Archive for the ‘Low-Fi’ Category

Summer Fades


Smoke Fairies – Summer Fades

Rarely has a song I’ve used on shotwithsound better fitted my mood than this one does, so I’m glad to be able to post it here to share with you. The tune is an incredibly delicate, nostalgic song lamenting the the fact that there is nothing to look forward to… All a bit heavy eh, and the song’s about the end of a relationship, which doesn’t have anything to do with my current state of mind at all, but who doesn’t get to the end of summer and feel a bit down?

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Islands

The XX – Islands (Live)

There’s not much more to say about the XX that’s not been written, blogged or delicately whispered over electro beats, so I’ll keep this short! As you will inevitably know, in an eminently sensible and thus utterly unpredictable decision, the Mercury Music Prize judges awarded the now trio with album of the year earlier this week.
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Glasvegas – Be My Baby

Glasvegas – Be My Baby

After posting about Wavves on Sunday, I listened again to their album King of the Beach, and then yesterday morning, on the way to work, listened to Best Coast’s Crazy For You, coming to the conclusion that both owed a debt not only to late-sixties surf rock, early-seventies soul and late-eighties scuzz rock but also to a group of pasty-faced, leather-jacketed social-worker lauding Glasweigans… Yes that’s right, the appropriately named Glasvegas.
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Wavves – Idiot

So as to prove my intentions are sound in redefining the way shotwithsound works, going, as I explained here, from being a blog that fits music with my photography, as it was for a year, to being a blog about music, with some of my photos, the day after making the promise I’ll post more often, and hopefully more interestingly this way, here’s a post about my favourite new album. Posts used to be weekly here…
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Sun It Rises


Fleet Foxes – Sun It Rises

There are two types of people in the world: those who think that sunrises or sunsets in landscape photos are an hideous, lazy cliches to be avoided like the plague… And those who are right. Most people realise that the light is at its best at the start and end of the day, so that’s by default the best time of day to be taking photos – so most landscapes features dawns and dusks.

Most of mine do in any case, so I’ll defend the cliche if needs be, ideally with the use of a half decent image to do so. The problem is, it’s all well and good taking sunset and sunrise photos in the middle of winter when the sun seems to rise at about 10am and set at around midday, but the sky tends to be a flat unremitting grey or it’s pissing down at that time of year. Whereas, in the two weeks or so of good weather we get year, the sunrises at about five am – not the ideal time of day for anyone to be up and about, especially when you’ve got to build in time to take the shot too.

It happened that a fortnight ago, I spent the night alone in a beach hut staying on the Sandbank at Mudeford Quay, and had the luck of great weather, combined with the opportunity of being able to crawl out of bed at 4am, set up a series of photos, then ninety minutes later slink back off to bed, as God intended. The above is one of the fruits of that session, a slightly over-exposed, long shutter speed shot across the Solent towards the Isle Of White, making the channel look like a snow covered field as the pink orb of the sun barely crests the horizon.

I expect I will use several other images captured that morning in the coming weeks as I am really pleased with some of the shots I managed (what’s that you say, Yeasayer have a track called Sunrise?).

But first to Fleet Foxes, and the opener from their beautiful pseudonymous debut album, Sun It Rises. Like much of the album that succeeds it, the tune is a pastoral, folky number, ideal for coffee shops and dinner parties, but no less lovely for it.

Regular readers will realise… That I like alliteration. And also that I like the new folky sounds popularised by the likes of Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, and the Low Anthem, and despite using music from many of their contemporaries, have not yet featured Fleet Foxes. Strangely, they were very nearly the first track I put on here (I decided on Happiness instead), but since then I’ve never got around to using them.

So after a delay caused by monumental success, touring commitments and side projects, they a expected to release new music this year, so I thought I’d jump in and use this now, before it’s superseded – not that that really stops me posting things to be honest.

You can buy the album Fleet Foxes from Amazon here, or download it from Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Tornado (Acoustic)

Jonsi – Tornado (Acoustic)

If you’ve been waiting patiently and hitting refresh every five minutes for the past month, you’ll know that updates have been very few and far between during the month of April for shotwithsound, and if you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that the reason for that was a long holiday, made even longer by being stranded follow ashmagedon, or Iceland’s Revenge as it’s otherwise known. So what better way to celebrate my return to the UK, and shotwithsound’s return to providing shots with sounds, than a track from one of Iceland’s most famous exports?

So it’s a useful coincidence that Sigur Ros’ lead singer Jonsi put out his first solo album, Go, in the first week I was away, which swiftly became the soundtrack to my holiday, not least the days spent in the amazing Halong Bay, pictured above.

