Tagged: sufjan stevens

I Made You A Mixtape…Thirteen (uh-oh)

Winter is here, we’re thinking A LOT about our forthcoming gig calendar over the next few weeks, and our heads have been somewhat turned by the fact that it’s the season to be ok with listening to Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas output. As with tradition in this festive period, we’ve indulged…

The Twilight Sad – Cold Days From The Birdhouse []

Kim: As your mixtape makers will be attending The Twilight Sad’s first of two sold out shows playing debut album Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters in King Tut’s, it feels important to honour this song. Yet, as I write this I can’t help but feel my attachment to Cold Days From The Birdhouse is a very personal one. I would prefer to not contextualise what the textures and lyrics of this song might have invoked in me back in 2007 but without doing so it’s difficult to express the song’s impact. So, I have aimed to identify some of the constructs that brought about my affinity to to Fourteen’s first track. The gentle and raw opening combines soft tones with an unrelenting note being bashed out on the piano. This serves as the perfect example of the juxtaposition present in near every facet of this song. That gentle opening changes to a deafening bulk. Lyrically almost every sentiment is met with hurt. I feel I can empirically and impersonally impart that James Graham has such great power in his voice that a vague lyric can sting as much as one of confession. We may be sobbing into our pints near the sound desk that Friday night.

Super Adventure Club – Fuck the Pop []

Phil: This track is Super Adventure Club all over. If you were lucky enough to witness a live show in their sadly shortened tenure, you will be familiar. Technically, outrageously awesome. I rarely attended a SAC show where I wasn’t in awe of how disgustingly proficient they were on their weapon of choice. They released their posthumous album this week on Armellodie. It’s bloody good. I hope we hear more, sometime in the future (despite posthum-ity). Just imagine a horse in a lab coat dancing, turn the volume up to 11 and this is Super Adventure Club at their best.

Sparrow & The Workshop – One Brush [DOWNLOAD]

Kim: Every so often a little treat appears online. Bands are getting good at disseminating early versions of tracks, live material and album overflow. Sparrow & The Workshop made their track One Brush free to download last week, stating that they didn’t have room for it on this year’s Murderopolis. This song is all drums, distorted guitar and Jill O’Sullivan’s chant. It’s a piercing vocal. At just over two minutes it’s a brief, visceral listen that ends very abruptly. Cracking.

Neko Case – Man

Kim: Neko Case’s most recent album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, managed to overwhelm me this year despite my ridiculous levels of expectation. I’ve picked Man for this mixtape in which Neko explores her masculine side. After the show this weekend we hope to befriend Neko, whereupon she will invite us to live on her farm. There we will spend our days playing ditties on the piano in her kitchen, brushing Norman her horse, eating cereal and watching Adventure Time. It’s going to be swell.

Withered Hand – Black Tambourine []

Phil: A very late contender to song of the year. If you know me, and my fascination with all things Teenage Fanclub, you can probably see why I was so smitten here. It passed the pre-bath dance test with my 2 year old and Withered Hand is in my 6 year old nephew’ top 3 musicians (Euros and Pictish Trail are the other two, if you’re interested. Dude.) so there’s some other reasons why I’m drawn. He’s got a new album out next year and this little ray of sunshine is the ideal appetiser. Can’t wait!

Randolph’s Leap – One More Sleep ’til Christmas

Phil: Is there a more adorable band around here than Randolph’s Leap? No, probably not. They continue to display just what a solid band they are every year with release after release. This year they released an EP on Olive Grove Records, next year an album on Lost Map beckons. If you go to gigs regularly in Glasgow then you’ll have struggled to miss them, prolific is the best word. If you have missed them, then head along to George Square in Glasgow this Monday evening , hopefully they’ll play this little ditty. We’ll be standing with a mulled wine having a smile.

Freelance Whales – Winter Seeds

Phil: I feel a bit hypocritical here, but whilst we’re canvassing opinions on favourite albums and songs for our Elba Annual, I’m not sure you can actually have one truly favourite song, above all else. I’m more of the opinion that certain songs or albums fit an occasion, time or in this case, a season. Some songs evoke feelings and this, Winter Seeds by Queens’ Freelance Whales is cold weather music all over. Still, it makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside.

Sufjan Stevens – Do You Hear What I Hear?

