Mad Mackerel’s Albums Of The Year: Part 3 (10 – 1)

And so here we have our top ten albums of the year. To be honest the order is fairly arbitrary – on another day it could be a completely different as really these ten records have so little between them in turns of the pleasure and enjoyment they gave us. If you’ve not acquainted yourselves with any of these then we’re pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.

2011 – what a fine year for music.

10 Twilight Hotel – When The Wolves Go Blind

Download Twilight Hotel – Ham Radio Blues mp3 (from When The Wolves Go Blind)

Download Twilight Hotel – Mahogany Veneer mp3 (from When The Wolves Go Blind)

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9 Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

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Bonus Download Laura Marling – Night After Night (Live Acoustic Session Version) mp3

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Roadside Graves Album Out Today.

8 Roadside Graves – We Can Take Care Of Ourselves

Download The Roadside Graves – Double Feature mp3 (from We Can Take Care Of Ourselves)

Download The Roadside Graves – Love Me More mp3 (from We Can Take Care Of Ourselves)

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7 Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

Download Kurt Vile – Jesus Fever mp3 (from Smoke Ring For My Halo)

Download Kurt Vile – Runner Ups mp3 (from Smoke Ring For My Halo)

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6 A.A. Bondy – Believers

Download A.A. Bondy – The Heart Is Willing mp3 (from Believers)

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5 The Cave Singers – No Witch

Download The Cave Singers – Swim Club mp3 (from No Witch)

Download The Cave Singers – Black Leaf mp3 (from No Witch)

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New Album From Deer Tick.

4 Deer Tick – Divine Providence

Download Deer Tick – Miss K. mp3 (from Divine Providence)

Download Deer Tick – Main Street mp3 (from Divine Providence)

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3 Tom Williams & The Boat – Too Slow

Download Tom Williams & The Boat – See My Evil mp3 (from Too Slow)

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2 Felice Brothers – Celebration Florida

Download The Felice Brothers – Fire At The Pageant mp3 (from Celebration, Florida)

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1 Middle Brother – Middle Brother

Download Middle Brother – Middle Brother mp3 (from Middle Brother)

Download Middle Brother – Me, Me, Me mp3 (from Middle Brother)

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MM’s 2011 Top Ten Series: No 9 Mrs Mackerel

Mad Mackerel's Best of 2011.Our final Top Ten selection comes courtesy of the lovely, and ever radiant, Mrs Mackerel. Over to you girl!

It’s been a great musical year. But such a plethora of riches always presents a problem – what’s a girl to choose? Fortunately some fine contributions in the preceding week means most bases are covered.

Live gigs, although few and far between this year, have been rich in quality, and particularly finger-picking good on the guitar front. A fine ensemble of gig friends too, thank you.

Without further ado, here’s my humble opinion. And remember kids this is just my opinion, you can try this at home too.

10. Hyde & the Beast – You Will be Lonely

Boom-shacker, boom-shacker. Bit of cowboy guitars. An up-tempo beat coupled with the “you’re dumped” message. Still if you’ve got to do it, do it with a smile on your face and a guitar in your hand, I say. Boom-shacker, boom-shacker.

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9. The National – Think You Can Wait

Nice bit of backing from the wonderful Sharon Van Etten, coupled with the mellifluous vocal of Matt Berninger. Trademark National: understated brilliance.

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8. Lanterns on the Lake – Ships in the Rain

Another great thing to come from Sunderland. Catch up please. Atmosphere, ethereal vocals, beautiful lyrics. Til we meet again, girls.

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7. Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear

Widespread Mackerel popularity for this song amongst family and friends. Yep, we know a good guitar riff when we hear one: hard core. Looking for joy when there’s none to find? Plenty here.

Download Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear mp3 (from Donkey Jacket)

6. Wye Oak – Civilian

A January contender for my top ten, so a stayer. A fantastic piece of drumming that builds and builds; to be played loud on speakers not headphones, she insists in a bossy tone that MM knows only too well… Breathy vocals adds atmosphere to the intensity.

