Off The Record – Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

In ‘Off the Record’, I write about music that I’ve played over and over and over and over, even though it might not be cool or new or undiscovered. Most likely, these will be albums that have been written about time and time again, but, nonetheless, hold a very dear place in my heart. I will also only allow the length of the album’s running time to write about it (as both a time-saver and a challenge).

I first wrote about Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. Next up: Fleet Foxes’ eponymous debut LP. *presses play*

The opening seconds of this album are so nostalgic to listen to. “Red squirrel in the morning, red squirrel in the evening, red squirrel in the morning, I’m coming to take you home.” Utter nonsense, but a truly memorable opener to this, one of the most stunning debut albums ever recorded (in my humble opinion, obviously).

Let’s first up talk about why I decided to write about this for my Off the Shelf mini-series, where I write about albums (cool or uncool, well-known or obscure) in the time it takes to listen to them. I didn’t discover some of the great folk singers from the ‘60s and ‘70s until my mid-teens because I was listening to this Fleet Foxes album on repeat. The album was released in 2008 (when I was 12! how terrible it is to be 12 years old!), the same year my dad took me to see the band at Cambridge Junction, a tiny and intimate venue where we stood a metre or so from the band’s psuedo-shy-turned-Instagram-king frontman, Robin Pecknold. The experience of being at that gig was like nothing I’d ever experienced (and have not experienced since).

On my dad’s recommendation, I’d listened to the album a few times before we went, and I really liked it. It’s complex but accessible, the harmonies are unbelievably pleasing to the ear (and immensely satisfying to the ex-cathedral chorister in me). The album was immediately comforting to hear; so wintry, so cosy (despite the fact it was released in June). The artwork (which must have really helped this album get noticed) is so perfectly apt for it. I didn’t know of Pieter Bruegel’s work before, but as a culture-hungry pre-teen I scoured Tumblr for more Bruegel afterwards. There’s a couple of Bruegel works in the National Gallery, and I remember one weekend stumbling upon them when I came to London for the day, all sulky and broke. “That’s my band!”, I thought, when I saw it. “The motherf***in’ Foxes!” Appropriating Renaissance paintings, like the Tabloid Art History Twitter account, but IRL.

Anyway, listening to the album has now progressed in such a way that we’re now on the fourth track, Tiger Mountain Peasant Song. This, again, is hugely reminiscent of my early teens, sitting on my bed in a box room in the countryside, wincing at the pain of calloused fingers as I tried to learn the tab for this song on the guitar my parents got me for my 13th birthday. It also reminds me of the viral video that got First Aid Kit a record deal. Warning: this is so #forest vibes, and so 2010. And, jeez, they look SO young

It’s now dawned on me that I know pretty much every word of this album. I’m finding it tricky to write as I’m singing along too hard! On He Doesn’t Know Why, you can hear Father John Misty’s, the artist formerly known as J. Tillman, lovely, thumping drums. And then, that gorgeous, a-third-apart piano sound at the end. My, my, my, does this album even get the credit it deserves? *pauses to fangirl*

Strangely, as in reverse (and probably not uncommon for those of us born in ‘96), it was this fashionable late-Noughties era of folk that got me listening to the music that influenced it, and thus changed my life forever. So, your Fleet Foxes’ and Laura Marling debut of ‘08, the whole Mumford and Sons shit, etc, ad infinitum, got me reading lots of interviews with the bands which oft referenced artists such as Neil Young (solo and with Crosby, Still and Nash) Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Therefore, I owe a lot to this band.

Now, we’ve reached Meadowlarks. Another that’s quite easy to learn the guitar part to (a surefire dealbreaker of the music you’re listening to when you’re learning an instrument) and I yearned for a group of muso-loving friends who’d come round and sing it with me. I actually recorded two of the harmonies on this track and sang along to it (one on my PC, one of my phone. Yes, PC. The family PC). 

Track number 10, Blue Ridge Mountains, is baffling in the way you might think: ‘How is this album getting better and better? It’s less than 40 minutes long!’ The melody in the verse punches and rises in an uplifting, timeless and determined way; a melody written by a 19-year-old Pecknold. The record ends with a jaw-dropping track recorded in the 1500s (jk), Oliver James, which, when we went to see the band at the Junction, was performed acapella by Pecknold. I will never forget the atmosphere in that room as the audience stood there, transfixed. It was truly magnificent, and it’s what keeps me going to see live music – the chance that you might stumble across a moment like that, where the world stops and a group of strangers share an experience that won’t ever be repeated in the same way again. 

