Certain Songs

John Doree and Sam Unsted

Welcome to Certain Songs, a weekly music podcast presented by Sam Unsted and John Doree.

  • We are coming back!

    So, it’s been a long time and we’re so incredibly super late with a new podcast that I felt it was necessary to issue an apology and explain the situation.

    After the first ten episodes of the show, all intentions were for us to continue recording after a short hiatus during which time John and myself both were to move house. This all happened – the house moving, that is – and plans were made for new shows. But then those plans were delayed and those delays were postponed and, all of a sudden, John had gone done moved house again to a location much more geographically conducive to our working together on creating new shows.

    It then took a couple more months, many of which were spent happily seeing each other more often – having been divided by the distance – and all of which were spent, by my co-host, falling in love. Now, with love in our hearts and pent-up music discussion in our brains, we return to the fray with a new, revamped and rebooted version of the show.

    Where in the past the shows were themed around a particular album or a concept (symphonic metal, Washington hardcore etc.) they will now focus on a single song each week. We will choose the song, we will tell you what the song is at the end of the previous episode and then we will listen to the song every day leading up to the show. Then, on the show, we will discuss the song along with anything and everything, no matter how tangential or irrelevant it may seem, that it provokes.

    We’ll also chat about the songs we’ve been listening to in that given week and we’ll chat about anything else we want to. The primary result will be that the show becomes more focused and less sprawling. The length will be curtailed to fit within a broad 30 minutes – 1 hour timeframe.

    Outside of the show, the blog will have daily contributions of songs we are listening to, old and new, along with monthly Spotify playlists which will include everything talked about on the show and everything else in between.

    The shows will start going up in about a week or so, but the blogging will start by the end of the week at the latest, so please check back and start enjoying what we have to offer.

    Good to be back, folks. Good to be back.

    24 April 2012, 5:58 pm
  • Post-Mercury Music Prize Fatigue

    Poor old Paul Weller, looks like that sudden surge of bets that seemed to centre chiefly around the Midlands wasn’t a sign of his impending victory after all.

    So The xx cinched it and the music world seems to have breathed a sigh of relief. It’s an interesting win, one that seems to have catered to both sides. As we discussed (at considerable length) on our most recent episode, The xx were pretty much the clear winners for both those who have decried the Mercury Prize panel for losing touch over the years and those who have embraced winners with each passing year. That sigh of relief was perhaps more pronounced on the part of the panel, relieved as they must have been to not play host to a riot in the hall when the winner was announced.

    I’m hoping that in a subtle way that The xx emerging triumphant last night is a soft reset of the troubled award ceremony. Now while I wasn’t too enamoured with the album I can still see it for what it is: An album that the award needed more than the album needed the award. If you see what I mean.

    Anyway. I guess we”ll have to see what effect it’ll have on The xx. I’ll leave you with a Spotify link to my personal favourite of the Mercury shortlist, the rather charming Wild Beasts and their excellent record ‘Two Dancers’.

    8 September 2010, 3:36 pm
  • Certain Songs #10 – Mercury Music Prize

    Certain Songs #10

    Right Cliiiiick. Saaaaave Assss. Listen Up.

    Bravely, possibly foolishly, John and Sam leap into the world of the Mercury Music Prize, listening to everything offered by the nominees for the prize and ruthlessly assessing the quality of the field. In this mammoth edition of the show, the boys take in the delights of Biffy Clyro and Laura Marling, with stops on the way to meet with Paul Weller, Mumford & Sons and more. Don’t do it all in one sitting, but enjoy this extravaganza of Certain Song-age. At the close, the boys induct a couple of records from Mercurys past into the Hall of Fame.

    6 September 2010, 6:26 pm
  • Certain Songs #09 – Best of 2010 Part 2

    Certain Songs #09

    (right click, save as, peaches for free)

    Yet more Best of 2010 so far this week, with Sam highlighting a bevy of new songs and John deciding to assess the quality of AOL’s top ten songs of the year. The gents also find time to chat about Philip Selway and allow John space to induct some elegiac instrumentalism into the hall of fame.

    19 July 2010, 8:07 pm
  • Certain Songs #08 – Best of 2010 Part 1

    Certain Songs #08

    (right click, save as, turtle power)

    It’s a beast! Turns out that despite our relative upstart status, we have a lot of things to say on what’s happened so far in 2010. Join the gang, or duo is probably more accurate, for a little discussion on the highlights (and lowlights) of this year.

    As part of our regular features Sam has been continuing his foray into the shoegaze/noise pop revival with Besnard Lakes and Liars while John has strived for the ultimate clash by listening to Mastodon and Lady Gaga. Not at the same time though. That’d just be horrible.