Download Wye Oak – Civilian mp3 (from Civilian)

5. Wooden Wand – No Hayride

Directed to this by daughter sprat, and how right she is. The pared back simplicity of the guitar lends itself so well to the lyrics. Prolific output – does this man ever sleep?

Download Wooden Wand – No Hayride mp3 (from Archives Vol 3)

4. The Cave Singers – Haystacks

How do I love the Cave Singers? Oh let me count the ways. Storming harmonica coupled with such an irresistible tempo, I challenge you not to be out of your seat and dancing. These boys got rhythm in bucket loads and talent to match. But they’re not yours, they’re mine. Glad we cleared that one up.

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3. Hurray for the Riff Raff – Too Much of a Good Thing

A great big old fashioned waltz of a song, throw in a sprinkling of mariachi pipes, a helping of accordion and the tender vocals of Alynda Lee Segarra. Lifetime top ten tune for me this one.

Download Hurray For The Riff Raff – Too Much Of A Good Thing mp3 (from Hurray For The Riff Raff)

2. Middle Brother – Portland

Shared a cigarette for breakfast? More than one I reckon. John McCauley of Deer Tick has a voice that was made for this song. One for the road, sung in chorus, gives me the warmest, fuzzy feeling all over. Stick me on a greyhound bus with Middle Brother playing to the open road and I reckon I’d be a happy girl. Just about the best darned cover (yes, I know but don’t care) I ever heard. Pure magic.

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1. Laura Marling – Night After Night

A photo finish for me amongst the top five. Yin and yang songs. This song is wuthering, if you get my gist but hey, that’s just me. There’s so much here from the opening guitar sequence that makes me think of a boat rowing out to sea, to the subtle finale with a flamenco flourish. Lyrical dexterity, passion, sadness, regret. The incomparable Laura Marling take a bow.

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Goddammit Janet: missed it first time round

Grinderman – Palaces of Montezuma

The theatre of this song is almost vintage Bowie. A great big banquet of lyrical genius and the funkiest rhythm to match. Bloody marvellous.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – Janglin

From the happy-go-lucky intro to swinging, swaying finger-clicking goodness of the rest of the tune. Click your heels and away you go.

Download Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Janglin mp3 (from From Below)

And Okkervil River. Missed all together. MM and I are fools. I have told him this repeatedly while hitting him with a large branch. Joking. Sort of.

Download Okkervil River – For Real mp3 (from Black Sheep Boy)

School Run Anthems 2011

The Lovely Eggs – Don’t Look at Me (I Don’t Like It)

We sang and did the actions. The car bounced and shimmied its way to school. Nothing like a bit of 21st century punk to get you going in the morning.

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Roadside Graves – Jail

Don’t want to work today. Just want to lay in bed. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Download The Roadside Graves – Jail (Simplefolk UK Radio Live Session) mp3

Guilty pleasure

Adele – Someone Like You

Actually no guilt attached to this choice at all. Great voice. Great song, sniff.

MM’s 2011 Top Ten Series: No 3 Starbar & JaMS

Mad Mackerel's Best of 2011.Our third top ten contributions come from Starbar and JaMS who job share in the office. This is JaMS first entry in to the guest top ten spots, but first up is Starbie…

10. Laura Marling – I Was Just A Card

9. Slow Club – If we’re Still Alive

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8. The Decemberists – This Is Why we Fight

7. Lana Del Ray – Video Games

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6. Black Keys – Lonely Boy

5. Deer Tick – Miss K

Download Deer Tick – Miss K. mp3 (from Divine Providence)

4. Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear

Download Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear mp3 (from Donkey Jacket)

3. Big Pink – Stay Gold

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2. Noah & The Whale – L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N

1. Death Cab For Cutie – Stay Young Go Dancing

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Bubbling Under

Funeral For a Friend – Broken Foundation

Florence & the Machine – Shake it Out

Fleet Foxes – Lorelai

Download Fleet Foxes – Lorelai mp3 (from Helplessness Blues)

Ed Sheeran – Lego House

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And JaMS…

10. Sharon Van Etten – Serpents

Download Sharon Van Etten – Serpents mp3 (from Tramp)

9. Adele – Set Fire To The Rain

8. The Decemberists – January Hymn

7. The Black Keys – Lonely Boy

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6. Charlene Soraia – Wherever You Will Go