This album remains on my shelf as it captures a very distinct part of my adolescence: long winters crushing on boys who thought I was a lesbian, wearing fleecy lumberjack shirts, and familiarising myself with basic guitar chords, frustrated yet determined by the horrible truth that I couldn’t quite play what’s recorded on the album. I still can’t. It’s a modern classic.

Listen to it on Spotify now

 

Off the Record – What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye – 4/10/17

On August 1st, I tweeted that I wanted to write more about new music, but was struggling to, because all I ever found myself listening to was Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album What’s Going On.

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I’d been living in Wi-Fi-less existence for the past month, having just moved house. It is hard to be 21 years old and without internet for a month. It is, however, a great opportunity to rediscover CDs you might not have listened to in a while.

This isn’t the case for What’s Going On, though. I listen to it on the regular, in a way that must annoy the neighbours. I’d just finished listening to it for the first time that day, and was walking over to the stereo to press play again. Then, I had a thought. Rather than two-stepping to it in the mirror for the second time in an hour, I’d write about it in the time it takes to listen to it the whole through. Thus, the idea for a new mini-series of pieces of writing was born.

In ‘Off the Record’, I will write about music that I’ve played over and over and over and over, even though it might not be cool or new or undiscovered. Most likely, these will be albums that have been written about time and time again, but, nonetheless, hold a very dear place in my heart. I will also only allow the length of the album’s running time to write about it (as both a time-saver and a challenge).

First up: Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. *presses play*

I bought What’s Going On in HMV in Wimbledon, around this time last year, in a 2 for £10 deal with Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. I’d just moved into my first flat in London with girls I didn’t know, and fancied a couple of new CDs so I could quickly cook my dinner, avoiding eye contact, then sit in my room all night listening to music.

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After very nearly settling for the Notorious B.I.G’s Greatest Hits to complete the combo deal (which wouldn’t have been so bad, in hindsight), I couldn’t help but be drawn to Gaye’s omniscient look in his eyes on the cover of What’s Going On, plus, that collar (it was autumn 2016 – black PVC coats were seriously in).

I also thought that it was probably an album worth listening to, after all, it was one of those classics that you’d often see in Best Of lists, and famous musicians had often noted it as one of their favourite albums (including Bruce Springsteen, who said it was one of the greatest albums ever recorded, in his Desert Island Discs).

Once I’d got home, I played Ocean’s Channel Orange, and I liked it. It felt quite long (an ideal album for me is 10 tracks long, no more, no less) but I could see why people raved about it. I could really imagine making out to the album, for example, so it was good for something.

Then I put the Marvin Gaye disc in the player, and those opening bars of the title track seemed so familiar, like these were sounds that I’d heard – and enjoyed – many times before. Gaye’s voice has such a warm, soulful tone, and the way the first track just fades in (and each track bleeds over to the next one until the SEVENTH song) is magic, on recorded format. The production is second to none.

Its his 11th studio album, and very different to his previous work (some of Gaye’s best-known singles from the ’60s include Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and You’re All I Need to Get By – whereas this was released in ’71, at a time when tensions around the Vietnam War were high, something that influenced the themes of the album).

The opener is everything: Marv asking for peace (‘War is not the answer/For only love can conquer hate’), before going into something still relevant regarding police brutality in America today (‘Picket line, and picket signs/Don’t punish me with brutality/Talk to me, so you can see/What’s going on’).

This glides into a huge stand-out second track, What’s Happening Brother, (‘War is hell, when will it end/When will people start getting together again?’) before the rest of the album takes you to places, musically and emotionally, that ensure it’ll be an album you’ll listen to time and time again. There is so much there – you have to. It is a work of pure magic.

One of my ultimate favourite tracks on the album is God is Love, so much so that it made me consider a very low-key faith in Christianity at a time that I was Seriously Into This Album (but then neglected, after I realised I wasn’t into God as much as I was into Marvin Gaye). God is Love runs straight in from the previous track, Save the Children, and there’s something about the way the time signature changes and launches into ‘Do do doo doo doo, do do doo doo doo’ before the falling ‘Oh, don’t go and talk about my father/God is my friend (and I love him!)’ vocal that sends a shiver down my spine.

This stonker of a track then launches into Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), one of the greatest songs of its time (and therefore ever), asking what the f*** has happened to the O-zone layer, and ‘how much more abuse from Man can she stand?’ – which is still applicable now, but with an added 46 years of fossil fuels. Aside from the lyrics, the melancholic sighs of Gaye’s vocal complements the falling melody, making for a quietly exasperated plea asking, ‘Where did all the blue skies go?’ (something that is emotionally relatable on any rainy day, actual or metaphorical).

