The Smiths (The ’59) #159

The ’59 2018 #159: 180608

The Smiths (1984)

This year, Jem of Jemtunes, born in 1959, turns 59. So ‘The ’59’ celebrates 59 years of cracking tunes with a few albums from each year – 1959 through 2018. Currently we’re at year 26 – 1984.

The Smiths self-titled debut studio album was recorded in 1983 and released on 20 February 1984 by record label Rough Trade. After the original production by Troy Tate was felt to be inadequate, John Porter re-recorded the album in London, Manchester and Stockport during breaks in the band’s UK tour during September 1983.

The album was well received by the critics as well as the public; it reached number two on the UK Albums Chart and stayed on the chart for 33 weeks. It established the Smiths as a prominent band in the 1980s music scene in the United Kingdom.


Vampire Weekend – Contra (Epic #341)

The Epic 2017 Project #341: 171207

Vampire Weekend – Contra (2010)

Contra is the second studio album by American indie rock band Vampire Weekend, released in January 2010 on XL Recordings. It debuted at No.1 on the US Billboard 200 and reached No. 3 in the UK. The album’s title is a thematic allegory and a complex reference to the Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries, the 1980 album Sandinista! by The Clash, and the video game Contra.

It was recognized as one of The 100 Best Albums of the Decade So Far by Pitchfork in August 2014.

Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History (Epic #334)

The Epic 2017 Project #334: 171130

Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History (2010)

The debut studio album from Irish indies Two Door Cinema Club, released on 17 February 2010 by Kitsuné. The album is named for the reputation of the band’s hometown, Bangor, as a tourist attraction.

The album was recorded at Eastcote Studios in London with Eliot James in July 2009, and was based in a studio adjacent to Duran Duran. It was mixed at Phillipe Zdar’s newly built studio, Motorbass. After working with Two Door Cinema Club, Zdar told the NME…

Their stuff was already tight—I was just able to give big bass, big highs and something a bit large! They are completely crazy about music—there is not one hour when they don’t listen or download something from a blog. They remind me of me when I was a teenager.

Tourist History won the Choice Music Prize for the 2010 Irish Album of the Year. The band donated the €10,000 prize money to charity.

Ting Tings – We started nothing (Epic #329)

The Epic 2017 Project #329: 171125

The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing (2008)

We Started Nothing is the debut studio album by English indie pop duo The Ting Tings, released on 16 May 2008 by Columbia Records. The US edition had a different cover image in several background colours. The album was also released in the UK on red vinyl limited to 2,000 copies. The US vinyl version was a standard black vinyl pressing.

So taken were we by the album release that the Gigsters group I’m part of booked tickets to see the Tings Tings when they played The Shepherds Bush Empire in October 2008. Shortest gig (time wise) I’d ever been to. Good as it was, the band played through their album and then stopped. Forty-five minutes. No encore. Down the pub!

The Tings Tings are Katie White and Jules de Martino. This is what Ms White had to say in 2009 about the writing of the debut:

The way we write changes with each song. “Keep Your Head” started with Jules on the drums, “We Walk” started with me on piano, “Shut Up and Let Me Go” started with Jules on bass, “That’s Not My Name” was me ranting about my frustrations with the record industry. “Great DJ” was me playing a D chord on the guitar for hours, because that’s all I could play. And then I put my finger on the wrong string, and got what I discovered was an augmented chord. And that was the riff! The lyrics described the life we were living at the time. It was about getting lost in hedonism, about forgetting that you had bailiffs knocking at your door and just surrendering to the joys of the music in a nightclub for several hours—the boys, the girls, the strings, the drums

The National – High Violet (Epic #325)

The Epic 2017 Project #325: 171121

The National – High Violet (2010)

High Violet is the fifth studio album by The National,  released on May 10, 2010 in Europe and on May 11, 2010 in North America via 4AD.The band produced the album themselves assisted by Peter Katis with whom they worked on their previous albums Alligator and Boxer at their own studio in Brooklyn, New York, and at Katis’ Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Connecticut.The sculpture on the album cover was created by artist Mark Fox, and is called The Binding Force.

An expanded edition of High Violet was released through 4AD on November 22, 2010. The reissue includes the standard 11-track album along with a new bonus disc, featuring the unreleased tracks “You Were a Kindness” and “Wake Up Your Saints” as well as alternate versions, B-sides, and live recordings.

