heard on the wire

Even in dreams I cannot betray you

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart were my 2010 choice and runner-up for song-from-each-year-of-my-life, so my expectations were beyond high as the release date of their second LP got closer and closer.

Those expectations were tempered when the band added another guitarist — hinting at a shift from pop to “serious” rock, never a good thing. That the 2011 LP, Beyond, survived the transition is a testament to the band’s sensibilities and songwriting, which spawned at least half a dozen excellent numbers to go with those two moments of genius from the previous year.

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Freak out, freak out, freak out!

Tapes ’n Tapes hail from Minneapolis, have been compared to Arcade Fire and in 2011 released a decent LP called Outside.

And Outside features this track, a first of two more nominations for my 2011 song-from-each-year-of-my-life.

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Baked mushrooms


Pour a good couple of tablespoons of oil onto each mushroom, followed by finely chopped shallots, sliced garlic (one clove is enough for two large mushrooms such as these), pepper and a sprig or two of thyme. Then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and a little more oil — you do not want the mushrooms to dry out in the oven — and sprinkle some sea salt.

Bake at 180°C for about 20-30 mins, until the mushrooms are tender. Check every five minutes or so and add more oil if the mushrooms start to dry and shrivel.

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Trapped between the day and night

No list of the records of 2011 will be complete without mention of Bearsuit’s fantastic Phantom Forest LP, the Norwich band’s best to date. Sadly most lists of the best records of 2011 will ignore it.

This is why I don’t read music magazines.

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Words are not enough

“Post-rock” pioneers Mogwai released their seventh LP in 2011, seventh if you exclude their two movie soundtracks, and as ever if failed to disappoint.

Hardcore Will Never Die is arguably their most diverse record to date — one song even has a full-length lyric — and consequently their most accessible, though the band are never likely to be playing the main stage at Glastonbury on a Saturday evening. This is music to listen to. And it has a song inspired by a drunken encounter with Lionel Ritchie, what’s not to like‽

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You know that I don’t care, wind in our hair

This was the first pop song that caught my ear this year, a slice of indie guitar loveliness from LA-based Best Coast.

One side of a vinyl-only single shared with Jeff The Brotherhood, this has never had a digital release and only came to my attention thanks to the fantastic Burning World.

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At the sign of the swinging cymbal

And so my musical odyssey through the 45 years of my life comes to an end, almost. But before I reveal my final choice, a countdown of numbers 1966 to 2010, cue music….

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You’ll never feel so high

So few bands that show such early promise go on to exceed all expectations. So many peak early, usually on that first LP, whose songs they painstakingly assemble, refine, reject and revamp as they seek that elusive record deal. The second LP, written to order, proves that much more difficult.

I expected that to be true of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, an american indie pop band with a sound that came straight out of the mid-80s. The band themselves denied any knowledge of their C86 predecessors and with much justification, since they hadn’t yet been born.

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I have tried to break unbroken chords

Singer songwriter is an odd label. You might think it it applies to anyone who writes songs and sings them, but it’s not so. Without the requisite degree of plaintive acoustic strumming or over-earnest entreating, you’re just a singer, or a songwriter.

Thereby excluded, I can claim allegiance to Bragg, Cave and Weller without ever having to admit to a penchant for the singer-songwriter genre. This worked fine until 2004 when I first heard Langhorne Slim — inevitably it was on the genre defying John Peel show.

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Maybe I’m Crazy

Gnarls Barkley had a huge — and only — hit in 2006 with Crazy, which spent a crazy nine weeks at the top of the UK hit parade while becoming the all- time biggest selling download of all time. Although it is far from being a terrible record, unlike all nine-weeks-at-number-one records, think Bryan Adams, Mull of Kintyre or Bohemian bloody Rhapsody, it’s sheer popularity made me suspicious of any claim of greatness.

Then I heard this version, posted on a long-forgotten blog and what a record it is, perfectly demonstrating the elusive cover art.

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heard on the wire is a blog about music old and new, but mostly new. It occasionally uses 21st century file formats that may not be supported by 20th century web browsers. For best results use Safari or Chrome. And If you like the music posted here, please think of the effort and expense that has gone into making it and consider buying a copy of your own.


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