Kim: I’ve done it. I’ve gone too far. I’ve gone as indulgent as I can go this month. I knew that there was a chance that we might feature some festive music and I had nine minutes and fourteen seconds of trippy electronic Sufjan goodness in mind for the occasion. I was considering how to broach it’s inclusion just as Asthmatic Kitty’s Winter Sampler appeared. Whilst this track does not appear, Christmas Woman off of Silver and Gold does and it is just one of many excellent tracks from the AK roster available for free download. Chris Schlarb, Lily & Madeline, Fol Chen and Helado Negro all feature.

I Made You A Mixtape…Thirteen by Elbasessions on Mixcloud

Asthmatic Kitty Digital Summer Sampler

It is the season for dipping your toe into some new music. Summer samplers seem to be popping up everywhere. One that covers almost all bases and never falters on quality is the Asthmatic Kitty Digital Summer Sampler.

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Asthmatic Kitty is the home of Sufjan Stevens and My Brightest Diamond. If you are not familiar with their wider catalogue then this is the perfect opportunity to remedy that by immersing yourself in this collection of artists. The beauty of this sampler is that it really does feel like a mix tape; like someone’s summer playlist rather than a clunky collection of new music. The contributions are not artists with approaching releases alone. Instead there are musicians whose last release may have been in the fall of 2012 but that sit beautifully within the mix.

Heraldo Negro’s jarring synth sashay Dance Ghost is a fitting opening. The South Florida resident of Ecuadorian descent has recorded sunshine on this track. If this is warming then Lily & Madeline’s Back to the River, from their debut EP The Weight of the World, will cool you back down again. The purest of vocals are backed by the simple yet rich tones of their alt folk arrangement of this hymnal. Other notable appearances include Fol Chen with tracks 200 Words and I.O.U. shining out. I defer to their bio to summarise: they ‘created their sound from field recordings and an electronic junk drawer, splicing compound beats and sending warped vocal transmissions.’ My kind of folk. Raymond Byron’s Death Shaker is built on the foundations of some very addictive bass notes that scrape as close to the ground as your can go. On top of all of this Asthmatic Kitty have thrown in a couple of Shannon Stephens tracks too. In her hands songwriting is at its most beautiful. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy agrees; a cover by him having led to some collaboration between the two.

The label’s uncompromising taste has given the gift of a summer soundtrack and it’s free! Warning: you will find yourself buying a stack of records after you play this collection.

A hasty but (now) accurate update

Greetings to one and all. We realize we have been a little quiet of late and thought we should bring you exciting tidings. You will be glad to know that we have been fussing over various things that we love. Our silence has merely been a result of a post birthday high, distraction by lovely things (thoughts of babies and New York adventures), some tedium (nine to five related woes), fantastic grub and a lengthy amount of time dedicated listening to Sufjan Stevens’ The Age of Adz and The Phantom Band’s The Wants. All in all it is making it damn near impossible to accomplish anything at all. I am also undertaking a speed reading of Simon Pegg’s autobiography Nerd Do Well for stalking/book signing purposes tomorrow. If it weren’t for the fact I was taking a short break from work I am quite certain I would be snoring my head off with a keyboard as a pillow.

However, I have switched off the stereo and put the book down to update you on a few most charming items of interest.


I Build Collapsible Mountains debut mini album A Month of Lost Memories was released last week. This outfit is the solo work of The Gothenburg Address’ Luke Joyce. It is a stripped back offering. It is pure, simple, emotional and melancholic. The album is available on digital download as well as a limited run of 50 special edition hand made CDs. The CDs feature three further exclusive tracks and we encourage you to seek this out. I Build Collapsible Mountains plays Sneaky Pete’s on 30th October and will be playing the next Elba Sessions Presents… at The Liquid Ship on 4th November.

Favourite Son and Oxjam present a line up to make you tingle Friday 29th October at The Classic Grand. The eclectic evening will feature The Winter Tradition, Nevada Base, Kochka and The Clyde. It’s £4 in advance or £5 on the door. Its a great cause and there are rumours of fund-raising including PRIZES on the night.

Finally, Shambles Miller is releasing a follow up EP to his debut Shambles Vs The Dragonwizard entitled Shambles Sails The Clockwork Sea. I do enjoy how all of his titles and songs throw my imagination into fairytale land. That is, a nice, shiny, pleasant fairytale land. Not a creepy Guilermo Del Toro imagined world where creatures have too many eyes in many a weird place. Anyway, I’m losing focus. I think it is the feeling of freedom that is to blame. The four track release will launch (it will literally be catapulted into the air…)(no)(not really)(I was exploiting the connotation of the word launch) this Friday (the 22nd) in The Liquid Ship.

