widg‧et /ˈwɪdʒɪt/ [wij-it] -noun: Pointless ramblings from the New Forest. Obviously complete & utter Rubbish. Why must I contibute to all this endless talk about me? My self-indulgent knees, spilling themselves all over the internet. Obviously i am Jon and his hair, I AM HIM!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Peachy Hoop Toss (One)

Gruff Rhys
Released right at the beginning of the year, this album has had a special place in my heart (and pants) for a full twelve months. I've not been exposed to a huge amount of Mr Rhys's band, Super Furry Animals' output, but what I have heard I've loved. They've been placed firmly at the top of my to do list for a long time. But I couldn't resist the cover of this little pink gem when it peered out at me from the shelves of a pre-HMV Fopp; despite the fact that it brings back my childhood, recurring nightmare of the freaky, hairy-yet-bald man in a grey polo neck out of Fingerbobs.

I all evokes a strange kind of nostalgia for a childhood that never was, where Rod, Jane & Freddy were clinically insane and pink hippos had torrid affairs with brown creatures with zips for mouths. Well, okay maybe that childhood did actually exist, but this one has Arthurian archaeologists, penguin carnations, lemon dalmatians and plane hijackers, all together in imperfect harmony.

The title track is all glockenspiels, xylophones, shuffling percussion and jaunty strings. 'Lonesome Words' is a jittery theme from a lost spaghetti western. 'Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru', which I'm told translates as 'Drive Drive Drive', is a perfect, rolling, singalong song, or would be if it wasn't in Welsh, but at least the chorus is easy enough. 'Cycle of Violence' has an insistent, jolly beat with happy sha-la-la's sitting next to the words "aspects of terror", and the comforting notion that "dirty bombs and clean ones look the same if you look closely".

It all comes togther with the epic, quarter of an hour long 'Skylon'. A psychedelic classic, with backwards guitars & flutes, telling the story of a bomb disposal expert and his friends' fight against terrorism, mediocre movies and frivolous magazines. And, as befits the bizarre fairy tale theme; they all lived happily ever after.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Peachy Hoop Toss (Two)

Ah, Christmas is over and I have to wait another eight months for pressies. After much nagging from Boface I have blatedly torn myself away from this year's haul to bring you:

Band of Horses
Cease to Begin
This was a bit of an impulse purchase, just based on a tiny, little review in The Independent & the fact that it has The Moon on the cover. The glowing review mentioned that it was released on the Sub Pop label, which in recent years have produced some superior, happy & crunchy on the outside with a sad & runny centre, morsels of american indie pop, which I like to dub, 'melanjolly' (hands off, NME).

Well, they've done it again. Band of Horses is your new favourite band in the super smashing Sub Pop tradition of The Shins & Rogue Wave, and can now be heard all over late night Radio 1 and 6music. According to my very brief research from the website of lies that is Wikipedia, this is their second album, and bloody brilliant it is too.

It's only once you've listened to it for a few times that you realise the lyrics of the first track (and initial single) 'Is There a Ghost' only contain 14 words, but what perfect words they are. A repeated, but not repetitive chorus over layered guitars, this slow building, exhilarating opener leads into a dreamy 'Ode to LRC' (The website of lies has no information on what LRC stands for). This song, with its soaring refrain of "The World is such a wonderful place" comforted me during the rough times when Katie 'oh dear God' Melua & Eva 'more comebacks than Tupac' Cassidy squatted over the Christmas number one slot with their similarly named, but infinitely less appealing cover of 'What A Wonderful World'.

The lyrics here hit you in your heaving bosom as much as the music. The happy clappy march of 'The General Specific' includes the intriguing thought that "pants have gotta go"; meanwhile amongst the jangling 80s guitars of 'No One's Gonna Love You' comes the line "You are the ever living ghost of what once was" which catches them sounding like a more poetic Stan Lee from the pages of a 1960s Spider-Man comic book.

And on the subject of heaving bosoms, they even find time to throw in a couple of Dolly Parton style country songs into the mix with 'Marry Song' and the fade-to-black finale of 'Window Blues'. A gorgeous end to an exceptional record: "And always in time, I'm never looking over my shoulder, I sing to you, I sing it to you".

Friday, December 21, 2007

Peachy Hoop Toss (Three)

Apologies if this entry appears a tad brief, but a whirlwind week of boozing has decreased my tolerance levels for typing & thinking whilst hungover, and the looming deadline of Christmas is fast approaching. The birthday boy has become a property baron, and so to celebrate he took us to see (and get) Drunk in Public, we fell over (a lot), heckled Monsieur Dan of Donelly and were generally, absent mindedly loud (apparently).


Patrick Wolf
The Magic Position

Although he's been around for a while, with a couple of earlier albums that I haven't got round to listening to yet, though I've been told they were more sombre affairs than this; the first time I heard of Patrick Wolf was on the E4 Musical Yoof Fireside Hour channel, when I was awoken from my dazed slumber by a bright red burst of joyous noise. Looking like something straight out of a kind of warped Children's BBC, from the first crashing bars of 'Overture', Mr Wolf pulls you into his colourful & complex world.

