Monday, June 26, 2017
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Some AOR radio memories. At least of mine.This stuff absolutely swamped the airwaves in the mid-seventies and though history has it that it was really just there to make the case for the absolute need for Punk it was nevertheless a soundtrack to millions of youths all in itself. Here's one that still haunts me, tacky as it is, drifting back across the years.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Utterly in the leftfield and clearly not for all tastes, Newcastle folk artist Richard Dawson is one of the bravest artist.going, his latest album is a song cycle based on the lives of the inhabitants of Bryneich, a Kingdom of the Old North. No, stop! Listen to it. It's good!
Friday, June 23, 2017
There is such a sea of music, constantly incoming, that it's often difficult to differentiate between individual voices and statements and judge what you want to retain and what you'll just let flow on. This caught my ear yesterday, A couple of songs from a debut album released today. By a Syrian singer, born in Aleppo of all places, who made her way from there to Saudi and then to the States.
Something of a traveller since across its states since, California seems like a natural home. This is very much a Laurel Canyon record in terms of inspiration and feel though Bedouine never forgets for a moment where she's from and the traces of her journey are here in the music. A contemplative and meditative set of songs you might like to open up to and enjoy.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
The story of Donald Crowhurst is one of the strangest and saddest of all. The man pressured by debts and events into a position where it seems he considered cheating in the 1969 single-manned round the world race before succumbing to insanity and probable suicide.
A couple of years I saw the reformed Ride at Newcastle Academy and it was not only the best gig I witnessed in 2015 but definitely up there with my best ever and I've seen quite a few bands down the years. With Ride ultimately the appeal hinges on whether you surrender to the sheer sincerity and sound of the songs, the Byrds front section backed by the Who's rhythm section, (in this respect bassist and drummer Steve Queralt and drummer Laurence Colbert are a remarkable unit who have never quite received their due), or find their undeniable Home Counties qualities negligible and weak. Seeing them live established their credentials one and for all for me. They take you to some places that are definitively theirs.
Now they've taken their reformation further and produced an album that has much to recommend it. If nothing else it clearly establishes that Ride was the proper place for Andy Bell and becoming a sideman for Oasis was actually a failure on his part to acknowledge his own personal legacy and his primary working partnership with frontman Mark Gardener rather than someone whose place was to stand a few feet behind Noel. Ride were a band who did not fully realise the potential of their first two albums first time round and its difficult to resent them some time in the sun time round now. Although some lyrics fall apart before you, its musically sturdy for the most part and has some decidedly transcendental moments . This is a considered and worthy statement, slightly battered by middle age and the assault that living in the UK makes on all our nervous systems, (both in terms of its incomprehensible weather and turbulent and dangerous contemporary political climate, an obvious concern throughout). Ride should make some deserved waves this weekend at Glastonbury. They'll also be back in Newcastle this autumn and I'll make a point of being there again.
A noteworthy new album called Rocket from Alex G. also known as Sandy, with a rather fetching goat on the front cover. The stuff I really like from it is the almost traditional songs in an Elliott Smith vein. Elsewhere he goes a little bit more leftfield without any immediately apparent rationale for me but I do commend you to the bits of the record that work. I'd say he's at his best when he plays it straight.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Kevin Morby follows up last year's splendid Singing Saw with the equally splendid City Music. An artist with a very strong sense of place, he shifts his focus from the rural to the urban, (most obviously New York, the city of all cities), and it feels like choosing to put on your New York Punk records after playing Nashville Skyline.
It's a deft, assured record. Morby understands the rhythms of the city, just as he appreciates the artistic predecessors who've charted this territory before. On second track Cry Baby the glacial riff that powers I Wanna Be Your Dog gets disinterred, then 1234, (less than two minutes long and quite perfect for it), pays tribute to The Ramones and Jim Carroll for their lives of urban purity in the most apt and succinct terms imaginable, 'Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, they were all my friends. And they died...'
After these two early peaks it would seem that City Music will do well to maintain it's high water mark but Morby is an artist not only with a clear and nuanced understanding of the sources he draws on but enough sheer vision, talent and guts to put his own work up for worthy comparison with the greats. Each successive track remarkably achieves new plateaus. There's soul, blues, folk, rock and punk music here for your delectation and Morby does justice to each. There's also a keen feel for the literary heritage of urban existence in all its contradictory, trapped abandon. A great record, of the old school, for 2017!