    14 July 2010, 6:23 pm
  • Certain Songs #07 – Venetian Snares

    Certain Songs #07

    (right click, save as, Aphex acid)

    Put your skronky breakcore hats on, folks, because it’s time for Sam to dive into the world of Venetian Snares. Sam and John will have a long chat about this cheeky chappy, along with some indulgence in Sam’s summer hip-hop obsessions and John counters this will the twin pleasures of Shostakovich and Isis.

    5 July 2010, 6:14 pm
  • Certain Songs #06 – Exodus by Bob Marley & The Wailers

    Download Certain Songs Episode 06

    (Right click, save as, white wedding)

    Sam gets round to seeing what the fuss is all about regarding The xx and Fuck Buttons while John has a near-fit talking about Robyn and Autechre. Today’s main feature is a look at Exodus by Bob Marley & The Wailers as part of our series on discovering acclaimed albums that otherwise passed us by.

    Plus there’s the usual song inductions into our Hall of Fame and John serves up a particularly mental but otherwise blissful oddity from the far reaches of the Internet (although not that far geographically, all things considered.)

    29 June 2010, 8:01 am
  • Certain Songs Episode #5 – Summer Songs

    Certain Songs Episode 05

    (Right click, save as, funky good times)

    Summer is here, so the Sam-John axis hath decided to embrace the season and regale all with summer playlists to enjoy. They also find time in this busy summer schedule to chat about Beach Fossils, Roky Erickson and their inductees into the Hall of Fame.

    21 June 2010, 9:02 pm
  • Certain Songs #4 – Show Notes

    The Spotify Playlist for this week’s show is here.

    There are a couple of extra tracks on there just to keep it up to length, including a bevy of Metallica covers. The Show Notes do not include anything for the three albums as, come on, no more information is needed.

    Big Boi’s video for ‘Shutterbug’ is here. If you’ve never done so, please make sure to go back and check out the earlier Outkast records. I’ve thrown them all into a Spotify playlist for this exact purpose. (MySpaceOfficial Site)

    Olafur Arnolds’ new record, …And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness, is not on Spotify, but you can listen to the record on Grooveshark in full. (MySpaceOfficial Site)

    Arcade Fire are, obviously, all over the web at the moment. You can get hold of ‘Month of May’ and ‘The Suburbs’, along with a couple of other tracks which have been floating around, from Music Snobs Anonymous. (MySpaceOffical SiteTwitter)

    Metallica. Can’t give you much as they are, as everyone will know, not fans of music on the international interweb. Grooveshark defeats them, however, so you can listen to …And Justice for All there.

    Pixies’ Doolittle can be seen played live all over YouTube. Just for this, witness ‘Debaser’, ‘Gouge Away’ and ‘La La Love You’.

    – John’s choices again fail to make the Spotify grade, but you can listen to the entirety of Autechre’s Confield on Grooveshark.

    20 June 2010, 12:14 pm
  • John’s Liveblog – Shania Twain
    Hello folks, I thought you might like to read my stream of consciousness response to Shania Twain’s sickeningly successful mega smash hit ‘Come On Over’… It’s 23:29 and I’m doing this.

    trk 1 – It hurts but I’m willing to get this done. It’s pretty sickening, Shania is in a particularly soppy mode. She seems upbeat, it’s odd how she’s looking back on past experiences. Is it past albums? I don’t know.Chorus. I can practically taste the Pro Tools.What is she doing? It’s not quite singing, it’s like humming with your mouth open. But with words.The arrangement is sweet enough. It’s spacious without having any gaps. What is that noise? It sounds like one of those plastic tubes you whirled round your head when you were a kid. It’s like emo drone music. In that it’s one emotion that’s being sustained for 3 and a half minutes.

    The rest of the album is available after the break!

    trk 2 – Uptempo motherf***ers! She counts in but can’t get past two. This track is called “When”, it’s another 3 and a half minute epic. Break up / Make up definitely rhymes. Almost every note feels strained, the held notes are quite painful sometimes, although I do have a splitting headache. I can’t believe this was from 1997, it sounds like a fecking relic. “Dooh” moments are really irritating, appearing only on every other beat. Guitar solo. Impressive semiquaver movements. Now it’s fallen apart.Wake up.Break up.Make up.”dooh dooh dooh dooh”Robot man singing in the background has no stakes in this endeavour.