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5. Friends – I’m His girl

4. Lykke Li – Sadness Is A Blessing

Download Lykke Li – Sadness Is A Blessing mp3 (from Wounded Rhymes)

3.  Florence and the Machine – What The Water Gave Me

2. Lana Del Rey – Video Games

1. Laura Marling – Sophia

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MM’s 2011 Top Ten Series: No 1 Polly Pocket

Mad Mackerel's Best of 2011.As with previous years we will be posting over the next few days the Top Ten track selections for 2011 of various MM friends and contributors, as well as our Best Albums of 2011 and own best of the year list.

To kick us off we have Polly Pocket.

10. Friends – I’m His Girl

A great getting ready to go out kind of a tune.

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9. Ben Howard – Old Pine

A happy and warm glowing song, it just makes you feel good and there is nothing wrong with that.

Download Ben Howard – Old Pine mp3 (from Old Pine EP)

8. Sunparlour Players – Green Thumb

How can anyone resist a song that starts with Christmas slay bells? Impossible to listen to without singing along.

Download The Sunparlour Players – Green Thumb mp3 (from Us Little Devils)

7. Laura Marling – I Was Just A Card

Hard to choose which Laura track to include. The good thing is they all remind me of a fabulous lunchtime not so long ago in a Cathedral with Mrs M.

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6. Arcade Fire – Speaking In Tongues

I have no idea what this song is about but that doesn’t stop it from being great. Nice to have David Byrne cropping up in it too.

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5. Meredith Adeliade & Josh Schroeder – So It Goes

I find myself frequently humming this tune, simple, stripped back, catchy, great.

Download Josh Schroeder and Meredith Adelaide – So It Goes mp3

4. Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks

Dealing with dark matter whilst sounding all happy and light, just my cup of tea.

Download Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks mp3 (from Pumped Up Kicks single)

3. Annie Williams – Roll On Hills

Beautiful voice, beautiful song, timeless.

Download Annie Williams – Roll On Hills mp3 (from This Mountain)

2. A.A Bondy – The Twist

This is such a massive song, all dark and rich, just lovely.

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1. Cave Singers – Swim Club

Its been in the number one slot forever, a simple and brilliant tune in my humble opinion!

Download The Cave Singers – Swim Club mp3 (from No Witch)

Bubbling Under

5. Elbow – Lippy Kids

4. Sand Band – Song That Sorrow Sings

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3. Tallest Man On Earth – I Won’t Be Around

2. Noah And The Whale – LIFEGOESON

1. Bored Man Overboard – Abigail

Check out her 2010 Top Ten here.

Mrs Mackerel’s TFI Friday (21st October)

Mrs Mackerel's TFI Friday (21st October). A funny thing happened on the way back through Gloucester Cathedral this week. After a mesmerising 45 minutes watching Laura Marling perform an unaccompanied acoustic set, Pocket and I set off in hot pursuit in the hope of persuading Lovely Laura to write MM a Christmas exclusive. I would have course swum retrograde without Pocket chiming in my ears… faster, faster.

It was an enormous personal achievement for me to even open my mouth and speak, let alone burble away nonsensically about Christmas. La la. Trouble is, I can imagine what it feels like to be on the end of a stream of consciousness from a breathless bug-eyed woman, old enough to be your mother. It does scream go away. LL was of course perfectly gracious. I’m sure she gets a lot of requests. Mad and other.

It was an extraordinary gig. A set list conjured up very much on a song by song basis, glorious acoustics as you’d expect in such a big old holy place, a huge God-given talent and a wonderfully English audience, so polite. Perhaps: apart from the woman with crying baby. I’ve had three. It’s good form to leave discreetly when they don’t settle. Circumstances dictate, really. You just have to go with the flow.

Happy Friday.

Mrs Mackerel

We can’t offer Laura, but hey, here is an appropriately titled tune from another favourite, and a video of a new Laura song, Pray For Me.

