Ear Drummed

December 23, 2013

I haven’t listened to Folly since it’s release. It’s out there now and I can’t change anything! I guess it sounds like it did back then, a mix of detailed earnest willful wild and romantic pop songs. At least I hope it does. The reaction to it has surprised me, which is a bit stupid on my part. I’m glad it’s brought pleasure to most. The effusiveness has been overwhelming at times. To some it’s been a disappointment, a shrug. Well, that was inevitable. To misquote Bob Dylan, you can barely please any of the people any of the time. But I do wonder if it’s about timing.

I can listen to a new record and not engage with it for weeks, even months. Then a retry finds it fully revealed and marvelous. This happened with Tindersticks’ The Something Rain, and with Nick Cave’s Push the Sky Away. Others enter your head in an instant and sparkle immediately. This happened with most of the songs below. But even music we profess to love can leave us cold at times. It’s not every day I want to listen to Nico’s version of The End. But sometimes it’s the only thing that will do.

The following have meant a lot to me this year:

Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie Prince Billy: What the Brothers Sang

My most played CD this year. In particular the songs My Little Yellow Bird, and this one, Omaha:

Laura Mvula’s record has some gems on it. Really look forward to seeing how she develops.

I finally got into Nick Cave’s Push the Sky Away – what was wrong with me? – and now play it repeatedly. To hear a recorded band not play to a click track is such a rarity these days. The lyric of this song, Higgs Boson Blues, is particularly striking:

Bowie came back with Where Are We Now? which I love. In company it can sound plodding, but on my own it’s an achingly rumbly thing of regret and nostalgia.

Other music that got played a lot was the Savages album (the sound of 1980 brought up to date – AuPairs??), Ian Bostridge’s Britten Songs, The National’s Trouble Will Find Me (but Boxer is still my favourite), and a new-to-me record from the 70s, Escalator Over the Hill by Carla Bley and a lot of other jazz folk. It’s a bonkers sprawling thing. You need stamina and a relaxed mind for this one. Here’s a hint of it:

At Buxton Opera Festival we saw a double bill of Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King, which was still shocking 40 years later, and Sciarrino’s The Killing Flower, the best piece of music I heard this year. It’a shame that this clip is so short, and doesn’t show off more of the extraordinary singing:

At Manchester International Festival we heard/saw the ball of wildness that is pianist Martha Argerich play a Beethoven piano concerto. Bloody hell, she was something else. Here she is years ago going a bit mad with some Liszt:

Her performance was followed by Arvo Part’s Lamentate which I hadn’t heard before. It’s a bit odd to listen to on record, but live it was a little visit to musical heaven. Had a similar feeling last year hearing Messiaen’s L’Ascension for the first time.

My friend David McAlmont sang Abraham, Martin and John live on radio 2 a few weeks ago. His version is staggering:

Marianne Faithfull at the Southbank, part of Yoko Ono’s Meltdown, was a treat:

Patti Smith at Haworth Parsonage was an intimate priviledge. Here’s a funny piece of News about it with a tiny bit of the gig:

The gig was better! But no one has uploaded that. Which is unusual in these no longer private times.

A great year for music then. There’s so much more which I’ve forgotten to write about here. And there’s more to go and listen to that I didn’t get to hear at release – which is why some of the end of year lists are helpful.

Thanks again for supporting Folly. My one regret is that we didn’t get to play any of it live, but the KEXP radio session was fun to do, and gave a glimpse of what might have been:


8 Responses to “Ear Drummed”

  1. Paul Carnahan Says:

    Thanks for sharing these – and thanks for ‘Folly’, a truly wonderful set of songs. Wishing you and yours all the best this festive season!

  2. Hello Patrick.
    Big fan of the new album. Great stuff.
    I am one of the wizards on trustthewizards.com podcast / blog.
    Currently we are busy recording our “best of the year” podcasts where each of us 3 wizards plays their favourite music released this year. We will be recording my selections next and I am very pleased to say we will definitely be playing a track from Folly. Not 100% sure which one I’ll play, probably Japan to Jupiter because I’m a sentimental old sod. Can you tell us anything interesting about that song that we can share with our listeners? Lyrically, it’s pretty self-explanatory I guess.
    By the way, you will be pleased to hear that some of your favourite records of the year are also on our lists. Not heard that David McAlmont cover before. As ever, breathtaking vocals from him.
    Happy Xmas, New Year and all that stuff.
    and thanks very much for making so much great music over the years.

    • stephenhero Says:

      Hello Mr Wizard, glad you’re enjoying the record. Japan to Jupiter started out as a piano track called Sails that I’d written for another singer to use. But it didn’t go down well. It went “sail away, sail awayayay’ and was very pop. I may put the original version up on here at some future point to show how much the music changed as we went along. I came back to it some time later, changed the piano to guitars, changed the vocal tune, and asked Julian to do his magic over it. And there you have it.

  3. Lance Says:

    Thankyousomuch for the new KOD. And I appreciate any suggestions on music from such an intelligent and skilled musician.

  4. dkantian.79@comcast.net Says:

    Hi Patrick, and happy solstice-y greetings to you and yours. Thanks for the reappraisal of the Nick Cave, I’ll give it another listen, found it stilted at first go. Haven’t gotten through all of the clips here but glad you found the Savages to your liking and even gladder you got to hear ‘Escalator..’ Haven’t heard it in years but it was a head-opener when it came out. All the best.

    Dave Cantrell

  5. Fan in Tennessee Says:

    The lists and updates of joys and inspirations are always much appreciated! Have you heard Cave’s lectures on the alchemy of songmaking? (Secret life of the Love Song & Flesh Made Word)? If not, will send to you. I’ve had the joy of hearing Dawn McCarthy live a few times. Wonderous, weird, and spooky. Will also send you an early, homemade, sold-from-the-guitar case recording of hers.

    Thank you for the art you give us, and peaceful holiday blessings for your household!

    • stephenhero Says:

      Late reply, my apologies. Yes, I’ve got the nick cave cd but haven’t listened to it. Had it since it came out. Shame on me. That’s the problem with free CDs. I’d love to hear the dawn McCarthy. I’ve a new work address so if you send me anything email me first. Ragoora@me.com will get to me.

  6. swede Says:

    You sum it up well Patrick and sometimes music can mean nothing and the next day it means the world. For me music has lost a lot of importance and I did not like Folly at all which is great shame on my part I guess.
    Sometimes living in the past is living as well.

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