    trk 3 – “From this moment on”. Oh f***, I forgot to turn off my Last.fm scrobbling. Ah, too late. I’m committing. Shania is committing to me as well, in this darkly sweeping introduction.Steady on, it’s a MIDI gore fest. I WILL USE ALL THE PRESET PERCUSSION SOUNDS. I really hope this album gets past the dynamic of slow song/fast song, this could be a harrowing experience once I get to track 16. She sings these songs quite sweetly, but the sustained notes just don’t cut it. There’s a weird quality to her voice where she gets drops a loud note before a sustained note, it’s so jarring.I WILL NOW USE MIDI STRINGS AND AN ELECTRIC GUITAR. This is heart-breakingly uninspiring.Key change.But my heart is still empty.Bring it home (quietly) Shania.Leave those f***ing MIDI strings alone!Just end.Please.

    trk 4 – Guitars (electric), voices (Shania). That robot man choir is back. Kinda fitting considering this is a bit more Billy Idol. I think I might need to calm down, surely it’s not possible to hate an album from the start? Did I go into this with a closed mind?This is a treasure trove of instrumentation. Is that a talkbox I can hear? Wouldn’t surprise me. Not typing as much for this track, trying to focus on the lyrics…I’d rather die standing, than living on my knees. USA-USA-USA-USA-USA. Quite an empowering song though.

    trk 5 – Already?! Slow down Shania! I guess it doesn’t help that all the tracks are crossfaded, the pace is unrelenting. This is a weird mix of Every Breath You Take and the previous four tracks. Am I on to something here? Is each song a f***ed up remix of the previous song both musically and lyrically? Has Shania Twain and the folks at Twain Towers created the greatest concept album of all time?Probably not.This one’s called “I Won’t Leave You Lonely”. It’s got a nice vibe actually, reminds me of those drive time compilation CDs. That’s sort of a good thing. WHAT THE FRENCH?! She is multilingual and a bewitching enchantress. Is there nothing she can’t do? Apart from emote. It’s like listening to auto-tune without the human voice component. It’s like your listening to the pure pitch-correcting algorithms. Also this track has featured the most weird drum break since Beck.

    trk 6 – Line dancing sh*t right here. There’s some sass in her voice now, quite refreshing at this juncture. Hand claps a-gogo. This whole track is like the final bar that acts as a lead-in for a chorus at the end of a phrase. It’s constantly taunting you with false promises of a rowdy drunken singalong as you and your friends knock back Bud Light and lament the loss of your finest hat. But it doesn’t bother you, know you’ve got a f***ing huge silver belt buckle and eager thumbs to tuck into that belt.This song definitely on repeat in purgatory.Oh it’s over.

    trk 7 – “Ooh”? Mungo Jerry? For the title track? Wow. This is the most awkward rhythm I’ve heard since Fantomas. She sounds pretty inviting, in a kind of milf way. The kind who spends too long hanging around music studios. The curious mix of harmonized piano and accordion just broke my mind. What is this song about? It doesn’t seem to be about anything in particular. She just seems insistent that I come over. Is that punch I see? Nice white sneakers by the way Shania.

    trk 8 – Caught on the hop with this one, track 7 ended a bit abruptly. Slow jam time, let’s wind down after the hellf*ck that was “Come On Over”. This seems pretty standard, although there’s a sweetness to the production that seems a bit more considered than usual. Perhaps like Squarepusher and his reliance on the Amen drum loop, the producer is only looking at off-the-peg production techniques and striving for originality through eager adoption of mass-produced sounds.Or not.Yes, another tired middle eight section. Although that seemed only six bars long. The slide guitar is actually quite lovely, I’ll be honest and say… I like it?

    trk 9 – This pace is almost pure murder. Shania sounded genuinely tired when she says “Here we go” at the start of this song. This one’s called “Whatever You Do! Don’t!”. I wonder what sage advise Shania has to offer us? She seems to want you to not do a lot of stuff. She’s being remarkably controlling. There are some odd jig moments in this uptempo rocker. I really don’t know what this song is about. I suspect she’s asking the object of her affection to not play games with her. I sometimes find myself thinking it would be easier if people just said how they feel. It’d be a much more different album from Shania, but interesting nonetheless.Big finish… oh wait. Maybe a fade? Yeah, there’s the fade. OH SHANIA YOU JUST TOYED WITH ME LIKE YOU TOLD ME NOT TO. Vixen.

