Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Earlier this week, I was working on finally creating a cover for a compilation that I made last year, so I could give a copy of it to Sean's mother as she's been asking me for some music for some time. The compilation was originally inspired by the compilation created by St Etienne's Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs for the series The Trip a couple of years ago. I wanted the compilation to feature some St Etienne-like artists (Peach, Mono, Technique, Mulu), together with some French, British and American sixties pop and some more modern tracks. The result (see cover below) turned out to be rather very nice if I may say so myself. I played it a few times in the office, where it was very well received, and it usually surfaces on summer evenings. I renamed the compilation MetroPop to highlight not only the French slant on some of these tracks, but also the fact that despite being rather chilled, almost all these tracks have, in my opinion, something of an urban feel.

VARIOUS ARTISTS: MetroPop: Paris - London - New York Vol. 1 & 2

Click on the image to enlarge

While I was working on the cover, I found another half-finished compilation in my iTunes playlists, and promptly decided to finish it and create a cover so I could also give this one to Sean's mum. The track listing reads as follow:

01. Gene Clark: Strength Of Strings
02. Lou Rawls: Dead End Streets (Parts 1 & 2)
03. Magnétophone: A Sad Ha Ha (Circled My Demise)
04. John Martyn & Beverley Martyn: Primrose Hill
05. Gorillaz: Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey's Head
06. Merz: Warm Cigarette Room
07. Al Stewart: Year Of The Cat
08. El Perro Del Mar: God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)
09. Devendra Banhart: Heard Somebody Say
10. Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra: Some Velvet Morning
11. Scott Walker: Do I Love You
12. Vetiver: You May Be Blue
13. Broadcast: Still Feels Like Tears
14. Joanna Newsom: This Side Of The Blue
15. Susanna & The Magical Orchestra: Time
16. Julie Covington: My Silks And Fine Array
17. Vashti Bunyan: Diamond Day
18. Jose González: Hearbeats

Cover and history below.

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Some Velvet Morning (Soundtrack For An Autumn)

Gene Clark: Strength Of Strings
I first encountered this song on This Mortal Coil's Filigree & Shadow album. It was then sung by Dominic Appleton, who incidentally is Woody's neighbour and friend (is there anyone in the world worth knowing he doesn't know?). I fell for the haunting mood of the TMC track when I first heard it, and was pleased to find that it was also so much part of the 1974 original.

Lou Rawls: Dead End Street (Parts 1 & 2)
I first heard this song on a David Axelrod compilation (Anthology Vol. 2) and instantly loved its raw groove and emotional scope. It just fitted here like a glove.

Magnétophone: A Sad Ha Ha (Circled My Demise)
The second album from Birmingham's Magnétophone certainly widened the scope of the band's work, and this rather haunting track, with vocals from King Creosote, hinted at early 4AD, especially This Mortal Coil. I saw the band perform this particular song, with King Creosote, live at the Luminaire for the label's 25th anniversary, and it was probably even more haunting then.

John Martyn & Beverley Martin: Primrose Hill
I'd never heard of John Martyn prior to hearing St Etienne's The Trip. The song featured on this album, Auntie Aviator (which also now features on MetroPop) was just so perfect in every way that I had to find out more about the album it originated from. Once I'd put my hand on Road To Ruin (Island, 1970), I realised that this little gem was in good company. The album was, according to All, recorded in August 1970, the month I was born.

Gorillaz: Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey's Head
The track that started this compilation. It originally went a bit unnoticed when I first listened to Demon Days, but its story, told by American actor and film-maker Dennis Hopper, caught my imagination one evening, and it rapidly became one of my favourite tracks on the album. I especially love the last (very folky) verse, sung by Damon Albarn: "O little town in U.S.A, your time has come to see / There's nothing you believe you want / But where were you when it all came down on me? /Did you call me now?".

Merz: Warm Cigarette Room
I was sent a promo copy of Merz's second album but, although I liked the album, I couldn't really see it fit in on themilkfactory. In hindsight, it probably would have been well at home there. This song in particular got me, and it reminded me of some of the early tracks by Dutch band Nits, which remains unfortunately totally unknown here in the UK.

