Chris T Popper’s Top Songs Of 2013

Chris T Popper's Best of 2013

As well as our Top 100 tunes of the year that we’ve posted over the past few days, each of the MM contributors have put together their own lists. Next up is Mr Chris T Popper.

20. Coathangers – Adderall

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19. GRMLN – Summer Days
Download GRMLN – Summer Days mp3

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18. Willie Nile – American Ride

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17. Mickey Gloss – Are You Happy

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16. Orwells – Who Needs You

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15. Chelsea Light Moving – Lip

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14. Wooden Wand & World War IV – I Hate The Nightlife

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13. Vandaveer – Omie Wise

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12. Coma Cinema – Virgin Veins

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11. Quiet American – Wild Bill Jones

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10. Scott & Charlene’s Wedding – Gammy Leg
I underestimated this offering from Australia’s finest when I first listened to it. Essentially a tale of the immense bad luck befalling the protagonist and his ‘gammy leg’ it’s easy to dismiss. That would be a mistake. The wonderful deadpan, matter of fact delivery is laced with some brilliant throwaway lines and the black humour never wavers for a second.

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9. Water Liars – Fake Heat
I kind of loved this song despite trying not to if you know what I mean? In the end I gave in gracefully (which wasn’t difficult, there’s a fair bit of imploring in this one) as the heart should always overrule the brain when it comes to music. It does have an undeniable glory to it as well though which can’t help stirring even this most cynical of souls.

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8. Jesse Woods – Cold Blood
As traditional as the aching sadness of yet another year wasted Christmas always brings, there will undoubtedly be a latecomer to my top 10. Step forward Jesse Woods. I was listening to this song in the car when I first got the CD and when I finally heard to it on a ‘proper’ music system it blew me away. Woods has great timing to his delivery and an even better voice. It’s bloody magnificent.

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7. Foxygen – No Destruction
This was pretty much nailed on. With the opening line of I’m sending you this photograph of me in my new car I had already signed up on the Foxygen dotted line and was awaiting further instruction. A subversive laid back and slightly peculiar song. Kept me thinking all year, as I never knew where I really had it.

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6. T Hardy Morris – OK Corral
Sad, sad songs eh? Love ‘em myself and T. Hardy Morris delivers a tour de force with OK Corral. You can’t help it as you’re dragged in to the drowsy chorus and it’s tangible sense of sorrow. It’s also another song from this year with a great opening line. Swear me in, I’m good at making promises…

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5. Terry Malts – I Was Not There
As my previous top 10s bear out I do like a proper modern punk song. Terry Malts can do that. Heavy drums and a real hurry-up guitar combine to great effect. It’s an enjoyably unforgiving song.  And ‘I was not there’ are four words that have constantly come in useful throughout my own life.

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4. Burning Hell – Grown Ups
An instant hit. From the very start Grown Ups is a treat, with the most arresting opening lyric I’ve heard for some time. Guitar meanders along as the tale unfolds about nostalgia and the joy of hanging around graveyards being ‘little goth idiots’. I had a goth stage in my teens – trench coat, skinny black jeans, miserable outlook and an utterly appalling haircut. The quintessential goth you might say and a really great effort from me.

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3. Southerly – Desolation Low
Now I mean this in a good way, but I just love the damn ‘seriousness’ of this song. Serious without being shit that is. And for that Southerly must be congratulated and lauded. Instead we have a climatic build up and an epic finale that gave it a deserved top 3 status. It just picks me up and carries me away no matter how many times I hear it.

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2. Low – Plastic Cup
I haven’t met anyone who didn’t like this song after the very first listen. I think Low may have cracked it. There’s a dreamy kind of stillness to it and a perfect example of the genius of simplicity. It never tries too hard because it doesn’t need to.

