Tag Archives: Cocteau Twins

July 6, 2017 — “The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons (featuring Karen Peris)

Lost Horizons

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons (2017, from the forthcoming album Ojalá).

Lost Horizons is a dream-pop duo formed by Simon Raymonde out of Cocteau Twins and Richard Thomas out of Dif Juz. They have a stable full of guest vocalists including Sharon Van Etten, Marissa Nadler, Tim Smith out of Midlake, Leila Moss out of The Duke Spirit, and Hazel Wilde out of Lanterns on The Lake. Most thrilling, though, is that they also have the inimitable Karen Peris out of The Innocence Mission on one track. Tonight’s track.

Simon Raymonde needs no introduction here.

Richard Thomas was the drummer in Dif Juz, who was also on 4AD records back in the glorious heyday of that label in the mid-1980s. Actually, of the three Dif Juz albums, only the last of them was on 4AD. That record —Extractions
was produced by Robin Guthrie out of the Cocteaus and featured guest vocals by Liz Fraser out of the Cocteaus. Dif Juz was a strange sort of math-y dream-pop/post-punk band that I was never into despite my obsession with the incarnation of 4AD Records that existed at that time.

The Cocteaus disbanded in an inglorious blaze back in 1997. That year, Raymonde put out a solo record that nobody even noticed. He and Guthrie had already started the Bella Union record label, which was meant as a platform for the Cocteaus to self-release their stuff after their fall-out with 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell. Unfortunately, by the time they got out from under their contract with 4AD, the band was starting to rot from the inside anyway. So it was all over for the Cocteaus.

Raymonde and Guthrie ran the label together for a while, but now it’s entirely run by Raymonde. While he had his hands in a lot of projects, he pretty much stayed out of the business of writing music until he formed Snowbird in 2014. The one record that band put out was my #13 album of 2014.

Just today, I learned about the Lost Horizons project, and I got very excited when I saw that Karen Peris appears on tonight’s track. It’s a poorly kept secret that I really, really like the Innocence Mission. At least everything from 1989 to 2003. The six records during that time are magnificent. To be fair, I’ve never paid much attention to the three albums that came after that. Glow (1995) is my favourite record of theirs, and it’s really solid from start to finish. My favourite song of theirs, though, is “The Lakes of Canada”, which I’ve written about here. And as a digression that’s well worth your time, Sufjan Stevens famously did a sensational cover of that song, practically making it his own. See that here. Coincidentally, Stephanie Dosen out of the aforementioned Snowbird has also done a cover of “The Lakes of Canada” on her solo record, giving it a more spooky than sad tone here.

Anyway, all of that digression was to the point that Karen Peris is an amazing songwriter and vocalist. That’s on full display here. This is that song:
“The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons

As terrific as the music is, this is all about Karen Peris. Her breathy, high-register vocals, which are small and big at the same time, soar above everything else. And of course this should come as no surprise, but I absolutely love the miles of delay they put on her vocals at the end of each chorus.

As far as I know, this is the only song that’s been released in advance of the album. I’ve seen a track listing, but no details about who sings on which tracks. At any rate, we’ll be very much looking forward to the release of Ojalá on November 3 via Bella Union. You can pre-order digital copies here. No word yet on pre-sale of physical copies.

11.29.2015 — “Song To The Siren” as covered by Lights That Change

Lights That Change

If you only listen to one cover song today, make it “Song To The Siren”, as covered by Lights That Change (2015, from a standalone single). The song was originally done by Tim Buckley on his 1970 album Starsailor. Obviously, though, today’s cover is based on the cover done by Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) on the first This Mortal Coil album (It’ll End In Tears, 1984).

Lights That Change is a dream pop/ether wave/shoegaze band from a small town called Mold in county Flintshire, in the northeast part of Wales. The band is really the project of Marc Joy, who was a longtime producer before launching the Lights That Change project “many years ago”. He makes no secret of the fact that he’s heavily influenced by Cocteau Twins and the rest of the 80s and 90s 4AD roster. I’ve written about the project once before, when Joy was aligned with a different singer. Lisa Von H was the vocalist for a couple of releases, and now he’s got Mandy Clare on board. I don’t know what her pedigree is, but she’s done a marvelous job with this.

