Paul Smith Margins

Released October 11th 2010

Paul Smith Music
April 24th, 2015


Simon Ling, Gravity’s Garden, 2003 (oil on canvas)

I saw this picture in the April issue of Frieze. The artist draws out a cartoon of the final painting in fluorescent orange, and traces of this colour show through in the final image, adding a vital luminescence.

April 16th, 2015

Walking in the Spring sunshine today, I was listening to this song on my headphones. I honed in on the low harmony in the chorus, which I’m not sure I’ve ever done before, and it felt revelatory. It also made me feel lucky to have seen and heard Elizabeth Fraser sing live in Bath a couple of years ago. The memory is slight now, but this music revives that time and place.

January 30th, 2015


The 2014 household calender in my kitchen had twelve vintage book covers as its subject matter, including this first edition of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. It’s a brilliant novel, but this sleeve makes me think of the opening credits of an unmade Hollywood movie adaptation, potentially starring sad-eyed Robert Mitchum.

January 28th, 2015


Fairfield Porter, Wheat, 1960

I heard about Fairfield Porter when I went to Middlesbrough to attend a talk by Alex Katz. He has an evocative name and he’s an evocative painter; simple blocks of colour that locate a serenity within their subject.

November 25th, 2014

Paul Smith & Peter Brewis – L.A. Street Cleaner from memphis industries on Vimeo.

Peter Brewis and I needed a video to represent a song from our new album, Frozen By Sight, so we asked our friends Mat Fleming and Chris Bate to choose a song and interpret it in their own way. We couldn’t be more pleased with their watery film for Los Angeles Street Cleaner, which reminds me of Len Lye’s experimental filmmaking.

November 25th, 2014


I’m in a Go-Betweens phase. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been out of a Go-Betweens phase since falling for them, but I’m especially keen at the moment. I was searching for good images so I could make my own G-Bs t-shirt and was looking for suitable single sleeves. They’ve had a chequered history in terms of record covers, but this is a fine one from 1984 (for an even finer song).

September 26th, 2014


Come and see us play our songs, if you can. Nine people on stage each night, conjuring up the album Peter and I have made.

August 14th, 2014

I’ve made a new record with my friend Peter from Field Music. Find out more at

August 6th, 2014

A moment of purest tranquility, as heard on late-night Radio 3′s Late Junction.

June 18th, 2014

Jessie Ware’s Devotion is one of my favourite releases of recent times, reminding me of classic ’80s electro and soul, but always sounding fresh in the process. Her latest song, Tough Love, takes her sound somewhere else, with all of her voice’s sultry longing intact.

May 31st, 2014

I’m listening to this magical, medieval melody thanks to my friend Mara Carlyle’s show on BBC Radio 3′s Late Junction. It’ll bring an air of tranquility to any occasion.

May 3rd, 2014

A bad dream in the Australian outback with a colour palette of drunken ambers and dusty blondes. Hell is a place where nothing happens.

April 30th, 2014

“Can I get some nasty bass?”

April 28th, 2014


Edward Krasinski, Spear, c. 1963/64. Photograph by Eustachy Kossakowski

I went to the Raven Row gallery in London to see Play What’s Not There, an exhibition curated by Michael Bracewell. The eclectic mixture of different mediums is balanced out by a refined, overriding sensibility that links the works together.

April 21st, 2014

I’m lost in the melancholy undertow of this band’s sound. I’m transported to a solitary teenage time when I’d listen to The Sundays’ first two albums on an almost daily basis…

November 14th, 2013

A hazy vision of English streets and playground chin-ups matching a sweet, unhurried love song, sung by a man making an England football shirt look cool.

September 17th, 2013

Next Tuesday, September 24th, at The Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle, I’m introducing Radio On, which is one of my favourite British films (it has a classic late ’70s soundtrack, too…). It starts at 6pm so please come along to see it on the big screen if you can.

September 2nd, 2013

This video is one of the most striking I’ve seen recently. It complements the airless, clean music (which, sonically, reminds me of James Ferraro’s recent albums) and evokes an unsettling, surreal environment, with one foot in the past and one in the future.

August 30th, 2013

NPG 6023; Seamus Heaney by Peter Edwards
Seamus Heaney, Peter Edwards, 1987-88

I saw this painting the first time I went to London and I still marvel at it each time I see it in the National Portrait Gallery. He was one of the first poets I read in my local library.

August 29th, 2013

Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman

There is something fascinating about an artist’s unformed ideas contained in their sketchbook: a mood that hints at something bigger; an insight into the mechanics of creation; a raw, barely-contained enthusiasm; a collection of influences. Derek Jarman’s films have already been mentioned here, but his beautifully-presented sketchbooks are now available in a Thames & Hudson book for pre-order on the Guardian website, a destination to which I am unable to link, thanks to blog gremlins (Bloglins!?).

