[Mixtape]: Every Time The Sun Comes Up

“The mountains and the canyons start to tremble and shake / The children of the sun begin to awake”

A long hot summer is officially underway and nothing goes better with good weather than sultry jams playing through the long days and warm nights. I’ve kept this mixtape pretty current with choice cuts from the last year, but there are a few oldies in there too which are celebrating birthdays this year. Whether you’re on the move to sunnier climes, or simply lazing with no particular place to go, this mixtape will see you right wherever this summer takes you. Set off, plug in and enjoy.

Tracklist:
1.
 ‘Song For Zula’ – Phosphorescent – Muchacho
2. ‘Paris’ – Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband
3. ‘Red Eyes’ – The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream
4. ‘Fever’ – The Black Keys – Turn Blue
5. ‘Magnolia’ – Lee Fields & The Expressions – Emma Jean
6. ‘You’ve Got Nothing To Lose’ – Michael Kiwanuka – You’ve Got Nothing To Lose [Single]
7. ‘Going To California′ – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
8. ‘The Sing’ – Bill Callahan – Dream River
9. ‘Last Goodbye’ – Jeff Buckley – Grace
10. ‘Love Is To Die’ – Warpaint – Warpaint
11. ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’ – Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

Got any summer mixes of your own? Link them in the comments, I’d love to hear them.

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[From The Cutting Room Floor]: The National, Led Zeppelin & Michael Kiwanuka

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Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘Blank Slate’ – The National
Appearing on 2008’s The Virginia EP, a collection of extra material and live cuts from the Boxer recording period, this song actually began life some three years earlier as a B-side to Abel called Keep It Upstairs‘. While ‘Keep It Upstairs’ owed it’s slightly anaemic and meandering sound to the heightened introspection of its parent album Alligator, ‘Blank Slate’ rumbles headlong with the wiry tautness of Boxer‘s ‘Apartment Story’ or ‘Mistaken For Strangers’. Soaring and fuzz-laden, this could be one of The National’s few unabashed anthems.

‘White Summer / Black Mountainside’ – Led Zeppelin
Fuelled by their own creativity and momentum in pioneering hard-hitting blues-rock, the band were on a prolific high in their early period and their live shows quickly gained a reputation for their intensity. Recorded at a 1969 show in London between the release of Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II, this arresting guitar instrumental signposts Jimmy Page’s emergence as a striding guitar hero. Flying solo with occasional help from John Bonham to up the drama, over eight searing minutes Page fuses Arabic scale influences with a rather untraditional, vamped up take on the traditional Irish folk song ‘Down by Black Waterside’ (although Page’s version actually owe’s a lot to Bert Jansch’s arrangement).

‘I Need You By My Side’ – Michael Kiwanuka
A perfect song to greet Sunday morning, this track from the I’m Getting Ready EP sees Michael Kiwanuka donning his musing-folky cap. When this EP and the Tell Me A Tale/Isle Of Wight Sessions EP landed in 2011 they garnered Kiwanuka a lot of attention, and from this song it’s easy to see why. Centred on his economical guitar and moving vocals, with tasteful horn and vocal accompaniments, ‘I Need You By My Side’ evidenced newcomer Kiwanuka’s skill as a soulful and mature songwriter. Above all though, it hits the heart first and the head second.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.

[Artist Spotlight]: Roy Harper

Roy Harper“You’re a girl with horizons, so easy to see, / Atop your high mountain, time is temporary”

Long absent, but never truly gone. Roy Harper has long been one of those stalwart figures in the background of British music, working tirelessly often behind the scenes but imperceptibly influencing anyone who has ever come into contact with him or has heard his work. Having gained praise and tips of the hat from both contemporaries (Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The Who) and subsequent generations of musicians (Jonathan Wilson, Joanna Newsom, Counting Crows), he has naturally gained a mythological status as something of a folk sage. His reclusion from recording after poor experiences with record companies has only fuelled this reputation, but recently he broke the thirteen year silence with Man-Myth, co-produced by present-day folk mythologist Jonathan Wilson. Tonight Harper will play the first of three intimate nights showcasing the new album, accompanied by Wilson and a small string and brass ensemble. If you are going to the Festival Hall in London tonight, I am very envious of you.

For those of us not going though, we must content ourselves with the music. With that in mind I thought I’d draw attention to a gem off Man-Myth which has been coming into my mind during the morning drives past lines of trees shedding their golden leaves, ‘Time is Temporary’. Naturally for someone of his age and reputation Harper’s attention has turned to intense self-reflection, meditating on mortality and the discrepancies between self and perception, reality and expectation. Secluded here amongst delicate cello and banjo lines and buoyed up by a compelling guitar melody, Harper muses on love’s fleeting nature and the passing of time. However, with age comes perspective and rather than vocalising maudlin self-pity, Harper resigns himself, and possibly comes to terms with, the way things truly are. What makes the song truly poignant though is the tension Harper weaves in his poetic lyrics between trying to preserve the ‘perfect moment’ (“I have seen you for days here dipping your toes into the stream, / A vision of purity in an old pre-raphaelite dream”) and accepting that the passing of time is a fact of life (“I’d love you to stay here, but soon you’ll be gone / That’s just the way here in the sun”).

