I'm digging this thing with the lists, I love lists. Since Debbie already covered Dirty Pretty Things and Kings of Leon, just assume that I would have included them in here if she hadn't gotten to them first, probably with a touch of Jackson Browne for me as well actually, and we'll move on to the top 5 songs spinning in heavy rotation on Radio Gracie this past month:
1) The Indelicates - We Hate The Kids (American Demo)
I had the pleasure of seeing this band play Club NME in New York this summer and it was the best show I've seen in years, bar none. There is so much charisma in their live sets that translates just as well into their album work. The whole record is ripe with the sort of cutting rock music that punches those folky hipsters right in the face. Not that I have anything against folky hipsters, I quite like them, but it's so refreshing to come across a record that breaks away from the mold. Where most musicians today seem to be making the move towards a stripped-down acoustic style, The Indelicates pull together a classic, crashing rock sound. They have an extensive and eclectic repertoire of songs that ranges from alternative pennywhistle-pop (Julia, We Don't Live In The 60s) to bubbly, thumping candy-rock (Sixteen) to the track on this list, We Hate The Kids, which is a caustic electric number that points its finger in the face of a generation of "useless children genuflecting". But really, come on, how can you not love a song that contains the line "This gift is an illusion, this isn't hard / Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar."
(MySpace: The Indelicates)
2) Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse - Valerie (Version)
Okay, I admit it: I really like Mark Ronson and it's not just because I might have a thing for pretty boys with accents. I mean, what? I like the treatment that he gives to the songs he works, and it could be merely because I'm especially fond of brass but that's up for debate. Ronson made an appearance on the season premiere of Never Mind The Buzzcocks recently and he cracked that "you just need trumpets". That's a philosophy I can get behind. This is a fabulous cover of The Zutons; the original is entirely different and equally amazing but it's been reinvented here, though I'll say that I'm glad Ronson's cover still has tambourines and handclaps: another of my weaknesses. This is a soaring little number and, personally, I think it's Amy Winehouse at her best. (And can I just say, it was a tough call between Valerie and Ronson's reworking of Just featuring Alex Greenwald, so if I could have a bonus track on this list, Just would be it.)
(MySpace: Mark Ronson)
3) Doctors & Dealers - On The Dancefloor (Lost Friends and Newfound Habits)
The sophomore album from my favourite Swedish songbird won't be out until early 2009 but I've got a demo version of this track from the upcoming release and it's been in heavy rotation on my playlist for months. The mastermind behind this one-woman-band is called Sparrow and she's retaining her accessible low-fi sound while still coming into her own more and more as she develops in the process of writing, recording, playing and producing nearly everything herself. It's a much fuller sound than on her debut, Confessions of a Drunken Mind, though that record's totally worth checking out if you haven't already heard it. On The Dancefloor crashes in with drums and cymbals, the bass thumps on and I'm hooked immediately. Sparrow has a voice to match her name and the lilting vocals gloss over the subject matter with ease, which makes it all the more striking when you stop to listen to the lyrics. Such is the case with most of her songs, which often revolve around substance abuse, the fuckery of relationships and one-night stands, a wild party lifestyle, debauchery and, more recently, murdering your cheating lover (see: He Went Down, also from Lost Friends and Newfound Habits).
(MySpace: Doctors & Dealers)
4) Loudon Wainwright III - Glad To See You've Got Religion (Album I)
One of my most favourite people on the planet ever, Loudon has written plenty of novelty songs and turned out a couple of clever characters (you may know him more recently as the obstetrician from Knocked Up or, before that, as the troubadour from 28 Days) but most of his music digs deep. His later songs are intensely personal tableaux of human dysfunction, especially the breakdown of families and relationships; Loudon once said in an interview that he thinks the everyman is still a hero, that "there's something still heroic about failure" and I'm inclined to agree with him there. One of the things that he's carried through his career is a biting wit: this is a song from his self-titled debut album filled with sarcasm and subdued anger, sardonically congratulating someone else for getting their life in hand while he's still in trouble, "sorry, sick and sad". I like to listen to this song when I'm feeling especially bitter and then I think: hey, I can relate to that too, alright!
(MySpace: Loudon Wainwright III)
5) Julian Velard - Jimmy Dean & Steve McQueen (Jimmy Dean & Steve McQueen)
I remember listening to Julian Velard years ago, back when he was still living in New York (he's since moved to London). This is not quite the Julian Velard that I remember. Velard still has a smooth, powerful croon that I could listen to for hours (and I do) but it's not at all in the same vein as, say, someone like Michael Bublé. Velard is on an entirely different level; this is a jazzy piano-driven track with an organ, bells and brass. It needs to be said: I love songs that have A) a gospel feel and B) a brass band, and this one has both. The song dances around a little social commentary with lines like "The world is getting awful strange, people get their faces rearranged / High cheekbones and a plastic nose but I liked Mike when he was ten years old." but the whole track is essentially a nostalgic love-theme for those days when men like James Dean and Steve McQueen ruled the screen. Velard sings "Let me float away into a sunset fading on a silver screen / Can you show the way?" while the refrain declares, "If I could pick two guys to have on my side, it would be Jimmy Dean and Steve McQueen." Personally, I'd have to throw a little Paul Newman in there, but can you really argue with that?
(MySpace: Julian Velard)
Enjoy, let me know what you think, leave us a comment and tell me what your top five songs of the month have been.