It’s no exaggeration to say that I spent a fair percentage of my youth (and dosh) in record shops and Swordfish Records was always a firm favourite. After some distinctly uncertain times happily they relocated back in March 2013 from their old home on Temple Street to 66 Dalton Street (just by the Law Courts...insert criminal record jokes here). Since then things seem to have been on the up with an endless stream of reissues and collectable vinyl flooding into the place pretty much on a weekly basis. As is now traditional they also host a Record Store Day event, which this year kicked off with a surprising stripped back set from DUMB. Er...we missed it though...as they played earlier than previously announced. Oh well, I guess that’s what you call DUMB luck.
Charlotte Carpenter’s one of those artists for whom music is therapy and, by her own admittance (online and during this set), it’s helped her through some petty shitty times. Of course this lends her songs the kind of integrity and feeling that you just can’t fake. Many of her songs manage to cleverly combine fragility with strength, a kind of determination to carry on regardless that makes for inspirational listening. Listen to Found A Light and you’ll hear what I mean.
Pick of the set was probably Sinking though, a more upbeat track with shades of Beth Orton on a indie tip.
Drakelow’s orchestral manoeuvres in the corner are always hugely enjoyable (they’ve played Swordfish a few times now). This afternoon there was just a couple of them, Matt and Lucy (you’d need to lose the entire Frank Zappa section to squeeze any more of the band in) but it was still typically beautiful stuff. Kicking off with a tender retelling of the old James Taylor classic, You Can Close Your Eyes and a stripped back version of the band’s own Record Store Day release (String) the combination of the duo’s vocals and Lucy’s heart breaking violin (ain’t the violin just the most moving instrument in the whole wide world?) was, to coin a cliché, tear jerkingly good.
Swallowing Diamonds picked up the pace before the pair submitted themselves to Red Folder Bingo (a book of songs that one of the audience members could pick at random). Wild World was the winner and, even if Matt had to cheat a bit by occasionally glancing at the lyrics, it’s still a ballsy thing to attempt.
Local boy (well, man now) Matthew Edwards has been living in San Francisco for the last 20 year or so fronting The Music Lovers and (following the fairly recent dissolution of that band) Matthew Edwards and the Unfortunates. Not sure if he’s back for good but his particular brand of reflective, slightly melancholy pop somehow seems much better suited to the streets of Kings Heath than, say, Haight Ashbury. There’s a wonderful croonerish tone to his voice (a little like the love child of Scott Walker and David Bowie to my demented ears) or perhaps more recently the likes of Richard Hawley whilst the songs themselves embrace everything from being murdered by a French movie star in the Alps (Sandrine Bonnaire...a surprisingly upbeat tune despite the subject matter) to the impact of a car crash on a relationship (Accident).
He’s a pretty new name to me but I was impressed enough to buy a copy of his most recent album, The Fates (on vinyl naturally), and I’m pleased to report that the addition of a full band on these tracks ramps up the lushness no end. Beautiful, classy and intriguing stuff from a bloke we should clutch to our bosoms and never let go. San Francisco’s loss (for now at least) is our gain.
So that was it for another Record Store Day in Brum. There have been plenty of rumblings about the whole thing becoming a bit of a money spinner for the bigger record labels (Paul Weller's just announced he's having nothing more to do with it in future) and less about the music and more about the money (predictably a lot of releases ended up on eBay before you could put the needle on the record) but anything that gets people into record shops and buying physical releases rather than ruddy downloads has to be bloody good thing, right? But remember kids, Record Stores (or shops as we say here in England) are for life, not just for Record Store Day. Use ‘em or lose ‘em...