Tim Buckley’s son Jeff turned Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” into something infinitely better, and made it his own. That version is the one that people do covers of now. In a similar fashion, Fraser and Guthrie turned Tim Buckley’s song into something infinitely better, and it’s the version that everybody knows. I’ve heard other covers of the Fraser/Guthrie cover, but I haven’t heard any good ones. Until now. I really, REALLY like this.

This is like mashing up the Cocteaus and the Julee Cruise song “Falling”.

“Song To The Siren”, as covered by Lights That Change

I love the delay on the vocals. I love the eerieness of it. I love the effects and the electronics. The old-skool drum programming. It really sounds like something in a dreamscape.

It’s important to note that the Fraser/Guthrie version changed Buckley’s lyrics just a bit in a couple of places, and that this cover strays from that a little bit.

In the Buckley original, there’s a line in the second verse that goes

Did I dream you dreamed about me
Were you hare when I was fox

In the Fraser/Guthrie version (and in this one), that line got changed to:

Did I dream you dreamed about me
Were you here when I was full sail

I like that change because it fits right in with the mythology of the sailor and the siren in the rocks.

In the Buckley original, the third verse starts out:

I’m as puzzled as an oyster
I’m as troubled as the tide

while the Fraser/Guthrie cover changed that to:

I’m as puzzled as a newborn child
I’m as riddled as the tide

I like that change simply because it makes sense for a newborn child to be puzzled. I don’t know what it means for an oyster to be puzzled. Is that a vernacular phrase somewhere in the world? I don’t care about changing “troubled” to “riddled”.

In the Lights That Change version, they totally omitted the third verse and the third chorus, but it doesn’t suffer at all.

For good measure, and because it’s brilliant, here’s the official video of the Fraser/Guthrie version:

I’ve always hated that spiky blonde hair look on Liz, and I was always really partial to the Heaven or Las Vegas-era wavy brown-haired Liz. That was smoldering. To be fair, though, even with the porcupine on her head, she always looked amazing, and she still looks amazing in her early 50s with her fully grey hair. And those eyes. Holy smokes, those eyes. Those eyes could end wars.

I could go on and on for hours about the brilliance of Elizabeth Fraser, but this is only tangentially about her.

You can grab the “Song To The Siren” cover via Bandcamp by naming your price here. While you’re there, you should just grab the entire Lights That Change catalog for the low price of £4.47 GBP, which comes to something like $6.75 USD.

04.20.2015 — new song by Fleeting Joys

Fleeting Joys

If you only listen to one song preview tonight, make it the 65 seconds of shoegaze glory that is the teaser for a new song by Fleeting Joys (from a forthcoming album title and date TK).

Last night, a massive announcement came out of Sacramento. The shoegaze band Fleeting Joys unleashed something new for the first time since December of 2012. Not a complete song, but a tease of one, and the promise that they’re working hard. They also finally mentioned a “new album”. No title or date yet, but we will certainly hope that there’s a late 2015/early 2016 release on the horizon.

The Sacramento band is centered around the husband-and-wife pair of John Loring (guitars, vocals) and Rorika Loring (bass, guitar, electronics, vocals). Their 2006 debut record Despondent Transponder set the shoegaze loving world on fire, and everybody was calling it Loveless part II and calling them “the next MBV”. The album went out of print within a month of its release, and a few more runs have been pressed since then. In 2009, they followed that magnificent album with their sophomore effort Occult Radiance. That second album was my introduction to the band, and while I certainly love that album, I got the privilege of finding the earth-shaking Despondent Transponder later.

Since 2009, there hasn’t been much news coming out of their camp. Sure, they’ve been playing live shows, but they’ve been tight-lipped about new stuff. Around Christmas of 2012, they stunned everyone with the video for their blistering new single “Kiss a Girl in Black” (listen here), and everyone started holding their collective breath about a new album. A few days later, they released the single as a digital standalone. At that point, they never promised or even suggested a new album, but it didn’t stop people (myself included) from predicting that Fleeting Joys would actually beat MBV to the punch on releasing a new record. We were all growing tired of the promises that Kevin Shields had been making about the Valentines’ third album m b v which was 22 years in the making. That album finally came out on February 2, 2013, but we were still hoping that a new Fleeting Joys record was coming soon. Since then, they’ve been dead silent. Occasional references to “working on new stuff” on the Fleeting Joys Facebook page, but never anything tangible.

