Mad Mackerel’s Favourite Albums of 2014: Part 2

Here are our favourite twenty albums of 2014. Don’t forget to check out numbers 40 – 21 here.

20 Together PANGEA – Badillac

together badillac

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19 Meatbodies – Meatbodies

meatbodies

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18 Strand of Oaks – Heal

strand of oaks

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17 Jessica Lea Mayfield – Make My Head Sing

jessica lea mayfield

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16 Eagulls – Eagulls

eagulls

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15 Happyness – Weird Little Birthday

happyness

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14 Felice Brothers – Favourite Waitress

New From The Felice Brothers

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13 Mac DeMarco – Salad Days

mac demarco

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12 Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

New Album From Sharon van Etten

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11 Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Angel Olsen

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10 The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

War on Drugs

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9 Dream Police – Hypnotised

dream police

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8 Hurray For The Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes

Hurray For The Riff Raff - Small Town Heroes

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7 Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

parquet courts

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6 Damien Jurado – Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Son

damien jurado

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5 Pink Mountaintops – Get Back

More From Pink Mountaintops

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4 Sun Kil Moon – Benji

sun kil moon benji

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3 Water Liars – Water Liars

water liars

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2 Amazing Snakeheads – Amphetamine Ballads

amazing snakeheads

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1 Jamie T – Carry On The Grudge

jamie t

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Five Songs You Should Have Heard This Week

Here are our selections of new tunes from this week that you really ought to have heard by now.

1. Sleater-Kinney – Surface Envy
2. The Soft Moon – Black
3. Elephant Micah – Slow Time Vultures
4. Strand of Oaks – Alex Chilton (Replacements cover)
5. The Dodos – Goodbyes And Endings

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Five Songs You Should Have Heard This Week

Here are 5 tunes that you should have heard already, but if not…

1. Sun Kil Moon – The Possum
2. Strand Of Oaks – My Wrecking Ball (Ryan Adams cover)
3. Kal Marks – Don’t Pussy Foot With A Pussyfooter
4. HOLY – Golden Fog
5. Swearing At Motorists – Groundhog Day (Damn The Piper)

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Favourite Albums of 2014 (So Far)

MM's Best of 2014 So Far

The longest day has come and gone, and halfway through the year we are. It seemed a good point to reflect and share thirty of our favourite albums of 2014 so far, and so here they are, in strictly alphabetical order of course…

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The Amazing Snakeheads – Amphetamine Ballads

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Amen Dunes – Love

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Avers – Empty Light

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Dan Baker – Pistol In My Pocket

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Mac DeMarco – Salad Days

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The Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans

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Dune Rats – Dune Rats

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Simone Felice – Strangers

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The Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress

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First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

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Emil Friis – Sand In Your Eyes

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Micah P. Hinson & The Nothing – Micah P. Hinson & The Nothing

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Hurray For The Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes

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Damien Jurado – Brothers & Sisters Of The Eternal Mind

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Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours

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Lorelle Meets The Obsolete – Chambers

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Jessica Lea Mayfield – Make My Head Sing

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Natural Child – Dancin With Wolves

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Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

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Orwells – Disgraceland

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Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

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Pink Mountaintops – Get Back

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Strand Of Oaks – Heal

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Sun Kil Moon – Benji

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Together Pangea – Badillac

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Vacant Lots – Departure

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Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

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The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

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Water Liars – Water Liars

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Wooden Wand – Farmers Corner

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Video: Strand of Oaks – Shut In

The video for Strand of Oaks’ track Shut In is a literal interpretation of the melancholic but hopeful lyrics of the song.

Tim Showalter, plays a hermit who has lived amongst his hoarded possessions for a third of his life. But as the video comes to a close, there appears to be hope for him, bringing creedence to the lyric, “and I’ll wait to get better / even if we’re alone“.