There is something of the dawn about Jonsi’s voice in the best moments of Sigur Ros’ music, and also something primeval and elemental, as there is in Go. It’s this natural element to his voice, and the music that often accompanies it, that made me choose one of the most natural – in the sense of being untouched by man – photos I’ve ever taken to go with the song.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to sort and categorise all the photos I took in my moth long trip (over 4,500 believe it or not), so I am sure more of them will appear on here in the coming months. In fact, to have any chance of hitting my very loose target of four posts a month, I’ll have to do more pretty quickly!

You can by Go from Amazon here, or do what I did and download Go from Jónsi - Go You might even be able to do in one of Hanoi’s Highland Coffees like I did too, if so, well done, wish I was there.

Rollerskating

Bright Eyes – Rollerskating

Anyone reading the About page on here will realise that the aim of this isn’t to be relevant, hell, anyone reading shotwithsound will probably know that, so it’s no surprise that in eight months of running, I’ve never featured a song the day it was released on here.

Usually, I don’t have the time, or the clarity and speed of thought, still less creativity, to produce an accompanying image for a new track to try and beat the big popular indie blog boys to the latest from Pheonix, Yeasayer and Beach House, but today, I’m making an exception.

It’s not everyday you get a new Bright Eyes track these days (gone are the days of two whole albums on one day), because while Conor Oberst may have the time to stick out three albums in 18 months, he hasn’t put out new material under his Art Garfunkle inspired psuedonym for three years.

So news that a re-issue of 2004′s split EP with Saddle Creek label mates Neva Dinova, One Jug Of Wine, Two Vessels, would feature two new tracks from each band, expanding the EP to an LP as anyone who can count will tell you, was greeted pretty fondly by fans, not least round here.

As I said last time I featured Bright Eyes on here, Conor is nothing if not prodigious, and nothing if not precocious, so the very fact that new material from his main band is a surprise shows his focus has been on other areas. Here’s to hoping that the two new tracks are precursors to a touted final Bright Eyes album.

The photo above was taken with my new 50mm 1.8 prime lens (which you’ll be seeing more of on here), and is a pretty cheap visual link to the song, using @k4tys‘s roller skates for a still life subject…

Usually I make tracks on here available for download, but as this is so new and as there are only three other new songs on the release, it feels like I’d be really ripping off the artists if I did, so this is streaming only for now.

You can buy the now full length One Jug Of Wine, Two Vessels from Amazon here, or if like me you already own six of the ten tracks, you can complete your collection from Bright Eyes & Neva Dinova - One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels

Blood Red Moon

The XX – Blood Red Moon (Demo)

After featuring The XX high in my best of 2010 list (like every other music blogger and two bit hack), I’ve been trying to work out one of their songs to use on here for a fair while now with no luck so far.

The problem was a combination of me thinking too literally and forgetting the raisin d’etre of shotwithsound, and them writing songs that no matter how amazing they sound, are basically the musings of mooning adolescents. I was focussing too much about the lyrics (which are often sub-Twilight, although that’s not always a problem round here!) when I should have remembered that SWS is about the music – how or makes me feel, where it takes me, the mood it creates for me.

As soon as I moved away from the literal to the metaphysical (and you thought this blog could get no more pretentious?!) I worked out that what listening to XX reminds me of is late nights and dark streets, whispering greetings and flickering streetlights. And London. They remind me of London despite sounding like the perfectly chiseled love children of Serge Gainsbourg, Air, Edith Piaf and DJ Mehdi (a four way love child, eugh gross – rubbish similie ed)… Well, they sound hip, French and young anyway – but they sound like London nights and flickering lights to me.

Hence the midnight light trails in the shot above – encompassing as it does lights from the A40 and from the Metropolitan line. There is a coldness as well as a coolness in the XX’s music that I hope the image above recreates a little.

I usually do a bit of a biography of the bands I feature on here, but I doubt that anyone is unaware of their backgrounds – that school loads of people more talented than I’ll be went to; Rough Trade deal; album recorded at night in a whisper; sensation – so I shall do no more than that. The demo of Blood Red Moon featured on the b-side of the Basic Space single last summer, and is a simple, short and symptomatic of the songs that featured on the debut, all sirens, synths and smoke soaked low-key vocals.

