new year, new records

2010 is behind me now, and whatever troubles or good fortune (arising from last year’s decisions and actions) that will spill over this year, I will embrace it with a resolution to improve and make life more meaningful for myself and the people around me.

A simple celebration: a modest meal with my parents and two siblings consisting of homemade “biko” (rice cakes my mother loves to cook), ham, cheese, sliced bread, salad, a bunch of fruits and a bottle of wine.

No one in the family bought firecrackers/fireworks but we took a few moments to appreciate those who lighted the skies and the streets. Home video karaoke on full volume was our only means of making considerable noise plus the incessant loud teasing remarks my younger brother and sister accorded each other. We ended New Year’s eve with a Scrabble game, only to be shamefully outscored. Nonetheless, an enjoyable way of ending the night at 3AM.

Write About Love – Belle & Sebastian

I woke up late in the morning and finally opened a vinyl copy of “Write About Love“, the newest release of my current favorite indie pop band — Belle & Sebastian. A surprise post-birthday present of my good friend and colleague Antonette Maniquis. She co-founded and helps me run Lilystars Records. She must have sensed my unique liking for this album ever since I got a hold of the MP3s. I even recorded a cover version of the first track “I Didn’t See It Coming” which you can hear in the Cover To Cover section. I hold this album close to my heart. Everything about it, even the concept, production, marketing and promotion appeals to me.

In September, before the worldwide release of Write About Love, the band released “Belle & Sebastian TV”. A half-hour mixture of music and insightful chatter about the new album and the indie music industry in general. A must see especially for start-up bands to get a little inspiration.

Dougie Anderson, the presenter in the video, starts off with: “People sometimes think about what music can add, such as atmosphere to a party or a wedding, if you’ve been to either, or debut. Is it the same as the subdued lighting, given the current candor and indeed, lampshade choice? But more importantly, is what music can give. Excitement, gratification, emphaty, and comfort. So with this general ethos in mind, let me now add, but give to you Belle & Sebastian…”

As I opened the gatefold, the first thing I noticed were familiar names of authors on books held by the couple pictured on the record against a mountainous background. One is reading a book that says Keats on it, while the other a book by W.B. Yeats.

I first encountered these names when I decided to learn Cemetery Gates by The Smiths.

“A dreaded sunny day so I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
A blesed Sunny day so I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine.” – Morrissey

Later on I discovered that John Keats was an English Romantic poet and William Butler Yeats an Irish poet and dramatist. Both very prominent literary figures. Oscar Wilde, an Irish writer and poet, is one of Morrissey’s interest and role model, hence the reference.

Above the gatefold of “Write About Love” are anecdotes written by B&S vocalist and songwriter, Stuart Murdoch. He recently released his own book “The Celestial Cafe” – a collection of his online diaries written from 2002-2006. I particularly enjoyed Stuart’s entries in the album especially the one entitled “School In June” which I hope is alright to share here.

School In June

It’s later, and I’m in the studio with Mick. We’re meant to be working, but he’s working and I’m kind of dreaming, in a primary school sort of way.

I’m dreaming of not being in this room but being out in the open, roaming around the city, jumping off and on trains, in and out of cafes. I want to smell the suburbs. I want to leave the town and walk through the country park by the reservoir. Then I can look back on the town and think about what’s happening there. From up at the reservoir, the town gets reduced to a series of Trumpton type emotions and adventures, which turns soaring into songs if I want them to.

I use to love this Scottish poem when I was at school. “School in June” it was called.

“There’s no a clood in the sky
The hill’s clear as can be
An’ the broon road’s windin’ ower it,
But — no for me!”

It was about a boy stuck in the classroom longing to be outside, away up the hill.

Now you could actually see the hills from our classroom when we were being taught this poem. I should have just got up and left; taken the poetry literally.

It’s weird when you think about it. This was a poem from a boy’s perspective. It is championing the possibilities of freedom on a school day in June. We were asked to enjoy the poem, to emphatise with it, but not to enjoy the experience it proposed, which could have been given to us as easily as the ringing of a bell or the unbolting of a door.

Today is different. I could walk out of here, but I really should stay. You see, there’s a difference what you want to do and what you have to do. What’s the difference? Here’s what I propose.

What you want to do is an illusion. What you have to do is heavenly. Heavenly purpose, and therefore blessed. Blessed even. Two syllables. Bless – Ed. Pronounced like the name of the song on this record.

What I want to do is… all over the place. It comes thick and fast – as ideas, desire, and daydreams. It’s inspired by lust, by pride, and by a false sense of entitlement.

But then want turns to must… it’s a fine line sometimes; it’s probably happened to you already today. A fork in your own metaphysical road in which you are aware of the two choices. You hesitate and listen for a small voice to whisper in your ear… – Stuart

How To Swim And Live – Little Name

Another addition to my CD rack is a new discovery during my recent trip to a record store in my town. An album called “How To Swim and Live” by a solo artist from Liverpool that goes with the monicker “Little Name” and is being distributed by Universal Records. A local label who has the most substantial hard-to-find foreign indie catalogue. I enjoyed this album and so far a great driving companion. I need to give it a few more spins for it to grow in me and produce a considerable insight. 

The following description are taken from the artist’s website:

Born and raised in Liverpool and carrying on the the Liverpudlian tradition of great pop music is Little Name, whose first album, “How To Swim And Live” is out now on Sleepy Records. Bringing the lush sounds of Camera Obscura and Belle and Sebastian, the northern sensibilities of The Smiths, and the pop of Bacharach, you would think that this already internationally recognized artist was a not-so-little band, with multiple members and a full orchestra section. However, the brilliant sounds on this CD are the work of just one man, Lee Barker.

Underneath the bright indie pop are lyrics which explore ideas of openness and vulnerability, isolation and joy with a wit and humour belying their meaning. After 8 years of isolation through panic attacks, Lee was searching for greater themes, songs that said something, and said something about his life. “How To Swim And Live” was the answer. Themes of unrequited love, lost lives, anxiety, and finding inclusion in life. These are songs to cherish, songs that let you know that someone out there is feeling and struggling with the same things you are.

Visit the band’s official sites:
Belle & Sebastian –
Little Name –

2 Responses to “new year, new records”

  1. Connie

    Good to know you had wonderful time with the family. Good luck on your 2011 endeavors. I hope to see you this year. Cheers!


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