My boyfriend bought me a Marvin Gaye top for my birthday with the words: ‘Only love can conquer hate’ written on it (from the title track) – and, as cheesy as it seems (and is), that’s the essence of this album’s message.

I’m reaching the end of my time listening to this album, and while the above will get a necessary amount of editing, I want to stick to my plan to stop writing once the record has wound up. It is an utter joy to listen to this album, and I’ve definitely listened to it at least three times a week since I bought it a year ago. It cost me a fiver, and it’s had such a hugely positive impact on my life. It helped me through an incredibly rough patch earlier this year, as what it offers is the idea that a belief in hope – and a trust in love – will ultimately outweigh the bad in the world. It’s a beautiful message. (I’m not stoned, I promise). It also makes me rate Bruce Springsteen even more highly (if that’s possible), as, if the Boss says it’s the greatest album ever recorded, your mind should be made up anyway, before even listening to it.

If you’d like to, though, here it is:

“Keep those eyes wide” : First impressions of Laura Marling’s ‘Short Movie’

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Artwork for Laura Marling’s new release, Short Movie

Hello, there! Hope you are well, anonymous internet presence. Since my last post, I have begun a ‘proper’ editorial job and am training with a lovely group of journalists, working for a trade publication. This means I have a bit more money in the pot; I can finally start listening to music again! It’s not that I’m completely opposed to the free distribution of file sharing/music online, I’m just not tech-savvy enough. Sad, I know. I’m like your dad. Although I lie, the following record was sent to me by a very generous music journo in the business, whom shall not be named lest I get stuck in a sticky legal situation. Thanks for reading! – T.A.L x


It’s important background information for you to know how big a fan I am of Laura Marling before you start reading.

I was sent the download file for her newly-released album, Short Movie, last week – and had to restrain from listening to it for three whole days – lest my heart couldn’t cope with how good it could be (last week was full of numerous pulled heartstrings.) ((NB: Not to be confused with hamstrings, having not exercised since 2013.))

Laura Marling’s music was solely responsible for the reason I begged my dad to get me a guitar for my 13th birthday. Up until now, the cheap-ish acoustic-electric model has sufficed, emulating (attempting) her style and learning all of her earlier, folkier sounding stuff, dedicating evenings after school, to record, re-record, film and then NEVER show to the world. Carpe diem! Rock n roll!

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On this album, we begin to hear a more plugged-in, electric direction, on tracks such as False Hope and Don’t Let Me Bring You Down along with some wonderfully placed microphone synth effects on the opener, Warrior. I’m a total sucker for an opening track – something I’ve pretty much disclosed to everyone I’ve ever met – and this opener totally sucks me in (ha ha, writing!)

Warrior hooks me in with its confident minor chords and fantastically year 8 angst-sounding introductory lyrics:

“I stumble some way on, licking my sores,
Tasting the memory of pain I have endured
Wondering where am I to go?”

I wrote the opening track of an album called ‘Hard to be Human’ when I was 12, with a lyric of MINE  I distinctively remember as:

“The nights are not getting any brighter,
To face you life you have to be a fighter
And I guess that you always knew that,
It’s hard work to be human”

 ALMOST on the same level, RIGHT?!

Anyway, I digress.

 Track 2, False Hope, is Laura Marling really sounding like herself – and as a long-term fan – this makes me fist pump and feel an immense sense of pride in someone only a fan who’s-never-met-the-person gets. Ironically, the lyric “Is it still okay that I don’t know how to be at all?” leaves me flabbergasted, as I have never heard a song about uncertainty sound quite so certain.

The third track, I Feel Your Love, demonstrates the intricate, guitar picking style that she’s become well-known for, further mastering her skill as both a gifted musician and songwriter. Is this sounding like the most biased piece of writing ever? I tried to write this last night but had to go to bed with a flannel on my forehand because:

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“She’s just everything.”

The track ‘Strange’ has Laura RAPPING (almost) which sounds really fresh and feels very inspired by her time spent in LA. There’s something a little Kimya Dawson about the spoken-wordiness of it all, The Moldy Peaches being a band I’ve read she’s felt influenced by. The open chord sounds she reverts back to in this song hint back at her third album, A Creature I Don’t Know, which took a lot from Joni Mitchell, whom I love, too.

For me, Don’t Let Me Bring You Down is a huge stand-out track, for no other reason other than: I just keep playing it.

“Are you really not anybody until somebody knows your name?” – how wonderfully concise yet right on the spot.

This song has made me bookmark electric guitars on eBay, with lots of 7th chords and blissful Sunday-appropriate progressions. Five years later, I’m still buying my guitars based on where Laura Marling is musically.