I figured most of the people reading this will have or have heard their debut album, so I chose to use one of the b-sides to one of their earlier singles on here to keep it interesting, but if you don’t you can buy it from Amazon here or download it from The XX

Soul and Fire



Sebadoh – Soul And Fire

Lou Barlow, Sebadoh main man. Lou Barlow, ex Dinosaur Jr bassist. Lou Barlow, indie god. Lou Barlow, one of the best songwriters of the last twenty years, is coming to London next week (In fact a lot of people I want to see are coming to London next week, untimelyly coinciding with me having absolutely no money to go and see them). He is in the middle of a UK and Europe tour – dates can be found here – on the back of last year’s solo album, Goodnight Unknown.

Although I could probably have found a song from that or his other solo album, Emoh, to accompany the tour news, to be honest, Soul and Fire is one of my favourite nineties songs (or maybe I mean one of my favourite nineties US indie songs, which is perhaps to damn it with faint praise), so despite the slightly tangential nature of link, its here – I never said this blog was going to be relevant did I?

I’m sure anyone reading this probably knows who Sebadoh are/were – part of the holy trinity of early nineties US indie bands along with Guided By Voices and Pavement, the three of them all but invented the indie scene as we know it today – at least in the States, where as far as I can tell indie still means independent. Unlike in the UK where it means the fucking Pigeon Detectives and The Wombats. They released a string of incredible albums, broke up, reformed, made up, toured… and started releasing music again a couple of years ago. It wasn’t the same, but it was nearly as good – and that’s saying something.

Soul and Fire was written on the break up of Barlow’s relationship with his girlfriend, and appeared on 1993′s Bubble and Scrape album – one of the band’s most critically acclaimed releases, which was performed live at Koko last year during one of the Sebadoh reunion tour concerts. Famously, the song brought the couple back together when the ex heard it – I wonder if they’re still together? Even Google doesn’t appear able to tell me. In any case, it’s one of the best breakup songs ever… actually that’s a list I should put together!

The image above was taken in Spain recently, with a half second exposure to make the flames appear to flow around the wood, and a blue filter to pull out the white heat of the flame and stop the highlights clipping. The song, clearly, isn’t about fire so much as the heat of romance, and the pain when it melts away, so perhaps I should have used a photo of the ashes after the fire, instead of the blaze of heat at its heart…

Lou’s website is phenomenally cool – and if you don’t know too much about him, I’d urge a visit.  You can buy the reissue of  Bubble and Scrape on Amazon here and download it from Sebadoh - Bubble and Scrape (Bonus Version) – it has a load of bonus tracks including an acoustic version of Soul and Fire.

The Longest Winter

Pedro The Lion – The Longest Winter

Because it’s still bloody cold, and it snowed yesterday, and because I love this song, and I took loads of snow pictures last weekend, but not because it’s a cheap tabloidesque page filler or I’m a typical weather-obsessed Brit, this post is again about the winter.

Pedro The Lion were an indie band from Washington State, fronted by, and essentially the baby of, David Bazan – one of American indie’s most interesting and enigmatic figures, whose open and intelligent lyrics describe in explicit detail his struggles with his faith, love, politics and alcohol.

Despite being big around the time of the third wave of emo, and writing to my mind the era’s best song in Bad Diary Days (someone needs to call their band that by the way), Pedro rightly avoid being lumped in with the likes Saves The Day, Jimmy Eat World or Dashboard Confessional and really pre-empt artists like Bon Iver, The Low Anthem and even Grizzly Bear’s work.

Drawn from their debut album (1999′s It’s Hard to Find a Friend) The Longest Winter, as well as being apt for this unthawing frozen January, is a cautionary tale about accidently ending up lonely, old and cold with nothing but memories of the love you once knew to keep you company. Cheery. The mood is marginally lightened by the dark wit that cuts across many of Bazan’s lyrics – the narrator laments a life that’s left him ‘in a studio apartment,
with a cat for a wife’ – but generally, like much of the album, it’s as bleak as the title suggests.

Unfortunately, Pedro The Lion split back in 2006, but Bazan himself continues to produce music under his own name – including an album released early last year. He is touring Europe this month and next – you can find the dates at his website here.

The photo above was taken in the countryside north west of London, and I chose it from many many snowy shots because I like the space that is self-evidently created by the whiteness of the snow in the foreground and sky in the distance, isolating the house against the chill of the landscape.

You can buy Its Hard To Find A Friend from Amazon here or download it here: Pedro the Lion - It's Hard to Find a Friend

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shotwithsound

shotwithsound is a blog about the music I love, with occasional forays into my photography, and other things that catch my eye.

You can see more of my photography on my website www.nicstevenson.com.