August 28th, 2013


A tweet by the poet Lavinia Greenlaw alerted me to the Vintage book cover illustrations of Edward Gorey, as posted on the excellent Brain Pickings site. My blog doesn’t want to create a link at the moment, but you can find them here…

July 7th, 2013

Peter Kennard, Miner, 1976

I saw this painted-over photograph at MIMA a few months ago and it made me think of the hollowness and fragility of what lies beneath a hard-working, seemingly tough surface. It had a strange sort of power invested in it by the recent death of Margaret Thatcher and her connection to the closure of so many coal mines.

July 4th, 2013

I love The Pastels and what they represent. Although I’d heard and bought this excellent new single, I hadn’t seen the video until today and I found it very celebratory. It made me feel good about being obsessed with music (rather than just obsessive!) and how music is such a communal and sharing thing. It also shows the beauty of Glasgow’s buildings in the sun, which makes me think of visiting my brother when he lived there.

June 18th, 2013

I saw this video in an article about some of virtuoso bassist Thundercat’s favourite music. I’ve been listening to Bitches Brew by Miles Davis recently and John McLaughlin’s guitar playing links up to that very nicely. Some of Jan Hammer’s keyboard runs are a bit too fruity for me (!), but the rest of it is great.

May 29th, 2013

Dick Diver – Calendar Days – Official Video from Mia Mala McDonald on Vimeo.

Claire Adams, who played bass with me on the Margins tour, tipped me off about Dick Diver, a band whose name either makes people laugh or exclaim that it’s also the name of the main male character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s amazing Tender Is The Night. Actually, perhaps the latter urge is mine alone.
They remind me of so many great Australasian bands, like The Go-Betweens or The Clean, with their loose sound and random, affecting lyrics that tell stories of distinct lives being lived.

May 29th, 2013


Bridget St John has a soothing voice, not dissimilar to her male contemporary Nick Drake. The songs on this 1974 LP meander along rather nicely, although the opening song, Sparrowpit ,sounds, weirdly, like a rollicking hippie precursor to Eleanor Friedberger:

May 29th, 2013

On set of Hell is a City

Stanley Baker in 1960′s gritty Northern noir Hell Is A City, standing on the roof of one of my favourite buildings in Manchester, now the Palace hotel.

February 21st, 2013

The cover of the first edition of this book is thrillingly of its time (1960), in a fine art context, but feels quite disconnected from the disillusioned Middle-American tale that unfolds within. Or, perhaps the inner turmoil and endless miasma of the main character, Rabbit Angstrom, are both appropriately reflected in the op-art sleeve. Either way, I’ve just re-read/finally finished this troubling, masterful book.

February 17th, 2013

I was listening to this record today and as well as being an excellent jazz fusion LP by recently deceased trumpeter, Donald Byrd, it has a brilliant, cosmic sleeve. This whole blog could be dedicated to the sleeves of the Blue Note label, such is its mastery of the medium, but I suspect there are plenty of tributes out there. As Nick Cave sometimes says, “Google it!”

February 16th, 2013

Madame Yevonde, Mrs Edward Mayer as Medusa, 1935

I have this photograph on my fridge! It astonishes me to think that it’s from 1935 – the colours are so modern and vivid, creating an unsettling image.

January 27th, 2013

Captivating, world-weary interpretation.

January 19th, 2013

Mesmerising song and mesmerising moves. I think this is what they call chutzpah.

January 19th, 2013

I think I first saw this sleeve hung up in the Salsa Club in Newcastle. I fell for its modern, concrete curves and Larry Young’s hip dress sense. The music sounds like this.

January 15th, 2013

This photograph by Bert Hardy shows engrossed browsers in HMV Oxford Street in 1958. I have spent a lot of my spare time doing the same thing, which only enhances this lovely image for me.

January 15th, 2013

via this popular blog

Two of the most talented people you’ll ever see on the silver screen, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.

January 11th, 2013

Marianne Faithfull “Broken English” from Ivan Blatny on Vimeo.

Bleak and mysterious and rough around the edges. Derek Jarman matches up to Marianne Faithfull.

January 8th, 2013

I love the covers of the new, deluxe Fitzgeralds. Maybe this is my favourite book, too.

December 21st, 2012

The fashions in this clip may be trapped in aspic but the joy of singing remains fresh and alive. Although this song sits on the borderline of a land called sentimental, Gladys Knight and her high-pitched Pips display a joyous example of control and release that looks effortless but requires such a degree of control that it leaves the technically impressive vocal acrobatics of today’s R&B ballad singers looking somewhat forced and emotionally cold.

December 16th, 2012

I recently saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. I was so impressed by the two central performances by Joaquin Phoenix (whose contorted, bemused face you can see above) and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The film continues to have an afterlife in my mind and today I was watching the Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers musical Follow The Fleet when I heard the following song, also featured in The Master, albeit beautifully sung by Ella Fitzgerald. Both Phoenix and Astaire’s characters are sailors pining for lost loves.

December 16th, 2012

I heard this song on an excellent mix by guitarist William Tyler. It has a depth of feeling that resonated with me and it perfectly captures a sense of perceived inertia and perpetual drift that can sometimes strike you down.

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