Hello, an annual contribution from a long-time lurker:
As is now convention, here’s my Spotify mixtape of my favourite musical discoveries, new and old, from 2015.
If you like this sort of thing, feel free to follow my ‘blog’ at www.facebook.com/christopherconderwriter.
As ever, I remind you humble listener that Spotify pays a mind-bendingly miniscule royalty to artists, so if you enjoy something on here do think about buying the album or going to a live show.
1. Bush Gothic – Female Transport
It’s funny how things work out. I’ve been in e-mail correspondence with Jenny M. Thomas of Bush Gothic for several years. This year she finally made it back to the UK for some shows with the Spooky Men’s Chorale. I invited Jenny and her partner/bassist Dan Whitton round for dinner. I also invited fellow music journal Ken Hunt and his wife Santosh, who is turn bought Indian violinist Kala Ramnath, who happened to be staying with them. Next I knew, I had two world class violinists jamming in our front room. Bush Gothic released their near album at the end of 2015, and it’s another instant classic. Hoaky old Australian folk songs (or in this case, a William Barnes poem), reinterpreted and rearranged for violin, piano, double bass, drums and string quartet – there’s no one else doing what Jenny M Thomas and Bush Gothic are. I’ll be writing about them in fRoots magazine soon.
From ‘The Natural Selection Australian Songbook’ (Fydle Records, 2015)
2. Anna and Elizabeth – I don’t want to die in this storm
That’s young Appalachian singers Anna RG and Elizabeth LaPrelle, who performed a great show at Camden’s Green Note early in 2015. This old spiritual continues the stormy seas theme of the last number, and leads neatly onto…
From ‘Anna and Elizabeth’ (Trade Route Music Group, 2015)
3. Florence + the Machine – Ship to Wreck
I think Flo and her Mo are great, and she was a very worthy Glastonbury headliner in 2015.
From ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’ (Island, 2015)
4. Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn – Shotgun Blues
The husband and wife banjo masters released a great duo album in 2015. In this new murder ballad, written by Washburn, turns the tables on the man in the story. Compare and contrast with Diana Jones’s ‘If I had a gun’.
From ‘Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn’ (Rounder, 2015)
5. Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin – Tonight
I remain one of this duo’s biggest fans. Whilst they long ago mastered live shows, on Watershed they’ve come up with their best studio album yet. The songwriting is masterful, Hannah is singing better than ever and production is rich and warm.
From ‘Watershed’ (Dragonfly Roots, 2015)
6. Biruta Ozoliņa & DJ Monsta – Kur tu īsi buoleleņi
In April 2015, work took me to Riga in Latvia. In immersed myself in Latvian music in preparation, and ended up writing about the wonderful kokle player Laima Jansone for Songlines magazine. But for this mixtape I’ve decided to include a track from the brilliant singer Biruta Ozoliņa in collaboration with expert turntablist DJ Monsta and a top band.
From the album ‘Sauli Seju’ (Like I Said, 2013)
7. Blur – I thought I was a spaceman
Me and my mate Naomi went to the Isle of Wight festival this year, almost solely to see Fleetwood Mac. The Mac were good if not exceptional, the festival was a bit soulless, but Blur ended up being the highlight with a wonderful headline show on the Saturday night. This dreamy track is from their new album. I only realised when I got this far making the compilation that this has the first lead vocal from a man.
From ‘The Magic Whip’ (Parlophone, 2015)
8. Lynched – The Old Man from Over the Sea
Possibly the hottest band to come out of Dublin since the Dubliners, Lynched have been causing a sensation on the folk scene with their raw, straightforward take on the tradition. The two Lynch brothers get a lot of the attention, but I reckon that Radie Peat has the best voice of the lot, as heard on this number. This traditional song, based on the singing of Frankie Armstrong and Brendan Behan, is a comic song about a grotesque old man courting the singer. It’s followed by the American tunes ‘The Kitchen Girl’ and ‘Angeline the Baker’.
From ‘Cold Old Fire’ (POTV, 2015)
9. Stick in the Wheel – Me ‘n’ Becky
I saw Lynched in Leytonstone alongside Stick in the Wheel, another raw, hugely exciting new name on the folk scene. Stick in the Wheel are from East London and you can hear it in lead singer Nicola Kearey’s voice. The album is mostly abrasive takes on traditional folk songs, but this is a more modern tale.
From ‘From Here’ (Stick in the Wheel, 2015)
10. Missy Elliot – WTF (Where They From)
Welcome back Missy. This banger brings out the very best in Elliot and the producer Pharrell Williams.