Gurdjieff’s Daughter, track 8, is a song that I can imagine a band like Belle & Sebastian covering. There’s something about the wide, orchestral sound that would suit Stuart Murdoch’s voice perfectly, combined with a cheesy fade out at the end. Still very much sounding like her, but a very pleasing shift in direction.

Track 9, “sending shivers down my spine” is Divine, and is divine (ha ha, writing!) Being raised on early-mid Beatles, my head swoons at any seventh chord, especially in a love song: “You’re fine – I’m yours and you’re mine.”

All in all, the real sentiment of this album is summed up on ‘How Can I’ with: “I’m taking more risks now / I’m stepping out of line / I’m putting up my fists now, until I get what’s mine.” She also sings on the track about “going back east where I belong” which makes me feel like pinpointing her directly and welcoming her back with my very own open arms, right into British festival season that’s approaching at a very exciting pace. I look forward to seeing her at this year’s End of the Road, my third time at the Dorset festival, where I’m sure she’ll bliss me the hell out and I’ll feel particularly lucky to be alive for an hour amidst yurts and frozen yoghurt tents.

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Short Movie is a total success; I’d give it 4.5/5 for its confidence and ability to both empower and reveal vulnerability all at once – something Laura has become expert at – as heard in her past 4 albums. She said in an interview recently that as a teenager she was often branded as ‘elfin’, ‘innocent’ and ‘good for her age’ – but this record proves she is, oh, SO, much more than that. SO much. Can she be my sister? I’ve always wanted a sister.

If anything, this review shows that I can sneak the word ‘flabbergasted’ into a piece of writing, (no mean feat, I assure you!) – my first ‘proper’ music review – one of which I hope will be the first of many.

“I want just to sit with him”

Cate le Bon’s Mug Museum is the first album I have ever downloaded. I know it’s odd because it’s 2014, but I just treated myself to a shiny new iPod touch with a lovely discount from work and wanted to ‘download’ something, in its entirety (rather than just a couple of songs of Pop Party 2, which is basically what iTunes is for.)

It sounds really ambitious, but I hope that with the addition of my new gadget, I will write more. I’ve got into the idea of writing again in quite a big way, since being chewed up and spat out by showbusiness 7 times over. It’s okay, I’m still going to work on that, but I don’t wanna lose this neither.

Firstly can we talk about the artwork?

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7109S59BLgL._SL1200_Oh no, on Googling it- I have seen the tracklisting and now I realise why I’ve refrained from downloading, cause you don’t get the whole package dude!

Anyway, I downloaded this album on my best friend’s bed, at about half past 3 on a Monday afternoon, totally wasted on rosé- and I really don’t regret it (perhaps the only recent drunken doing I feel OKish about.)

To be honest, I was not really at all familiar with le Bon’s work before this album, aside from hearing some of her work on 6Music – (and how the title came from her friend describing her room as a Mug Museum, as there were so many empty mugs lying around. Which I can relate to on the highest level possible.)

I don’t really want to write a detailed track-by-track listing, as I haven’t listened to it enough yet to do it justice. It’s just very good music to have on when your writing, or writing a blog post or texting a boy you’ve liked for ever. 

Track 5, is the standout, obviously- I mean have you HEARD THIS?!

So, so swoony.

In other news: Wolf Pupy wrote for Rookie, which is super cool teen girl representation if I ever did see it.

 

Christopher Kane threw the best outfit EVER WORN BY A BLONDE down the catwalk at LFW:

Christopher Kane: Runway - London Fashion Week AW14

 

I mean, everyone seriously step aside.

Hope you’re all doing good. I’m very write-y today, so maybe even pop back later.

Enjoy your days.

Tara X

 

*spend my time just drinking wine and looking at the view*

tkinks

 

You know what, I have so much to do (only bleedin’ going to Glastonbury next week ain’t I!) but I’ve just rediscovered another old album I used to adore and feel compelled to write about it. When starting this blog, I never intended for it to be music-based but I suppose it’s turned out that way because I find it has more substance than fashion or whatever.

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Anyway, (this is going to be HEY! Here’s a really short post as the pasta’s boiling over constantly) but I’ve been listening to The Kinks are the Village Green Prevesation Society, because for school we had to find something about ‘looking back’, and for me- in both way- it reminds me of looking back to when I was listening to it, and also reminds me of long summers of my childhood.

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Here are some links I really have to go eat (hunnnnnnnnngry):

Do you remember Walter?

Sitting by the Riverside (sigh sigh sigh):

Village Green:

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