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1. Phosphorescent – Song For Zula
In a recent interview Matthew Houck talked about Song For Zula and how he felt he had achieved something with the song that he thought was beyond his ability. An almost unconscious level of quality he hadn’t perceived was there. I know exactly what he means… apart from never having achieved anything to my ability or beyond it. But I can imagine, so I won’t let it hold me back. Just the best song I’ve heard in ages.

MAD MACKEREL’S TOP TRACKS OF 2013: 25 – 1

MM's Favourite Tracks Of 2013: 25 - 1

So this is it, the final countdown of our favourite tracks of 2013…

As voted for by MM luminaries: the luminous Mrs Mackerel (Mrs M), the newly teenaged Middle Sprat (MS), Marston’s Mr Big, Chris T Popper (CP), the criminally insane Dr. Roddy (Dr R), and patricide obsessive Polly Pocket (PP). A motley crew it is true, but all united by their love of a damn good tune.

So, here then are their final selections from 25 down to top spot.

25 Big Sun – Pants
Quirky, frothy and sardonic. Sung with tongues so far in cheeks it should have sounded funny. Instead we got idiosyncratic indie-pop genius.

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24 James Yorkston – Just As Scared
Every couple of years I seem to find the perfect smoky bar song. Here’s just such a tune: a cheek-to-cheek intimate duet that shuffles around the piano with a bluesy feel that gets my foot a-tapping. Now where’s your shoulder, let me very gently lay my head…(Mrs M)

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23 Martha’s Vineyard Ferries – Blonde On Blood
Like the best ever Fall single played at 78rpm. This is, of course, a very good thing indeed. (MM)

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22 I See Hawks In L.A. – One Drop Of Human Blood
Hypnotic, trippy, country rock par excellence.

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21 Augustines – Cruel City
Of course Augustines feature in my Top Ten again – how could they not? Their voices are my favourite of all. The music fits with the lyrics and their voices, and the whole of it captures the mood of the song perfectly! I can’t wait for to hear more songs by them! (MS)

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20 Cave Singers – Have To Pretend
What a groove this song has – it chugs away happily. Down the line the drums are pounded relentlessly, their only company is a bass line that seems to have the demeanour of a drunken Sunday afternoon. Pete Quirk’s voice is a wonderful accompaniment and his lackadaisical delivery of lyric, it’s as if it would kill him to pronounce any word properly. This just adds to the song’s swagger. (Dr R)

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19 Southerly – Desolation Low
Now I mean this in a good way, but I just love the damn ‘seriousness’ of this song. Serious without being shit that is. And for that Southerly must be congratulated and lauded. Instead we have a climatic build up and an epic finale that gave it a deserved top 3 status in my songs of the year. It just picks me up and carries me away no matter how many times I hear it. (CP)

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18 Cash Savage & The Last Drinks – Hypnotizer
Full of attitude and lots of swagger. This is definitely a Friday night cocktail favourite (goes particularly well with a Dirty Martini). If you don’t end up singing along with the gospel choir you are not listening to it right. (PP)

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17 Georgia’s Horse – Thistlebomb
Tales from the battlefield: an unusual, almost discordant arrangement with sublime vocals. If I was looking for an influence, maybe a hint of Kate Bush? Quite unique and utterly brilliant. (Mrs M)

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16 Nick Cave – Jubilee Street
It has taken me longer to love Nick Cave than it should and I am sorry to those who have tried to show me the right path in the past. Thankfully I have learnt the error of my ways and it is Jubilee Street that helped me see the light. Storytelling at its best. (PP)

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15 Phosphorescent – Ride On/Right On
While I might be at odds with my shoalmates, this track from Phosphorescent’s peerless Muchacho album was my tune of the year. A little bit of funky rhythm and a whole lot of country grit combined to make the most compelling and enduring song of 2013. (MM)

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14 Houndmouth – Casino
This song is my favourite of the year, only just though. It always has me awkwardly singing and bopping when I can! With the country twang in their voices and the electric guitar in the background, I can’t help but love this song. (MS)

