A (Mini) Festival Mixtape: Somerset House Summer Series
Somerset Houseís Summer Series, with its alliterative title, majestic setting and carefully cultivated cross-section of acts across all genres, is fast becoming a highlight of the Motelís festival calendar - Although it's not strictly a festival in the traditional form, walking into that imposing courtyard, with its dancing fountains, stunning architecture and long and varied history, makes any Somerset House visit quite the occasion, and that's before you've thrown the music into the mix. Now in its tenth year, 2010ís Summer Series lineup is a return to form, with something for everyone across all eleven days:
1. Mystery Jets - Somewhere In My Heart
This rambunctious cover of Aztec Cameraís most instantly recognisable song was hastily tagged onto Mystery Jetsí second album 21. Itís a guaranteed party starter, if only for its novelty kareoke value. Hopefully the bandís forthcoming album Serotonin will be full of the same infectious aural joy as their first two efforts.
2. Noah And The Whale - 2 Atoms In A Molecule
The carefree opening track of Noah And The Whaleís first album is right up there with their finest moments. If this song was a person, it would be one that seemed a little unsure of itself (like most of their output, come to think of it). Itís this shy charm that draws you in to everything that Charlie Fink and his partners in crime do, and whether theyíre playing to 200 or 20,000 people, itís always a memorable show. Their spellbinding Summer Series set in July 2008 received rave reviews from the Motel itself, and weíll be first in the queue this year, too.
3. Florence and the Machine and The XX - Youíve Got The Love
This atmospheric collaboration brings together two of the biggest draws on the bill Ė Florence Welch and the most overhyped band featuring the letter X since...well, probably ever. Both are divisive forces here at the Motel (for the avoidance of doubt, your humble editor is a card-carrying member of Team Florence), but combined, one canít deny that they have a strangely mesmerising effect.
4. The Temper Trap Ė Love Lost
Melbourne fourpiece The Temper Trap had a slow sleeper hit last year with a top-ten UK single, Sweet Disposition. It can be forgiven for its appearance in a number of adverts for three reasons. Firstly, the title is a reference to Oh My Sweet Carolina by Ryan Adams, a surefire way to accrue Motel brownie points. Secondly, master producer Jim Abiss has his paw prints all over this track. Finally, and most importantly, itís a fearsome tune. However, as youíve probably all heard it, why not sample their most recent Australian single, Love Lost, and check out the bandís more ambient side?
5. The Divine Comedy Ė When A Man Cries
Now then! Did you think that The Divine Comedy were only good for rambunctious comedy numbers about budget coach trips and handsome equine beasts? Well, no. They can do tender and quiet too, as this earnest piano ballad shows. When A Man Cries is taken from the bandís latest album, Bang Goes The Knighthood, their highest charting longplayer in a decade. Thereís still flashes of surreal humour, but told with greater subtlety than in the bandís mid-nineties commercial heyday. Their output is the better for it.
6. Air Ė Cherry Blossom Girl
The lead single from 2004ís humourously named Talkie Walkie set the tone perfectly for Godin and Dunckelís return to form after a couple of dodgy moments around the turn of the millennium. Itís a reminder that few can do ambient better than Air, and their ethereal melodies are a perfect fit for Somerset Houseís otherworldly confines.
7. Gil-Scott Heron Ė The Bottle
Picking a great Gil Scott-Heron track for any mixtape is tricky enough, but a little help from Piccadilly Recordsí superstar DJ Pasta Paul helped seal the deal in favour of one of Gil's most seminal soul numbers, originally released in 1974. Lyrically, itís a (typically scathing) social portrait on the theme of alcohol abuse, and musically, itís a joyful blues monster, with Scott-Heronís erstwhile collaborator Brian Jackson guesting on jazz flute.
words and Somerset House courtyard pic: Kate Goodacre
The full Summer Series programme is as follows: Mystery Jets with Connan Mockasin (Jul 8), Air (9, sold out), Noah and the Whale with Villagers (10), N-Dubz, plus WhatNexters showcase (11), The Temper Trap (12, sold out), The xx (13, sold out), Gil Scott-Heron (14, sold out), Florence + The Machine (15, sold out), Corinne Bailey Rae (16, sold out), The Divine Comedy (17, sold out) and Soul II Soul (18, sold out).