However, as one of Harper’s earliest influences, John Keats, wrote in Endymion, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: / Its loveliness increases; it will never / Pass into nothingness; but still will keep / A bower quiet for us”. All moments are fleeting and temporary, but against the ravages of time we can commit it to memory and commemorate it in art, as Harper does here. The sparse core of guitar and voice, tastefully embellished on occasion by additional instrumentation, is a perfect vehicle for Harper’s reflections and his legendary tenor is like honey, still able to take you away to a place where the breeze gently moves the grass on verdant meadows and where streams babble freely amongst themselves for eternity.

Man-Myth is available now through Bella Union. Harper is on tour this week only, but still posts infrequently on his blog. Check it out, it’s good stuff.

[Cover Me]: The Gaslight Anthem, Michael Kiwanuka & Sachal Studios Orchestra

The Gaslight Anthem – Changing of the Guards (Originally by Bob Dylan)

The Gaslight Anthem are a band I have been following since I first started listening to them a few years ago. In that time they have gone from strength to strength, incorporating varying elements of punk, soul and rock and roll into a uniquely recognisable style all of their own. The lads have announced that they’ve finished recording their fourth studio album, Handwritten, which is estimated to be released in the summer. If, like me, you can hardly wait for the album’s release then hopefully this gem of a track will help tide you over until then. I hadn’t heard this Dylan track from 1978’s Street Legal before, but the lyrics are prophetically striking and almost Yeats-ian. However, I find the original somewhat pales in comparison to this raw and blood racing rendition. As ever Brian Fallon’s delivery is impeccable, moving between red-eyed rage and broken vulnerability as the situation calls for. Meanwhile the cutting lead guitar, cascading drums and thundering bass show the rest of the band are on sterling form as they race along, helter-skelter style, through Dylan’s apocalyptic track.

Watch this space for a review of Handwritten come summer time!

Michael Kiwanuka – Whole Lotta Love (Originally by Led Zeppelin)

It’s about time we had another Zeppelin track in this feature, and this time BBC’s elected Sound of 2012, Michael Kiwanuka, steps up to the plate.You’d be forgiven for not recognising the song at first, until the familiar bass line emerges out of a haze of swirling sitar instrumentation. After this the rest of the track falls into place, with organ, slide guitar and drums enthralling the listener. I never thought I’d hear a cover of the proto-blues/punk classic that features a sitar, but it makes sense here, especially in the cavernous breakdown after the second chorus. Meanwhile, Michael’s soul-searching voice remains cool and restrained, making sure not to fall into the pitfall of imitating Robert Plant’s inimitable, primal vocals. Though the band follow the original’s blueprint fairly closely, they manage to make their individual mark on it.

Stay tuned for a review of Michael’s debut album Home Again later this week.

Sachal Studio Orchestra – Take Five (Originally by Dave Brubeck Quartet)

While we’re on the sitar tip, let’s take things into exotic jazz territory. ‘Take Five’ is probably one of the most instantly recognisable jazz riffs, if not THE most recognisable jazz riff, and it was while looking up George Benson’s equally impressive cover that I came across this interpretation. By using traditional Indian and Pakistani instruments the Sachal Studio Orchestra manage to make Dave Brubeck Quartet’s jazz masterpiece sound simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. The saxophone riff is transposed onto sitar and violin, while the essential timekeeping duties are given over to tablas. It really works and manages to breathe new life into a classic which has been covered to the point of possibly losing its original spark and colour. Stunning.

[Cover Me]: Jeff Buckley and Otis Heat

‘When The Levee Breaks’ – Jeff Buckley (Originally by Led Zeppelin / Memphis Minnie)

I’ve been on a Led Zeppelin kick of late (well, since yesterday in all truthfulness) which has inspired me to upload this rare bootlegged cover of probably my favourite Led Zeppelin song. Jeff Buckley is one of the few musicians who I find truly inspiring; musically he was a visionary with many arrows to his bow. Jeff was a big fan of Led Zeppelin and his take on their reeling, apocalyptic jig is pretty close to the original (which itself was a reworking of a Memphis Minnie tune), but as always Jeff gives a weighty heartfelt rendition and drummer Matt Johnson does a fine job of channelling John Bonham’s meaty drumming.

‘Que Sera Sera’ – Otis Heat (Originally performed by Doris Day, from the film ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’, 1956)

Probably a song you heard your Mum sing in your childhood, Doris Day’s advisory sing-a-long is a lighthearted and jaunty affair. Three piece Portland, OR band Otis Heat, who claim to get their name from the mysterious driver who pulled them from the wreckage of a near fatal car crash, give the Day classic a dream poppy makeover with looped guitar harmonics, Sean O’Neill’s energetically high vocals and dramatic drums. Definitely a band to watch out for in future methinks.

If you want some more awesome Otis Heat lovin’, get a free download of their bluesy cover of swing classic ‘Is You Is, or Is You Ain’t My Baby?’ from their recent album ‘Yoon’ from their website.