A-Z: Marshmallow – Cerys Matthews

Marshmallow – Anytime Soon (single)
Yet another single from 2004. I just saw that Bic Runga plays drums on it – I recognised the name but couldn’t think why – I googled and was reminded that a couple of people I met at Cerys’ gig in Farndale last year were talking about her as she’d recently also played The Bandroom. Ron Sexsmith provides backing vocals on this single, so it’s a bit of a supergroup affair by the sounds of it. According to Wikipedia they just released the one album and this one single. The songs aren’t anything amazing, but they’re nicely enjoyable.

James Marsters – Civilized Man (album)
Yes him who played Spike on Buffy! Being a Buffy fan myself I was intrigued to hear James’ music – especially after watching the brilliant ‘Once More With Feeling’ (the musical episode of Buffy!). He used to be in a band called ‘Ghost Of The Robot’ but he’s since gone solo. As far as I know this is his first solo album. A second one’s available for pre-order though, as I discovered from a mailing list e-mail I got this week, so that’s quite exciting. I really didn’t know what to expect when I ordered this album as I hadn’t heard any of his songs and didn’t even know what style they’d be – I just ordered it because I’m a fan of his and like to support the people I like. I wasn’t disappointed though – I really like this album. It took me a little while to get used to hearing him sing with an American accent though, as I’m so used to hearing him as Spike! Ha ha ha. Style-wise I find it really difficult to describe – some songs are kinda American college-rock/emo (think of Weezer or something), but then there are some almost ballady songs and some others that are kinda country and then the rest are somewhere inbetween!!
‘Bad’ – This is my favourite track on the album. Love it! I was really pleased when he played it live when I saw him in London. It wasn’t at a regular gig, it was a show he did called ‘Words & Music’ where the first half was a two-handed abridged version of MacBeth and the second half was an acoustic gig – really interesting and very enjoyable and probably the only gig/show type thing I’ve been to where you could count the number of male people present on one hand!! Ha ha. Well, ok, maybe two hands, but no more than that! I’ve got it on DVD actually though still haven’t gotten round to watching it – this album’s putting me in the mood though so maybe I’ll watch it soon.

The Mars Volta – Frances The Mute (album)
I wanted this album after hearing ‘The Widow’ somewhere and really liking it. This is only my 2nd time of listening to it though – not that I didn’t enjoy it the first time, but you have to be in the right kinda mood generally I think – plus the tracks don’t really work on their own (aside from The Widow), it’s definitely an album album. It’s pretty experimental and jumps all over the place but it’s an interesting listening experience. Imagine feeling a bit morose and anguished and then being given a load of e-numbers and red bull or something and put into a room with lots of guitars and keyboards and being able to just go kinda nuts, whilst also harbouring desires of epic grandeur – this album would be the resulting sound. I’m slightly loathe to use the words ‘prog-rock’ as they conjure up images of Rick Wakeman in a Wizard’s hat, but it’s probably as good a genre categorisation as any.
‘The Widow’ – This really is a great track. The end goes on a little too long really, but aside from that it’s pretty damn great.

Willy Mason – Oxygen (single)
Great song. “I want to speak louder than Ritalin for all the children who think that they’ve got a disease”.

Cerys Matthews – Cockahoop (acetate promo album)
The first of 3 playings of this album! I haven’t listened to it as an album for ages actually, though I listen to the songs a lot. Naturally it takes me back to when it was released in 2003. It’s quite funny to think that was only 2 years after Catatonia released ‘Paper, Scissors, Stone’ and then split, as it seemed much longer at the time. Naturally there was a lot of anticipation with this album – I knew it was going to be a departure from Catatonia, which it really needed to be, and I was trying to not have any pre-conceived ideas and to just treat it as a new album in its own right and not do the predictable thing of comparing it with Catatonia stuff. This is difficult to avoid though! On first listen I really enjoyed it but also knew I’d need to let it grow on me a bit. My instant favourite was ‘Only A Fool’, which is probably the most Catatonia-sounding track on the album. That’s just what my tastes were at the time – I didn’t really listen to many bands with a folky/country edge. I do now though! I hadn’t really thought about it before, but in the same way that International Velvet opened up my musical tastes into the indie type vein, Cockahoop’s resulted in opening up my tastes into folky/country/americana type stuff. Interesting. You only become aware of certain albums’ impacts once you can view them in hindsight. Cockahoop’s definitely a special album to me. Cerys definitely has a knack for making the right albums at the right times. It took a few listens, especially with songs like ‘Gypsy Song’ and ‘All My Trails’, but I very quickly fell in love with it as an album.