Al Stewart: The Year Of The Cat
I owe the pleasure of knowing this track to Woody, who played it one day in the office a couple of years ago. Andrew was very vocal about why he hated this song, yet, I just love its gentle mood and great melody.

El Perro Del Mar: God Knows (You Gotta Give To Get)
I found the self-titled album from Norwegian songstress Sarah Assbring in the last product sale I went to before leaving Virgin. I got it because it was released on Memphis Industries, and I fell in love with its sixties pop atmosphere. This is quite a strange little pop song, and a wonderful little gem.

Devendra Banhart: Heard Somebody Say
One of my favourite tracks from his third album proper, Cripple Crow, this is one of his most produced songs, yet it is as intimate and beautiful as anything he has done.

Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra: Some Velvet Morning
The song originally selected for this compilation was Summer Wine, yet, when I was searching for a half-decent title for it, Some Velvet Morning came to mind and seemed to fit the bill rather well. I just couldn't name the compilation and not use the song. This is actually the first song by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra I ever heard, not that long ago, on some compilation. I was fascinated by the dense atmosphere of the piece and its dark tones, unusual for a pop song. Hazlewood's deep golden voice does much to give the song its intense coloration, but Sinatra's almost ethereal response is even more haunting.

Scott Walker: Do I Love You
A bit of a lighter moment here, with something of a romantic song from Walker the Great. I remember hearing this song for the first time some years ago on my way to Hélène and Laurent's wedding. I'd rented a car for the weekend, and I was driving along on a country lane after picking up the car from Charles De Gaulle airport, listening to the promo tape of a Scott Walker compilation that I'd picked up at work. This song came on, and I just fell in love with the melody.

Vetiver: You May Be Blue
Andrew first told me about Vetiver when I discovered Devendra Banhart, and as it also came with Nigel's seal of approval, I promptly got the band's first album. This track is taken from their second album. Pitchfork said of the song that "[it] recalls vintage Fleetwood Mac at their slinky best" and it has also been compared to the Grateful Dead's American Beauty, none of which, I must confess, I know much about. Still, this is one of my favourite tracks on To Find Me Gone and it fitted perfectly here.

Broadcast: Still Feels Like Tears
What can I say about Broadcast that I haven't said before? I can listen to their albums and EPs a thousand times, and it will always feel a little bit like the first time. This track, taken from the Pendulum EP, is typical of their work.

Joanna Newsom: This Side Of The Blue
I was recommended to listen to Joanna Newsom after falling in love with the two albums by Antony & The Johnsons. Soon I was searching on the web for some sound samples, and the first thing I cam across was a live video on the BBC Experimental site. At first, her voice grated so much on me that I didn't know whether I should laugh, cry or run away, yet, something was dragging me back. I downloaded her debut album and realised how wonderful and unique her work was... this song, which was recently featured in an ad for a mobile phone company, is perhaps the most accessible on the album. Here, it is just perfect.

Susanna & The Magical Orchestra: Time
This wonderful song is taken from the debut album of Norwegian duo formed by Susanna Wallumrød and Morten Qvenild, List Of Lights And Buoys, and reflects the mood of the whole album. This piece is delicate and touching, and I find there is something deeply exhilarating in the chorus. It is also, with the band's cover of Dolly Parton's Jolene, my favourite track on the album.

Julie Covington: My Silks And Fine Array
Another song first heard on a compilation, once again from St Etienne's The Trip. I just love everything about it. Unfortunately, the album it is featured on (The Beautiful Changes) doesn't appear to currently be available. Good job Soulseek came up trump!

Vashti Bunyan: Diamond Day
Legendary song from the legendary debut (and until recently sole) album of legendary folk singer. 'nuff said.

Jose Gonzales: Heartbeats
The track used on "that' famous ad. The original by Swedish popsters The Knife, dripping in phat electro sounds, was brillant, but Gonzales made it his own by giving it light folk textures and breathy atmosphere. What better way to end.

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