You wait ages for a Backtrack on Sync and then two come along in the same week! But forgive me, this one is here today for a very special, and very personal reason, writes Martin Allen. I’ve always been a big fan of London band Athlete (please come back from your hiatus lads…. please!) but this song has particular meaning. It came out around five years after the birth of my first daughter and struck a chord for me from the very first time I heard it.
Written by Athlete frontman Joel Pott about the difficult start to his prematurely-born daughter’s life, it mirrored the same emotions and experiences I went though when my own little girl was born and had to spend her first 10 days in special care with breathing issues. The song begins with a sense of despair and hopelessness, a fear that gives way to the fatherly instinct that all will be well. It was a sentiment that a few years before had been hard for me to believe but important to hope for when watching my tiny girl – who I’d really only just met but not yet had a chance to get to know – laying in an incubator attached to various machines and monitors.
But the line that still makes me unravel every single time comes right at the very end: ‘Looking at you now, you would never know’. That resonates more strongly for me right now than ever, because today my beautiful, clever, funny, kind and much loved eldest daughter turns 18… Happy birthday Daisy!
Athlete – Wires (Live)
Almost criminally underrated vocalist and musician Andrew Roachford first grabbed wider attention when a 1989 re-issue of his song Cuddly Toy hit number 4 in the UK charts. That and follow-up Family Man were two of the huge gems from his spellbinding eponymous debut album which was released the previous year – and still sounds fantastic almost 30 years on.
We’ve picked out a live version of a slightly later tune for our Backtrack however. Only To Be With You hit the UK Top 30 and was the lead song on the Londoner’s 1994 album Permanent Shade of Blue. This live recording reveals the energy and emotion that comes through in Roachford’s raw yet smooth, soulful voice and gives a hint at what fans can expect on his forthcoming UK tour which includes October dates in Southport (13 October), Leicester (14), Birmingham (20), Sheffield (21), Southampton (27), and Seaton (28), before heading on to a host of other destinations throughout November including Newcastle, Glasgow, London and Manchester. See Facebook for full listings and ticket links to these shows to catch an artist who really should be on everyone’s must-see list.
Roachford – Only To Be With You (Live)
Long before Sia became a global superstar, we were HUGE fans of her widely under-acknowledged solo material and her long-running collaboration with the superb Zero 7. If fact, we would go so far as to say her true vocal talents were way better demonstrated with some of these songs that they have been in the more recent chart-topping stuff.
For us, this beautiful song stands out as a particular favourite of her Zero 7 work though, and having chanced upon this live video recording from 15 years ago of Destiny (also featuring the equally talented Sophie Barker – whose vocal levels were not remotely turned high enough on this recording sadly), we felt a ‘Backtrack’ post coming on. So here it is for your Sunday enjoyment…
Zero 7 – Destiny (ft. Sia & Sophie Barker) [Live]
We’ve decided that this tune will be setting the tone of our weekend. The wonderful Girl from The Internet is just the most sublime, laid-back five minutes of listening you’ll find and we don’t tire of hearing it. The track appeared on the Los Angeles R&B group’s 2015 album Ego Death.
The Internet – Girl (ft. Kaytranada)
This had been on our list to feature in our Backtrack section for a while now but this week seems like the most appropriate time for the saddest of reasons.
At the end of a year that has seen some of the music world’s greatest artists depart, the death of George Michael at the ridiculously young age of 53 was a bolt from the blue. He leaves behind him an astounding discography that marks him out as one of the true greats of the modern pop era. We could have picked many of his big hits for Backtrack but Spinning The Wheel from his 1996 album Older seems to somehow sum up his musical versatility, encompassing touches of funk and soul into a neat and inventive pop package.
Despite so often being a target for the tabloid press, Michael was always recognised by true music fans as an incredibly gifted songwriter and a unique singer. Like many of those we’ve lost this year, we will no doubt lament the fact that there will be no more new material to come from him in the future, whilst at the same time feel grateful that he has left behind such a strong legacy of some of pop music’s best songs.
George Michael – Spinning The Wheel
This backtrack is a classic from 1997 and the first song written by American alternative artist Fiona Apple when she was 14.
Summed up by the line ‘I have never been so insulted in all my life’, Sleep to Dream has a wonderfully angry, moody and menacing tone typical of an artist who is rarely easy to listen to, but all the more valuable for it.
It was the second single taken from Apple’s superb debut album Tidal, and it’s a masterpiece that never achieved the chart success its quality deserved.