Last night, I was ecstatic when I got the email from soundcloud that Fleeting Joys had posted a new song. As excited as I was, I was also preoccupied with the Habs/Sens playoff game, and didn’t get a chance to listen until just a couple of hours ago. And since then, I’ve listened to the 65 second snippet about a billion times.

Anyway, here’s 65 seconds of that song which we don’t even know the name of yet.

New Fleeting Joys song preview

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Everything about this. Yes.

Of course there’s the obvious “they sound like MBV” and their fellow Golden State shoegazers Medicine, but the members of Fleeting Joys also want you to know that they’re huge fans of the very early Cocteaus stuff. I read an interview from a few years back where they specifically mentioned the Cocteaus compilation album The Pink Opaque, which is essentially the best of the non-album stuff from 1982 to 1985. The Cocteaus put out a bunch of EPs back then with multiple alternate (and often superior) versions of songs which had been on their albums. Like the members of Fleeting Joys, my favorite Cocteaus era is 1982-85. Of course I have everything from their catalog, but for me, there’s a ranking that goes something like:

1a. Treasure
1b. The Spangle Maker EP
2. The rest of the EPs from the 1982-85 era
3. Heaven or Las Vegas
4. “Carolyn’s Fingers”
5. huge gap here
6. Everything else

I’ve never been able to hear any Cocteaus influence in their songs, but Fleeting Joys swears that the influence is there. There’s nothing at all wrong with being influenced heavily by and sounding a lot like MBV and Medicine. Back in the day, Medicine used to hate it when people compared them, and Shot Fort Self Living to MBV, but there’s no denying the similarities. Fleeting Joys doesn’t hide from or shy away from the comparisons. Instead, they embrace them.

There’s no word on when the “new album” will come out. No word on the name of the album. There’s not even any word on the name of tonight’s song. All of that is forthcoming. And I’ll be waiting with bated breath.

01.10.2015 — “Fifty-Fifty Clown” as covered by Cold Mailman

Cold Mailman

If you only listen to one cover song today, make it “Fifty-Fifty Clown”, as covered by Cold Mailman (2011, from the Cold Mailman EP. The original, of course, is by Cocteau Twins, from their outstanding 1990 album Heaven or Las Vegas.

Cold Mailman is a dreamy indie-pop sextet from the very small town of Bodø, Norway. That town lies north of the Arctic Circle. Back in 1940, there were 6,000 people living there, and more than half of them lost their homes during a German air raid. With help from the Swedish government, the city was rebuilt, and there are 50,000 people there now. There’s a bit of US history trivia related to Bodø as well. In 1960, American pilot Gary Powers, in his U2 spy plane, took off from Pakistan on a high-altitude reconnaissance mission. He was supposed to land in Bodø, but was shot down in Soviet air space.

Anyway, the band originated there, and has relocated to Oslo. I don’t know anything else about them. The only thing I know is that they’ve released three albums since 2008 and that they allegedly have another on the way in 2015.

The other day, I was visiting the Cocteau Twins official Facebook page. Simon had made a bunch of posts about the most underrated Cocteaus songs. At the end of all of those posts, I saw this cover song. He said : “This is easily the best Cocteau Twins cover version out there to date” I figured if it’s good enough for Simon Raymonde, it should be good enough for me. And it is.

I really love Heaven or Las Vegas. For a long, long time I swore that it was “by far, my favorite Cocteaus record”, and a lock as a “desert island disc”. Recently, I discovered that my favorite Cocteaus record is actually Treasure, but it doesn’t make me love HOLV any less. This has always been one of my favorite songs from the album, which is still in my top three Cocteaus records. And probably still in my top 20 overall.

Anyway, this is that cover song:

It’s almost a straight-up cover. Nothing fancy and not any wild interpretation. Although I can sometimes get down with cover songs being wild interpretations, I also like to see the straight-up ones.

