a while actually. This year we’ve had great comebacks and great new talent. I’ve already found more albums I’ve loved this year than I did in the whole of 2012. The best part? Not only is there a half a year still to go – I haven’t even heard all the albums already released that I want too! But – my albums of the year so far are:

  • Jagwar Ma – Howlin (best)
  • David Bowie – The Next Day
  • Fitz & The Tantrums – More Than Just A Dream
  • Disclosure – Settle
  • Depeche Mode – Delta Machine
  • Capital Cities – In A Tidal Wave Of Mystery
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
  • Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of The City
  • Hurts – Exile
  • Little Boots – Nocturnes

At 10 albums, I’ve been left suitably impressed with this year. In fact, only three albums this year didn’t make the list: Palma Violets, Phoenix and Daft Punk’s latest offerings. And that’s not counting the albums that have been released that I haven’t heard yet: OMD, Johnny Marr and Primal Scream for instance. And there’s still plenty of new albums to come this year that I can’t wait for: Alunageorge, Pet Shop Boys, MIA, Foster The People, Goldfrapp and Nine Inch Nails. I’m still holding out hopes for Friendly Fires too. Not to mention other various musical releases like New Order’s live album and Sound System boxset for The Clash. Cannot wait to see how the year progresses musically!

Sound of The Week: Jagwar Ma – Four.

First in a long line of posts to come today, you have been warned! Probably predictable but I’ve been seriously listening to this group non stop this week! Jagwar Ma’s first album is just sublime. My album of the year so far easily. In fact I’d go so far as to say I’ve not heard a debut album this good since Hot Fuss by The Killers, seriously! I love every song on it too –  a true rarity for me. I’ve bought the album already and cannot wait until it gets here – which I think should be tomorrow. A brilliant album from one of my favourite new bands in the last year or so.

http://youtube.googleapis.com/v/E6pjr8lNeDE&source=udsThe highlight for me though is Four. . Four is definitely the house track on the album. It’s right in the middle of a very varied album and for me it feels like the centerpiece along with The Throw. Much like Come Together/Loaded on Screamadelica really. It’s one of the tracks on the album that hit me first time I heard it. To be expected though really – I love house music and Four has a rather 90s house style to it. It’s as addictive a song as I’ve heard all year really. In fact, probably my favourite song of the year. I’ve got a feeling these guys are going to go on to big things!

Another Fleetwood Mac Documentary.

I had a day off from blogging yesterday, it’s good to have days like that. I was meant to go into town and pick up two New Order albums: Movement and Lost Sirens but alias I decided not to. I’m going in this week instead. Also, last night I watched a Paul Simon Omnibus special. I have to say I really liked it – although I can’t seem to locate it online to share with you.

What I can share with you however is what I’ve just finished watching. It’s another Fleetwood Mac documentary. It’s entitled Don’t Stop and was broadcast on the BBC originally in 2009. This documentary I really liked, much more so than Behind The Music. Not least because it covered all their albums in more depth: including Mirage and Tango In The Night. It was especially interesting to see how in some ways the Buckingham/Nicks relationship was still rather tense even in 2009. The footage of them recording Tusk was also really interesting (I really need to watch their Tusk documentary). I highly recommend this documentary in all honesty!

Fleetwood Mac – Behind The Music

Another documentary that aired on Sky Arts about a week or so ago that I recorded. I’ve only just got round to watching it earlier. Even though I don’t mention them on my blog nearly as often as I should, I love the Buckingham-Nicks version of Fleetwood Mac. So, I was looking forward to watching the Behind The Music special on them.

I have to admit – whilst it was decent – it felt very sparse. The version that I watched had obviously been updated from it’s 1997 transmission. I think it was updated up until 2010 actually. Having said that – I often felt watching it that the documentary was pretty sparse. Perhaps understandable, there’s a lot of history to cover to say the least. The biggest flaw for me was the way the documentary jumped straight from Tusk to Lindsey Buckingham leaving the group in 1987.  It pretty much ignored Mirage and Tango In The Night. The latter is probably my favourite Fleetwood Mac album. Needless to say, that was disappointing. Although to be honest I’m not sure if material had to be omitted so they could add the updated parts. That may well have been the case actually. In any case, I did enjoy the documentary. I just wish there was more of it (although I’m sure there’s plenty of other documentaries).

One thing I did love though was it finally introduced me to some live footage from 1997’s The Dance, which I’ve never watched before. The brief snippet was of Everywhere – and it sounded incredible. I watched the full song online straight after the documentary was over and I loved it. It’s the video I’ve included in this post because I couldn’t share a full recording of Behind The Music (though it’s all on Youtube). I must admit – I’ve never actually realized how good of a guitarist Lindsey Buckingham is until I saw that. Definitely will need to watch The Dance soon! As for documentaries – I’m thinking either the Classic Albums edition of Rumors or their Tusk documentary will be next!