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Download Mark Lanegan – On The Steps Of The Cathedral mp3 (from Here Comes That Weird Chill)

The End of The Road Festival: A Review

The End of The Road: A ReviewIt is true to say that our first visit to the End of the Road Festival last year was without doubt the best music event (bar SxSW) we had ever attended. A superb line-up, brilliant layout, and festival goers who were there for the music rather than the ‘experience’ ensured three days of superb entertainment.

It meant we bought tickets immediately they went on sale for 2011, before we knew the line-up, before we’d even washed the dust off from 2010, and waited impatiently for September to come around again. Granted, for us the line-up this time didn’t quite match the quality of last year (but then we were spoilt by The Felice Brothers, Deer Tick, Phosphorescent, Forest Fire, Joe Pug, Wolf Parade, Black Mountain, Elliott Brood and The Low Anthem et al) but there was still much to get excited about.

Car problems and traffic trouble meant we arrived much later than planned, missing Micah P Hinson, Caitlin Rose and Best Coast into the bargain. We had to park further away and soon discovered the festival this year was considerably bigger – a new main stage was testament to that, but more so was the crowds – lots of people, lots and lots and lots of people.

Doubts were immediate. I’ve never been a lover of the huge stages that most big festivals have, and the increased numbers surely meant the fantastic, pure love of the music that the audience had and so set the End of the Road apart from others would be seriously threatened.

Once the tent was popped up and mattress inflated it was into the big top for a first taste of Bo Ningen, and while tunes were in limited supply, the guitar shredding histrionics and theatrical rock ‘n’ roll moves thrown by the four Japanese band members, all dressed as women, was more than ample consolation for a large crowd.

The End of the Road Festival: A Review By contrast Joan As Police Woman delivered a cooly confident set of indie ballads, poppy electronics and the occasional folk flurry, which were well judged and well crafted, preventing any hint of predictability from setting in. She was followed by The Walkmen who upped the energy and excitement levels considerably – their set was one of the weekend highlights with favourites like Juveniles, Angela and of course The Rat receiving rapturous acclaim.

A first visit to the main stage to see headliners Beirut confirmed all previous misgivings about big stages. While clearly good, clearly popular, and clearly pleasing the large crowd, it was still hard to connect with the set, despite excellent renditions of our favourites East of Harlem and Santa Fe. So it was back to the Garden Stage (is there a better festival setting in the country?) to see the legendary Mark E Smith prowl and chunter around the stage with the latest incarnation of the Fall. Either terrible or brilliant as a live spectacle, and rarely in between, they were the former, with a superb set of pummelling krautrock inspired anthems held together with his unique vocal incantations.

The End of the Road Festival: A Review Saturday saw Beth Jeans Houghton take the stage first and while we hadn’t been hugely taken when we’d seen her supporting Phosphorescent a couple of years ago, this was an entirely different proposition. A beefed up band, a boost in confidence and stage presence meant a sparkling set of indie pop and folk that contained a couple of absolute stand out tracks in Shampoo and Queen Of This Town – still quirky, still irreverent but now with top quality tunes, her debut album is out in January and on this evidence will be a must-have.

The End of the Road Festival: A Review Allo Darlin’ were (like all the best things at the End of the Road) another pleasant surprise – a toe-tapping set of classic British indie pop bursting with melodies and sing along harmonies, which was in stark contrast to the portentous gloomy folk of Timber Timbre that followed. Jolie Holland provided relief with a solo set of beautifully crafted, classic country tunes delivered with her honeyed southern vocal that we could listen to all day long. Another solo set from Matthew Houck aka Phosphorescent was hugely well received, mixing a cover of Dylan with compositions spanning the old (A Picture of our Torn Up Praise) and the new (Mermaid Parade, Los Angeles), and of course a sublime Wolves.

Avoiding the main stage, it was time for a double dose of high octane riffing and pulsating psychedelia from first The Wooden Shjips and then the Black Angels. Despite a slightly muddy sound (deliberate probably) both were triumphant with the former’s Lazy Bones and the latter’s Phosphene Dream being particular highlights.

Lastly it was Okkervil River, a band that for some reason we had not become overly familiar with over the years despite their excellent reputation. The live set we witnessed will change that for good, being one of the undoubted triumphs of the weekend. A fabulous frontman’s performance from Will Sheff, pulsating and mesmerising rhythms, and superb musicianship meant the hour long set passed in a moment, but left us a whole back catalogue to explore.