This a brilliantly bold & entrancing record, flitting from upbeat electronica to stripped down ballads with a bit of indie thrown in for good measure, switching back & forth before you have a chance to catch your breath. Like the Crabbman's number 4 choice, Rilo Kiley, there is an eclectic collection of styles on offer here. Possibly too many, as it begins to lose focus in places, streching it's coherance as an album a little too much, before snapping back in the opposite direction. It may not always work, but there's more than enough genius here to overlook a few stylistic stumbles.

Just like the magic roundabout on the cover, a spin of this disc will take you on a very odd & exhilarating rainbow ride.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Peachy Hoop Toss (Four)

Iron & Wine
The Shepherd's Dog

Beef up your blood! So says the bottle of liquid dietary fun that Mr Iron & Wine, Sam Beam, took his stage name from, and from the sounds of it, it's more than just the contents of his veins that have been beefed up. Dragging a couple of "alt.country" rockers, Calexico along from their last collaborative effort, 'In the Reins ep', to augment his band, he has created a record that I can only describe as deliciously meaty, compared to previous efforts.

Iron & Wine were first brought to my attention a couple of years ago by their cover of 'Such Great Heights' on a Postal Service single (which since appeared on the 'Garden State' soundtrack). I was reacquainted with them on my birthday last year, when I found their last 2 albums amongst my haul of pressies. Originally featuring mainly stripped back vocal & guitar, in an American folk stylee, there has been an organic progression to a mature & lush full band sound this time around. The soft whispery voice is still there, but a new found country swagger is apparent on some tracks, especially bluesy workout, 'The Devil Never Sleeps' and the single, 'Boy With a Coin', driven by infectious hand claps and a rolling guitar riff.

It's not all juicy Americana though, a couple of tracks seem to even go so far afield as dub reggae ('Wolves'), or mixing West African rhythms and an Indian sitar strum or two with the usual slide guitar & banjo ('House by the Sea', for example), albeit less obtrusively or Paul Simonesque than my favourite new band, Vampire Weekend.

Lyrically, there are some standout references to America's recent troubles, specifically George Bush with his religious bigotry, and the Iraq war, as in 'Carosel': "Almost home, with an olive branch and a dove, you were beating on a Persian rug, with your bible and your wedding band, both hidden on a TV stand"; or, from 'Innocent Bones: '"There ain’t a penthouse Christian wants the pain of the scab, but they all want the scar." Old Testament characters even get a look in with allusions to Noah being a crackhead and Adam & Eve's son, Abel, a stoner.

Like the object of the song that bears the most resemblance to Iron & Wine of old here, 'Reserection Fern', Mr Beam's band has survived a remarkable change and returned stronger & more vital, but still as warm & reassuringly fuzzy as before. The perfect blend of old & new.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Peachy Hoop Toss (Five)

Oh my arsing cheeks! The NME have finally relented and given a decent album a home at the top of their year end poll (Klaxons), but don't panic most of the rest is business as usual with a reliably shitty entry at number 2 (Arctic 'Shitting' Monkeys). Anyway, let's forget our seasonal grudges, adjust our beehives and gather together for a lovely, billboard time:

The Modern Tribe

Hands off my gold! It's all mine. Yes, good old Celebration can't resist a go on the cowbells or a little bongo fiddling.

When they appeared on my radar last year on the greatest label in the world, 4AD, I was intrigued. Their first album, while very good, seemed a little too empty and spacious in its production, with not enough going on to get your teeth into, more a cold buffet than a banquet. This, however, is a vast improvement.

They have returned with a moody, 80s-tastic delight, relying less on their presumed 'TV on the Radio' & 'Yeah Yeah Yeahs' influences, and really stamping their own unique personality on each & every song. There is lot more variety on show here, with a much fuller sound, but still retaining their odd, offbeat rhythms. Heavy organ can be heard in patches throughout, bringing to mind a rough around the edges 'Arcade Fire', but it gives some much needed welly and brings a sense of coherence to proceedings.

'Wild Cats' breaks out the 'Duran Duran' guitars, with extra brass for good measure; 'Pressure' is a slow bubbling mix of synth, bass & hand claps, culminating in a fitful, restless lullaby. Also, if you go here & get the Simian Mobile Disco remix of 'Hand Off my Gold' for flippin'free, you will discover a mighty fine, aerobic, Kraftwerk-style stomper with shimmering, whirly bits & strange, castrato vocals.

Finale, 'Our Hearts Don't Change' is an erratic mess of drums & cymbal crashes with Katrina Ford's voice, not so much floating over the top, as getting stuck in and having a good rummage around. In fact, the whole record reminds me of a perfect, childhood jumble sale; with the emphasis off rancid socks & moth eaten jumpers, and firmly focused on the hunt for dog-eared comics, footless Star Wars toys & bits of previously unknown space Lego.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Peachy Hoop Toss (Close Calls)

Freshly back from the comedic delights of the last ever (maybe) TWTTIN and the musical high that was the Manics in Bournemouth; it's time to knuckle down and arbitrarily name the best of this year's tasty, aural treats, then put them in a list, in order of my own pointless, personal preference.

