Letter #20

Good morning / afternoon / evening everyone,

I hope you’ve had a lovely week! This week we have something different.

As I mentioned last week, in an effort to bring new perspectives (and to give you a rest from me pummelling you with Herbie Hancock and disco), we have a few guest editors lined up. So this week, please welcome James Turner ❤️.

Lots more on James below, but HERE’S this week’s playlist.

Side note: if you’d like to write a guest letter, please reply and we can chat.

– 🎼  –

I’ve never done this before, where do I start… Well, I’ve known James for about four years now, and have always been blown away by his musical repertoire. James is one of our oldest crew – he’s been with us since the very first letter – and so handing over the reins for a guest letter feels super natural.

I haven’t listened to his playlist in full yet, but having had a sneaky skip through the list, I’m excited to give it a full listen. I recognise virtually none of the songs, it comes at Love Will Save the Day from a completely different angle than I usually do, and it tells a different story. But it’s wonderful for those very reasons. I think you’re going to love it.

He’s one of us. A proper music geek. You’ll see in his letter below.

James, take it away…

– ✏️  –

I am by no means as worldly in the history of modern music as our dear Jed. This playlist is pretty much what you’d get out of me if you held a gun to my head, and demanded that I tell you what my current ear-worms were. However, Jed didn’t ask me in that fashion. He was far my polite. And unarmed.

Let’s start off as we mean to go on; downtempo-jazz-post-rock vibes of Hidden Orchestra. This track features a slow-building ‘drum-off’ between their two drummers Tim Lane and Jamie Graham, and the skittish, muted trumpet of Phil Cardwell. Then we move on to probably the best-named track in the history of music, Shaolin Monk Motherfunk by Hiatus Kaiyote, which packs in more genres and techniques than a Love Will Save the Day playlist. It’s like a 1,000 piece jigsaw – and every time I listen to it I spot something new to love about it.

A few weeks ago I was listening to one of the letters, and heard a familiar tune; Shuggie Otis’s Rainy Day. I knew I’d heard this before but didn’t investigate any further. Later, I was listening to an ‘earworm’ playlist that I have, and the track Souvenir by Milo came on, and the mystery of Shuggie was resolved.

I’m a big fan of Josh Tillman, or Father John Misty as he’s currently known as. The song True Affection is electronic, rather than his usual folk rock, and deals with some all-too-familiar themes of digital isolation, and Tillman’s own frustration with “trying to woo someone with text message and email and trying to make a connection that way”. This flows into the soothing, shoegaze-tinged sounds of the Duke Spirit. I love the vocals. There’s nothing more to say on that!

Hot Chip’s second album holds a special place for me. It’s one of the few occasions that my musical tastes intersect with those of my wife. It came out after we had first started going out, and I remember calling her whilst she was on tour in Hong Kong (she’s a trombonist – quiet you at the back – I’ve heard all the jokes!). I asked what the view from her hotel room was like. “Can see you spectacular views of the harbour?”, “No” she said. For the last two days, when they hadn’t been rehearsing or performing, my wife and her roommate had just been in their room, with a sock over the smoke alarm, smoking and listening to Hot Chip. I knew right then that she was the girl for me.

One of the first people I worked with in media was the multi-talented Christopher ‘Hoggy’ Hog. Digital expert, comedy writer, playwright, and much more. It turned out that he also had cracking taste in music. He introduced me to TV On The Radio just as their album Dear Science came out. The track The Wrong Way is from their previous effort, and I love it for its thundering bass and the rich baritone sax throughout. The lyrics are also an empowering call to arms for the ongoing civil rights struggles – lyrics that, unfortunately, still resonate today.

Iron and Wine (the collective name for Sam Bean’s musical offerings) are another longstanding favourite of mine. A modern-day cult folk hero, he’s mostly known for his soothing and stripped back songs, but this track (and album), are a step in a different direction. I saw him tour the album at the Round House in London, where he announced as he walked on stage “I thought I’d bring the band with me”. He certainly did that. It’s a song split into two movements; it begins with a groovy bass riff, with blasts of brass and distorted guitars, and then it slows right down and builds to a crescendo of Beam’s soulful refrain of ‘we will become’.

BadBadNotGood are a confirmed Love Will Save the Day favourite. I only heard them for the first time at the end of last year – after their album IV won 6 Music’s album of the year. Many of the tracks from IV have appeared here, so I thought I add in one from their previous effort. Then follows a collaboration between Todd Terje and Bryan Ferry – reason alone to be included in this playlist.

I’m a big Blade Runner fan, and with the recent release of the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, I’ve had Vangelis’s original soundtrack on a lot. It’s such a fine example of how an original score can perfectly link up with the visuals of the film. The dialogue up front on the track Blush Response gives you the essence of the film in 30 seconds.

What better way to follow Vangelis’s stunning soundscape, than with an onslaught of percussive loops? Beginning with Adam Betts’ technically brilliant Monument from his solo debut Colossal Squid, and culminating with the “time-signature and tempo [jiggery] on the crescendo-crazed” Tij, by Battles. Their drummer, John Stainers, is the chap in the cover photo. When asked why he used such a high crash cymbals, he replied: “I didn’t want any cymbals but the hi-hats at first”, then said he’d use one “but I didn’t want it near me because I’d use it too much”. So he set it high so he’d have to work to get to it, “I wanted it to be significant; I use it as a marker. It’s like a master reset button when I go to the cymbal. Plus, it looks cool”. That’s a good enough reason in my book.