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13 Wooden Wand – Southern Colorado Song
I could rename this Southern Devon song: late July, lying on the beach with the waves rushing into my ears.  Can you hear the cymbal tremor throughout this song? Nowhere seems the only place to go; aye, Captain. (Mrs M)

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12 Laura Marling – Devil’s Resting Place
There’s menace and a brooding darkness in this devil’s resting place as LM returns to the pared back sound of Alas I Cannot Swim.  But there are many layers to this music and her latest album has an intensity and intelligence that means she’s still my number one gal. (Mrs M)

I couldn’t have a top ten without Ms Marling featuring in it somewhere (23, how can she be just 23 and getting better with every album?).  I love the exotic, dark sound to this song. Once I Was An Eagle is a very fine album, if you don’t own it you should. (PP)

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11 Junip – Line Of Fire
Sold to me in wistful and reflective mode; there’s more than a kernel of truth in these insightful lyrics: You realise it’s just a whim/And you notice it matters/Who and what you let under your skin. (Mrs M)

This has been in the top spot since the beginning of the year. Beautiful vocals courtesy of Jose Gonzalez, it all sounds so effortless whilst building up to that epic finish. Unfortunately, this song also reminds me of seeing Junip this Autumn where, having got Mr Gonzalez to sign my album I then proceeded to tell him that he and the band were ‘awesome‘. He was a gentleman about it but it remains embarrassing. (PP)

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10 John Grant – GMF
This song was a real grower upon first hearing it I thought “Oh that’s alright”, then I carried on about my business. Then one day I properly listened. Any song that has the line “Half of the time I think I’m in some movie / I play the underdog of course / I wonder who they’ll get to play me, maybe / they could dig up Richard Burton’s corpse” is a winner in my book. This song really is a lyric driven tune – the melody underneath is a vehicle for some wonderfully arrogant word play but what would you expect from a song entitled GMF (Greatest Mother Fucker). (Dr R)

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9 Wild Child – Crazy Bird
Never whistle in songs goes the old adage, well tell that to Otis Redding and these guys, fuckos! This tune has a such a feelgood factor to it, it positively bristles with fun and bounce. The melancholy sound of the fiddle in the background gives it some real gravitas, so you can feel serious when you are whistling along to it. You know you will! (Dr R)

I love this song. The catchy, tuneful whistling and always get stuck in my head and the harmony in their voices when they sing together are my favourite factors of this song. This means that this song is placed at number two in my top ten. (MS)

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8 Jesse Woods – Cold Blood
This one’s a bit of a swayer and despite the title, Cold Blood is lyrically beautiful and uplifting. You can drift into the rise and fall of the music and the harmonies – and, like the man says, we’ve got places to be and nothing to prove. (Mrs M)

As traditional as the aching sadness of yet another year wasted Christmas always brings, there will undoubtedly be a latecomer to my top 10. Step forward Jesse Woods. I was listening to this song in the car when I first got the CD and when I finally heard to it on a ‘proper’ music system it blew me away. Woods has great timing to his delivery and an even better voice. It’s bloody magnificent. (CP)

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7 Water Liars – Linens
Pull up a chair, I wanna tell you a story about tormented man. To be honest, he’s too much trouble for me (cook your own bacon, change your own sheets boyo), but I like a good yarn and a telling verse: The mind is a place unto itself/ And in it makes a heaven of hell/And a hell of heaven. Quite. (Mrs M)

I don’t think I have the vocabulary to describe the beauty of this song, so I’m not going to try. If you know this song then you will know that at some point everyone has, or does, share this song’s wants, needs and ideology. If you don’t know the song, catch yourself some quiet time, a good whisky and indulge….. (Dr R)

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6 Terry Malts – I Was Not There
As my previous top 10’s bear out I do like a proper modern punk song. Terry Malts can do that. Heavy drums and a real hurry-up guitar combine to great effect. It’s an enjoyably unforgiving song.  And ‘I was not there’ are four words that have constantly come in useful throughout my own life. (CP)

