James Bradfield’s first album was Rubber Soul. He can’t remember his first 45 but it could have been Cryin in the Rain or Green Onions. The sixties were the start of his lifelong addiction to sound. James is a sort of semi-retired teacher. He still attends gigs. He loves New Zealand music. He still does housework. He loves his children. He has a great partner and a wonderful ex-wife. He has very eclectic taste. He is a musical nymphomaniac. He is happy with silence Rubber Soul remains with him. Here are five album she’s loving right now…
1 – Surf Friends, Endorphins: Having listened to and purchased previous releases by Pete Westmoreland and Brad Coley recorded under the moniker of Surf Friends, I was more than eager to hear Endorphins. I purchased it at a Flying Nun clearance sale a day or so before its official release. To misquote Bowie, “What a little wonder.” Endorphins is a continuous stream of pop hooks, lyrically and vocally,set to shimmering guitar sounds and effects, all set on cruise control by excellent motorik beats. It finishes and I want it all over again and then again. Nick Roughan (Skeptics) and David Kilgour have a hand in this recording. Endorphins is full of “crankin”, ”frothdoggin” and “shelving”…… To make sense of this you need the album.
2 – Sugarbug, Flutterbye: Recorded in 2002 but only released in 2013 comes this marvelous little record out of Wellington by, four piece Sugarbug. Fronted by Sean O’Leary, Flutterbye is truly something else. From the wonderful opening track, Bunny’s On the Run to the excellent final track, and only cover, Do Your Thing… (The Clean) you are immersed in a world of deft lyricism, rhythmic guitar washes, lovely horn touches and brilliant baroque pop moments. Sean O’Leary has an alluring nasal tone to his voice and moments of this remind me of Born Sandy Devotional. I keep going back to this album because it is a damn fine collection of songs .
3 – Ghetto Brothers, Power Fuerza: I had read about this album. It came with phrases like “hard to get” and “holy grail”. The music snob in me was alerted.Thank god for the internet and reissues. What you get here is a group of Puerto Rican gangsters from the Bronx who recorded this album in one day, in early 1972. These guys were incredibly influenced by the very early Beatles, especially the harmonies and guitar breaks. Into a stew of pop hooks and melodies they have added some funk and at times downright heavy Latin rock rhythms. Sometimes all within the frame of one song…John, Paul, Sly, Carlos and Jimi. Turned up loud it’s an exhilarating listen. They must have been a driving force on stage. (Mmmm…wonder if there are any live tracks in existence?) I keep going back to this album because it was just so unexpected and a total pleasure to revisit.
4 – Jane Birkin, Di Doo Dah: Anything involving Gainsbourg and J.C Vannier is of interest to me. I came upon this remastered, reissue awhile ago. Di Doo Dah is Birkins’ first real solo release. Her voice on this is not as whispered or estranged as on “Histoire de Melody Nelson” and it just melts into Vannier’s arrangements. This is sometimes warm and lush, sometimes distant and cool but always with sexual overtones The entire album is infused with jazz , rock and rich orchestral sounds and is so damned early seventies French. The Light In the Attic issue has a lyric sheet translated into English that allows you delve into worlds of sex ,sin, innocence and double entendre. This offbeat album has well and truly survived the passage of time.
5 – Ummagma, Ummagma/AntiGravity: A Facebook link introduced me to the music of Ummagma. Alexander Kretov, and Shauna McLarnon met at a gig in Moscow around 2003. A Ukranian/Canadian match made in heaven. In 2012 they released two albums, simultaneously, in digital only format. The twenty four tracks that comprise “Ummagma and AntiGravity from this extremely talented couple are simply sublime. This is beautiful music .At times I hear snatches of Blue Lines, shoegazing, Cocteau Twins, electronica, Slowdive, flamenco, jazz, space rock and Eno amongst others. This music is ethereal and spacey. This is absolute Dream Pop. There are so many ideas within each piece of music .So much to absorb I keep going back to this collection because it always rewards with some unnoticed sonic textures or vocal nuances. I want hard copy of this music. Ummagma is an enveloping space to be in, regularly.
End note: I have a pile of CDs that I revisit regularly. These five come from there. The choices could easily have been:
But they weren’t.