The End of the Road Festival: A Review Then, as the tent called, we discovered that Bob Log III, fresh from a triumphant main stage slot in the afternoon was playing a ‘by popular demand’ headline slot in the Tipi Tent. Cramming ourselves in with the heaving masses, we enjoyed what is surely one of the best dirty blues shows you could ever see. Wearing his trademark crash helmet and playing a blistering set of raw licks that made Seasick Steve look like an absolute beginner, he held the audience enthralled for an hour with great between-song-banter and a hollered “goddamn Bob Log is good” screech at the end of each song. The set finished with two girls from the audience on his lap and three more dancing on stage.

The End of the Road Festival: A Review Sunday began with Black Mountain side project Lightning Dust and they were a perfect example of why the End of the Road is so damned good. First up on the last day usually means a sparse, lethargic audience at most festivals. Not here, and the packed crowd were treated to a sublime set of psychedelic folk with a gothic tinge and the exquisite vocals of Amber Webber. Totally unexpected, totally mesmerising, and our best ‘find’ of the festival. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

We took in the countrified shoegaze of Slowdown Molasses and the sparse, fingerpicked folk of Futur Primitif. We enjoyed a fabulously (and surprisingly) powerful set from an (also surprisingly) relatively non-hirsute Megafaun. Thoroughly enjoying themselves in the sunshine it was another exceptional set of indie rock and folk that left everyone grinning. We watched the Woodsist inspired triple billing of the Fresh & Onlys garage pop, The Woods hazy, psychedelic folk and Kurt Vile & The Violators powerful mix of spacey acoustics and thrilling Crazy Horse style guitar wigouts, and jigged along to the nomadic desert blues of Tinariwen.

The End of the Road Festival: A Review Finally it was back to braving the main stage for Laura Marling, having missed most of her solo set at the Wilderness Festival. This time backed by a six piece band, her crystal clear voice hung over the festival as a thing of pure, fragile beauty. At just 21 years of age, she may well be the best songwriter in the country.

So, was bigger better? In our opinion, probably not, but crucially bigger was not worse either. The single most important thing – the spirit of the End of the Road – remained intact. There was still the feeling that you were simply amongst a crowd (a big crowd) of people who were there, like you, for the love of the music and everything else was secondary. Just the way we like it – we’ll be back in 2012.

Download Bo Ningen – Psychedelic Misemono Goya mp3 (from Koroshitai Kimochi)

Download Joan As Police Woman – The Magic mp3 (from The Deep Field)

Download The Walkmen – Canadian Girl mp3 (from You & Me)

Download Allo Darlin’ – My Heart Is A Drummer mp3 (from Allo Darlin’)

Download Wooden Shjips – Lazy Bones mp3 (from West)

Download The Black Angels – Telephone mp3 (from Phosphene Dream)

Download Phosphorescent – Reasons To Quit mp3 (from To Willie)

Download Phosphorescent – Wolves mp3 (from Pride)

Download Okkervil River – Wake And Be Fine mp3 (from I Am Very Far)

Download Lightning Dust – Never Seen mp3 (from Infinite Light)

Download Megafaun – These Words mp3 (from Megafaun)

Download The Fresh & Onlys – Waterfall mp3 (from Play It Strange)

Download Kurt Vile – In My Time mp3 (from In My Time)

Download Woods – Blood Dries Darker mp3 (from At Echo Lake)

Download Tinariwen – Tenere Taqqim Tossam mp3 (from Tassili)

Download Laura Marling – Night Terror mp3 (from Alas I Cannot Swim)

And don’t forget our previous free End of the Road mix we posted last week.

Wilderness Festival – Free Mix

Tomorrow we head down to the first Wilderness Festival, taking place on our back door in the beautiful Cornbury Park Estate. Previously this lovely venue has hosted the Cornbury Festival, which has thankfully now moved elsewhere as (trust us) it has the worse possible line-up you could ever imagine for an event of this type.