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Mad Mackerel’s Best Of The Months: March – May (Part 1)

Mad Mackerel's Best of the Months: March to May (Part 1)

Previously we’ve just offered Best of the Month postings with downloads, but that excludes so many quality songs we’ve decided to just post our favourite tracks – irrespective of whether they are free to download or not. If you like them add them to your Spotify playlists or do the old fashioned thing and download them from iTunes, Bandcamp, or wherever.

Anyway, with a bit of ground to make up here is the first part of March to May’s selections. Nearly forty tracks – enjoy!

Twin Berlin – Buzzkill
Heavy, slow burnin’ garage punk.

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The Ukiah Drag – Dirt Trip
Wields a heavy creep-beat that cleans your dusty clock and takes you for a bourbon afterwards – self-conceited punk hypnosis.

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La Sera – Losing To The Dark
Sounds like Lesley Gore fronting Black Flag – in a good way.

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Dan Baker – Pistol In My Pocket
Skeletal, tortured alt-country and folk delivered with Baker’s mix of wavering, unforgiving howls and whispered confessionals.

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S. Carey – Crown The Pines
Glorious, delicately cascading folk.

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Secret Colours – Heavy & Steady
Bass-heavy single showcases the quintet’s maturing psych-pop sensibilities.

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Wooden Wand – Dambuilding
Beautifully judged slice of acoustic melancholy unhurriedly delivered with a slightly crestfallen air that imbues the narrative with a gorgeous poignancy.

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Benjamin Shaw – Goodbye, Kagoul World
Ramshackle psychedelic folk with a healthy splash of darkly black humour.

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WATERS – Got To My Head

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Split Screens – Close My Eyes
Over a backdrop of lush vocal harmonies, meditative fingerpicking and expressive brush work, delves into the theme of escapism and the freedom of letting go.

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Tele Novella – Trouble In Paradise
Charming, mellow indie psych-pop and subtle vocal harmonies.

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Donkeys – Scissor Me Cigs
Laid back, easy-going, breezy country tinged rock.

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Paradise – Born And Bound
Vintage-inspired, nuggets style garage-psych.

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The Leaf Library – The Greater Good
Hypnotic, krautrock disco, which is reminiscent of Stereolab at their best.

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Cate Le Bon – Sisters

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Timber Timbre – Curtains?!
Insistent groove of disquieting Americana.

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Creepoid – Wet Bread
Slow burn sonics from noise rockers.

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Heart Beach – Hours
Sad, minimal, skuzz pop drone harmonies.

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Amen Dunes – Lilac In Hand
Sweetly resigned vocals are carried along on a simple acoustic strum, piano and deft percussion.

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Brian Jonestown Massacre – What You Isn’t
Grandfathers of modern-psych deliver again.

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The Peach Kings – Be Around
Smooth and smoky vocals above bluesy guitar riffs

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The Orwells – Southern Comfort
Swaggering, infectious lead off track from the much anticipated debut Disgraceland, out on the 3rd June.

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The Delines – I Won’t Slip Up
Smooth, slow moving and sorrowful Americana.

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Horse Thief – Little Dust
Relaxed, undulating slice of Americana that sets expansive, chiming guitars behind an rolling, easy-going vocal.

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Strand Of Oaks – Goshen ’97
A superb full-on, incendiary, ballsy roots-rocker with screaming guitars and relentless percussion.

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Clouder – Lost In Reverie
Romping rock track about a faceless female presence that’s propelled by antsy guitars that morph in and out of surf and psychedelic jangles.

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Dune Rats – Funny Guy
Two and a half minutes of pumped up, guitar-fuelled stoned, garage rock that is impossible to resist.

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Lorelle Meets The Obsolete – Sealed Scene
Get locked into the space rock groove…

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Free Swim – Meal For One
Brilliant track of catchy indie insouciance, scalpel sharp lyrical minutiae, and overall inventive quirkiness.

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The Felice Brothers – Cherry Licorice
Classic ragged, uptempo rocker – no one does this stuff better than the Felices.

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The Vacant Lots – Mad Mary Jones
A full on head rush of punked-up psychedelia.