For The Widows In Paradise – An Ode, of sorts…

Don’t you hate when someone asks what kind of music you’re into? If you are anything like me, it’s a bloody hard question to answer and one which would take some considerable time to get to the bottom of. With that in mind, I can only imagine the horror on my Elba colleagues’ faces when I emailed them and said, ‘look I’m putting together a blog post, mail me back with a couple of words explanation to the above question’. The question in question…

“what’s your favourite Sufjan Stevens album?”

…for this is a question with no discernible answer.

We have tried though, battling with different parts of our musical persona, giving full listens to albums, making cases with ourselves about the merits of different tracks, and I think, we’ve come to a conclusion of sorts. The conclusion being that there is no ‘favourite album’. However, in the interests of not leaving this post hanging on that very note we’ve noted down some ideas, gun to our head, here’s our favourite Sufjan albums. (remember, not really favourite, I mean don’t hold us to that or anything!).

Kim

My love and allegiance to Sufjan Stevens is known far and wide. This is not an over-reaching statement. I receive email, facebook and textual (heh) updates on nigh his every move from a number of sources. Therefore, when asked to pick my favourite album of his, I found myself incredibly torn. This is because I have a sonic love, a lyrical love, a love for songs independent of which album they originate. That being said, each of his releases offers something individual as a body, whilst still undeniably being so very Sufjan. After much consideration and inner turmoil, I present to you my favourite Sufjan Stevens album:

Illinois is the obvious choice, yes I’ll admit. Critically, it is his most well received work. It is, however, very easy to see why. The album honours the state so vastly and features locales, incidents, individuals, whether real or fictitious and of the best and worst moral incline, religious reference and personal prose. It may not be an true representation of The Land of Lincoln but I have not a qualm with that. It is a beautiful portrait. There is a careful balance of the Sufjan seen before and development into something more. The piousness of Seven Swans and solomness of Michigan are still felt but something quirkier and more playful became a undeniable part to making this his most treasured release. This is felt with the wider instrumental range involved, playing nicely to Stevens’ scoring. Holistically, it is more accessible than any other full length release from the artist.
To put it simply, Illinois fills me with a sort of wonder. Tales weave through this work. Even the saddest songs make me want to sit down cross legged, wide eyed with my hands propped under my chin and listen intently. The most joyous make me break into full smile. The most personal, one in particular that is shared with a dear friend in our mutual love for it, can reduce me to tears. Come on, feel the Illinoise!

And another vote for this particular opus from Chris

Ok, so firstly this wasn’t easy. My real answer is his fictional ‘Greatest Hits’ playlist that I have on my iPod which contains 3 to 4 tracks from all albums. However, Illinois was the first of his albums that I bought, combine that with the Oran Mor gig months later (hands down one of my favourite gigs ever) and your onto a winner. My favourite thing about music is lyrics and Illinois is quite simply an album of stories…flawless! Notable mention to Seven Swans which was a close 2nd.

We’ll add a little variance to this post I think, my pick is…

The BQE. It was my instant reaction to the question which then clouded my judgement seconds later when I thought, no wait, what about ‘The Dress Looks Nice On You’ or ‘Decatur’. The thing is though, I love the whole idea and concept behind The BQE and the fact that he chose to release an album which in his own words ‘refused to incorporate his strongest weapons, the song’. The notion of scoring a film depicting the Brooklyn Queens Expressway is something which very much appeals to me and as an album it is one which I was instantly taken in and captivated by even before it was released. Sure it doesn’t have the stories that Illinois or Seven Swans has but I still think he manages to capture the storytelling essence so prominent in his previous work without uttering a word.

It is with our obvious fondness for Sufjan that we have recently been getting pretty excited by the forthcoming release ‘The Age of Adz’ and have been muchly enjoying the All Delighted People EP, ‘Heirloom’ is a biiiiig favourite. He’s also touring the US at the moment and almost on a weekly basis my heart flutters slightly when I notice a headline announcing yet more Sufjan live dates. Sadly, these have all been North American thus far but we live in hope that he will visit our little corner of rain in Scotland. All is not lost though, we have found a Sufjan fix to tide us over until that time.

