Doing those things you do at Christmas. Watching a film. Quietly crying a few tears at a sad story. Feel a small hand cover mine. I’ll look after you mama. A little time passes. A few more tears cried, this time belonging to the owner of the small hands. Empathy. Compassion. Love. One moment to treasure a whole lifetime.
Happy New Year.
I watch my mama float away and fade to watercolour. I already miss you. Oh, my mama.
Despite all the ‘best of’ lists, the top tens/twenties/fifties/one hundreds etc. and all the Christmas songs too, there has still been a cracking amount of new releases in December as well. So lest you missed out, here is our monthly round-up of the best tunes we’ve posted in December and, as always, a couple of new ones too.
That’s the New Year’s Eve mixtape sorted at least.
Alternative folk that bounces with slide banjo and djembe delivering an impassioned stream of consciousness concerning the mundane intricacies of twenty-something year old existence in the twenty-first century.
An air of quiet menace, Garwood’s vocals whispering and murmuring over hollow knocks, piano and drones.
We also have a quite wonderful track from Sonny + The Sandwitches, it is from a recently released new four-song self-titled 7″ EP and features appearances by Heidi Alexander and Grace Cooper of the Sandwitches. The songs were inspired by a near-drowning, hence this track Throw My Ashes From This Pier When I Die. Superb.
We also have Religious To Damn who describe themselves as gypsy-psych and have an album Glass Prayer due for release in early 2011. This track Drifter has echoes of some of the classic 80s 4AD bands right through to Zola Jesus and Esben & The Witch.
Master bluesmen are probably pretty thin on the ground in South London, but it is down there, amidst the grey arterial routes, Victorian terraces and leafy parks that Duke Garwood makes his home.
Garwood’s new album, Dreamboatsafari sees him expanding on the spacious, dusty room blues found on previous albums Emerald Palace and The Sand That Falls. The genesis of this LP came when Garwood was on tour with (Mrs Mackerel’s fave) Mark Lanegan and he had an inkling to release a “space cowboy record”, and this was realized at home recording sessions, with long-time collaborator Paul May on drums.
Dreamboatsafari is a record with many moods, Garwood’s picking and quiet vocal undertones act in a dialogue with an ever-expanding palette of sounds. Underlying all is an air of quiet menace, Garwood’s vocals whispering and murmuring over hollow knocks, piano and drones.
It offers a glimpse of what is yet to come. With a joint LP with Mark Lanegan also due next year, along with plans to work with the Master Musicians of Joujouka in Morrocco, Duke Garwood looks set for a deservedly fruitful 2011 – one things for sure, Dreamboatsafari is going to be a great start to the year.
Dreamboatsafari will be released on the wonderful Fire Records on the 25th January.
New York’s Duchess Leo is Dan Ryan and Todd Buchler. The duo have been friends for most of their lives, having grown up a few blocks away from each other in the suburbs of New Jersey.
The songs on their debut album Golden Gray roll in melancholy and shimmer with triumph. From majestic strings to tribal rhythms and from piano led ballads to driving acoustic tunes, the music builds into a release of guitars, voice and drums and confidently shows off the band’s penchant for creating visual and cinematic music.
At heart, Duchess Leo is a duo comprised of an electronic music producer and a singer/songwriter. Golden Gray expands that sonic pallet to include more players while focusing on the songs, and the result is a confident, elegant record.
The Skeleton Dead are a fledgling band of only six months but this is something to marvel at rather than use as any sort of rationale. What sets the bar at a different level is the Greek/bouzouki-style guitar rhythm that hooks you in from the very first bar: it’s both memorable and hypnotic.
This is like a combination of many of my favourite musical influences – and I have absolutely no idea what the Skeleton Dead’s are – a little bit of Willard Grant Conspiracy, coupled with a bit of Lanegan and Campbell, even a hint of Magnetic Fields.
The dark with the light; the bare and transparent; a simple arrangement that works so well with the intensity of this song. It’s a lament, a regret. It’s time for him to leave – but will she leave with him? I’m hoping this is the first of many from the Skeleton Dead. Intense.
Despite the first impressions the name gives, Lisa Will Insult You, Darling is actually the work of one man, Sebastian Jegorow. And pretty fine work it is too.
And despite the first impressions the name gives, it is not garage rock, bedroom chillwave or electro noodling. Instead it is lo-fi folk, recorded on an old tape deck and carrying with it the hiss of genuine songwriting authenticity. His latest collection, Jingle Man is available for free download from his Bandcamp page (as is previous album tam.tam).
