this is the beginning: last month’s mix, january 2012;

In which, even when she is being the world’s most rubbish and lazy music blogger, Lis puts together a selection of songs that have caught her attention through the joys of iTunes shuffle this month.

Even if I was the type to take on resolutions, I could not say I had started this year the way I meant to go on. It was not until the weekend just passed that I began to feel the cold, which ultimately became a chest infection, that had been plaguing me since the beginning of the year start to pass. I spent much of this weekend curled up on the sofa (the blanket Lilit had been using while she stayed last week hasn’t moved since our big-windowed, high-ceilinged living room is taking on the arctic conditions it always takes on when the weather is freezing) telling myself I could have two days of nothing but allowances, pyjamas and junk food. Monday! I’d begin again!

It… didn’t quite work out that way.

But I’m still here, and I’m still singing the same songs under my breath.

I will write more soon.

Zen And The Art Of… last month’s mix, January 2012

1. BOY: “This Is The Beginning”
German girl duo BOY snagged the privileged title of being my first favourite band of 2012 on the strength of an acoustic EP they’ll be releasing later this month. This first taste of forthcoming album Mutual Friends is something very different: a dark, breathy pop tune which probably isn’t that surprising when you consider they’ve got the drummer from Phoenix involved. Definitely one to watch out for.

2. The Antlers: “I Don’t Want Love”
One of January’s lesser-known pleasures is getting to discover the 2011 music you missed out on, generally as a result of other people’s year end compilations (SPOILER ALERT: mine are still out there). Canadian kings of the music blog genre Said the Gramophone are one of the very best at this, so it’s them you’ve got to thank for the Antlers’ inclusion. Not everybody‘s into these Brooklynite hipsters which is fair enough, I’m not sure to what extent I would be either – but this is the dreamy taste of Saturday-night-into-Sunday-morning loneliness. It’s from Burst Apart.

3. Kurt Vile: “Downbound Train”
Why hello there, one of my favourite musical discoveries of 2011, teasing the desolation of one of my favourite Springsteen songs by replacing its 80s sheen with your trademark sludge. You are lovely. This is on the So Outta Reach EP, which features tracks taken from the Smoke Ring For My Halo sessions – I have a feeling the former is out of print, so get that instead.

4. Rachel Platten: “Remark”
NoiseTrade is a pretty wonderful website, offering loads of music in exchange for a bit of promotion or a pay-what-you-want ‘tip’ for the artist. I’d label its beat something along the lines of pleasant-enough-americana so tend to stick with the names I know – otherwise I’d have too much to listen to – but the site is obviously run by passionate fans and their descriptions, or just pretty pictures of girls in heavy eyeliner covering Christmas songs, catch my attention. Which is to say I don’t know much about Rachel Platten, but if you like what you hear there’s plenty more where that came from – just ignore the fact that NoiseTrade’s featured download today is from the funny-looking creature behind Owl City and you’re set.

5. Let’s Say We Did: “Galaxies”
Because it wouldn’t be a mix without some cunning lyrical observation on the loss part of love from some lovely little indie outfit – this time Sweden’s Let’s Say We Did, courtesy of my pals at Big Rig Records. If you like it, there’s more where that came from on Bandcamp.

6. SCOUT: “Come On and Go”
So many of us have recently said goodbye to a pretty shitty year, and my friend Josh more so than most. He shared a song from this album that meant a lot to him one December night, and on a better day like today it seems apt to share with you. I don’t know much about the band (other than they’re all-caps and had a song on The Sopranos once?) but you can buy This Soft Life on eMusic.

7. Micah Schnabel: “Zen And The Art Of…”
Like the flip-side to the fine art of self-destruction, who among us hasn’t learned a lesson or two in the art of fucking up one’s life by now? I’m Dead, Serious is a second acoustic rampage from the frontman of Two Cow Garage aka the greatest band to never get a record deal; and I wouldn’t have known of its existence were it not for my mate Paul who has this executive role in keeping me posted about garage-punk bands my boyfriend used to put on mixes for me who nobody else has ever heard of.

8. Son Volt: “Bandages and Scars”
So I saw the utter lege that is Jay Farrar perform as part of a Woody Guthrie tribute at the Celtic Connections festival (check out my first review for culture website The Arts Desk there) last week – the song from his own Son Volt that rounded off the evening was of course the most apt. From 2005’s Okemah and the Melody of Riot.

9. The Menzingers: “Obituaries”
Youse all know my best gig-buddy Mad Rachel, aye? Of course you do. I’ve been wondering, lately, if despite the SUPER AWESOME LAST.FM COMPATIBILITY that brought us together in the first place our musical tastes are beginning to drift apart, because when she’s not out with me she’s been spending a lot of time on what Frank Turner would call the ‘toilet circuit’ listening to all these shrieky punk bands that hurt my wee ears. She brought me round an album of theirs once and I wasn’t into it at all – but it seems since signing to Epitaph these PA punks know what to do with a tune. Also, you can preorder The Impossible Past on BLUE VINYL. Schweet.

10. Evil Hand: “Returned In Time”
Now I’ve done my fair share of bumming up Derek Bates’ other musical outlet, so why his admittedly solo project failed to make an impact is beyond me. This is from last year’s Huldra, as well as Song, By Toad‘s Festive Fifty.

11. Loch Lomond: “Holiday”
This is actually taken from the Night Bats EP that was out way back in 2010 on Song, By Toad Records (yes, him again). But it came up on shuffle during the computer problems I’ve spent much of this month dealing with, and it’s got that spooky, harmonious feel that’s a perfect fit even now that the holidays are long over.

12. Conor Mason: “Last To Leave”
Conor Mason does the singer-songwritery thing with just the right squeak of guitar strings and wail of a whistle, plus there’s a chord in this song’s refrain that’s one of the most comfortable things in a song I don’t really think is supposed to be. He’s from Derry, but will be putting out his third album Standstill with our Armellodie Records in March. Preorder here.

13. Abi Wade: “Stability”
Not only is the lovely Kaite writing my blog for me these days, she’s also laying on the music recommendations thick and fast. Never mind the smoke-and-honey voice, by turning the cello into both instrument and found percussion Wade was always going to win me over. Watch an incredible live performance of this track as you wait for the mix to download, but it looks like if you want more you’re going to have to suffer iTunes to buy her And Blood And Air EP.

14. Kasey Anderson: “Hang With Me”
I know, I know: bearded white dude takes glorious female-fronted pop song and robs it of everything that makes it sexy. I hate it too, but you get the impression that Kasey Anderson’s having about as much fun on Robyn’s glorious chorus as I do. Sadly it would appear that one of the most entertaining musicians I follow is done with the internet, but you’ve got til tomorrow to help fund his forthcoming album, Let The Bloody Moon Rise.

15. Sad And French: “The More Tattoos The Better” [demo]
I don’t follow back bands on Twitter. Hell, I don’t follow back anybody on Twitter because seriously, I have little enough time as it is and who knows if we’ll even talk but if we do… but anyway, I told Sad and French that because they had the greatest bio I’ve ever read, they could be my exception. It sounds just like you think it will.

[DOWNLOAD] Zen And The Art Of… [zip, mp3]