Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond

Entries Tagged as 'Musing on Music'

10 Favourite Gigs of 2012

December 28th, 2012 · 3 Comments

So I started putting together a list of all the gigs I’d been to this year, from which to compile a best-of list. But in doing so realised that, aside from the few music things I saw at Greenbelt this year (Bruce Cockburn was my highlight) I only went to 12 gigs this year!

Thankfully, these were all excellent – if I had to pick any as highlights from the list, I’d have to say that the Rosanne Cash gig at the Union Chapel ranks in my favourite gigs ever list – just her and John Leventhal, two guitars and an incredible set of songs. An outstanding performance.

The other one that impacted me the most was Triptykon – I didn’t even know who they were when I went to the gig, but not only was their set one of the most visceral musical experiences I’ve ever had, they inspired the formation of Torycore – definitely another of my musical highlights from this year, though one with me playing so it doesn’t make this list 🙂

Here’s the full list – [

Tags: Musing on Music

My favourite new music of 2012

December 16th, 2012 · Comments Off on My favourite new music of 2012

As is traditional, it’s time for my ‘favourite new things I bought this year’ music post.

There has been a lot of amazing music released this year. As has been the case for the last three or four years, I haven’t really heard any ‘bad’ music at all. I’ve got way too good at filtering. I heard some things that ‘weren’t my cup of tea’, but they were all interesting and worth investigating.

I’m going to do a full list of all my favourites of the year at the bottom, but there were a handful of records this year that have gone straight into my ‘all time favourites’ list. Properly incredible music. So let’s start there:

Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Crown And Treaty

Having had their previous album nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, this album was hotly anticipated by people who know about these things. I was more interested in having followed bits of the journey of its creation via Twitter. None of that expectation prepared me for just how amazing the album would be. Everything about this is wonderful – from the hat tips to pop’s greatest songwriting traditions (particularly the ‘grown-up post-new-wave’ 80s stuff like David Sylvian, Prefab Sprout, Talk Talk, The Associates, Eg White etc.) to the utterly sublime drumming (pop records can be made or broken by the drumming, IMO). It’s a pure delight. Go have a listen on Mojo’s website, then buy it.

Emily Baker – All At Sea

Emily’s last album, House Of Cards, is already a deep favourite of mine. She’s one of the greatest songwriters I’ve ever come across, a stellar performer and a deeply lovely human being. All At Sea is, at least for me, a hell of an emotional ride. Emily’s draws pictures with words with a skill that I’ve rarely seen anywhere. Joni Mitchell-level skillz. I could probably quite happily spend all of 2013 with this as the only music I was allowed to listen to and still not get tired of it.

Neil Alexander – Darn That Dream

now HERE’S a record I was waiting for for a long time. Neil’s an exceptional talent, and turns his hand to a mind-boggling array of musical styles and situations as if he was born to play each one. But this album reveals the piano to be his true home. Melding the introspection of jazz, the flamboyance of the romantic solo piano tradition and the unexpected twists and turns of the world of improvised music, this album takes us on an epic journey. Any solo record this long has to be pretty damn special to not outstay its welcome. This one can come back for a visit time and time again.

Julie Slick – Terroir

Not content with being one of the greatest rock bassists I’ve ever heard, Terroir sees Julie growing as a composer, arranger and producer – not remotely swamped by the dazzling array of collaborators she’s assembled here, her musical vision is front and centre for the entire record, and shows that her self titled debut wasn’t a fluke, but was a signpost to what was to come. A startling record.

The Alvaret Ensemble – S/t

I know next to nothing about this! I bought it just two weeks ago on Sid Smith’s recommendation, and immediately fell in love with it – a core quartet, with various additions, recorded in such a way that it’s often not entirely clear what the instrumentation is anyway. Hugely compelling minimalist improv. Check it out on their site.