To do simple, balls-to-the-floor, screw-you punk rock this brilliantly well takes real talent. Terry Malts have it. (MM)

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5 Burning Hell – Grown Ups
An instant hit. From the very start Grown Ups is a treat, with the most arresting opening lyric I’ve heard for some time. Guitar meanders along as the tale unfolds about nostalgia and the joy of hanging around graveyards being ‘little goth idiots’. I had a goth stage in my teens – trench coat, skinny black jeans, miserable outlook and an utterly appalling haircut. The quintessential goth you might say and a really great effort from me. (CP)

You were a Nazi hunter / I was a cockney punter” sings Mathias Kom. After hearing that opening line I thought, “Hello, that’s different, that’s got my attention”. A wonderful singalong track that has the sound of a heavily stoned grunge record. I still feel guilty that it isn’t higher in my list. (Dr R)

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4 T. Hardy Morris – OK Corral
Sad, sad songs eh? Love ‘em myself and T. Hardy Morris delivers a tour de force with OK Corral. You can’t help it as you’re dragged in to the drowsy chorus and it’s tangible sense of sorrow. It’s also another song from this year with a great opening line, “Swear me in / I’m pretty good at making promises“…(CP)

The sound of a ghost town set to song. (MM)

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3 Foxygen – No Destruction
It’s the lazy, laconic drawl and the finger-clicking rhythm – just one hand if you’re me, as the other doesn’t seem to work – and the way you can sing along to ‘No destruct-shaan’ quite happily, even in modest company. (Mrs M)

This was pretty much nailed on. With the opening line of “I’m sending you this photograph / Of me in my new car“, I had already signed up on the Foxygen dotted line and was awaiting further instruction. A subversive laid back and slightly peculiar song. Kept me thinking all year, as I never knew where I really had it. (CP)

We may have lost Lou Reed this year, but his spirit lives on in No Destruction, a natural pretender to his throne, and this song has the best use of “weaseled” in any song we’ve heard. (MM)

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2 Low – Plastic Cup
I haven’t met anyone who didn’t like this song after the very first listen. I think Low may have cracked it. There’s a dreamy kind of stillness to it and a perfect example of the genius of simplicity. It never tries too hard because it doesn’t need to. (CP)

One of those few songs that feels like it could have been written any time in the past 40 years. Timeless is over-used, but this really is that good. (MM)

From the first listen this song has been a real contender. Lyrically a tour de force, witty, poignant, accompanied by some beautiful harmonies and a vast yet warm soundscape. I love the song’s theme of having to piss into a plastic cup then it being dug up In a thousand years and heralded as the cup the king drank from every night. It is the kind of faux pas that wouldn’t look out of place in a Python sketch. A truly wondrous piece of work that has welded itself to my brain and is having a sit-in. (Dr R)

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1 PHOSPHORESCENT – SONG FOR ZULA
Matthew Houck
Matthew Houck’s ragged voice was not always to my taste. But time has altered us both and it’s his strong yet fragile vocals that stitch together Zula’s imagery, which cuts far and deep. Intensely poignant lyrics, sweeping strings, pulsing drum machine: it all weaves together to form an emotional testament to the end of a relationship. Ever had your heart broken? This is what it feels like. (Mrs M) 

In a recent interview Matthew Houck talked about Song For Zula and how he felt he had achieved something with the song that he thought was beyond his ability. An almost unconscious level of quality he hadn’t perceived was there. I know exactly what he means… apart from never having achieved anything to my ability or beyond it. But I can imagine, so I won’t let it hold me back. Just the best song I’ve heard in ages. (CP)

What an epic tune this is with its fine strings and heartbreaking lyrics to match. A timeless classic. (PP)

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Check out the rest of our top 100 here: 100 – 76, 75 – 51, 50 – 26.