‘Widows in Paradise’ is a celebration of all things Sufjan and they’ve pulled together a fine roster of local musicians to pay homage to our favourite winged singer. The line up includes The Last Battle, Randolph’s Leap, Open Swimmer, Washington Irving, Esperi and Julia and The Doogans (who you can also catch, helping us celebrate our birthday next month). This all takes place on Wednesday 22nd Sept at 7:30pm in Stereo, Glasgow, and you can get your tickets here. There is also the promise of homebaking! Yum!

*Kim would also like to offer a personal apology to The Dress Looks Nice On You, A Winner Needs a Wand, For The Widows in Paradise, Vito’s Ordination Song and many, many others for betraying them and going for Illinois.

The Scottish Bloggers and Music Sites Award 2009 (The Scottish BAMS)

The Elba Sessions podcast has been running since July this year and we have been blogging since September so we were pretty honoured to be asked by Peenko to throw our tuppence worth into what is now affectionately known as The Scottish BAMS or The Scottish Bloggers and Music Sites Award 2009, to give it it’s proper title. The Phantom Band’s Checkmate Savage took the honours and the Top 20 was packed with plenty of good choices, with a large amount of Scottish talent being represented.

The Phantom Band Checkmate Savage

Personally I struggled a bit, not to choose the ten so much, but more to order it from 10 to 1. Looking back at my choices, I’ll stick with my Number 1 and possibly the first few places but to be honest, if any of my top 10 were at number 1, I’d have no complaints at all. Here is how Stephen, Chris and myself voted…

(note: Stephen ducks out slightly by nominating an unreleased album, but we’ll let him off for that and you’ll notice I favoured counting down from 10 to 1, to build suspense and all, wheras my fellow amigos went straight in with a number 1!)

Phil Elba

10. Cuddly Shark – Cuddly Shark
9.Le Reno Amps – Tear It Open
8.Bruce Springsteen – Working On A Dream
7.The Cinematics – Love and Terror
6. Brakes – Touchdown
5. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
4. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion
3. Sufjan Stevens – The BQE
2. Phantom Band – Checkmate Savage
1. Titus Andronicus – The Airing of Grievances

Stephen Elba

1. De Rosa – Prevention
2. My Latest Novel – Deaths and Entrances.
3. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career.
4. Idlewild – Post Electric Blues.
5. Conor Mason – When its Over
6. Le Reno Amps – Tear it Open
7. LAU – Arc Light
8. bat for lashes – two Suns
9. Daniel Wylie – Fake your own death (wont be released until 2010 but i have heard the tracks and they are ace!)
10. Cuddly Shark – Cuddly Shark

Chris Elba

1. Wilco – Wilco (the album)
2. Richmond Fontaine – We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River
3. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
4. Bruce Springsteen – Working on a Dream
5. De Rosa – Prevention
6. Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
7. Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
8. The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
9. Sufjan Stevens – The BQE
10. Le Reno Amps – Tear It Open

I was pretty pleased that 4 of mine were included in the Top 20 and having seen the spreadsheet where the maths was done, a couple just missed out. I think The Phantom Band were worthy winners though, being voted for by predominantly scottish blogs and writers it’s fitting that a Scottish band should win it, who would have doubted that one would!

And here’s how the masses voted!

1. The Phantom Band – Checkmate Savage (61)
2. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion (54)
3. De Rosa – Prevention (53)
4. King Creosote – Flick the V’s (51)
5. Withered Hand – Good News (45)
6. The Twilight Sad – Forget The Night Ahead (43)
7. We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls (40)
8. Beerjacket – Animosity (38)
9. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More (32)
9. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career (32)
11. My Latest Novel – Deaths and Entrances (28)
11. Malcolm Middleton – Waxing Gibbous (28)
13. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – s/t (25)
14. You Already Know – s/t (24)
14. Broken Records – Until the Earth Begins to Part (24)
16. The XX – s/t (23)
17. The Antlers – Hospice (21)
18. Sufjan Stevens – The BQE (19)
18. And So I Watch You From Afar (19)
20. Wilco – The Album (18)

You can praise/blame/thank the following for their input!