A Brooklyn Indie veteran, having done service with Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and Dum Dum Girls, Frankie Rose's solo stuff finds her breaking off into fresh territory. Trouble, the lead off single from her forthcoming album Cage Tropical is Giorgio Moroder meets Stereolab. It gets better with every play. Neat video too. A good start to any day!
Monday, June 19, 2017
A short Clem Snide feature. They're a trio, operational since the early nineties, formed in Boston by Eef Barzeley, named after a William Burrough's fictional character and notable for deft, wry songs that mix up elements of jazz, folk and country. Here they tip their hat to Joan Jett. Though it may really be mere wordplay.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
A couple of tracks from the wonderful new Enderby's Room album, just out on fika Records which speacialises in this kind of homely folk and indie. Powered by traditional instruments such as church harmonium, French horn and ukelele, it's a beautful, warm and thoughtful collection of songs
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Friday, June 16, 2017
'Another year's gone by. Hell, I'm still alive...'!
Hey, I love the Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman, Pavement, Silver Jews, Bill Callahan, Dean Wareham, Parquet Courts, Nap Eyes and that whole wonderful indie sensibility of underachieving, laconic, stumbling American alternative Rock and Roll. So clearly do Detroit's Bonny Doon, (not to be confused with the tiny town in the wine growing region of California from which they take their name ), whose self-titled debut album, just out, almost embodies the combined sensibilities of the artists just mentioned. Virtually every song sounds like a late contestant for the Juno soundtrack. Perhaps the fact that it doesn't break a single rule laid down by its forbears or really carry it into anything even approaching fresh territory should really mark it out for reproach even in it's mildest form but I simply don't have the heart, because they play the part so well and someone somewhere will be surely be chancing upon this record as we speak and it may well be their first entree to that whole delicious feast. Tuck in, whoever you are!
(The one song I've found a link to, posted above, was initially released on a 2014 EP, which I think is the version you get above, but also features on the current album).
Thursday, June 15, 2017
And from a film strongly featuring Nilsson's version of Fred Neils's Everybody's Talkin' here's the title cut.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Woke up with Tom Tom Club going round my head, definitely a good thing and a sign it must be summer. Here's perhaps their best known song, (along with Wordy Rappinghood), a celebration of everything that's so wonderful about black dance music, from their essential first album.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
'You can't stop the cretins from hoppin'. Died on a plain with the Big Bopper...'
Austin Texas Shoegazers Ringo Deathstar offer up one to the man who went down with Buddy Holly and Richie Havens. Taken from their last album, 2015's Pure Mood which seems to find the precise midway point between the sensibilities and sounds of My Bloody Valentine and Nirvana and is worth a listen.
Monday, June 12, 2017
'Cosmic jazz, skewed hip-hop, keening psychedelia and twitchy Afrobeat.' Mojo Magazine, July 2017.
Blistering opening track from the new Heliocentrics album A World of Masks, just out. They're a band not a million miles away from Can, Goat and Massive Attack's more 'out there' moments. Some of the rest of the record seems a bit cluttered on first listening for my tastes but this certainly hits the spot.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
Thursday was a funny old day weather wise in Newcastle. Pouring, driving rain in the early to mid morning. Then things brightened with warm sunshine as I walked with a friend to the Sage in Gateshead albeit accompanied by swirling wind which we joked about being perhaps the wind of change but ultimately discounted.
Support band Kero Kero Bonito were an odd spectacle indeed. A young female Japanese vocalist, leaping around like she was twelve years old, backed by tow keyboardists and samplers making odd shapes and punching out sounds of Sesame Street pop and dance music that encouraged the audience to suspend their adult states. I ultimately couldn't do so and songs about not wanting to get up, trampolines and graduation, 'didn't learn a thing' made me feel I was having a jellybean overdose induced.
Saint Etienne were a muck sleeker proposition. Well they've got twenty years on their support. Bob Stanley didn't appear to be there unless he was buried somewhere behind the large and accompished stage band. But Sarah Cracknell certainly was and she was a good humoured and effective front woman in sleek dress and elegant boa. Chatting to the audience in between songs and dealing very patiently with a large and drunken middle aged heckler who called for 'He's on the Phone' loudly and rather annoyingly between each song before getting his wish on the last song of the night when he and proceeded to race to the front of the stage and dance flamboyantly.