Mister Barrington – II

One of those records that seems to come out of nowhere – so many recognisable influences, but in SUCH insane combinations. Funk, soul, electronica, disco, jazz, prog and weirdness rolled together by one of the most amazing trios you’ll ever hear. check it out at


Just outside this top six are the brilliant 2012 releases from Hope And Social, Denison Witmer, Dave Douglas, Clatter, Adrien Reju, Christine Bougie, Darin Wilson, Jake Dubber, Jez Carr/Simon Little/Mike Houghton, Nik Kershaw, Scott McLemore, Ihsahn, 4 Sided Triangle, John Lester and Alex Machacek.

And probably a load that have slipped my mind.

Such is life – it’s been a bumper year for amazing music, with nary a dud track between all of these. You could quite easily spend all of 2013 just listening to my favourites of 2012 and still not have ‘finished’ them all in the year!

Tags: Musing on Music

Indie Or Not, Who Gets The Money?

October 31st, 2012 · 1 Comment

picture of money by Alejandro Jopia from Flickr, used under a CC license. Via Twitter, I just saw this article from The Atlantic Wire.

The headline reads “There’s No Money in Indie Music: Cat Power Is Broke”

As a pair of statements, the former supposedly being proved by the latter, it’s disingenuous nonsense – there’s clearly LOADS of money to be made from an indie record landing in the top 10… But there are some massive questions over why the artist who made the record isn’t getting enough of it to live on. This article answers pretty much none of those, so the ‘sky is falling’ conclusion encapsulated in the title is nonsense. [Read more →]

Tags: Musing on Music · New Music Strategies

Women And Guitars – Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1

October 12th, 2012 · 13 Comments

hot naked guitarsSo it’s all blown up on Twitter and Facebook today, since Jon Gomm and Laura Kidd noticed that Guitar World Magazine have a ‘girls and guitars’ section [I’m not going to link to it, partly cos they don’t deserve the traffic and partly cos some of it’s probably NSFW depending on where you work] – basically women in their underwear/bikinis posing sexually with guitars. Some of them may be guitar players, some not.

The conversation about it, and the response to it falls into a number of different categories. Some of those commenting negatively against Guitar World have done so for wholly repugnant reasons… “she’s not even that hot”… Others have come back accusing those who find the pictures crass/sexist/il-placed in a guitar magazine of being prudish/asexual/needing to get a fucking life…

So, here’s the deal. This is not, at all, about prudish moralising. If you want to make, or read/look at guitar-based erotica, knock yourself out. I’m sure there’s a rich seam of creative writing to be had, given just how sexy playing music can be.

So what is it about? [

Tags: Musing on Music

Every Artist Is A KickStarter Project.

February 14th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Image used under Creative Commons, by botheredbybees on FlickrThere have been some amazing success stories on Kickstarter of late, not least of all CASH Music raising their $30K in 72 hours. Brilliant.

What’s worth noting, however, is that pretty much every musician’s career is a Kickstarter project – the work we have out now are the incentives, and the money raised makes it possible to do more elaborate things going forward. [Read more →]

Tags: Musing on Music

Why I’ve Taken My Music Off Spotify…

December 16th, 2011 · 25 Comments

A few weeks back, Andrew Dubber and I recorded a podcast, in which we talked about Spotify. A lot. I outlined in that some of the reasons why I’m taking my music off the service, and now that I’ve finally got round to it, I’ll write about them too.

It’s become de rigueur for labels and artists to take their music off the service, citing the low payout per stream as their primary reason. That’s not my reason.

Neither is it to do with their often eff-up metadata or the lack of control over artist bios and weblinks (though all three of those are massive issues they need to address).

No, my argument is simply a fair trade one, not a ‘this is best for my career’ one. In fact, I think I’ll probably, to some degree, lessen the chances of some listeners finding me. I’ve made it harder for those who share Spotify links to their favourite music to share my music (though not physically much harder, given that ultimately Bandcamp links are way more useful, in that they’re cross-platform, don’t require an app, never play you ads and will even create embeddable players when you drop them into Facebook, with integral ‘download/buy’ links.)