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CRUISING – You Made Me Do That
As lo-fi and DIY as it comes – grimy, distorted, brooding and depraved.

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Old Smokey – Dead Man’s Pose
An upbeat scorcher with rolling, brushed drums, chanted group vocals, and a clarinet that brings to mind a New Orleans second line.

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Tijuana Bibles – Toledo
Somewhere in between the nostalgic Americana of Tom Waits and the sludgy riffs of the grunge resurgence.

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Triptides – Moonbeams
Dreamy, meandering slice of psych-rock with hints of surf.

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And a couple of new ones to finish off…the new single Mainline from indie rockers Teleman, and the driving, hook-filled urgency of PUJOL’s Circles.

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Download all

Strand of Oaks – Shut In

The latest track to be revealed from Strand of Oaks’ much anticipated album Heal is Shut In – a raw and visceral tale of isolation, addiction and self-doubt.

It is revealing, intimate and vivid and just sharpens the appetite and anticipation for what is already promising to be a very fine album indeed even more.

Have a listen.

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New From Strand Of Oaks

New From Strand Of Oaks

Giving us a hat-trick of cracking Americana-flavoured posts today are longstanding MM faves Strand Of Oaks (aka Timothy Showalter) and a track from forthcoming album HEAL, which will see a release on the 24th June via Dead Oceans.

However, Goshen ’97 is a pretty radical departure from the introspective, occasionally surreal, and unique folk tales that defined his previous releases. This time we have a full-on, incendiary, ballsy roots-rocker with screaming guitars, relentless percussion and it even features a certain J Macsis playing along…

We absolutely love it. Pre-order from Rough Trade here.

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Mad Mackerel The last Five Years – Chris T Popper Picks His Favourites

MM The Last Five Years - Chris T Popper

Believe it or not, Mad Mackerel has been around for more than five years now. During that time we’ve posted more than 4,000 times, and offered more than 5,000 songs for your listening pleasure. And more than three quarters of a million people have paid MM a visit during our lifetime on Google’s (godawful) blogspot and since April 2010 on WordPress.

We asked some of the regular MM contributors to give us their top twenty songs since MM first went live and we’re also going to give you one big mega-listing shortly, first up was Dr Roddy and now the ultra-punctual and fastidious Chris T Popper offers up his selections.

20) Strand of Oaks – Trap Door

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19) Avett Brothers – January Wedding

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18) Blitzen Trapper – Black River Killer

Download Blitzen Trapper – Black River Killer mp3

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17) Toby Burke – Cantina Crawl

Download Toby Burke – Cantina Crawl mp3

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16) Wye Oak – Civilian

Download Wye Oak – Civilian mp3

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15) The Airborne Toxic Event – Sometime Around Midnight

Download The Airborne Toxic Event – Sometime Around Midnight mp3

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14) Mathew Sawyer & The Ghosts – Revenge Of The Extra From Zulu

Download Mathew Sawyer & The Ghosts – Revenge of The Extra From Zulu mp3

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13) Wooden Wand – Uncle Bill

Download Wooden Wand – Uncle Bill mp3

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12) Timber Timbre – Bad Ritual

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11) Howling Owls – Snake Charmer (No Money In The Bank)

Dowload Howling Owls – Snake Charmer (No Money In The Bank) mp3

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10) Sonny + The Sandwitches – Through The Fog And Haze
Over the years I have never forgotten how much this song meant to me; if anything it gets stronger like an addiction (and considering this is a personality trait I’ve developed over the years I will happily succumb). I can be in the shower/waiting in a queue/at a meeting with senior management and I’ll randomly sing the first line. Sometimes that doesn’t work out so well when someone is talking flow charts and I’m singing ‘through the fog and the haze…’ at them. But it makes more sense than what their flapping mouths are coming out with. It’s just going to happen.