There is a major difference though. In the bridge to the third verse, this cover version has a guitar solo whereas the original has a magnificent section of Liz Fraser’s signature angelic vocalizing. Way, way, way down in the mix, you can just barely hear the Cold Mailman singer doing that vocalization bit, but it’s almost impossible to hear. It’s that bit in the original that takes the song to a completely different level. The song just oozes sex, and that vocalization bit is a big part of that. I think that substituting a guitar solo for the vocalizing solo makes it a little weird.

The live drumming in this cover version is a little different from the cold, un-sexy synthetic drums from the original. Also, the coda is, I think, better in the cover version. Those two things make up for the guitar solo, which I really don’t care for.

In all, this is a splendid cover of a magical song. If you don’t already have Heaven or Las Vegas, you need to rectify that immediately.

You can buy a digital copy of the eponymous Cold Mailman EP from eMu here.

10.11.2014 — “A Way to Say Goodbye” by Pix

Pix (Hannah Rodgers)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “A Way to Say Goodbye” by Pix (2014, from a standalone single).

Pix is the moniker for 19-year old musician Hannah Rodgers. The South London native recorded a song called “I Wake” last year under her given name. It’s a marvelous dream-folk song that sounds like she’d been listening to the Slowdive album Pygmalion quite a bit. You should really check that song out here. But that’s not why we’re here today.

Today’s song is a bit different. It’s dream-pop. It’s trip-hop. It’s folk. I don’t really know. She says she’s influenced by Joni Mitchell, Aphex Twin, and Mac Demarco, among others. That’s a pretty wide array of influences. Today’s song is heavily influenced by Cocteau Twins. More on that after the song. This is that song.

“A Way to Say Goodbye” by Pix

Rodgers sings like an absolute angel and it’s fitting that this song was born out of a misunderstood Cocteau Twins lyric. As the story goes, she was listening to the Cocteaus song “Alice” (1996, from the “Violane” (green) single). The chorus of that song is simply the name Alice over and over. What Rodgers heard was

I miss the lonesomeness I miss

Admittedly, that does sound like something that should be a Cocteaus lyric, but it isn’t. Anyway, she took it and ran with it. If you listen closely, you’ll hear that misheard lyric in the chorus of today’s song.

I miss the lonesomeness I miss

The song itself is really amazing, and I hope that there’s more of this to come. I don’t care for the way the song ends really abruptly, but that’s the only criticism I have.

I learned about this late last night when a friend emailed me a link to the official video, then immediately sent me a text saying that he’d already watched the video four times. You might also get stuck watching over and over.

The video features twin Hannahs. The one on the left is sitting there in her overalls and her hippie jewelry dancing like she’s at a goddamn Grateful Dead concert. Meanwhile, the Hannah on the right is attired more conservatively. Pay attention, though. Everything that she does, she’s doing in reverse. Eating the strawberry, playing with that weird rabbit/guinea pig thing, burning the book, rapping her fingers on the table. Everything is in reverse. That’s the part that just slays my friend who forwarded the video to me. the rapping of the fingers.

As good as this is, it’s really hard to believe that this girl is only 19 years old. She’s got a really bright future ahead of her. I certainly hope there will be an album sometime in 2015.

01.08.2014 — “Toxic” by Lights That Change

Lisa Von H from Lights That Change

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Toxic” by Lights That Change (2013, from the Rainbow on Your Shoulder EP).

Lights That Change is a dream pop duo from Mold, North Wales. They’re made up of Lisa Von H on vocals and Marc Joy on guitars, bass, drum machine, and other programming stuff. It’s pretty obvious that some of their key influences are Cocteau Twins and The Cure.

Joy was busy producing and recording some other projects when he launched Lights That Change as a solo recording project. He knew Lisa and had worked with her on some other stuff, including some of her solo recordings. Sometime in 2012, he decided to recruit her for the LTC project, and they stayed really busy in 2013. It looks like they released two singles and an EP last year, and I have to think that they’re working on a full-length album.

I found out about this band when I was snooping around some other music blogs. This one pointed me to LTC.