No, I have two main complaints:

  • One, the service is at least part owned by the Major labels, who have a controlling say in how it all works, how the payments work, and who gets what.
  • Two, As far as I can see, Spotify have just attempted to stay inside the law with regards to artist/writer payments, involving protracted negotiations with the rights orgs. At no point have they, as far as I can tell, made any offer to musicians over and above the absolute minimum. The reason it’s ‘as far as I can see’ is that Spotify won’t tell anyone what they pay. Their payments are obscured, and they defer to the labels saying that artists only get paid by the labels and collection agencies anyway. It’s bollocks. If they are paying x-amount per stream to the PRS, we should be told that. If there’s any more that goes straight to the distributors/labels, we should be told that too. To claim it’s ‘commercially sensitive’ just means ‘we’ve done a deal with the Majors that makes indie artists look like goons, and we don’t want them to know’.

This may well be because, as this article claims, the majors have it rigged anyway. It’s certainly true that anyone paying Spotify to listen to my music is also funding the Major record labels. Labels that I hope will cease to exist before too long.

So, I’ve pulled my music off there. Being there was doing me no harm, I’m not expecting to see an upsurge in sales, though thanks to the total absence of tracking data, I’ve never been able to see whether anyone bought my music after hearing it on Spotify.

IF you have been listening to my music on Spotify up until now, please feel free to go and download it from– there’s loads more there than was ever on Spotify, with the correct titles and everything – it’s got artwork, sleevenotes, and your Spotify app will play it anyway once you’ve downloaded it. It just won’t be giving any money to the bastards who are trying to force insane legislation through the UK and US courts to ruin the internet.

(if at the time of reading you check Spotify and my music is still there, it just means they haven’t pulled it from their system yet. No need to tell me in the comments 🙂 ) 

Tags: Musing on Music · New Music Strategies

10,000 Jonis – Celebrate by Sharing.

November 7th, 2011 · 3 Comments

Today is Joni Mitchell’s birthday. She’s 68.

Joni has influenced my music perhaps more than any other single musician. She’s not a bassist and she doesn’t loop, but the connection her music makes, the way it draws you into the story, into her world, the feeling of almost too much access into the inner recesses of her mind, all wrapped in just the right music for each story, is exactly what I’ve tried to do. Her music is the gold standard. [Read more →]

Tags: Musing on Music

Why I Won’t be Installing the CDBaby Facebook Music Store

October 13th, 2011 · 2 Comments

A few days ago, CDBaby launched a Facebook Music Store, that integrates with Facebook pages, so you can sell your music there (assuming it’s also on CDBaby).

The store has its own tab and is basically an embedded version of your music page at CD baby. So people can buy CDs and downloads, with just a few quick clicks.

I’m not going to add it.

I’ll stick with Bandcamp.

Here’s why: [

Tags: Musing on Music

Tweet-Rant #2 : 23 Tweets About Bandcamp

August 1st, 2011 · 4 Comments

I had another tweet rant the other night, this time about Bandcamp, and some of the issues surrounding it. Here it is again, annotated with additional info about each tweet:

A couple of @bandcamp stats for you. The average price of a paid download of mine on bandcamp is £6.49 – for something available ‘free’.
10:02pm Jul 28th 2011

[that one’s self-explanatory – a quick conversion online shows me that £6.49 is currently $10.63] [Read more →]

Tags: Musing on Music · New Music Strategies

24 Tweets About Digital Music.

July 16th, 2011 · 6 Comments

Over the last few days, a lot of people have been talking about the arrival of Spotify in the US. I blogged a LOT about Spotify when it first arrived – and many of the same “it’s the future of music!/it’s the end of civilization as we know it!” conversations are happening now. So I posted a handful of tweets about it, which people liked, so I gathered them together into a single page with

Now I’m tidying them up here (fixing the wayward numbering in the process), and will maybe expand on them a little as time goes on. I’ve left the original links in place in case you want to retweet any of the tweets on Twitter… [Read more →]

Tags: Musing on Music · New Music Strategies