Download Sonny + The Sandwitches – Through The Fog And Haze mp3

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9) Darren Hayman – The Ship’s Piano
Not a single mackerel swam my way on this one. I was denounced as an absolute arse but I cared not. Hayman wrote this song after suffering a fractured skull; which opened up the idea to him of writing a song gentle enough to listen to with brain ache. There is nothing wrong with gentle in this age of incessant noisy shit. It is a beautiful soliloquy telling the story of a piano’s life (something I always wanted to hear) luckily I was able to understand – they didn’t. Their fault not mine.

Download Darren Hayman – The Ship’s Piano mp3

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8) Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Colour Television
Passed me by initially. Found it by simply playing my iTunes on shuffle one night a couple of years ago and was instantly hooked… and what a revelation. The insistent guitar is ravaged with a punk attitude I thought was long dead. By that I mean talent. Could have come from 1976 and share a gob full of spit with the best of that era, by that I mean the Clash and there is no greater praise I can bestow. Another story televised, another billion hypnotised. Quite.

Download Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Colour Television mp3

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7) Dennis Hopper Choppers – Good To Me
As soon as that horn blast announces its arrival I’m in. It builds with a rhythmic hypnotism that refuses to let go. Evoking the spaghetti western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone with an outstanding vocal from Ben Nicholl (I was lucky enough to catch this live and it didn’t disappoint) it’s never been off the ‘best of’ playlists since I heard it.

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6) The Cave Singers – I Don’t Mind
A timeless guitar riff that immediately sends my brain synapses in to electrical overdrive. Everything else becomes secondary to tapping my foot and grinning inanely. To be fair though, grinning inanely comes fairly naturally…

I went to see the Cave Singers live and they didn’t even perform this song (and it’s still in my top ten!). Now I know their back catalogue is good, but next time I’ll write the set list for fucks sake.

Download The Cave Singers – I Don’t Mind mp3 (from Welcome Joy)

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5) Lower Dens  – Brains
In the language of common parlance may I just say one thing? OMG. In fact I’ll go even further… OMFG! I swear down. Now I’ve totally alienated you I’ll continue… There is a subtlety to this work you have no idea about unless you have included it in your own top 5 (which you haven’t). Opens with a drumbeat that grips your lapels up like a rottweiler on heat.  And then… well, it just gets better of course. I suggest you go and listen to it and then come back to me and we’ll talk about it over a large gin & tonic and a ridiculously large bifta.

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4) Emil Friis – Sand In Your Eyes
Smashed in to my number one spot last year and who could stop it? I have no idea what it’s about and neither do I care. It’s just not important to me because I can put this song on at any time, in any mood (and by jingo I can be a moody bastard) and find myself singing the chorus loud and proud – without getting a single word right. But hey that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? The sheer momentum carries you along like a crazed right wing Chancellor at a witch’s funeral – enough to shed a tear for the right reasons.

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3) Phospherescent – Song For Zula
When Mr Mackerel asked us to put together our favourite songs of the last five years I was a little cautious of including any recent favourites. It’s difficult enough to pick 20 of the best at any time… but Song For Zula transcends the conundrum. The impact of the opening bars/violins/first line (referencing Johnny Cash no less) is timeless. I have a special place in my heart for Phossie and the Red Eyed Fly in Austin when I first saw them live (get me!) – opening with a Radiohead cover and then converting me to country music by channelling the great Willie Nelson. Met him (Phossie not Willie!) by the way. I want to be his best friend. He doesn’t.

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2) Howling Owls – A Wordsmith’s Reverie
You know when you read a book and think ‘shit I could never write that beautifully’ (I’m a frustrated author as well as human being) – Howling Owls does that musically. There is a self-aware yet peaceful desperation to this; and not a single word is wasted. The lament of ‘I will change everything about me for you – except for the fact I can never be what you want me to be’ is heartbreaking. It also makes you realise how shit this world is. Far more people know about Kim Kardashian than Howling Owls and Wooden Wand put together. Just think about that for a moment- done that? Good. Now try not to wail in utter sadness…

Download Howling Owls featuring Maximino – A Wordsmith’s Reverie mp3

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1) Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Buriedfed
This is my favourite song of the last five years of Mad Mackerel. It’s actually hard to write anything that can really do it the justice it deserves… I love music so much that a work of this sheer magnitude can leave me running on empty, even when it comes to my typical hyperbole. So, deep breath… here goes. From the moment I heard it I knew it was special. And it’s never lost its impact or the way it moves me like no other song. I know people like me say ‘genius’ a lot (and that people say that people say ‘genius’ a lot when they shouldn’t). This is genius.