Occasionally the band crossed the boundaries towards slight blandness, which has always been my feeling about much of their recorded output but the evening was a reminder of just how many great singles they've put out over the years. Special mentions for You're in a Bad Way, Who Do You Think You Are, Nothing Can Stop Us, Only Love Can Break Your Heart and the aforementioned He's on the Phone which all sounded great. Also kudos for the slideshow which skillfully evoked all our childhoods and especially the shots of seventies concrete shopping precincts which particularly took me back to family trips in the seventies to Eastbourne to stay with my gran.
Also just before the end of the night they lit up a 'for the many not the few' slide, echoing the Labour Party campaign slogan. It was a touching, brief but nice gesture. I went back to watch the election night unfold to a rather surprising resolution warmed by the show. I'm now in the process of working my way through the band's backing catalogue and finding a great deal to treasure and appreciate.
Now this is interesting. A fourteen minute debut single from Glasgow based quartet Amor. It's arty Euro-Disco reminiscent of some of the things put together by A Certain Ratio and New Order in the early eighties and drew me in more and more the longer I listened to it.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
A record I really liked last year was Masterpiece, the debut album by Brooklyn band Big Thief. They're back already with their second, Capacity and it confirms them as a formidable prospect indeed. The album, (like its predecessor), is no easy listen, as it's quite clearly from catching the briefest snippet of any one of its eleven tracks, the soundtrack to bruised and damaged lives.
Led by Adrianne Lenker, who has a remarkably emotive voice, articulating pained experience with such skill and care that it feels like you're being asked to stare into an open wound, Capacity, (the human ability to soak up all that life and other humans care to do to us and still endure?), is an astonishing document, a forty minute tour round a downtrodden shabby American smalltown blue collar community and the skeletons hidden in each and every closet there.
The band know very well what they're doing. They show that it's quite possible for a rock and roll band to chart the lives that some people are obliged to live with every bit as much nuance and depth as great writers of fiction. Raymond Carver and Denis Lehane come to mind in this particular respect. Capacity is a mighty step forward from Masterpiece which was a very fine record in its own right. This is right up there with the very best things I've heard this year.
Friday, June 9, 2017
The first album from Entrance, (Guy Blakesee essentially) for over a decade, (it came out at the beginning of this year), is a really evocative affair. To put it plainly. it's evocative of the mid to late sixties where artists like Dylan, David Blue, Leonard Cohen, Donovan and Tim Buckley did all they could to make music the very stuff of poetry. The record, Book of Changes, sounds much like many of those, (despite obviously modern production values) in terms of its vision, instrumentation and sheer unchecked vaulting ambition.
It's not an entirely coherent album as there isn't really a sustained mood to it. Not even from one track to the next for the most part. Blakesee to some degree is cherry picking from his record collection. But its peaks are sublime. Songs about romance, rites of passage moments and emotions at their most stretched and vivid, in the place where everything seems to be at stake. Some of the melodies here are quite glorious.The stuff of dream.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
There's something distinctive and quite specific about Welsh alternative artists somehow. A shared eccentric sensibility, an innocent purity that often stems from cosy domesticity, that's shared by Super Furry Animals, Cate Le Bon, Gorkys, H.Hawkline even the Manics and Sweet Baboo, possibly the most domesticated of all, who has a new album just out entitled Wild Imagination.
'Yesterday you were on fire. But today don't you know. I'm on a roll.'
It's a charming record and already a go to one for me on stressful days at work. Check out the cocktail snacks on display here and it will give you an idea of where it's coming from. Steven Black, a.k.a. Sweet Baboo, 'the most androgynous woman since Mo Tucker,' according to friend and supporter Le Bon,
Wild Imagination is a timpani fueled delight, full of parping trumpets and gentle entreaties to Baboo's muse to come over and share a pot of tea and some cake. Ten tunes of lo-fi romance from a man wearing NHS specs and a Shetland jumper with a gentle whispered delivery soundtracking the moment where the geek inherits the earth. He has almost single-handedly been kept afloat as a concern by Marc Riley, BBC 6 Music DJ over the last few years for which we should all be eternally grateful. Surrender to Sweet Baboo!
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Monday, June 5, 2017
Nice to have an alternative Turtles option to Happy Together when it comes to Rosie's jukebox. And this was certainly a fine, under-appreciated single.