Here we are on week eighteen of January and it feels like a suitable moment to take stock on what – in between sunning myself on tropical shores and spending my money on fast women and slow horses – I’ve been punishing my ears with this last week or so.
Camp Cope – Caroline
I’d seen Camp Cope’s 2022 album Running With The Hurricane crop up on a few ‘best of year’ lists recently and have spent this week hooked on it. It’s absolute cracker.
Alexi Murdoch – Through The Dark
Occasionally I’ll flick on an episode of something while I’m chewing down my lunch (usually in between the second and third meat courses while the servants are refilling the wine). I recently flicked on an episode of ‘House’ in which this song featured and I found myself captivated by it – in a way it recalls those moody acoustic bruisers that Pearl Jam would drop in their middle period.
Laura Cox – So Long
‘Half English – half French, 100% Rock n Roll’ is how Laura Cox describes herself. All I know is I’ve been digging her new album of late – she fits into that blues rock vibe with a nice meaty tone.
Tori Amos – Pretty Good Year
I’ve been spending a lot of time with Tori Amos’ first couple of albums since 1357’s appraisal of Little Earthquakes and they’ve both been rereleased in pretty coloured vinyl packages recently too. My cassette versions of them are holding up ok so I’m not about to drop coin on replacing them but there’s genuine gold in those albums. Related question: does anyone burn cds anymore?
Russian Circles – Ethel
The whole Memorials album is strong but there’s something so transportive about ‘Ethel’ that it’s a regular player on my Post-Rock playlist. I know, even as a lover of the genre, some post-rock tunes can hang around longer than an unwanted politician but this one is in, out, done in just four minutes of brilliance.
Slowdive – Slomo
Speaking of transportive…. I’v played Slowdive’s Slowdive more times than I can count since it joined my collection at the tail end of 2021 and it was only a week or so ago that, when slipping the lp back into the sleeve, I realised it had a download code in there. Since then it’s been on the regular in the car too – there’s something immediately soothing about ‘Slomo’ in particular that makes it as an ideal to cue up for the drive home as it does chilling out at home after a hard day’s drinking and hitting the pipe.
According to search results various, the bluebird has been a ‘harbinger of happiness’ for thousands of years. Said bird reminds us not to lose hope in the face of an adversary and not to let go of the joy even in the direst times. Lovely stuff.
For me, Mojave 3’s ‘Bluebird of Happiness’ is one of those magic songs. You know; one of those songs that connects on a different level to other tunes, automatically fires of an emotional response for reasons you may never fully understand and, frankly, probably don’t need to.
“Who are Mojave 3?” I hear imagine you asking. After the critical spin and uppercut that felled the shoegaze scene* the ridiculously wonderful Slowdive were dropped by Creation just a week after the release of their fifth album, Pygmalion** -also ridiculously wonderful. Members Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell and Ian McCutcheon switched direction a little, following the more ambient leanings Halstead’s writing was already taking and throwing dream pop with a bit of folk and country rock into the mix. By the time of the band’s fourth album Spoon and Rafter in 2003 they’d added keyboard player Alan Forrester and ex-Chapterhouse guitarist Simon Rowe and were leaning more into dream pop/alt-country elements with a sound not a million miles away from Mercury Rev.
Neil Halstead – as borne out by his solo work as well as Slowdive and Mojave 3 – is a songwriter who places emphasis on arrangements and layers. Spoon and Rafter is full of examples of just this approach but no song more so than the 9:15 opus ‘Bluebird of Happiness’ with its multiple parts gently transitioning into each other, Halstead’s vocals remaining calm and measured against a mesmerising backdrop that at turns rises to guitar-driven chorus and falls back to piano lead reflective chill.
Anyway, back to that magic stuff… From the second I hear those opening ambient sounds (there are some birds in there, some whispered vocals) and piano notes I feel a sense of calm wash over me and when those nine minutes and fifteen seconds are up I feel lighter and at peace, if only for a little while. I don’t think you could ask for more from a song, really.
Mojave 3 would release one further album – 2006’s Puzzles Like You – before dropping into hiatus for a couple of years ahead of a touring comeback in 2011 though any music they may have recorded after that has yet to see the light of day. Halstead and Goswell both kept busy with solo work until Slowdive reunited in 2014 with a new album following in 2017*** and another currently in the works.