Dan Condon: The Final Sick Tunes

11 April 2014 | 1:49 pm | Dan Condon

This is my last ever Sick Tunes. Thanks for the memories.

There's no easy way to say this, friends, but this is my last ever Sick Tunes. I couldn't quite make it to my 50th anniversary – I'm fairly sure this is blog number 45 – but the time has come for me to move on and (hopefully) hand the baton to someone who'll continue to write silly crapo about awesome songs every second week.

I've really loved, in something of a masochistic way, the past two years of writing thousands of words furiously late into Thursday night as I struggle to remember the best things I'd heard in the preceding two weeks. It's kept me on my toes and allowed me to introduce some people to some really great music.

If you ever read, even once, thanks very much. It truly does make it worthwhile.

To finish, here are five records that you might not have heard over the past two years that I really think you should. I'm not picking the obvious ones (the last thing we need is another blog espousing the virtues of the – admittedly brilliant – Lonerism), but the ones that did not get all that much attention upon their release. Records that fizzled out when they should've been championed as masterpieces. Well, in my opinion, of course…

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Endless Boogie – Long Island

Every Endless Boogie record is a journey, and you've gotta hold on tight if you want to ride it out properly. Long, long, long – yes, seemingly endless – jams that are heavy on guitar and occasionally feature frontman Paul “Top Dollar” Major jabbering and howling madly into a microphone. If I had've heard this shit in high school there's probably no way in hell I would have ever got a job, they're the kind of band who are truly inspirational to nerds who love loud guitars.

Every Endless Boogie record is great, no matter what the boffins at your local record store say, and their latest cut Long Island is a fiery journey through the depths of glorious modern psych-rock. If you do get your mits on this record, the only way to listen to it is loud and with commitment; don't switch it off, let the music take over. Most bands that try and sound like they're from the '70s completely suck, these guys don't.

Mavis Staples – One True Vine

There are only a few records that I cannot listen to a single song of; play me four bars from The White Album and I need to go back to Back In The USSR and go through the whole 94 minutes as soon as possible. If I hear Devo's Mongoloid on the radio (sadly that doesn't happen often) I have to find the nearest copy of Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! and play it as loud as possible.

Mavis Staples' One True Vine is one of those records for me. Every song is stunning; I catch myself constantly wondering how music this simple can sound this perfect. Of course it's not simple at all, the songs benefit from Staples' 50 years in the business and her deep passion for music and spirituality as well as producer Jeff Tweedy's incomparable knack for making everything sound like it's coming from some higher plain. This is a gospel record, no doubt, but you do not have to be a believer to appreciate it.

The only bad thing about One True Vine is that I'm not sure which of these songs I want played at my funeral.

OMG! FLASHBACK! My first ever Sick Tunes! (I did not know how to embed tweets)

UNDEAD APES – Killed By Deaf

I used to live with the bass player from this band and if I saw any of them on the street I'd stop and talk to them so I've never felt all that comfortable talking about them on my blog. It's all very incestuous, but the whole music community tends to be, I suppose.

Anyway, Undead Apes are one of my favourite bands. Not one of my favourite Brisbane bands or punk bands or Australian bands – they're just one of the best. Three ridiculously witty songwriters playing incredibly simple (for the most part) music with the best hooks out of any other act in this country; the Undead Apes fucking rule, man.

Their first record Grave Consequences was amazing, but the second one, Killed By Deaf is even better. They didn't technically launch that record til after I started this blog, so it is eligible for inclusion as far as I'm concerned, but if that's really an issue for you then you can go and listen to the excellent Pick Your King EP instead.

Jason Isbell – Southeastern

Yes, I know that everyone has been telling you about how good this record is lately, but have you actually listened to the fucking thing? Don't lie to me. It took me months to getting around to listen to it and I feel I need to push some more people over the line with this one, particularly given Isbell will be in the country soon.

I've seen Isbell play live a few times and I've always found the experience perfectly pleasant. I loved his work in Drive-By Truckers, his solo albums were pretty decent and he's a great live performer. Up until Southeastern, my favourite thing about Jason Isbell has been when he cracks the shits at Dierks Bentley for stealing one of his songs. I wonder if that ever got resolved?

Anyway, I digress. Southeastern is one of those country records that's so moving, so perfectly put together and so damn good that even people who hate country music can't help but like it. All the songs are great, but Elephant is the song that is most moving and that is bound to be a song that lives on for years, whether Isbell's career continues to flourish or not.

Amadou & Mariam – Folila

There was a fair bit of buzz surrounding this album, but most of that buzz came thanks to the guest spots from Santigold, Tunde & Kyp from TV On The Radio, Theophilus London and Jake Sheers from Scissor Sisters. What people didn't talk about enough is that this is the best “world music” (worst term ever) album to be released in a hell of a long time. Yes, fellow Malians Tinariwen have release some crackers and Bombino's latest is great as well, but the way Folila fuses African music with psych-rock, slick pop, rock'n'roll, soul and electro is incredible.

The guest spots are great, no doubt, but it's that core talent of Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia that shine brightest. I maintain that Bagayoko is one of the best guitarists on the planet right now and I'd say that whether he was blind or not (he is) and Doumbia's voice is not only powerful, but carries with it years of living a life of struggle and making the most out of what they have. The band don't believe in talking about hardship, just challenges and opportunity, and this record is so joyous it makes me want to be a better person.

That's it. I'm out. A huge thanks to the publishers of theMusic.com.au, my fellow editorial staff who have called me and told me when I write half-sentences (it happens) and, once again, a genuine and huge thank you for reading my shit over the past couple of years. It means a great deal.

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