Try a couple of tracks below (they reminded us of Bill Callahan or Damien Jurado) being beautifully simple constructions of mainly low-key tales of the desolate and the downtrodden. Just the antidote for all that false festive cheer and faux bonhomie maybe?
Now that we’ve had the top tens from all the Mad Mackerel contributors, we will give you a definitive overall top ten in a couple of days. Before that is our penultimate top ten list of the year – the favourite new bands and artists that have come our way in 2010 which was perhaps the hardest list of all to compile.
So with honourable mentions to Gaoler’s Daughter, White Noise Movement, Pop. 1280, The Vaccines and White Dress, here we have our favourites. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of them all in 2011…
Pulled Apart By Horses play hard, and fast, and mean and remind us in a good way of the wonderful Mclusky. They also released one of our favourite singles of the year in Back to the Fuck Yeah and followed it up with a quite excellent debut album. Brutal, noisy, tongue in cheek, marvellous.
Offering the perfect blend of UK indie rock, The Sunderbans meld classic influences like the Cure, the Bunnymen and the Smiths into a modern, fresh sound that first captured our attention with the excellent Roadkill single. They’ve followed it up with a couple of excellent singles and we’re hoping for big things in 2011.
Announcing themselves with the utterly infectious The Ballad of Maynard Noe, Pancake Breakfast served up an album of country songs and folk songs and rock songs – there are songs about truckers, songs about angry birds, songs about magic cards, and songs about unfortunate fish.
With his blend of wonderful psych-folk and tall stories, The Migrant provided one of our favourite albums of the year with Travels In Lowland. Effortlessly drawing you in to a world of his own making, it was somewhere we were happy to come back to again and again.
The songs on Red Clay River’s demo CD Cover Our Faces With Soot And Dreams take a trip through gypsy dances to somber drifting nights. Using string-band instrumentation mixed with creative percussion including an oil drum and bare walls, Red Clay River tell their stories with shadows and characters that slip through the pines and get lost in the night.
Describing themselves as wilfully uncommercial, it didn’t detract from the fact that this duo produced some of the most unsettling and lyrically vicious music we heard in 2010. They simultaneously conjure up the grey, suffocating monochrome of dreary Eastern European streets and the relentless, inexorable decline of our industrial heritage, of jobs lost and hopes evaporating. It is a mix that they seem to pull off brilliantly with each new track we hear.
A late gatecrasher to the top ten. Two Wounded Birds released their EP Keep Dreaming Baby towards the back-end of 2010 and still managed to get two of the five tracks into MM’s Top Ten series (Barry-Sean’s and Mrs Mackerel’s). It’s all menacing twang over a sultry, velveteen croon – Mrs M said they belong to a different era, where women had beehives and men wore hats and chain-smoked. Just fabulous.
From the moment we heard Snake Charmer (No Money In The Bank), we knew Howling Owls were going to be MM faves. A brilliantly named and slightly mysterious three piece from Orlando that trade in the sort of sparse, sinister, dark-hearted folk that resides in the shadows, and all too easily suggests the flickering ghosts of the Everglade swamps. Ominous, baleful, and captivating.
We received this track at just past midnight on Christmas Eve and have to admire a band that is still plugging away as Santa is readying his sleigh.
The band in question are a three piece from London and are called The Angry Years. They profess a liking for everything from These New Puritans, early Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Queens of the Stone Age, to DOOM and the De Stijl movement.
They recorded this song Dress Yourself as Someone Dead last week – it is well worth a listen.
Visit their MySpace here, where you can download more demo tracks too.
What music could be better suited to a Boxing Day than a woozy, hazy, ‘Where am I? What day is it?” kind of psychedelic rock?
In fact, we have posted about both these bands before, but both have new tracks from their albums available and thankfully Solar Temple Suicides and Asteroid #4 both mine the space rock theme, and both do it well.
So, after too much drink, too much food, and too much everything else, this is just what the Mackerel ordered.
Solar Temple Suicides’ debut full-length album, Sentinels of the Heliosphere, was self-recorded and was released December 14th on Sleepy Records, with an east coast tour to follow in early 2011. Here’s a third track for your edification and enjoyment.
Asteroid #4 will release their sixth studio album Hail to the Clear Figurines in February on The Committee to Keep Music Evil label. With a clear love of Spacemen 3 and a most pleasing devotion to reverb, krautrock, shoegaze and even a bit of folk and country rock, the album is a winner in MM’s eyes. Here’s a second track from it…