It also naturally evokes memories of that tour in 2003. After missing out on so many Catatonia gigs and only managing to see them twice (which I realise is more than a lot of people) and with so many of my favourite bands splitting up, I’d definitely come to the conclusion that I should take as many opportunities as possible to see my favourite bands/artists. So I went to 3 of the gigs on that tour. I’d have liked to have made it even more and would have loved to have made the Bethesda gig with SFAs (who I still haven’t seen live!) but money and travel constraints are always an issue! Anyway, 3 gigs was just right at the time and they all had different things to recommend them – both in the gigs themselves and the things that happened before and after. I think I already talked about that a bit when I was listening to Adam Green, but yeah some good memories – including the first time I got to meet Cerys of course. I think a couple of people caught that on video actually!! I wouldn’t want to watch it though – my overriding memory is of going red and stumbling over my words. Not that that’s a rare occurence for me – I’ll go red and lose the ability to talk pretty easily! Anyway, that particular occurence seems so long ago now – it’s funny.

Oh my god the album’s nearly finished already and I haven’t even gotten on to talking about the specific songs! Just as well I’ve got another 2 copies. ;-P Hey, I just noticed that on this CD they’ve spelt ‘Matthews’ with just one ‘T’. Fools!

Cerys Matthews – Cockahoop (album promo)
I’ll actually talk about the album itself now! I’ve always really liked that it’s like going on a journey – about leaving bad things in the past and starting afresh. Time-wise it was quite fitting for me really, as it was released when I was on the dole and had generally been listening to a lot of Suede (who created some of the greatest music ever for people on the dole!), plus quite a bit of Mansun. Cockahoop’s a pretty stark contrast to that!! It brought promise of happy times though and like I mentioned I had a great time that Summer going to the gigs. I also finally managed to get a job that summer and started working at the University of Worcester (or what was to become the University of Worcester at least) at the end of that August, 2003. Anyway, the songs, the songs…
‘Chardonnay’ – Great song to kick things off as it’s sooooo damn catchy. Trips to the supermarket have never been the same since! It’s impossible to walk past a bottle of chardonnay without starting to sing to it!!
‘Caught In The Middle’ – I’ve gotten more and more fond of this song over time. Definitely one of my favourites on the album – although my favourites probably include about half of the album!
‘Louisiana’ – I love the energy of this song and the way it just kicks straight into it. It’s such a happy smiley song.
‘Weightless Again’ – In contrast this is much more moody and atmospheric. Hmm, those probably aren’t quite the right words, but I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s quite a visual song I reckon – it really easily evokes images of forests and indians and motel rooms and the Golden Gate Bridge. I love it – it became a favourite pretty quickly.
‘Only A Fool’ – Still love it. I seem to be a sucker for songs that mention being foolish in some way. I probably shouldn’t start to read things into that!!
‘La Bague’ – The song that punches you in the face then runs away! He he.
‘Miller Of Hooterville’ – Short instrumental track. I just realised that I know this track as ‘Miller Of Hooterville’ and always think of it as that, yet on the actual album it’s just down as ‘…interlude…’. It’s down as ‘Miller Of Hooterville’ on the promos, but I didn’t have either of the promos until a while after I already had the album, so why do I only remember thinking of it as ‘Miller Of Hooterville’? Probably just the senility I seem to be developing.
‘Arglwydd Dyma Fi’ – I know I haven’t said anything about ‘Ocean’, but that’s just because I can’t think of anything to say! It’s good, I like it, but don’t have any particular memories associated with it or anything and don’t love it enough to start with the random gushing! ‘Arglwydd Dyma Fi’ on the other hand is another of my favourites! It’s at its best when performed live in Wales and everybody sings along 🙂 Favourite memories of that being Sesiwn Fawr and the Bethesda Rugby Club gig. Sesiwn Fawr inparticular though as the TV footage captured Rea and I singing along behind Rea’s big Cockahoop banner!
‘If You’re Looking For Love’ – This reminds me of that first gig in 2003 at St David’s Hall in Cardiff. Well, it reminds me of the time leading up to it anyway, as I travelled to Cardiff with Chris, which involved blasting lots of music loudly out of the car on the motorway. Specifically I remember this song being played loudly (as it was Chris’ favourite on the album), plus remember lots of Barenaked Ladies being played. But yes, brilliant song. Another favourite!
‘The Good In Goodbye’ – And yet another favourite!!! I love the vocal on this. I can’t listen to it though without thinking of the t-shirt I made for Sesiwn Fawr which said ‘I woke up in the morning stripped of everything…except this t-shirt!’. I can’t take credit for the idea though – that came from Gareth. During the TV footage of this song at Sesiwn Fawr, I can be seen bobbing along in a very cheery manner!
‘Gypsy Song’ – Like I mentioned, it took me a while to really take to the last couple of tracks on the album. I really like this song now though. I also really like the slightly different version that’s on the film ‘Gypsy Woman’. Hee hee, love that film!! I haven’t watched it for a while actually – I might have to do that. I mostly bought it for Jack Davenport, but discovering there was a Cerys song on it was an added bonus!
‘All My Trials’ – Even though this song grew on me, it didn’t become a song I got excited about until I heard the live rocky version that Cerys and the boys did on the tour last year. I first heard it at the Llangollen gig and was just totally blown away. I was generally blown away during that gig actually, but I’ll get to that when I get to ‘Never Said Goodbye’.