Videos of the Day: Phosphorescent || Love Inks || Kevin Devine || David Bronson

Videos of the Day

Videos today from the wonderful Phosphorescent with Matthew Houck covering Vampire Weekend’s Ya Hey. We have Austin trio Love Inks and the succinct indie-pop melodies of Time, the video for the excellent title track from singer-songwriter Kevin Devine’s album Bubblegum, and lastly the elegant sound of David Bronson and his video for the reflective Incompetent Assassin.

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Phosphorescent Releasing Deluxe Version of Muchacho

Phosphorescent at St. Pancras Church by Darius Van Arman

Phosphorescent at St. Pancras Church by Darius Van Arman

Muchacho De Lujo is the deluxe edition of Phosphorescent’s outstanding 2013 album.

De Lujo, out on October 29th on digital and CD formats, features bonus material from an intimate pre-release live show recorded at St. Pancras Church in London. The set, performed with Matthew Houck on guitar and Jo Schornikow on piano, features Muchacho’s Song for Zula, Pride’s Wolves, and a cover of Waylon Jennings’ Storms Never Last.

Full track listing of the bonus disc:

Muchacho’s Tune (Live at St. Pancras Church)
A New Anhedonia (Live at St. Pancras Church)
Song For Zula (Live at St. Pancras Church)
A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise (Live at St.Pancras Church)
We’ll Be Here Soon (Live at St. Pancras Church)
My Dove, My Lamb (Live at St. Pancras Church)
Terror In The Canyons (The Wounded Master) (Live at St. Pancras Church)
Storms Never Last (Live at St. Pancras Church)
Down To Go (Live at St. Pancras Church)
Wolves (Live at St. Pancras Church)
Mrs. Juliette Low (Live at St. Pancras Church)
Los Angeles (Live at St. Pancras Church)

The Twenty Best Things We Heard, Saw, And Discovered At The Green Man Festival

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Our first visit to the brilliant Green Man Festival. Here are the twenty best things we heard, saw and discovered over the weekend.

1. The Parquet Courts live up to the hype
Like the Ramones on speed, the four-piece transcended all the hype with the set of the weekend – a thrilling, occasionally ramshackle, breakneck excursion into punk, slacker pop and moshpit heaven, and in Stoned and Starving they have a ready made classic for years to come.

2. Dancing Bears at British Sea Power
An epic, brooding, cinematic set brought to a stunning, and appropriately eccentric climax as, during Carrion, two seven foot Grizzly Bears appear amongst the audience  to dance, grapple and lead an impromptu conga.

3. John Cale and Roy Harper still cut the mustard
They may be advanced in years, but both the old boys demonstrated just why the main stage was still the perfect stage for them. First up an amiable Harper showed just why he is a primary influence on so many of today’s folk stars from the Fleet Foxes to Joanna Newsom, finishing his set of pastoral, freak tinged folk with the classic, and beautifully poignant When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease. Then Cale, dressed in a fetching pink suit jacket and tie with denim shorts reeled through a set that built to a fabulous pulsating climax with Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend, Nookie Wood, Satellite Walk, and a stunning version of Jonathan Richman’s Pablo Picasso.

Mikal Cronin 14. Cover versions aplenty
Cover versions abounded everywhere at Green Man. As well as Cale’s brilliant Pablo Picasso, we had Roy Harper doing Dylan’s Girl From The North CountryNeil Young covers from Low (Down By The River) and Band of Horses tearing through Powderfinger, Fanfarlo covering Orange Juice’s Rip It Up, and Mikal Cronin delivering a superb Whole Wide World, but perhaps best of all was Mo Kenney’s melancholic, acoustic take on Bowie’s Five Years – simply mesmerising.