Ooh, who could it be? Keep guessing, kids.

Despite sterling efforts from the likes of Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, Klaxons, St Vincent, Lou Rhodes, Kristin Hersh, Tegan & Sara, Blonde Redhead, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Loney Dear & Bloc Party; they find no place in my top 10. For them, there is no room at the inn. They will have to bed down in the stable with the oxen, the lowing cattle and the screaming baby with the glowing head. Begging for scraps of gold, frankincense & myrrh from the unspecified number of wise men. But let us leave them there, and fly back to the point, with the aid of an anthropomorphic pile of frozen water and an ageing, Welsh choirboy; for the countdown is about to begin:

The Flying Cup Club

Before I go any further I must make mention of this album. I'm loathe to leave it out of the list, mainly due to the fact that their debut, 'Gulag Orkesta', was a glaring omission from last year's rundown; but I didn't get to hear it until January, owing to the international, pre-Christmas, personal CD buying embargo. It doesn't quite live up to expectation, but is still a rollicking good, faux-European, brassy extravaganza, so I will just mention it here in honorary 11th place, and let no more be said.

Róisín Murphy

I've always enjoyed a touch of mentalism in my fizzy pop. Add in a sprinkling of Lambeth-Walk-on-smack dance moves and you'd be on to a winning formula. But I was more than a little disappointed by the former Moloko figurehead's last effort. Tunes seemed to have been sacrificed at the altar of bonkers and the plot was generally lost, but this time around she's got the balance just right. There are melodies here to crawl inside your mind & cling on for dear life, until you too will take to wearing a man-sized furry, Christmas bauble & beret combo in public ('You Know Me Better', 'Let Me Know'). There are groovy rhythms here to chase you through the night in your pants, with nothing but a spoon to fight off the terror ('Primitive', 'Overpowered'). Fun for all the family.

Manic Street Preachers
Send Away the Tigers

I was umming & erring about this one for a while, as it probably wouldn't have appeared here if I hadn't attended a recent gig of theirs. It reignited my passion for this long-lived Welsh trio with their penchant for fancy dress, and brought my attention back to their latest opus to force a reappraisal. I couldn't honestly say that this is a return to form, since, with the exception of damp squib ' The Love of Richard Nixon', I thought that last album, 'Lifeblood', was a thing of rare beauty. But I will say that it is a return to the sound of the Manics of old, fresher and more youthful than they've seemed in years. While their erstwhile idol, Axl Rose, stumbles around in a ginger stupor, The Manics make the case that it is indeed possible for a band to doggedly stick around for over 15 years and not go all shit. (Go get their free Christmas single here. Now!)

Black Francis

From what I remember, without bothering to go and check my sources, this is the Pixies album that never will be. Featuring songs that were written for the reunited, but still unstable band to record; hence the use of his old, pre-Frank Black alias. I have no idea why this never came to pass; though it's not really a surprise that they never got it together. Mr Francis went and did it without them, anyway, complete with Kim Deal-alike vocal interjections and authentic, freaky lyrics. Some of these songs sound like classic Pixies, some like you think they would sound now if they'd never broken up, and some really quite close to the best of his solo, rockabilly output. Sort of like a pick 'n' mix of his entire musical career, but with each shiny sweet a brand new taste sensation on your tongue, and with none of those icky, stray, aniseedy ones, hiding at the bottom of the bag.

The Shins
Wincing the Night Away
One of the few albums that immediately grabs you on first listen, but doesn't fade with time. Full of melodic hooks that never seem to lose their heady thrill, no matter how often you badly sing along with them. On stage, they're a bit of a conundrum: uplifting tunes with an underlying tinge of sadness coming out of the mouths & fingers of beardy, strangely static & not particularly talkative fellows. But on record, you can ignore all the chaff and enjoy their spangly torrent of gut warming niceness with no distractions.

Our Love to Admire

Coming in at number six, Interpol brings you the kind of album that Editors should have made. After a stunning debut, and an okay follow up overshadowed by the aforementioned Editors, they pull a switcheroony & completely outclass the British pretenders with a stylish collection of melancholy brilliance.

Compilation of the Year.
Ed Harcourt
Until Tomorrow Then (The Best of)

No, I'm afraid it's not 'The Very Best of Bucks Fizz'; though it was a close run contest. Not only do you get his catchiest numbers all on one disc here, but also a whole bonus album of fabulous, unreleased delicacies for you to crimp along with all through the night.

For (possibly) dissenting views on this year's top hits go here to see Bo Bo's runners up. I haven't read it yet, for fear of being influenced by his silly opinions, but I'm sure it's perfectly adequate. The come right back here for the all time 5th best album in my world, ever (this year).

Buh-bye. Don't have nightmares (or I will hunt you down).