Single only (Atlantic, 2015)
11. Funkadelic – Get Low
Around since the 1960s, Funkadelic (itself practically indistinguishable from its sister band Parliament) continues to play, with George Clinton at its helm. Unlike other bands of their vintage, Funkadelic keep up with modern music, performing this squelchy hip-hop in 2015 on Later… and at Glastonbury.
From ‘First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate’ (The C Kunspyruhzy, 2014)
12. Nina Simone – Do I move you?
I’ve always liked Nina Simone, but 2015 was the year I came to appreciate what a unique, individual talent she was. Also, obsessed with livers.
From ‘Sings the Blues’ (BMG, 1967)
13. Xylouris White – Pulling the Bricks
Cretan lute player Georgis Xylouris meets left-field rock drummer Jim White in Australia. They record an album of great stuff that sounds like this.
From ‘Goats’ (Other Music Recording Co., 2014)
14. The Chemical Brothers and Q-Tip– Go
The Chems last collaboration with Q-Tip was the immortal classic ‘Galvanise’, so expectations for this new one were high. They lived up to them!
From ‘Born in the Echoes’ (Virgin EMI, 2015)
15. Quoc Hung – The wind blows it away
Early in 2015 I received this CD of modern field recordings from Vietnam. New to me was the K’ni, a cello like instrument of the Jarai people where a chord is kept in the mouth and ‘sung’ down, creating the strange sound heard here. It’s kind of an forerunner to the voice treatment on so much modern pop music. Talking of which…
From ‘Hanoi Masters: War is a wound, peace is a scar’ (Glitterbeat Records, 2015)
16. Years and Years – King
Owen got me into this one after seeing the video in the gym. A proper good pop song.
From ‘Communion’ (Polydor, 2015)
17. Emily Portman – Eye of Tree
Emily is a wonderful artist, crafting moving and literate songs from traditional and magical realist sources. Her trio partners Rachel Newton and Lucy Newton play a key role.
From ‘Coracle’ (Furrow Records, 2015)
18. Olcay Bayir – Jarnana
Turkish born, of Kurdish background and London based, singer Bayir put on a fabulous show with a full band at SOAS in 2015. This is a traditional Albanian love song.
From ‘Neva / Harmony’ (Riverboat Records, 2014)
19. Jackie Oates – The Spyglass & the Herringbone
It’s interesting to be able to trace the inspirations of songwriters. The Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square has been putting on folk concerts over the last years. The story of the former home for abandoned children clearly struck a chord, with both Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin and Jackie Oates’ new albums containing songs inspired by the theme. This song, written by Jackie’s guitarist Chris Sergeant, dwells on the small keepsakes the parents left with their children to identify them in the hope that they may one day be able to return and claim their children.
From ‘The Spyglass & the Herringbone’ (ECC Records, 2015)
20. Narasirato – Inoni Ana Totaraha
In February, I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit the 15th least visited country in the world, the Solomon Islands, head into the ‘practically uncharted’ south of Malaita island and go to a village, Oterama, that had not had seen a foreign visitor for over three years. I was the guest of bamboo playing local heroes Narasirato, a band led by Donation Manu’asi and made up of ‘Are’Are people from Oterama and neighbouring villages. You can read about my adventures in fRoots magazine issue 390. This song, written by the band’s Jimmy Hoasimarana and translated as ‘Man of Culture’, celebrates ‘Are’Are culture and calls for its people not to forget it.
From ‘Inoni Ana Totaraha’ (Smash, 2014)
21. Sam Lee and Friends – Jonny O’ The Brine
Sam is a visionary musician, performing gypsy songs from the British Isles with fresh and inventive arrangements (no guitars!). On this number, he has drawn inspiration from Narasirato and other Melanesian and Polynesian bamboo groups for the beaten tubes running through the track.
From ‘The Fade in Time’ (The Nest Collective Records, 2015)
22. Vula Viel – Zine dondone zine daa
English percussionist Bex Burch went to Ghana to learn to play the local gyil (xylophone). She came back and formed the wonderful jazz group Vula Viel to play it in.
From ‘Good is Good’ (Vula Viel, 2015)
23. Linda Thompson – Perhaps we can Sleep
The Thompson family album bought to together a whole raft of the clan, each contributing tracks of varying quality. The standout was this heartfelt, bittersweet lullaby from Linda, the fragility of her voice only adding to the beauty.
From ‘Family’ (Concord Music Group, 2015)
The mixtape from 2014 is at https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-conder/murkeys-marvellous-mixtape-2014/10154979943580545 and you can keep linking back from there to 2010.