5. Grass House are destined for big things
We’ve loved Grass House for a long time and our first chance to see them live is everything we hoped for. Outsider pop it may be, but the effortless way the band mix dusty, western twang with sinister gothic noir and use them both to weave mournfully surrealistic tales means the crowd is soon gripped. And in the hypnotic and transfixing Spinning As We Turn, the gothic blues of And Now For The Wild and the tense, sinewy I Was A Streetlight they have three singles that should be the envy of just about every other up and coming band out there.

6. James Yorkston’s Dad sings along
A wonderful set by James Yorkston and band is capped by his Dad shyly joining them on stage for a full tent a capella sing-a-long of the Ivor Cutler classic Hold The Barrel Steady.

7. Arbouretum get heavy
Sometimes you just need long hair, cool as fuck riffs, guitar shredding and fantasy led lyrics. Arbouretum were all that and more and in False Spring provided the best air-guitar moment of the weekend.

8. Public Service Broadcasting get funky
Brilliant use of humour, sound samples, computer conversations with the audience, guitar riffs, banjo and persuasive percussion meant Public Service Broadcasting managed to get the entire walled garden crowd on their feet and dancing within two songs. Whether it was a self-conscious shuffle or a full on funky freakout, resistance to tracks like Signal 30, The Now Generation and London Can Take It, proved utterly futile.

9. Barry-Sean is a Whooper
We didn’t know it before, but gradually over the three days we started hearing a few whoops and hollers from Barry-Sean. Sure he started quietly, with a couple of muted efforts for Parquet Courts and then the next day for Grass House and a couple of others, but by the tail end of the festival he was in full voice, hollering like Foghorn Leghorn for Darren Hayman, Public Service Broadcasting and British Sea Power

10. Sam Amidon’s surreal banter
Amidst a lovely set of muder ballads, love songs and a capella gospel tunes, Sam Amidon entertained royally with some surreal between-song banter, none more so than the tale of the messages he receives from Kirsten Dunst’s eyes during her films.

Green Man Main Stage11. The Green Man Stages…
Really are sublime. The Mountain stage nestles at the base of (you’ve guessed it) a mountain, the walled garden stage is simply perfect, the courtyard a delight, the hills, the steps, the views, and this year even the weather meant it was everything we hoped it would be, but expected it wouldn’t.

12. Low really are a classic band
In the press tent one desperate-to-impress young thing opined that despite the new songs not being very good, Low were still a classic band. “Really“, asked another scribe, “do you know the new songs?“, the young thing confessed he didn’t and gently, but firmly, the scribe pointed out you can’t know how good the new songs are if you don’t know them at all. Touché.

And anyway, while the set did contain bonafide classics in Monkey, Over The Ocean and Murderer, at least one of those ‘new songs”, Plastic Cup is destined for the same status.

13. Boutique camping…at our age – hell yes!
Confession time. Barry-Sean paid extra for our four man tent, already put up and waiting for us in the Tangerine field. No more cramped, and crap, single skin pop-up tents that leak and then refuse to return into the carrier you brought them in. Our smugness was unbearable when the one serious downpour of the weekend happened about 2am on Saturday night…we woke dry and warm. The most comfortable festival we’ve ever been to.

14. Edwyn Collins ripping it up
As well as Fanfarlo, Edwyn Collins treats everyone to Rip It Up during a brilliant set in the late afternoon sun.

15. The ever growing popularity of Phosphorescent
As the burgeoning crowd testifies, and indeed the number of them singing along enthusiastically to most of the set, Matthew Houck’s Phosphorescent have delivered a true masterpiece with most recent album Muchacho, and stepped up to the big league. As the majestic Song for Zula floats out across the hills beneath the setting sun, it is probably the most perfect way to capture the enchantment and good-natured magic of this lovely festival.

16. Darren Hayman’s King Charles rap
Illustrating why he is a British songwriting treasure, Darren Hayman introduces Henrietta Maria one of the standouts from 2012 historical concept album The Violence with a role-played soliloquy as King Charles that is as good as it is slightly creepy.

