Dydd Dewi Sant

It’s my birthday weekend, so I am entitled to more music (I make the rules here). In particular as today is St David’s Day.

We lived in North Wales from 1999-2004, both our children were born there and we return at least once a year. The place still arouses strange feelings of hiraeth for us.

Firstly this from the North:-


It is one of the saddest songs I have ever heard in any language. I once heard it live in Middlesbrough, where Gruff Rhys explained the background. Pwdin Oy part 1(closest translation ‘eggy puddy‘) is about the start of a relationship. Part 2 (this song) is about the ending of the same relationship.

Then this from the South:-


I really like the album that this is from: singing from a place of youthful radicalism, but tempered by the realisation that you are in your mid 40s: what do you do with that anger?

The film reminds me of my first encounters with Wales as a pre teenager. I had never seen a landscape like that, nor the sense of anger at the damage that Thatcherism was doing to communities like the one in the video.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

Top ten album listening during 2011 meme…


I commented on this from Banksyboyhttp://banksyboy.blogspot.com/2011/12/top-10-album-listening-during-2011.html and on this penultimate day of the year, it is time to take up this meme and for a long post.

This is in no particular order as it took me long enough to winnow out just 10 albums that I have bought (some are not 2011) during this year (thank the Lord for friends, freebies,ebay and amazon marketplace).

Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz. He tours Britain for the first time in 5 years and owing to severe fixture congestion during that particular week I do not make it. Not one of my better 2011 moments.

This is still discernably him but so different. Not quite ‘doing a Kid A’ but close. A definite grower.

Low: C’mon. I saw them again this year. Utterly fantastic. ‘$20’ melts anyone with a heart.

Radiohead: The King of Limbs. A new Radiohead album is always salivating over- this one one definitely so. Never to be filed under ‘easy listening’.

Gruff Rhys: Hotel Shampoo. An album that your 7 year old son and you can share without it being cheesy is good. This one is brilliant and the gig that I saw him at was one of the best gigs I have ever been to. A bonus is that I can almost play ‘If we were words we would rhyme’ on the guitar. That is a bonus for me and not for you.

Elbow: build a rocket boys! One of the good things about this year was freakishly reconnecting with the person who introduced me to Elbow years back. This guy was (and is) a friend of Guy Garvey. His story, of being left a single parent in his mid 30s following the death of his wife, always reminded me of the back story of ‘The Seldom seen kid’ (and during this year I worked out that another friend’s referencing of her friend Brian years back was indeed Brian Glancy ‘The Seldom seen kid’……. I am so close to fame). This album is not as immediate as the last but I love it’s themes of friendship and community.

(Ahk-toong bay-bi) covered. If I have a simple rule it is that albums by ‘various artists’ or ‘best ofs’ are to be barely tolerated. This one confounded that rule. Normally ‘best ofs’ given as freebies (this one with Q magazine) are album tracks or spares given away by a band to drum up sales. This one was different: specially commissioned to mark the 20th anniversary of ‘Achtung Baby’. Amidst the straight readings there were some suprises like Snow Patrol reinterpreting ‘Mysterious Ways’ in an un Snow Patrol way. I could not stop listening to Jack White doing ‘Love is blindness’; maybe this track is only effectively played by people undergoing marriage break up.

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins ‘Diamond Mine’. If you forced me to chose a ‘best’ it would be this one. Small, yet perfectly formed. I also saw them with a very good friend in a very small venue. The best two chord song in the world: ‘John Taylor’s month away’.

James Blake ‘James Blake’. This year I met http://jonnybaker.blogs.com/ and spent some time in his house. He recommended this and I bought it. I listened to it the first time and thought ‘What on earth have I bought?!’. Then I kept listening and I grew to love it. My children like ‘Limit to your love’ as the car shakes when the dub beat comes in.

Foy Vance ‘Hope’. I had been tracking this for a few years until finally it dropped into my price range. Sprawling and maybe a track or two too long, I really like the honesty of the voice and the playing. I listen to this and feel like giving up guitar playing- he is immense. Memories of summer evenings driving back from teaching ‘and gently whispered hope’. Someone I spent some time with a couple of months ago had met him…. I hate him (in the Lord of course).

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci: ‘Barafundle’. Yes, I know this is ages old, but I just got hold of it (and ‘The Blue Trees’ and ‘Spanish Dance Troup’). Even though I only lived in Wales for 5 years, I still feel a sense of ‘hiraeth’ and I have recently been buying welsh music. This is incredible: defies genre- quirky, unique and brilliant (and occasionally ‘misses’). I wanted to put the song ‘Sometimes the Father is the son’ in this posting but could not find it; that one stops me in my tracks. You will have to make do with the weirdness of ‘Patio Song’.

I could have easily taken that to 20 albums and added ‘Mwng’ by the Super Furry Animals or ‘Hardcore will never die but you will’ by Mogwai amongst many many others. I cannot ever conceive of a situation where someone has too much music.

Just looking at my list and my description; most of this music seems to involve stories, people and events. Playing it brings those events back. I have a well thumbed copy of Q at my side and I am scanning their top 50 of 2011- my wish list may get bigger…


Friday Music

I am still in post gig ‘wow’ mood from seeing Gruff Rhys just over a week ago. It wasn’t so much a gig as being invited to step into someone’s bizarre world….and he did it so well; tightly drilled band, projections, ‘cosmic weirdness’, self effacing humour- stunning. I think he is one of the treasures of the British rock world.

He opened with this and did it completely differently (like the best musicians, he reinvents presentation to fit context and mood):-


…oh, today is my 22nd wedding anniversary (it’s my wife’s as well) which is better than a Gruff Rhys gig. Obviously.

Friday: it must be music

It must be serendipity: I was happily tracking down Gruff Rhys’s back catalogue and thinking ‘I would love to see him live’, when the Middlesbrough Town Hall gig list popped through the door with Gruff Rhys featured.

This is itself is unusual: Middlesbrough Town Hall is the kind of place where you would normally find a JLS tribute band singing ‘songs from the shows’ (I made that up) and not leftfield Welsh speaking artists.

So I went last Sunday in a week that was perhaps already too intense with a group of mates to see this guy. He was as bizarre, warm, professional and funny as this video suggests, and in the centre of Teesside he sang in Welsh; I was almost in heaven. It was quite the most surreal and incredible gig I have ever been to and so good; how anyone can perform like that without mind enhancing drugs I will never know.I was in the presence of a minor rock deity…

I so love experiencing live music with friends ; relaxes and opens me up in whatever mood I am in….