New purchases.

A post I was in the midst of writing last night. Alias – I had a bit of a headache so I decided to turn the laptop off early. I did another Amazon order and they’ve all arrived now! I’ve actually done a second seperate order too, they should arrive sometime next week. Anyhow, back to this one. From left to right I got Electronic – Electronic (2013 remastered edition); The 101ers – Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited and David Bowie – Outside. I’ve got a few new albums that I need to get, but a special edition of Electronic’s self titled debut (one of my favourite ever albums) was the most essential for me. I had really wanted Elgin Avenue Breakdown Revisited for a while because I do love the 101ers songs that I have heard. As for Outside, it’s actually one of my favorite David Bowie albums that I’ve heard so far. Not least because it boasts one of my favourite Bowie songs: A Small Plot of Land.`Looking forward to finally listening to a physical copy of these!

New Pet Shop Boys interview & song!

Yesterday there was an exciting post made on the Popjustice website – a lengthy interview with Neil Tennant and they unveiled a new track (in full) from Electric! This time, the track is Inside A Dream. I have to say I think the song is superb. It’s got bells in it, which already makes it a much more interesting song than Vocal to my ears. An extra musical layer of depth, if you will (does that sound pretentious?). Vocal just sounded too generic for me, but Inside A Dream sounds more experimental. Sadly, there’s only so much I can say about it listening to a fairly poor sound quality version of the track. I can’t make out many of the lyrics at all because the quality of the recording is pretty poor really. I’m sure it will be more audible on Electric.

It’s crazy to think we’ve now actually heard pretty much all of the Electric tracks! In fact, I’m fairly sure the only two that haven’t been heard at all are Bolshy and Shouting In The Evening. Most of the other tracks have now been heard in a live capacity. And in the case of Vocal, Axis, Fluorescent (albeit in a teaser) and now Inside A Dream: their studio versions have been heard. I’ve been avoiding live footage though because I want to enjoy the album properly when I get it. So I’ve not actually heard Thursday, or Love Is A Bourgeois Construct at all. I have to say Electric is shaping up very nicely indeed though.

Although take the time to read the interview – it’s utterly hilarious in places and very informative. Particularly concerning their reasons and logic behind releasing a new album so soon. The link is below (and Inside A Dream is on the same page as the interview). So click the link and enjoy!

Interview & Track are here!

First Impressions: Simon & Garfunkel Miami 1969 (bootleg)

The other new piece of music that I listened to today, it’s a bootleg. It also can be found under the title Back To College. It’s a recording of Simon & Garfunkel at the Miami University in 1969. It’s just prior to the release of their final album, Bridge Over Troubled Water. I’d heard so many great things about this particular show – that it was one of the best concerts they ever did – so I was keen to find it. I actually found it along with another bootleg I’ve been long searching for: The Clash at Bond’s Casino. Anyhow, I listened to the show in full earlier. It was incredible. Just so very good. They actually were playing with a band onstage, which was something I hadn’t heard before. Not with one of their older shows at least. Best of all, some of the songs sounded even better live. A particular example of that being So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright. The show not only boasts truly exceptional sound quality (it sounds like an official release) but it’s also a true treasure listening to an older show of Simon & Garfunkel. I honestly never thought I’d be able to hear something like this! Being able to hear their between songs chat with the audience and in particular Art’s introduction of Bridge Over Troubled Water was fantastic. It’s truly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with bootleg and it’s one of the few bootlegs I can truly say is an essential listening experience. Once I brush up on my Simon & Garfunkel I’ll be sure to post a proper review of this bootleg. Although it comes highly, highly recommended!

First impressions: Jagwar Ma – Howlin

I’ve listened to two new pieces of music today folks, both of which I’m going to share with you. First up, we have Howlin, the debut offering from Jagwar Ma. This album has really shocked me. I heard one of their singles last week. I liked it – but I wasn’t sure if it justified the high praise the band seem to be getting. Also the band were praised as sounding very Madchester-era in sound. As you all know I love that sound so expectations were sky high. No wonder the single didn’t fully grab me. Needless to say, I felt I still couldn’t write them off completely without hearing Howlin. I’m so glad I did because it’s a phenomenal album! Maybe just my album of the year thus far too! It’s a brilliantly varied album that’s very house styled in places and pyschedelic in other places. All the tracks are excellent though and a fair few songs on the album are amongst the best I’ve heard all year, too. In fact it’s so good that I ordered it straight after listening along with another recent album that I’ve been busting to own: Jessie Ware’s Devotion (the newly released special edition though). To fans of Manchester music of the late 80s and early 90s I particularly recommend Jagwar Ma, but they’re someone I recommend you all to listen too! So good!