Notions of Bohemian cool from Carla Bruni.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Wonderful new album from French artist Thousand (aka Stephane Milochevitch) named Le Tunnel Vegetal. Delivered in that inimitable French style, half spoken, half sung in the style of Gainsbourg and Dutronc, (with splendid vocal support from Emma Broughton), but not bound by the trappings of the past. The record just glides by in a Gallic blur.
Monday, March 19, 2018
Intense young Swedish band FEWS ticked all the right Post Punk intensity boxes a couple of years back with their debut album MEANS. Except perhaps for dedicating a song to a footballer. Not perhaps what Joy Division or Gang of Four might have done back in the day.
A singer songwriter from Victoria, British Columbia. His sound is rooted utterly in the Baroque Folk tradition of '65 to '68. Here's a song from his haunting recently released mini-album Chasing Shadows, an apt description of his sound.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Alice Bag, legendary leader of Seventies Punks The Bags, is back in 2018 with her second solo album Blueprint. From it comes this taster 77 with a promo that spoofs the classic 1980 film Nine to Five, with Alice in the Lily Tomlin role with Kathleen Hanna and Allison Wolfe providing support as dolly and Jane. 77 is a reference to the 2012 statistic that American women only earn 77 cents to the dollar made by men in equivalent jobs. The YouTube page to the song is plagued with a long list of comments, (from men presumably), contesting the claim. Alice would, I imagine, be pleased.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Yo La Tengo are an American Indie institution. You just need to go to Pitchfork, the self-appointed guardians of such things to read the revered and sacred tones that they're always written about in. They form something of a holy trinity in Indie circles in this respect alongside Sonic Youth and Pavement.
And they've outlasted both of their somewhat more successful and high profiles co-tribunes. There's A Riot Going On, just out is their fifteenth album since they first emerged from Hoboken, New York, way back in 1984. And it's a peach. I'm not sufficiently well-versed with all of their back catalogue to place it with any authority among their body of work, but it's an assured and glowing object in itself, remarkable for a band in its fourth decade as a working unit.
They fit snugly of course in line in the list of alternative New York of guitar bands. Velvet Underground, Television and The Feelies most obviously and the traces of all of them are evident on There's A Riot Going On. But they're also huge fans of The Kinks and The Lovin' Spoonful and the sheer craft and loving warmth of their songwriting is there too as of course is the band's own considerable legacy. There are also moments where the trio just revel in the beauty of quiet ambient electric sound, reverberation and echo. There's an understanding of the sheer beauty of Jazz here too, very unusual considering the circles they mix in. In many ways they were always the most sensitive band of their generation. They would have made great beatniks.
You can watch them playing songs from the new record in the clip above in a gig curated by Pitchfork. Its a concert that really underlines the small homey charm of the band, something they've never allowed themselves to lose. Leader Ira Kaplan still dresses in the definitive Jonathan Richman uniform, hooped shirts, jeans, trainers. The band still play as if they're in their front room.
The fact that the album is called There's A Riot Going On, (a steal from Sly Stone's crowning moment of course), while the record itself bears closer resemblance to the Sea of Tranquility than a riot is no accident of course. There's an enormous storm going on out there in the world at the minute of course. Yo La Tengo's response is a smart one. Acknowledgement with the naming of the record, but otherwise a retreat to the beauty within. Altogether a splendid album and gift.
Mining a not dissimilar seam to fleet Foxes, War on Drugs and Bon Iver but more interesting to me because of the constant electrical crackle in its mix, Akinetic is the third album from Chicago-based musician and multi-instrumentalist Erik Hall, working under the moniker In Tall Buildings.
Taking his moniker I imagine from John Harford's timeless song In Tall Buildings, and fittingly recorded away from those buildings of corporate nine to five which it speaks of, at his home, Akinetic is some achievement, a set of thoughtful and perfectly judged songs that hark back beyond the artists mentioned above back to their source in the early seventies. It makes a very good job of it, a contained meditative album.
Friday, March 16, 2018
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Courtney Barnett has a way of making me happy! Like no young and relatively new artist that I can think of. She's been having this effect on me since I first heard her over five years ago. I've seen her live twice in the meantime in relatively small venues in Newcastle, (where I live), and she made me very happy then. I don't expect to see her again except for in some kind of enormodome, (which I wouldn't really fancy), as she's become rather big in the meantime. And deservedly so.
She has her next album, (her second), due in May, and judging by the two pre-release tracks she's put out up to now it's going to be something really special. The latest Need a Little Time came out today and shows promising signs of a new assured maturity in her writing. Not verse / chorus but a slow and steady and build to a wondrous emotional payoff that grows on me like moss with every listen. She seems destined to be entitled to a rich slice of 2018.
What do they say about falling off a horse? It's best to get straight back on. With that in mind, as one series ends on It Starts With a Birthstone, another one begins. Thirty songs with 'moon' in the title coming up. One of the most evocative symbols we have, we're all always pining for it. Some obvious choices coming up, some less so. Starting with Fleetwood Mac and an example of their trademark sound from Tusk. No band ever made the mainstream sound so cool.