17 Seconds, AyeTunes, Dear Scotland, Earz Mag, Elba Sessions, Glasgow Podcart, Hooligans Lament, Jim Gellatly, JocknRoll, Jockrock, Kowalskiy, Last Years Girl, Love Shack Baby, Manic Pop Thrills, My Portiswasp Says, Off the Beaten Tracks, The Popcop, Products of a Gaseous Brain, Song By Toad, The Daily Growl, The Spill, The Steinberg Principle, The Vinyl Villain and Under the Radar.

And once again, well done to Peenko for organising all of this!

Winter’s Here

Judging by the scene outside my flat this morning, the mist makes it look like Silent Hill, winter has arrived in Glasgow. There has been loads of wee things going around this week that I have meant to blog about but haven’t had the time to. So I guess this is just a wee round up.

jason lytle xmasI’ve noticed there is a lot of free christmas songs going about the internet and they have all been covered in different blogs but my personal favourite so far has been Merry X-Mas 2009 by Jason Lytle, ex-Grandaddy. It’s the perfect listen on a winters morning, 35 minutes of improvised piano music and something a bit different to listen to. If you download this and enjoy it, I’d definitely recommend the album ‘Solo Piano’ by Gonzales. I’ve dusted that off this week along with other music perfect for winter including Joanna Newsome and Sufjan Stevens. I believe Sister Winter hasn’t been off Chris Elba’s i-pod all December! I could post links to other good free downloads but the truth is, I haven’t kept links for them all and they have probably been covered elsewhere. Peenko’s Friday Freebies is usually has a pretty comprehensive collection of free downloads. I have also been enjoying these advent calendars, plenty good freebies here…

Banquet Records Advent Calendar

Maps Magazine Advent Calendar

On the gig front there have been loads this month which I have wanted to go to but have just not had the time or money to go to all of them. Im disappointed to have missed The Phantom Band at The Arches last night, looks like it would have been a good night. This week, Thursday poses a bit of a problem with Sparrow and The Workshop playing at The Mill and Super Adventure Club, Lyons and Bronto Skylift playing at Stereo. I think it will be Stereo for me, but who knows! Glasgow PodcArt also have their Christmas party at the 13th Note on Thursday with Panda Su, Kid Canaveral, The Darien Venture and Tokyo Knife Attack. The week after, i’ll definitely be in attendance at King Tuts to see The Cinematics on the 23rd. Really looking forward to that!

Right, off to dig out the Christmas DVD’s!

Christmas Album Debate…

Yes I know it’s October but this week Bob Dylan released ‘Christmas In The Heart’ his 47th album… a Christmas album.

Christmas In The Heart
Christmas In The Heart

 When I saw this announced months ago I was extremely excited.  The thought of Dylan lighting up my Christmas intruiged me, then I heard some of the tracks and read a couple of reviews that simply stated ‘a Dylan album which fails because it’s not enough like a Dylan album; and a Christmas album which fails because, confoundingly, it’s sung by Bob Dylan.’

So it got me thinking… are there any good Christmas albums that aren’t compilations of the usual high street shop soundtracks?

Looking through my CD collection I only own two so I don’t exactly qualify as a Christmas album expert.  Sufjan Stevens ‘Songs for Christmas‘ & Amiee Mann ‘One More Drifter In The Snow’.

Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens album is by far the more superior of the two and includes 5 cd’s that Sufjan made over the years for his family & friends before releasing all on a 5cd pack in 2006.  Over the 5 cd’s some songs are repeated and they include Christmas stereotypes like ‘Silent Night’ & ‘We Three Kings’, however what makes this collection unique and very listenable is that there are Sufjan originals in here.  Tracks like ‘Christmas in July’ & ‘Get Behind Me Santa’ are fun and Christmas worthy.  However, what steals the show is a glorious track called ‘Sister Winter’ which is heartbreaking, nostalgic then joyous. It is a track that I find myself returning to throughout the year and urge all to track it down. (P.S. The album also comes with a Comic Strip & Stickers…ACE!!!!)

The Aimee Mann album is less interesting with regards to uniqueness, however always gets a play for one track… ‘You’re A Mean One Mr Grinch’ is excellent, makes me smile everytime.  There are two originals on this CD tucked in there along with Christmas classics one of which is written by Jon Brion, so anyone that is as obsessed with Magnolia like me then will get a kick out of that also.

So like I said, I’m no Christmas album expert so I put it to you… are there any really good Christmas albums?

Leave a comment and come closer to Christmas we will blog about our responses… or lack of!