The Smiths (Epic #296)

The Epic 2017 Project #296: 171023

The Smiths (1984)

After signing with independent record label Rough Trade, The Smiths began preparations to record their first album in mid 1983. Due to the suggestion of Rough Trade head Geoff Travis, the band selected Troy Tate (former guitarist of The Teardrop Explodes) as producer for sessions at Elephant studios in Wapping. During the following month the group recorded fourteen songs.

While recording a BBC session for Dave Jensen in August 1983, the Smiths met producer John Porter. Travis, harbouring reservations about the group’s session with Troy Tate, gave Porter a cassette of the sessions beforehand in the hopes that he could remix them. Porter told Travis that the sessions were “out of tune and out of time”. Feeling the Tate sessions were unsalvageable, Porter offered to re-record the album himself. Despite praising the work with Tate only a week prior to the press by stating “we’ve done everything exactly right and it’ll show”, Smiths singer Morrissey accepted (as did Travis), while guitarist Johnny Marr hesitantly agreed.

The Smiths began work with Porter in September 1983. Due to tour commitments, the band had to make the record in a piecemeal fashion. Recording started at London’s Matrix Studios, with the majority of the work undertaken during a week’s stay at Pluto, just outside Manchester. A final overdub session was performed at Eden Studios in London that November. After listening to a finished mix of the album the following month, Morrissey told Porter and Travis that the album “wasn’t good enough”. However, the album’s pre-production costs of £6,000 persuaded his otherwise and release went ahead.

The sleeve for The Smiths’ debut was designed by Morrissey. It features American actor Joe Dallesandro in a cropped still from Andy Warhol’s 1968 film ‘Flesh’. The photograph of Morrissey on the original card inner sleeve was taken at an early London concert by Romi Mori, who would subsequently play bass guitar for The Gun Club.

‘The Smiths’ was released on 20 February 1984. It was well received by the critics as well as the public and reached No.2 on the UK Albums Chart, staying in the charts for 33 weeks.

Stornoway – Bonxie (Epic #274)

The Epic 2017 Project #274: 171001

Stornoway – Bonxie (2015)

Bonxie was the third and final album from Oxford’s Stornoway, released in April 2015 on ‘Cooking Vinyl’.

Stornoway were essentially singer, lyricist, and guitarist Brian Briggs; keyboard player Jon Ouin, bassist Oli Steadman and his brother Rob Steadman on drums. Their sound incorporated an ever-changing selection of stringed instruments and keyboards, supported by a typical pop backline of guitar, drums, and bass guitar.

Briggs and Ouin met during Freshers’ week at Oxford; Briggs thought Ouin looked like a member of Teenage Fanclub, a band both of them liked that became a topic of their first conversation. Soon after, the two began playing music together. They advertised for a bass player, and Oli Steadman was the only person to respond to their advert. Oli Steadman’s younger brother Rob Steadman later auditioned for the role of drummer.

The band is named after the Scottish town of Stornoway on the Hebridean Isle of Lewis, which appears on all British televised weather reports and shipping forecasts. The band had never been to Stornoway when they decided to name themselves after the town. They played their first gig there on 9 April 2010 and also signed their contract with label 4AD, a British independent record label part of Beggars Group, there as well.

In a 2010 interview with British music blog ‘There Goes the Fear’, Brian Briggs described the band’s hunt for a name…

“We were looking for somewhere that sounded a bit distant and remote and coastal. And it was a very long process, and quite a fun process that I think every band goes through trying to get the right band name. And we had a massive list, pages and pages, and the only thing that they had in common was that they were all slightly coastal or maritime-themed. So we were looking in books about knots and, I dunno, guides to natural history of the seashore. And we tried quite a few out and they all failed, and this was the only one that stuck, and it was reinforced by the fact that if you see at the BBC weather forecast, Stornoway is up there … so we get this wonderful free promotion every time there’s a weather report.”

In October 2016 the band announced that they would be splitting up after a farewell tour during spring 2017. Primarily because Brian Briggs was off to become the head warden on a nature reserve in Wales.

Stornoway played their final show in Oxford on 12 March 2017; we were fortunate enough to see them in Brighton two days earlier on 8th March.