Monday, 15 March 2010

Vashti Bunyan: Miscellany

I’ve spent the last few months collecting various gems from the musical ether that feature or pay homage to Vashti Bunyan – the heart-melting songbird who I love intensely.

This will be of no interest to anyone other than fans, but hopefully folks will locate this post in the blogosphere and find it of some use. Here are the miscellaneous (non-album) Vashti tracks I have found to date. Links go to Youtube. My Norwegian blogger friend also reminded me you can use Spotify. Of course you can. Silly me.

1. Crown of the Lost

Gorgeous brooding folk number from Piano Magic’s Writers Without Homes LP (2002). This is the first song Vashti sung on record after her thirty-two year absence from the music biz. Her vocal is perfect – chilling and wounded – and marks a perfect return.

2. Dark Ages

Also by Piano Magic, from the Saint Marie EP (2003). Vashti’s voice is given an effective echo – she sounds trapped in some mysterious canyon, singing to us from, well . . . the Dark Ages.

Rejoicing in the Hands

Duet with Devendra Banhart from his titular 2004 album. Devendra captures the folk-pop side of her personality well with this short hooky acoustic number. His smoky, whispery voice works well with Vashti singing in a higher register.

It’s You

From Animal Collective’s Prospect Hummer EP (2005). Her vocal takes centre stage here as she sings very minimal lyrics over ringing acoustic guitars and woozy backing harmonies. It almost works.

Prospect Hummer

Also by Animal Collective. A twee but charming pop tune about naughty cats, this starts with a driving beat (not too driving), then slows to let Vashti drawl out the surreal lyrics beautifully.

I Remember Learning How to Dive

The best song from the Prospect Hummer EP, this is a moving and catchy pop tune with a wistful and spine-chilling vocal turn from Vashti. One of those instantly affecting tunes we know and love.

7. The Fire

Vashti’s collaboration with writer Rodge Glass, produced for the Ballads of the Book compilation (2007). The music is written by Vashti, and with Rodge’s marvellous lyrics, this is a sublimely powerful number. It could easily have appeared on Lookaftering.

8. Migrating Bird

A dark, spooky version of a Lal Waterson folk song. From Migrating Bird: The Songs of Lal Waterson (2007). This will get under your skin upon repeated listens.

My Dearest Friend

Vashti provides backing vocals in this song from Devendra Banhart’s 2007 album Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. Her appearance lifts the song to the sweeping climax it achieves in the last thirty seconds, even if the first half is somewhat meandering.

10. Martha My Dear

A lush and glorious Beatles cover, recorded in collaboration with Max Richter. Max provides the sumptuous string arrangements while Vashti extracts each corpuscle of beauty from this classic. From The White Album Recovered, Disc 1 (2007).

11. Country Girl

Vashti provides whispery, sultry backing vocals on this ballad from Anthony Reynolds’ 2008 album British Ballads. “There was a boy I knew . . .”

12. Just So You Know

She’s also on this stodgier ballad from the same Reynolds album (coming in near the end, in the nick of time!) More importantly, she sings the entire song herself on the Bees Dream of Flowers and Your Summer's Meadow Breath EP. This version is, obviously, superior.

Sleep a Million Years

This could easily be the highlight of the bunch. Vashti gives a deeply affecting rendition of the Dia Joyce classic. Vetiver provide splendid backing – lending a real timeless feel to the music. I haven’t stopped listening to this song since I first heard it a year ago. From the album Thing of the Past (2008).

I’d Like to Walk Around in Your Mind

Lush covered this song on their 500 (Shake Baby Shake) single (1996). They had no idea who the singer was at the time, but it’s clear they had fantastic taste. This is a sugar-pop version of the tune, and recreates all the nuances of the original. A decent version.

Here Before

I found this cover in the wilderness of the internet. All I know is that the artist’s name(s) are Fever Ray & The Subliminal Kid. This take is pretty original – they capture the woodland creepiness very well while adding their own brand of weirdness.

Train Song

A nice duet between Feist and Ben Gibbard. I’m not a fan of either artist, but this tune works surprisingly well as a duet, despite Feist’s performance lacking any of the doomed romanticism of the original.

Here endeth the trawl. If you know of any other Vashti rarities or weird bits hanging around, or wish to procure some of these tasty morsels, don’t hesitate to
contact me.

Vashti forever.

* Update, 5/4/2011.

17. Here Before

A recent version by ProgressivePiano (a.k.a. Robert Van Oz) up on Soundcloud.


  1. I disagree with you. This is not just interesting for fans. What about those of us who have not yet had the pleasure of discovering this beloved songbird of yours? Here is a playlist we can use as a starting point for exploring a (to me) new artist. Yay!

    PS - if you haven't already, you seriously need to get yourself a Spotify account.

    PPS/PSS (I never can remember which) - boo for not liking Feist.

  2. Hurray! Yes, good point.

    I can't use Spotify because for some reason it makes my broadband bill go sky high. Boo to BT.

  3. Huh. If that "some" reason is that you keep purchasing songs and/or buying the premium version, I don't feel all that sorry for you. If that isn't the "some" reason, then I do. Boo to BT (who?) indeed!

    And, so far my favourites are #1, #16 (though this might be because I love the Feist version), and #7. #10 is the only one I couldn't find in one version or other on Spotify. Which is too bad, since I really like that song.

    Oh, well. Thanks a bunch for a lovely time waste today :)

  4. She also sings a version of reynolds' 'Just so you know' on the 'Bees dream of flowers and your summer's meadowed breath'(2008) EP by reynolds. Just her.

  5. CC: I'll investigate this "some" further. I want to use Spot but BT (British Telecom, my broadband provider) are very stingy. But I'm also a Luddite, which is probably the REAL reason.

    I'm delighted you've listened to these songs! And excellent choices too. I'm going to put up "Martha My Dear" on Youtube shortly. You should find her album "Just Another Diamond Day" if you liked. It's what sparked my obsession in the first place.

    Anon: Whoops! Yes, I have that version but completely forgot about it. I'll amend. Thanks. :)

  6. I love #17 - the rendition by Robert van Oz plus the possibility to download the mp3 for free and watch a very gimmick video to it :)