17. Midlake and Band of Horses rock out
Two bands joyously grabbing their headline (or near headline) opportunities on the Mountain stage to deliver crowd-pleasing country-rock with a backwoods feel. Muscular as it was tender, and perfectly matched to the atmosphere and setting of the Brecon Beacons.

18. The Allah-Lahs get groovy
Closing the night on the Walled Garden stage, the Allah-Lahs treat us to some seductive, surf-tinged psychedelia that somehow manages to be both laid back and carefree, and melancholic and nostalgic. Perfection.

19. The art of Nick Reed
In the vintage tent were a host of little stalls. In a corner were t-shirts and postcards from Nick Reed, pre-dating the wonderful David Shrigley, his is a brilliantly warped worldview told through the eyes of a scribbled dog and some scalpel sharp observations. T-shirt for teenage son duly purchased.

20. Marika Hackman enchants in the Rough Trade tent
With a crystalline voice like Nico, and lyrics that are as dark as anything we heard all weekend, Marika Hackman enchanted all who were present when she played a short acoustic set in the Rough Trade tent.

And some of our favourite songs…

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New Phosphorescent Video

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.

American Songwriter’s Muse Sampler For May

American Songwriter's Muse Sampler For May

American Songwriter’s latest free Muse sampler is a gem featuring twelve tracks that includes such MM faves as Phosphorescent, Caitlin Rose, Water Liars, Cheyenne Marie Mize and Futurebirds alongside some Americana heavyweights like Son Volt and Will Johnson and the new-wave inspired indie rock of the Features.

Just head over to their Bandcamp page here and download it all for nothing.

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SXSW Day 5: Experiencing One Or Two Technical Difficulties

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The final day of SXSW and I’m on a quest. Phosphorescent play their last show today and I have tried and failed to get into four previous ones already. So it is the long walk away from downtown and up to the San Jose Hotel day party, I arrive hot, bothered and five hours early…but I’m in!

No matter either because Shakey Graves is on and he has been a longtime fave on MM, with an easygoing line in between song banter and exuding good natured bonhomie he sets the day up perfectly with a perfectly judged mix of story songs and folk tales including the wonderful So It Goes. And another band I’d been hoping to catch were up next; The Allah-Lahs had been described as the most laid back band at SXSW and it was easy to see why as they delivered a fantastic set of west-coast inspired 60s rock that outjangled the Byrds at times. A true hippy treat in the Texas sun (“It’s been a long, long journey and I don’t know where I left my mind“), and with Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind) and Long Journey I have two more songs added to my imaginary set-list of the best songs of SXSW.

Next up is Lucius who offer a fizzing blend of indie pop with touches of soul and folk, and plenty of catchy harmonies, before another band on my must-see list Foxygen are due on stage. Except they’re not because they can’t be arsed to show up and so we’re treated to some stand-in Texas blues boogie that consists of a set of covers from Bowie to the Killer Bees and fine though it is, it ain’t what I came to SXSW for…and nor is Lissie who is up next with a set of country rock standards that I can’t recall the moment she and the band have left the stage.

C’est la vie so they say. But finally here is Matthew Houck and Phosphorescent who prove that all good things are worth waiting for with a sublime set opening with Terror In The Canyons from forthcoming album Muchacho, then Pictures Of Our Torn-up Praise, taking in a majestic Song For Zula, and closing with an epic version of Los Angeles.

Satisfied at last I headed back towards downtown, stopping at the gas station for refreshments. Behind me in the queue (or line as I like to say here), a man fell into me and to the floor, I helped him up and was overwhelmed with the smell of sour sweat and alcohol (or liquor as I like to say here). Despite being no more than thirty, he was totalled despite protesting “I’m not intoxicated“. He carried two cans of beer in his hand and two or three crumpled dollars in the other, and mumbled something else at me before saying more clearly “I’m thinking I should move away and start again, tho’ I ‘spect it will be just the same, whaddya think?” Before I could answer (like I’d have a clue) he went on “yeah, I have myself a couple of opportunities, a couple of opportunities if I can sort out one or two technical difficulties.” He looked at me quite lucidly for a long moment and then said “Course those difficulties is I’m a drunk and I don’t got nowhere to live.” As we neared the counter he offered some final words for me, “You know they say the greatest gift is God’s love. You know, loving one another and looking out for ’em and shit. Well I think the greatest gift would be a buck from you so I can buy this beer, whaddya think?

