Posted tagged ‘A Fine Frenzy’

The most (and least) annoying Christmas songs

December 23, 2010

Yesterday as I was negotiating my way through the snowy streets of Dublin the radio announcer promised me some ‘traditional Christmas music’. So there I was, anticipating maybe some Handel, maybe Quem Pastores, or indeed Adeste Fideles. And we’re off, but no, it’s Slade with Merry Christmas Everybody. And before I had time to recover from that, I’m up against Roy Wood’s Wizzard and I wish it could be Christmas Every Day. I’m sure he does, by the way, because that would push up royalties even further. Thankfully I had arrived at my destination, and so I was spared (I’m sure) Wham, Boney M, Johnny Mathis, Jona Lewie, Cliff Richard (oh my!), not to mention Sir Paul McCartney’s uncharacteristically execrable Wonderful Christmas Time.

Funnily enough, I’m still OK with Band Aid’s Do They Know it’s Christmas, and John Lennon’s Happy Christmas (War is Over). But if you want to hear a Christmas song you may not have heard and which is musical, lyrical, poetic and original, sung by a voice from heaven, listen to Alison Sudol (A Fine Frenzy) and Red Ribbon Foxes.


September 7, 2009

Two of my extra-curricular enthusiasms merit a mention today – so apologies to those who don’t feel like sharing them!

On this blog I have from time to time given you a downbeat account of affairs at Newcastle United FC, a club you may have gathered I support. Well, we still have a mad owner, no permanent arrangements for a manager, key players who transferred out during August, dissatisfied fans – and do on and so on. But by heavens, the players are playing! It’s ‘only’ the Championship, but Newcastle are right there at the top, leading the table. What is even more remarkable is that they haven’t lost a single game in the season so far. And the players (or those that are left) are actually playing as if it mattered to them! So yes, even the gross incompetence of the board and the lunacy of the position the club has been pushed into have not stopped a good season from developing, and some people (naive ones, no doubt) are now whispering that Newcastle may be back up in the premiership next year. Oh go on, we can dream…

The second is also a particular delight. Regular readers know I have a particular fondness for the band A Fine Frenzy, whose first album ‘One Cell in the Sea‘ achieved enthusiastic reviews all over the world and was in the charts in America and a number of European countries, topping the charts indeed in some of them. This week the band’s second album, ‘Bomb in a Birdcage‘, is being released, and I have been able to listen to it in its entirety. It is an extraordinary follow-up, a mixture of poetic insights and rock-inspired beats. Singer songwriter Alison Sudol’s vocals are also amazing, with an exceptional range and great beauty. A must-have album, in my opinion!

The enduring attraction of vinyl

September 19, 2008

Nostalgia is not on the whole my thing, but there’s no other way of classifying this: I have just taken delivery of my first vinyl ‘record’ since, I think, 1985. Every album I have bought since then has been on CD. The first CD I bought – if my memory is correct – was Parallel Lines by Blondie, and I believe also that this is the only album I had (until now) both in vinyl and CD versions. I was so captivated then by the clear, crackle-less sound in the digital product that I went straight over to that format. And in the 20+ years since then I have bought a very large number of albums in all genres; until iTunes and the iPod opened up a new platform, but that’s another story.

As readers of this blog will know, I am a fan of the music of the band A Fine Frenzy, and of Alison Sudol’s (their singer) beautifully lyrical and haunting songs. So when I saw on Amazon that there is a vinyl version of the band’s album, One Cell in the Sea, I decided to add that to my collection, and so I have my first real ‘record’ in years. This in turn has taken me back to my vinyl collection, now very dusty and neglected but still there: about 280 albums, at a quick count, and goodness knows how many singles. And I’ve been putting them on my old hi-fi gramophone,and it’s just great. How wonderful to hear the crackles again after all these years – but also, maybe I do think that the sound itself is just that little bit clearer and crisper than CD; or maybe that’s wishful thinking.

But it seems I am not alone. There have been articles in the media – such as this one – that vinyl sales are soaring and even eclipsing CD sales. I don’t really know how this will work in the digital age, but to me it’s a very comforting thought. Some good things, in the end, don’t go away.

Musical matters

July 9, 2008

This post in the blog is an unashamed commercial for two groups of musicians that I particularly admire…

The first is the National Chamber Choir of Ireland. The Choir originally was one of the performing groups of Irish national Broadcaster Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE). When RTE decided to review that relationship, the Choir became independent and, from 1995, has been the choir in residence of my university, DCU. Since then it has had three famous artistic directors: Colin Mawby, Celso Antunes, and (since earlier this year) Paul Hillier. During that time also the NCC has benefited from the dedication of its founding CEO, Karina Lundstrom, and more recently the current CEO Eilbhin Gleeson. It has worked with prominent conductors and musicians from around the world, and has toured widely – with a repertoire that covers the choral classics as well as some striking contemporary music. Choral music does not always have mass appeal, but the NCC is spectacular and is well worth a listen – there are several recorded albums.

The second is perhaps in a different genre, but maybe not so different as one might first think. I have already mentioned that I am a fan of the alternative Indie band, A Fine Frenzy. The band plays the music of California-based singer-songwriter Alison Sudol. She has produced some wonderful songs, and her debut album One Cell in the Sea has enjoyed some very enthusiastic reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Her influences are extraordinarily eclectic, ranging from classical music through folk and some British bands. Her lyrics are influenced by classical literature and modern poetry. This is music that is well worth a listen.