When I was in New York twenty years back, on a great trip with one of my best friends, we went to a nightclub called The English Disco. It was an odd experience, and insight into American perception of Englishness. I remember Duran Duran being played immediately after Joy Division, something that would never happen here.
In the same way there's something extremely odd about the music of Brooklyn's Nation of Language. The template for their sound is unmistakably Orchestral Manoeuveres in the Dark, including the uncool shapes that Andy McCluskey used to throw at the mic which made him an unattractive option for aspiring young hipsters who gravitated instead towards Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch.
Nevertheless, Nation of Language do this all very well. Listening to and looking at them it's as if OMD stayed forever on Factory, their original record label, and drafted in Peter Hook on bass and Peter Saville to design their record sleeves. I imagine they should have a debut album coming up soon along the pipeline.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Something frightening for Wednesday. A genuinely disquieting listen; Romance, the recently released album from Brooklyn's Oneida, a band that have been putting out records since 1997. Romance might not be the first thought that comes into your head upon listening to it as the first two tracks alone offer up full on discord and feedback of the kind not best suited for candlelit dinners, unless the two of you are wearing shades and polo necks and share a devotion for needles and White Light / White Heat.
Elsewhere, the band explore slightly more accessible territory. Third track All In Due Time, is powered by a Motorik undertow reminiscent most obviously of Faust and Can. But this is not intended as easy listening and Oneida stick to the principle that everything they do should be challenging. They certainly asked some questions of me as I listened through to Romance the other day.
As if to prove the point, track five Lay of the Land stretches to almost eleven minutes and final track Shepherd's Axe lasts more than eighteen. Whether you have the stomach to stay the course will probably depend on whether you prefer Amon Duul II or The Monkees. If you favour the former, there is much here you'll enjoy, I have to confess I struggled slightly at times.
But it's worth bracing yourself because there's also much of interest. I switched for a while from Romance to the new albums I'm fondest of right now from Nap Eyes and Whyte Horses and had to admit that they both sounded tame by comparison despite their attractions. I'm sure I'll listen far more to both over the coming months but I'm also sure I'll return to Oneida when my mood is right. Twenty years in and still plenty of fire in their belly!
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
True modern maverick. A prolific musician in his own right, but also producer of Sonic Youth, Wilco, Stereolab, Smog and Joanna Newsom among many, many others.
Just re-released. A single from American Soul Folk singer Bobby Wright which first came out in 1974. Wright, (now Abu Talib), slots right into the socially conscious music of the time, from Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone and Nina Simone. In fact Blood Of An American is eerily close to Simone in tone and feel. It's that good. Everyone Should Have It's Day, its B-Side, is another fine slice of Seventies protest.
Monday, March 12, 2018
Pioneers of The Philadelphia Sound. Produced The O'Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, The Jacksons, Teddy Pendergrass and Lou Rawls among many others.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Rough Trade Shop's recommendations are generally a useful barometer to direct you to something new and interesting. Their Record of the Week currently is Empty Words, the mammoth second album from Manchester's Whyte Horses and they're quite right to push it forward. Whyte Horses are the brainchild of Dom Thomas, also co-founder of the classic re-issue label Finder's Keepers. Empty Words is an enveloping, fascinating record and a huge step forward from their debut, 2016's Pop or Not.
This is music made by people with a better record collection then you have but also know how to use them in a genuinely innovative and fresh way, no mean feat in 2018. Tracks here melt into one another in the most sublime and impressive ways. Naive female vocals on top of a dreamlike symphonic production. Sixteen tracks long, but easily and perhaps best experienced at a single sitting. I've done so twice up to now and will be back for more.
And the man who produced Big Star's third album. In addition to The Cramps, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Alex Chilton, The Replacements and all kinds of other great stuff, in addition to his own considerable achievements as a recording artist.
Saturday, March 10, 2018
Halifax, Novia Scotia's Nap Eyes return with their third album I'm Bad Now, and it's a triumph. Both of their previous records were excellent too but here there's a sense of things falling into place and the a proper definitive statement being made here. The band draw unmistakably on the lineage of great alternative Rock and Roll. The record overflows with reminders of The Velvet Underground, Modern Lovers, Television and Pavement but I'm Bad Now does their legacy proud and is overflowing with wonderful moments of slacker epiphany.
Most of all Nap Eyes remind me in the best possibly way of the Velvets of Reed, Morrison, Yule and Tucker and the fluid brilliance of '69 Live. Lead singer Nigel Chapman plays a leading role in terms of providing a drole voice and identity to proceedings but it would be unfair not to credit the band as a unit for what is on show. A series of eleven tracks that knit together seamlessly and will thrill devotees of the proud tradition listed above. The songs are classically crafted and constantly surprise with their flowing warmth and invention. All in all a record that seems sure to offer up further rewards on each successive play. A wonderful achievement!
Producer and writer of My Boyfriend's Back, I Want Candy and Hang on Sloopy in the Sixties. Co-founder of Sire Records with Seymour Stein. In the Seventies he also worked with Blondie, The Go-Gos and Richard Hell.