Cerys Matthews – Cockahoop (album)
Ah, my original copy – bought on the day of release in Sanity in Kidderminster (which sadly is no longer there. The music shop I mean – not Kidderminster itself! The flooding in the midlands wasn’t *that* bad!). I then got it signed after the gig in Bethesda at the end of 2005. That was one fun and completely bizarre weekend, as I’m sure Melissa and Joop will agree!! It brings back memories of profane christmas songs, hot dogs and a mysterious bloke called Caleb. Everything you need for a weekend in North Wales!

Cerys Matthews – The Boy Gardener (promo album)
Later renamed ‘Never Said Goodbye’. I just got this promo recently as managed to resist when a few appeared on Ebay before the album was actually released. I had been planning to wait until the actual release before getting to hear the album, but in the end I did actually cave and asked a friend to send me the songs by MP3, as she’d caved and bought a copy on Ebay. I partly caved because I’d heard a clip of Open Roads and totally loved it, so wanted to get to hear that (and infact I did initially just ask for that one track, but once I had it I needed to hear more!!), plus I liked the idea of being familiar with the songs in advance of the first tour last year. Anyway, when I had the album in digital form, I decided to write down my initial thoughts as I listened to it. I then posted these in a locked blog entry on LJ, plus also amused Cerys with them! I haven’t re-read them since then, but I should be able to locate them… So yes, I’m going to post what were my initial reactions to the tracks (the stuff in italics) and then also talk about what the tracks mean to me now. I’m hoping this will prove for interesting reading…(I can but hope)…

Streets Of New York
“Ooh, liking the drums! I don’t know how to describe this at all – it’s different to everything I can think of. Really like it though – great opening track. Electronicy (yes that’s a word!) in places, almost-tribal-like drums and…nope I really can’t describe this. Damn, stumped already and it’s only track one!”

Hee hee, I still don’t know how to describe it actually – it’s definitely one of my favourites on the album though. It’s got a great feel to it and definitely kicks the album off really well. I love the production on this album, though I’ve had a few MySpace messages and e-mails from people who really dislike it for some reason and think that you can’t hear Cerys’ vocals properly?? I don’t get that at all.

A Bird In Hand
“Ooh blimey, this is different to the live version! It’s much quirkier. Ooh, ooh, me like. It’s really cute! 😀 It makes me feel all smiley and happy. Very summery.”

I don’t find it as quirky now as I did on that first listen, but tis a great song. There are some brilliant lyrics in it. “I’m good for nothing. Nothing’s good enough for me.” It’s a song that makes you feel really content.

Oxygen
“Ooh I recognise the chorus! She must have played it at Bethesda. Either that or I’ve gained psychic powers. Hee, this is so impossible to describe! I really like it, though think I’ll like it even more after a few more listens. It definitely strikes me as a grower – there’s so much going on in it! Ooh ooh love the vocals at the end!”

I’d completely forgotten I’d recognised this from Bethesda. And how terrible am I at describing songs?? It is really difficult to compare these songs to anything else though – the album’s got a pretty unique sound I reckon. And yes this song was indeed a grower – it’s brilliant!

Open Roads
“I’ve heard this quite a few times already, so can’t really give my first impressions now, but I’m still loving it. And the lyrics still make me want to cry. I love the way it ends :-)”

I think I maybe played this a few too many times when I first got hold of the MP3!! It’s had the Strange Glue effect in that I often tend to skip it when it comes up on my playlist now, yet whenever I do listen to it I remember how good it is! Listening to it now I’m remembering why it makes me want to cry! I can’t really explain why though… It’s the verses that do it – just the lyrics and the way they’re sung, it just gets me. And the ending!!! The “hold on to dreams and to memories, they’re the only things that really exist…” bit – that kills me too.

This Endless Rain
“I don’t know how to describe this at all – it’s beautiful and it makes me want to smile and cry in equal measure – all in a good way though. The beginnning reminded me a little of Cathy Davey – mostly just the drums really. Style wise it reminds me a little of The Asylum by The Tears, but that’s just me! And I stress it only reminded me of that ‘a little’! Not that that’s a bad thing – I love that song. But yes – beautiful.”

Hmm, interesting comparisons! If I hadn’t re-read that I don’t think I’d have thought of mentioning Cathy Davey or The Tears, but I do still see the similarity actually. ‘Beautiful’ is still the word I’d use, definitely. And yes it still makes me want to smile and cry at the same time!