Then we go back to the 80’s, in theme and sound. Public Service Broadcast’s latest LP is an uncomfortable look at the mining industry in South Wales (go with me on this one…). The sample is from a 1970’s recruitment ad; “young men are finding…a secure future in Welsh coal today”. Which is particularly pertinent given that a decade later that industry would be decimated by the Thatcher government. My wife’s family are from that region (side note: her Grandma once told a drunk Dylan Thomas to [****] off in a Pembrokeshire pub), and we go back there regularly on holidays with our kids. It’s a beautiful area, but the drive though forgotten industrial towns is heartbreaking – summed up perfectly by the Guardian’s John Harris, here. On a similar note on the songwriting process, Adam Buxton recently interviewed Johnny Marr for his podcast. It was fascinating to hear Marr talk about his creative process, and how some of the most iconic indie tracks came about. He goes into detail about the opening riff of The Headmaster Ritual and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.

Buxton is also the reason for the inclusion of DJ by David Bowie. This playlist could have easily been full of Bowie, but I’ve included DJ because of the story that he told during his BUG show, which was dedicated to Bowie (his hero). Apparently, Bowie sang the opening lines, “I’m home, lost my job”, as an impersonation of Talking Head’s David Byrne, and every time I hear it, it makes me smile.

Carrying on the Bowie theme, we move onto the band that formed the backbone to his last albumBlack Star. Donny McCaslin is an amazing saxophonist and the final half of this track just leaves my jaw on the floor every time I listen to it. More sax favourites of mine, courtesy of the Greg Float Group. Recorded in a church, it begins with bonafide church organ, which eventually gives way to a breathy tenor sax. You can almost hear the spit on the reed. It’s dreamy. Enough to just float away.

Then, I’m bringing the funk back to this list, with the amazing bass prowess of Thundercat. This track also introduced me to Flying Lotus, and Kamasi Washington. People, get on your feet. Then stay on your feet for some jazzed-out percussion from the Beasties Boys instrumental album The In Sound From Way Out!. Here’s the Beasties showing us that they were more than just three skinny white guys who rap.

Thinking It, by Michachu, forms a break from the jazz as we move to a more post- and noise-rock ending to the playlist. I lived with their keyboardist, and vocalist on this track when I first moved up to London. It was a colourful and vibrant(!) first few years of living on my own. Our hallway and kitchen space was pretty much a permanent rehearsal-space-cum-storage-area. The lyrics sum up the vibe perfectly, and its also the flat where I meet my wife. So good times all round!

Adam Betts makes a final return with his band Three Trapped Tigers. You can hear his more reigned in, but still bonkers, percussion underpinning this track. The video is also equally crackers. Unfortunately it was taken down from Youtube (boo), so instead here is the equally bonkers video for their song Reset, featuring Matt Berry.

Two exports from Leicestershire now. Prisms is on the more dancier side of things, rather than 65daysofstatic’s more common guitar and sample-driven post-rock. It’s a track that builds, and builds, (and builds!), but the culmination is far more delicate than their usually much harsher output. Rival Consoles’ (aka Ryan Lee West) Howl, on the other hand, is harsh. It’s spiky, nasty and industrial – and creates a pretty brutal soundscape.

Some respite in the shape of the stripped back jazz of Weightless by Neil Cowley Trio and then hypnotic pulsing Glitter Recession by East India Youth. The Gamelan percussion stylings of Caribou’s Bowels brings us to the final post-rock double act of Fly Pan Am and Do Make Say Think. The former is made up of former members of the godfathers of that genre, Godspeed You! Black Emporer, and are a far more stripped back and, arguably, a more accessible outfit. Do brings this playlist to a close which slowly builds to an apocalyptic crescendo of brass and bass.

I don’t know how Jed does this every week. I started off with around 90 tracks and it was a tall task to narrow it down and try a thread an audible flow throughout. Kudos to you Jed! Happy listening to the rest of you, and as always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

– 📄 –

  1. Hidden Orchestra – Spoken
  2. Hiatus Kaiyote – Shaolin Monk Motherfunk
  3. Milo (feat. Hemlock Ernst) – Souvenir
  4. Father John Misty – True Affection
  5. The Duke Spirit – Blue and Yellow Light
  6. Hot Chip – One Pure Thought
  7. TV On The Radio – The Wrong Way
  8. Iron & Wine – Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me
  9. BadBadNotGood – Hedron
  10. Todd Terje (feat. Bryan Ferry) – Johnny and Mary
  11. Tangelos – Blush Response
  12. Saxon Shore – Amber, Ember, Glow
  13. Adam Betts – Monument
  14. Battles – Tij
  15. Public Service Broadcasting – People Will Always Need Coal
  16. The Smiths – The Headmaster Ritual
  17. David Bowie – DJ
  18. Donny McCaslin – Beyond Now
  19. The Greg Foat Group – The Dancers at the End of Time
  20. Thundercat (feat Flying Lotus, Kasmasi Washington) – Them Changes
  21. Beastie Boys – Son Of Neckbone
  22. Micachu & The Shapes – Thinking It
  23. Three Trapped Tigers – 6
  24. 65daysofstatic – Prisms
  25. Rival Consoles – Howl
  26. Neil Cowley Trio – Weightless
  27. East India Youth – Glitter Recession
  28. Caribou – Bowls
  29. Fly Pan AM – L’espace au sol est redessiné par d’immenses panneaux bleus…
  30. Do Make Say Think – Do

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

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