Download Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Buriedfed mp3

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And my 3 favourite bands…

3) Jeff The Brotherhood
2) Wooden Wand
1) Phosphorescent

Needs a mention

Best Cover:
Download Port O’Brien – Halo mp3 (Beyonce Cover)

My favourite Live Act of 08-13
Phossie – Red Eyed Fly, Austin, Texas 2009
I suddenly and quite unexpectedly understood country music.

Live Review: Strand Of Oaks

Chris T Popper reviews Strand of Oaks at St. Pancras Old Church, London, Friday 22nd February 2013

Strand of Oaks, St Pancras Old Church

Apparently the oldest place of Christian worship in England (it has believed to have existed since AD 316) St Pancras Old Church in central London was a beguiling if somewhat confusing venue for a music gig. Convinced we were in the wrong place we had almost turned to leave before three gentlemen who were sort of loitering in the foyer put us right, telling us to come on in… an intriguing start to proceedings.

With tins of beer purchased off a small table (once retrieved from a small fridge nearby) we wandered down the church aisle and took our seats on the front row.  Drinking alcohol in God’s house felt a little odd but I managed to muddle through… along with a small but appreciative audience that had gathered on a bitterly cold February night for Tim Showalter and drummer Chris Ward aka Strand of Oaks.

Trap Door was one of my absolute favourite songs of 2012 so I was eager to see them in action close up. The support was Antonio Lulic (accompanied by John on Double Bass) with an enterprising performance and an excellent line in self-deprecating humour.

To warm applause Strand of Oaks entered the stage and quite simply produced a mesmerising set. Opening with tracks from his latest offering Dark Shores, we were treated to Satellite Moon and Maureen’s before Showalter explained he didn’t get too much publicity for his music as he didn’t write songs about flip flops and the beach… he preferred writing songs about killing John Belushi’s drug dealer.

Throughout the performance he was wonderfully humble and made an immediate connection with everyone watching. It should also be said for such an intimate gig the audience made sure Strand of Oaks were cheered to the Godly rafters after each song – and quite rightly. Personal favourites for me were the fabulous tracks from his Leave Ruin album, Two Kids and Sister Evangeline.

Other treats included tracks from Pope Kildragon, finishing the set with a rousing Bonfire before exiting to whoops and cheers. Re-emerging Showalter confessed he didn’t usually do encores but such was the feeling of mutual appreciation he kindly obliged us. Before finally leaving the stage Showalter offered to meet all of us in attendance for a chat before we left. Never one to turn down the chance of chewing the fat with an artist I managed to get a quick word with Tim as he talked amicably to the throng gathered in the holy foyer.

Chris T Popper & Strand of Oaks

Once I had congratulated him on such a fine set and identified ourselves as Mad Mackerels, I couldn’t help but mention he left out Trap Door… (I just couldn’t help it okay, such was my heartbreak… and I didn’t even mention he also left out the sublime Alex Kona). But hey – with a back catalogue as good as his it really didn’t matter.

I genuinely have never seen the point of watching bands at massive arenas whoever they are (and that includes Radiohead… and I love Radiohead). Standing three miles back watching a video screen of Bono’s or Chris Martin’s cretinous fizzog isn’t my idea of fun.  But then again watching either of those bands close up wouldn’t be either. Tonight was. A bizarre venue coupled with a totally compelling atmosphere, immediate, different and utterly fucking freezing, the music mattered not the pyrotechnics/dancers/costume changes. And I loved it. If you get the chance go and see Strand of Oaks, it’s good for the soul.

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