Anyway, the Wilderness is, as we say, a different kettle of fish featuring Gogol Bordello, Toots and the Maytals, Dry The River, Hypnotic Ensemble, CW Stoneking and Hayseed Dixie all creating the sounds today. Antony and the Johnsons will headline Sunday’s music menu, alongside Mercury Rev, Laura Marling, Guillemots and The Low Anthem. Wilderness ‘artist-in-residence’, Daniel Johnston will also perform in his only UK appearance. His Sunday Night ‘Songbook Finale’ will see him perform a number of unique collaborations.

So here is a little Wilderness mix to whet the appetite, as long as the sun shines it should be a cracker.

Download The Low Anthem – Charlie Darwin mp3 (from O My God, Charlie Darwin)

Download The Low Anthem – This God Damn House mp3 (from What The Crow Brings)

Download Mercury Rev – Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp mp3 (from Deserters Songs)

Download Gogol Bordello – Not A Crime mp3 (from Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike)

Download Dry The River – New Ceremony mp3 (from New Ceremony Single)

Download Toots And The Maytals – 54-46 Was My Number mp3 (from The Very Best Of Toots And The Maytals)

Download Hayseed Dixie – Ace of Spades mp3 (from Let There Be Rockgrass)

Download Antony & The Johnsons – Hope There’s Someone mp3 (from I Am A Bird Now)

Download Daniel Johnston – Life In Vain mp3 (from Fun)

Download CW Stoneking – Seven Nation Army mp3 (From Triple J’s Like A Version Four, White Stripes Cover)

Download The Guillemots – Made Up Love Song #43 mp3 (from Through The Windowpane)

And listen to the brilliant new single, Sophia, by Laura Marling.

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Mad Mackerel’s 2010 Top Ten Series: No 8, Mrs Mackerel

Here at MM we share, chat, argue, bury and praise music on a pretty regular basis…like daily. So throughout the year, the Mackerel crew (Mrs Mackerel, Barry-Sean, Christy-Popper, Dr Roddy, Polly Pocket, Starbar, MM and others) keep their own ever-changing top tens ready for publication at the climax of the festive season.

So last, but very much not least, is the lovely (though flu-stricken) Mrs Mackerel and her choices for 2010.

We all sweat a little over our top tens and I don’t know why really. This is just what I think, you will undoubtedly think a little different. But I’ve always found my fellow top ten contributors a great source of new sounds that maybe I wouldn’t have otherwise chosen myself. And if you find one song you like that you didn’t know before, then job done really. So to all the musicians that kindly let us post their wares, a heartfelt thank you – here’s to the next 12 months.

10. Kurran & The Wolfnotes – Your Four Limbs (Download here)

Sunny upbeat music with a beautiful harmonies, juxtaposed with a rather a dark message. A masochistic love of complete surrender; one-sided blind devotion and infatuation. It doesn’t end well.

9. Adam Green – What Makes Him Act So Bad  (Download here)

Appeals to the latent rock chick in me: she may lie sleeping, but she’s still in there. The laconic, growling delivery of the lyrics makes this tune twist and dip. Late night smoky bar sort of song, bit of a hip swayer over a cocktail or two. “I know you’re a wonderful dancer” – why thank you, Adam, I expect I’m the one with the answers too.

8. Lykke Li – Get Some  (Download here)

A proper bit of girl power in the form of a punchy, irrepressible foot-stomping beat. It’s not one to get your daughters to sing along to, but I love the rhythmic no-messing attitude of this song. It’s not often you hear such a drum/percussion-dominated track but this only means it beds into your mental song library very easily. And unlike with say, Two Little Boys (sorry Rolf), you don’t end up irritating yourself.

7. Two Wounded Birds – Night Patrol  (Download here)

A sleazy, sultry mix which tips a nod to Chris Isaacs and maybe even the Raveonettes too; the drums sound like a heartbeat, the guitars borrow a little from Hank Marvin. This song belongs to a different era, where women had beehives and men wore hats and chain-smoked. Just fabulous.

6.  Tallest Man On Earth – King Of Spain  (Download here)

Off we gallop at a rollicking pace before yep, here he comes, the Tallest Man on Earth, this time masquerading as the King of Spain. He has a unique and idiosyncratic voice that truly sets him apart from many of his contemporaries, and my great musical regret of 2009 is that MM and I were unable to make his London gig in last autumn.

5. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

Oh I do like a man with a voice as deep as the night. Matt Berninger’s unmistakeable baritone cuts through this lament, with the drums bringing up the rear. Hypnotic offering from a band that have been waiting in the wings for some much deserved recognition from the wider world.

4. Haunted Windchimes – Sea Bride  (Visit their website here. We can’t post the song or find a stream or a video…but you can listen via spotify here)

I loathe wind-chimes. Pointless instruments of aural torture. But once I got past the name, well this is a finger-pickin’ good tune. One of my outstanding films of 2010 was Winter’s Bone and there’s a scene in it where a hill-billy Nan and her mates are sat round in what looks like someone’s front room/bar. What they make is real music for the soul. I could imagine the Haunted Windchimes pulling up a chair and being right at home – and I mean this musically, not in an in-bred, gun-toting sort of way (she adds hastily).

3. Stornoway – I Saw You Blink

To me this is our MM summer of 2010 song: it’s sunshine and dreaminess and love. There’s self doubt and possibly even a Shelley-esque metaphor used (eyes being the window of the soul and all that). All sung to a back-drop of retro, up-tempo, carefully layered music. He’s in love, distracted, missed his train, and constantly wondering what she’s thinking. Dammit, Lucy, he needs to know – are you one he’s been waiting for so, so long? I’m rather glad I’m not 20-something any more …

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2. Laura Marling – What He Wrote

What she writes, what she sings, what she plays is incomparable to any of her peers. But age sometimes belies wisdom. I struggled to choose from the riches of her second album, but this wins over Goodbye England by a smidge, simply because I prefer the latter in its unaccompanied arrangement. Here we have a piece of Greek mythology entwined with some war time letters; cause and effect; love and loss. “I am broken too and spoken for, do not tempt me.” A talent of rare and precious mettle.

1.Avalanche City – Ends In The Ocean  (Download here)

This snuck up when I wasn’t looking: the more I listened, the more I liked it. Kiwi Dave Baxter is Avalanche City; he taught himself to sing, plays all the instruments (apart from the drums) on this track, and recorded his debut album, solo, armed with a week’s supply of veggie curry. I like that in a person. And the song? It’s about losing yourself, and finding yourself again. It’s uplifting and positive and life-affirming – and it has a goodness that radiates through my very skin. “But now all that I see is life breaking free, so long captivity for me.” Not a bad way to end the year.

This year’s honourable mention goes to…

Jason Ward – Bless You  (Download here)

Bless you, Jason Ward. And bless you, MM. It’s quite a feat to make someone laugh when they’re in that much pain. Lies, deceit and fraud just ain’t enough for some people – let’s chuck in assault and battery too. Bless You is the anthem for the lesser common psycho. Delusional and toxic, they often hunt in pairs. Napoleon and Squealer. The Liver Turds. All should be sealed in a room and made to listen to Alexandra Burke on a loop. All together now, “How horrible are you …”

Bubbling Under:

5. Isobel Campbell & Willie Mason – Cool Water

4. Gorillaz – Melancholy Hill

3. Pancake BreakfastBallad of Maynard Noe

2. Mumford & SonsUnfinished Business

1. Port O’BrienMy Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes To Bitburg)

And the Mrs Mackerel “Missed the Boat” or Songs I love that are not 2010

She Keeps Bees & Sharon Van EttenCuddle Alone

Just about the saddest song ever written. There’s nothing else to say really. Haunting.

The Dutchess & The DukeScorpio

Well, often timing is everything; I became aware of D&TD about ten days after they split up. Was it something I said? Scorpio is a particular favourite, a painfully observed lament about a dying relationship.

Another Cover to Cherish

Having posted our ten favourite covers of the year yesterday, we completely omitted this one, which would easily have gatecrashed the top three.

It is Laura Marling’s wonderful cover of Neil Young’s The Needle And The Damage Done, which is the b-side to her latest, limited edition vinyl single produced by Jack White.

Watch the excellent stop-motion animation video by Redman & Sasufi.