Having stood outside in the sun all day (again) and I decided to finish my evening in as mellow and as relaxed a way as possible, which meant folk music in the splendour of the Austin Central Presbyterian Church, where a number of people had told me the acoustics were fantastic. Taking my seat in the pews seemed a little weird but a solid set of folk tinged with ambient electronic washes from WALL confirmed what I had been told about the acoustics. Next it was a wonderful set of back-porch Americana from the Milk Carton Kids who received a standing ovation for their mix of wry, self deprecating humour and bittersweet songs of perfect pitch and harmony that were somewhere between the Everly Brothers, the Louvin Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel. Memoirs Of A Once Owned Dog will stay with me for a long time to come! You can download two albums for free from their website here.

Freak-folk artist Devendra Banheart, by contrast, seemed a little out of sorts and while he undoubtedly possesses a rare talent, tonight his attention seemed elsewhere and he struggled to get, or keep, any momentum. While his thoughts and emotions clearly lay very close to the surface and this, combined with his fragile voice, is capable of creating something of unique, heartbreaking beauty, it didn’t quite happen this time.

And so to my last show of SXSW, and an acclaimed legend of contemporary singer-songwriters in Iron & Wine who seemed as much at ease and content as Devendra had been anxious and fidgety. He opened with two brand new songs, and although I wasn’t too familiar with his work, the second of these (provisionally titled Lowlife Buddy of Mine), was as good as anything I’d heard all week. He happily took requests from the packed audience and ran through a back catalogue of fabulous songs including Grace For Saints And RamblersJesus The Mexican Boy, Fever Dream, Woman King, the Postal Services’ Such Great Heights and closing with Lion’s Mane.

Fittingly another standing ovation and out I go into the warm night. I negotiated my way back through the frenzy of Sixth Street for a final time: through the shouts and screams, the rap music, the rock music, the punk music, the house music, the man playing a grand piano in the road, the woman dressed as a gargoyle, the hustlers, the arguing, the angry, the buskers, the bouncers, the old, the young, the drunk, the crying and saddest of all, the man desperately handing out posters for his lost dog.

Despite a couple of “technical difficulties” of my own at times, SXSW has been everything I could have hoped and more. Cheers Austin…

First Taste From Phosphorescent’s New Album

Phosphorecent New Album

It is fair to say that along with The Cave Singers, the album we are most looking forward to hearing in the early part of 2013 is Phosphorescent’s Muchacho, due out on the 19th March via Dead Oceans.

Matthew Houck has delivered five albums as Phosphorescent since his 2003 debut. However, it was 2007’s Pride – a delicate and spare, haunted and haunting work of ragged country, bittersweet southern gospel and forlorn folk-ish drone – that really first caused ears to swivel appreciatively in Phosphorescent’s direction. He followed it with To Willie, a tribute to country legend Willie Nelson, then 2010’s Here’s To Taking It Easy, an unapologetically enthusiastic plunge into country rock and rolling Americana. Now, his sixth album flashes yet another colour in the subtly shifting Phosphorescent spectrum.

Muchacho is already described as “an assemblage of underwater hymns redolent of both record’s spare, sometimes psychedelic predecessor, 2007’s Pride”.

You can decide for yourself as the first taste comes with this lyric video for Song For Zula. It unfolds over six minutes showcasing Houck’s distinctive, cracked vocal in a way that makes us more than eager for the 19th March!

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