John Murphy – ‘In The house, Without A Heartbeat’ (chosen by Julian Clancy)
This is a weird one. I’ve been pulling in a few late-nighters with work recently and I’ve found myself turning to this track at around three in the morning. It’s at that time of the night where the house is still, you know you should go to bed but you can’t. You’re too twitchy and wired from the coffee and anyways, there’s still loads to do. For me, this track perfectly encapsulates that exact feeling. Apart from sound tracking late night insomnia, it has also featured in the background while Cillian Murphy has gouged someone’s eyes out in 28 Days Later and Nicholas Cage goes on a warehouse rampage in Kick-ass. Despite its absolute epic ferocity towards the end, the track also has a real sweet and tender ending, one that always seems to send me off to bed no matter how much work is left to do.
Common& Sadat X feat. Talib Kweli – ‘1999’ (Chosen by Patrick Fennelly)
Back in ’90s, Rawkus Records was one of the most exciting labels in hip-hop. Home to a variety of big names in their early days it launched the careers of everyone from Mos Def and Talib Kweli (as Blackstar) to Eminem and Company Flow. In 1999 the label released the second in a series of compilations entitled SoundBombing 2, which featured artists from across their catalogue and was mixed by turntable royalty Dj Babu and J-Rocc of the Beat Junkies. ‘1999’ by Common & Sadat X and featuring Talib Kweli was the lead single of the release and showcased the unbelievable quality of the label quite perfectly. It also bares a stark contrast to the popular hip-hop of today. No vocoders here, or auto tune ‘free flow’ nonsensical, drug induced ‘raps’, just quality street poetry and impeccable production. Listening back makes it seem all the more inconceivable as to how hip-hop fell so far.
The Rolling Stones – ‘Gimme Shelter’ (chosen by Patrick Conboy)
Sometimes, when you’re listening to music on shuffle, a song crops up that you haven’t heard for a long time and you get the irrepressible urge to play it over and over again. That’s exactly what’s happened to me with ‘Gimme Shelter’, which has been buzzing around inside my head for the past couple of days now. It’s a track that never fails to send a shiver down my spine, especially when listening to it in the dead of night, through a good pair of headphones. The tingling starts with that unmistakable guitar intro, spreads as Mick Jagger sings of war and destruction, and paralyses when Merry Clayton’s backing vocal bears down with a ton of soul as she yells the refrain: “rape, murder – it’s just a shot away!” Few other songs in the rock canon have the power to strike the listener with the same force – something recognised by Martin Scorsese, who returns to it time and again to underscore key moments in his films.
The Computers – ‘Group Identity’ (chosen by Phil Udell)
Coming our way from Exeter (via San Diego and the studio of ex-Rocket From The Crypt frontman John ‘Speedo’ Reis), The Computers may offer nothing hugely new but their mixture of classic rock n roll and hardcore punk is thrilling to the core. Their debut album This Is The Computers is out next week but be warned, the vocals may make you feel like you’ve been gargling razor blades.
Norah Jones – ‘Back to Manhattan’ (chosen by Philip Cummins)
Prior to contributing vocals on Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi’s forthcoming album, Rome, Jones had shed the “Coffee House Jazz” of her first two Blue Note records and 2009 saw the release of The Fall, an album which saw the Texan engaging with her country / Americana influences and ditching her Jazz session musicians in favor of seasoned Nashville players, as well as incorporating ideas from her guitar- driven side project, El Madmo (who are on Conor Oberst’s Team Love label). With the likes of Ryan Adams and Will Sheff contributing co- writes, she developed a more muscular approach to her song- writing; story- telling songs full of grit, gut and hopelessness, shot through with late- night tales of lost love in the city that never sleeps. Although not perhaps the best representation of her daring change in direction, ‘Back to Manhattan’ immediately recalls ‘Love is Hell’- era Ryan Adams; she skillfully sidesteps the “Coffee House” piano of old and gives a “bar- room piano at 3am” feel to the song. Lyrically, she has crafted a song which looks both inward and outward, to herself and New York, respectively, which climaxes to a stunning, telling verse: “But Brooklyn holds you/ And holds my heart too/ what a fool I was to think/ I could live in both worlds”. An exciting reinvention from a developing artist.
Hired Hands – ‘The Quay Wall ‘ (chosen by Daniel Harrison)
Sublime off-kilter folk-pop with boy-girl harmonies that keep wrongfooting you, this is both deceptively complex and supremely catchy. A seven-piece that includes former members of the sadly short-lived Feed The Bears, Hired Hands have a deft handle on subtle melancholy, and their varied instrumentation is perfectly judged. There’s slight shades of the Afro-tinged prog-pop of Dirty Projectors, but ultimately this has an identity all of its own, and is a welcome addition to the vibrant pop(icalia) scene.