Fiona Apple – Sleep to Dream
Hard to get over the fact that this song was released five years ago, but it still sounds great.
We saw Yasmin live at South West Four in London in 2011 and we’re sad to say we’ve not heard much since. Maybe the collapsing mattress at the end of the vid really did claim her as a victim?! Nah, actually, we can confirm she is still around and very much doing her DJ thing… catch her on Sundays on Rinse FM.
In the meantime, enjoy this blast from the past. Not only a great tune but she’s looking incredible in the video… albeit with a slightly scary show of strength towards the end. Before the collapsing mattress incident that is.
Yasmin – Finish Line
With today’s sad news of the passing of Phife Dawg of rap pioneers A Tribe Called Quest at the age of just 45, it seems fitting to look back on the group’s biggest hit, 1991’s Can I Kick It?
Born Malik Isaac Taylor, he co-founded the ATCQ in 1985 with school classmates Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. He had been struggling with ill health and diabetes for several years, and received a kidney transplant from his wife in 2008.
The band recently marked the 25th anniversary of their debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.
If you’re young enough to have missed out on all this first time around, you could do no better than checking out some of their discography and discovering the true origins of much of today’s rap and hip hop.
A Tribe Called Quest – Can I Kick It?
So sad to report the death of Colin Vearncombe, AKA Black, known to many for two big hits in 1987 with Sweetest Smile and Wonderful Life.
Liverpool-born Vearncombe, 53, had a devoted following of fans built up over a 35-year music career. He was seriously injured in a car crash two weeks ago near Cork airport, Ireland, and had since been kept in an induced coma but his passing was announced this evening.
We’ve picked a stripped back performance of Wonderful Life which shows off a unique voice and musical talent who will be much missed:
Black – Wonderful Life
There’s nothing else to post here today but a Bowie track of course. His back catalogue is so full of truly unique music that picking just one track is almost impossible, but I’m going to try. Although Let’s Dance was one of the first records I ever bought, this is the one that I love the most and shows off the man’s musical genius. It’s a faultless masterpiece. Turn it up and enjoy. RIP.
David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World
Ah sod it, it’s no use trying to resist- I’ve got to have this one on here too…
David Bowie – Let’s Dance
Ashamed to admit that we were late to discover this track earlier this year, despite it being out in 2013, but better late than never! It’s an amazing piece of work from Sheffield-based DJ Kidnap Kid (Matt Relton) with sublime vocals from one-time Rudimental collaborator and now solo artist Sinead Harnett.
It’s about as soppy as any selection on Sync will ever get, but its refined beauty wins us over every time.
Kidnap Kid – So Close
Every now and then a track comes along that somehow skips the radar. The fact that this beauty from Shakka didn’t get wider recognition when it came out late last year is borderline criminal, so we thought it needed another airing.
26-year-old Londoner Shakka Philip has been working hard on some great collaborations over the last couple of years, working with artists such as Basement Jaxx and, perhaps most famously, with Wretch 32 on the track Blackout.
We first saw him supporting Rudimental on tour a year or so ago, and again as one of Basement Jaxx’s troupe of singers on their UK and international tours. This beautiful track though is one of a clutch of great songs to come from a guy we hope is destined for big things of his own.
Shakka – When Will I See You Again
Norwegian electronic duo Röyksopp have proved their longevity since forming in 1998.
Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland’s upbeat sound has seen them span a number of different musical genres across their five studio albums, including ambient, house and synthpop.
But just as importantly, they’ve been consistent in coming up with some highly creative videos for their tracks. Once we decided to feature Röyksopp in our Backtrack section, we struggled to pick between Eple (originally released as their second single in 2001 and included on the 2002 LP Melody AM before a single re-release in 2003), and Remind Me (their fourth single, released in 2002) but went for the former for its sheer bonkers-yet-brilliant concept and execution.
So sit back, and enjoy a piece of music video brilliance…
Röyksopp – Eple
Oh hang on, we think Remind Me should be here too. If you’ve never seen it before, take a look at this and prepare for a statistical overload!
Röyksopp – Remind Me
Our first Backtrack takes us back to 1991, with the dance classic Rhythm is a Mystery by K-Klass.
It was a bit of a golden age of dance back then, but this track from Wrexham-founded K-Klass stands out even today. They were one of a number of acts signed to the hugely successful Deconstruction Records label which dominated the dance charts in the early 90s.