After listening to a few of their songs, I went and bought a digital download of the Rainbow on Your Shoulder EP, and this is my favorite song from it.

“Toxic” by Lights That Change

The bass line is pretty clean and simple, but foggy. In a way that reminds me of the very distinctive, dark, even ominous bass sound on Disintegration. The bright, shimmering, heavily delayed guitars remind me of some late-era Cocteaus stuff. Although the vocals are in plain English, Lisa Von H’s singing style and the lyrics themselves remind me of something that Liz Fraser would have been doing also in the very late stages of the Cocteaus. Not her sound, but her style. Think Four Calendar Cafe. Think specifically of “Bluebeard”.

As a side note, everybody knows that I’m a huge Cocteaus fan and that I’ve only recently changed my favourite Cocteaus album from Heaven or Las Vegas to Treasure. Everybody also knows that I’ve always regarded the post-Liz and Robin breakup stuff as “lesser Cocteaus”. However, I recently revisited Four Calendar Cafe for the first time in a long time. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it just by taking it out of the context of the whole Cocteaus body of work. As a free-standing album, it’s pretty great.

Anyway, I’m reminded a lot of late Cocteaus, and that’s a pretty good thing to be reminded of.

You can buy a download of the five-song Rainbow on Your Shoulder EP for £2 (or about $3.25 USD) from the bandcamp page here.

11.06.13 — “Ghost” by Ballet School

Ballet School

If you only listen to one song and watch one video today, make it “Ghost” by Ballet School (2013, from the Boys Again EP).

Ballet School is a dream pop/electro pop trio from Berlin. Rosie Blair (vocals, guitar) met Michel Collet (guitar) while the latter was playing guitar in the subway. She immediately asked him to form a band, and they eventually collaborated with Louis McGuire (drums). All three had been part of the indie music scene in Berlin which is, from what I’ve learned, populated almost entirely by expatriots. Blair is from Ireland. Collet is of Japanese and Brazilian descent. I don’t know where McGuire came from, but for the sake of the story, we’ll assume that he’s not a native German.

Starting in late 2012, they started to get serious about being a band, and they’ve released a single and an EP on the Bella Union record label. As you know by now, Bella Union is the label that was started by ex-Cocteau Twins members Simon Raymonde and Robin Guthrie. Although the song has been kicking around for a while, today’s song comes from the Boys Again EP, which was just released a couple of weeks ago.

I got something in the mail bag today about a different Ballet School song, but I fell in love with this one instead. Actually, it started when I listened to the other song, headed over to the Bella Union site to read up about this band. I ended up watching the video for “Ghost”, and loved it. It’s a slightly different, longer, more electronic version than the other version that I’ve heard. I really love the video, which we’ll get to in a minute. First, give the song a listen:

“Ghost” by Ballet School

I’m reminded of a sexy mixture of Zola Jesus and Warpaint. It’s catchy and fun and a little steamy.

But seriously… This video. There’s a group of people in Philadelphia running a company called Out of Town Films. Their primary thing is to make “short films” (read:studio music videos) about traveling bands who pass through Philly. They also, on occasion, take their show on the road and reach out to bands who reside in the cities that they themselves travel to. So when the Out of Town Films crew went to Berlin (for something else, I presume), they ended up being invited over to the band’s rehearsal space. The result is fantastic.

I absolutely adore the extended intro, which features the incredible glossolaila-esque vocalizing that is really reminiscent of the best of Liz Fraser. That whole minute or so of dreamy intro is very much like an early Cocteaus song, complete with a mixture of live and electronic drumming. And did I mention the vocalizing? I freakin’ love it. All of this makes sense, given that each of the members of Ballet School is a big fan of the Cocteaus.

The other thing that I prefer about this video version of the song is that Blair’s vocals are much bigger, stronger. She’s got considerable singing chops, and she’s really belting out these vocals. It’s the strength and energy of her voice that reminds me of Nika Roza Danilova (Zola Jesus).

While the studio version of the song is certainly very good, I can’t measure how much I like the video version. Because of this, I’m imagining that Ballet School shows are pretty mind-blowing.

You can buy Boys Again from the Bella Union web store here.

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