    trk 10 – Yeah, it’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”. Originally track one before the re-release, now relegated to the second half. But it seems to have come at a crucial stage. It’s a noticeably different song compared to its neighbours. It really stands out, her delivery is punchy and works really well with the lyrical content. It’s sassy but oh so safe, so far this seems to be the track that was geared more towards radio play than any of the others.A few yelps there, she seems excited with a synth trumpet and guitar break.Oh it’s that bit… “Fun, fun”. KEY CHANGE.Ah what the hell, this track totally works within the context of the album. It’s a panicked adrenaline shot to the heart of this writhing cadaver of a record. The fact that I have 6 more tracks is made a little bit more bearable.

    trk 11 – Standard rockin’ for our Twain. There seems to be a much more pronounced country twang now, perhaps that’s been slowly emerging. This seems to be an interesting partner piece to track 10. The previous song is about going out with your girlfriends, getting pepped up on cheap cocktails. Might meet a guy, who knows. This track is the direct follow-on, she’s met her guy and now she seems pretty happy with the situation. I’m not sure if this is a reflection on Shania or the tepid production, but I’m definitely noticing the lyrics a lot more. Either that I’m just getting used to typing and listening at the same time.

    trk 12 – I thought this was an instrumental break in the last track. No, it’s the same tempo, key, groove, everything. The track is called “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)” so maybe this is the next chapter in our emerging saga post “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!”? This is quite an unsettling piece. There seems to be some real friction with her new partner, the tone of the song just doesn’t seem to fit.The “Relax…max” bit kills me, I can see that being one of those bits that EVERYONE joins in when they hear the song in a bar, they turn to the nearest person and shout “MAX” at the right moment, hoping against hope that the other person might just return the favour.

    trk 13 – Hell yeah! “That Don’t Impress Me Much” is another stand-out. This album wasn’t as front-loaded as I first thought. This is a real departure from the last three, perhaps it was naive to expect a conceptual second half. I’ll just have to be satisfied with a little trilogy that ends in a wave of ambiguity. This is fun enough but I’ve heard this song so many times that I can’t see any details in the mix. That’s probably a real danger when reviewing like this, the highlights on the album are brought about by familiarity alone. Although it’s good to see that the robot choir man is still getting up to his usual tricks. Good percussion programming in this one, now she’s ruining it by talking about Elvis. That’s definitely the second reference to Elvis that I can remember on this album, weird.Fade out… A brief pause?

    trk 14 – No, we’re going straight into some truly disgusting sounding strings. That guitar line really, really sounds like that track by Chili Peppers, from By The Way, you know the one. Well, if I played it to you you’d know.This is actually a good song lyrically, in a way. It’s just about a poor woman who’s had a hard day and wants her other half to look after her. She won’t take no for an answer, but not in an aggressive way. It’s using the same drum sample as Meredith Brooks – “Bitch”, interesting considering this seems to be the polar opposite song in every other respect.

    trk 15 – Get out the 909! Eurobeat, yes please. What an odd sounding song. It seems to be offering me advice on romancing a woman. And by romancing, I mean putting things in the right places. It’s like a PSA for anyone who will listen. It’s a great example of the overall theme of empowering women, I think. If you want to get complicated.Robot man choir is getting a bit too sassy for my liking. Has he been pitch-shifted down?The backing track seems like a pure placeholder. I can’t remember any variation, it just seemed like a loop.

    trk 16 – Christ, the last one! “Rock This Country!” and boy does she. I’m hoping for a massive finish and some huge moments along the way. We’re going to rock this country. Ah-whooo-na-na-na-na… These aren’t great moments Shania, I’m being honest. But it’s good God-fearing music, I’ll give it that. I can’t quite believe I’ve made it through this whole album in one sitting, typing almost constantly. I’m not going to sit here and say the time has flown by, because it hasn’t. It really hasn’t. I’ve felt every beat and every key change.Oh it’s getting jiggy, and now there’s a breakdown.Come on Shania, bring this motherf***er home. Strings, electric guitars, drums, robot man choir. Go on folks.No, don’t fade out.It sounds like a fade out.Oh wait.Just vocals…Then a moderately big finish. Well done guys.

    But wait…

    As I listen to the first few bars, I am struck by an overwhelming revelation… The opening lyric: “Looks like we made it”…
    Looks like we made it… back around? Shania Twain is congratulating you if you’re listening to the song on repeat. I mentioned before with track 6 that that song seemed to be a loop of some kind to be repeated ad infinitum in purgatory. It’s not just that one song, it’s the whole damn album. Perhaps there was more behind this album than I thought, that this seemingly warm and inviting pop country record is a devilishly detailed and stupefyingly macabre exercise in mass torture.Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to listen to “I” by Meshuggah to see if that has the same effect…

    From chaos, to chaos, to chaos…

    As featured in episode 4.

    18 June 2010, 9:11 am
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