Blue Light Alarm
“This song’s like being in a magical forest or something! A magical forest with some kind of hidden threat! Oooh, ooh wow – I love that bit that just came in! Ok, that doesn’t really work as a comment if you can’t hear what I’m hearing right now, but trust me, that was good! This song makes me think of Ooberman – which is never a bad thing. It has that magic and big orchestration and explosions of sound!”

*giggles* I don’t think of magical forests any more I have to say. I’m not sure what I associate this song with really. Sometimes I think of driving down dark streets, but there’s that YouTube video to blame for that!

Morning Sunshine
“This is another one that makes me smiley and happy. I want to dance around a field or something! With a tambourine!!! Ooh, fab ending.”

I just read a post Ben made on Cerys’ forum about this song being rude. I’m now trying to listen to it in more of a dirty-minded way, but I’m still not really seeing it… Surprising for me – I’m usually good at reading in dirty things that aren’t there!! The ‘salt water dripping from your hair’ is the only thing that I thought could possibly be taken in a lewd way! 😛 Am I being too innocent or is Ben just a dirty bugger?!! This song does include one of my favourite lyrics though – “every squirrel shares a pearl of wisdom – higher the tree, greater the fall’.

Seed Song
“Ooh funky. Ooh very funky. This is another song that’s not like anything else ever! I think it’s another grower too. I love the style – so funky.”

This was a grower, yeah. Fitting with the seed analogy! Love it. Another favourite.

What Kind Of Man?
“Ooh, short and kinda sleazy! He he. It’s like the long lost cousin twice-removed of Shoot The Messenger – mostly in that it makes me think of someone drunk in a bar.”

There is a sense of drunkeness about it, but I don’t really find it sleazy now. It’s only just over a minute in length, but I love this song!! It’s definitely the song I listen to most often from this album. It brings back lots of memories from last year – obviously of it being performed live, but aside from that it reminds me that I still have the ability to get crushes on people, which isn’t something that happens to me that often and I’d started to worry I’d gotten immune to or something! Granted it also reminded me that I get a bit crazy in the head, have seemingly lost any sense of being able to gauge whether people fancy me or not (I tend to assume not – especially if I actually like them! I told you I went mad in the head) and therefore either miss my chance or scare said people away. Ah, it’s all fun.

Ruby
“Ooh blimey! This is totally different again. It has a dancey kinda beat – funky, but in a different way to Seed Song. I feel like I’m dancing in a darkened club now. Woah, I think that needs some more listens!”

The combination of ‘Seed Song’, ‘What Kind Of Man?’ and then ‘Ruby’ is definitely my favourite part of the album. It’s like ‘wow, yeah, loving this’ and then suddenly you find you’re on the last track and you wonder how on earth a whole album’s gone by already!

Elen
“Ah, a Welsh track! Cool 😀 It has a lullaby quality to it. Very different to the previous track! Great last track though. Who can I get to translate? Which words can I pick out? Something about singing? ‘Can ar gan’ meaning ‘song in verse’?!? I probably shouldn’t try and translate things. Aw, it’s ending! Noooooo, I don’t want the album to end! There does seem to be a secret track though…*waits a bit*…ooh, creepy. Who’s that talking? And in what language?! Is that ‘boy gardener’ at the end? So many questions! *replays that secret bit a few times* Did I pick out the word ‘harami’? That’s Japanese! Ah! Who do I know who speaks Japanese? My own grasp of it is limited to the lyrics of Teo Torriatte by Queen! ;-)”

I really shouldn’t try and guess what Welsh lyrics are!! Not that ‘can ar gan’ is miles away from ‘cana gan’, but still!

And my summarising words on the album were:
“Anyway, woah, that’s one amazingly impressive album. I’m not even sure how to sum it up – plus I’m sure I’ll keep changing my perception of it as it becomes more familiar…

…sorry, the doorbell just went and it was the Tescos man! He’s brought me all my ice-cream (hoorah!) but my lager was out-of-stock! Noooooooooooo! I’ll have to order some for Thursday instead – I can’t not have lager in this heat! Meh, I was really looking forward to that tonight. Anyway….

…what was I saying? Oh yeah – it’s impossible to try and compare to Cockahoop or any Catatonia stuff (well, aside from my brief mention of Shoot The Messenger), as it has a totally different feel and style about it – which is good! If it sounded the same as old stuff, what would be the point? I really love the drums – they remind me of Cathy Davey and Kunta Kinte as they’re the only other 2 artists whose drums I really notice and love. But yeah – there are some really happy, sunny songs on there, that evoke images of The Polyphonic Spree or something – but then it also gets kinda dark and moody and delightfully sleazy! Love love love it!”

There’s lots more I want to say about this album too, but I think it’ll have to wait. I’ve still got another 3 listens of it to come anyway, so I might as well spread my thoughts out a bit!

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