Polish Pop song from a rather lairy looking artist named BOWNIK. Song is fine mind.
Thursday, May 31, 2018
I'm no Coldplay fan but did like A Rush of Blood to the Head when it came out in 2002. Early the following year it also provided the soundtrack to one of the most unforgettable roadtrips I ever experienced. From Katowice to Krakow and back in a day with a wonderful person. And this is the song I remember playing. Memory is such a thing!
After a quiet beginning, May became a bumper month for albums with some splendid records crowding round for attention, particularly during its last few days. Of course I had Courtney's Tell Me How You Feel to look forward and then savor. It didn't disappoint, was packed with excellent songs and lyrics, bringing back some of the simplicity that she's lost sight of on occasion on Sometimes I Sit. It was altogether very welcome and I feel fairly sure that her star will continue to ascend.
It wasn't my favourite album of the month though. New Orleans duo Lawn trumped her in that respect a couple of days back when I heard their barnstorming debut album Blood On The Tracks. Barely noticed by many others I imagine, (at least yet), it's nevertheless been taken to the heart by It Starts With a Birthstone and I'll continue to sing its praises whenever the opportunity arises over the coming months.
Apart from these two there was plenty else worthy of note. Two fine albums from another two unheralded American outfits Hussy and Cloud were quite wonderful in different ways and Eleanor Friedberger released yet another wonderful solo record. The Wooden Shjips album V, which I talk about in the Song of the Day slot today is a trip.
There were also records by artists with greater profile, Parquet Courts, Beach House and Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, all of which I listened to a number of times, liked in parts but which ultimately dipped below my expectations for them. As for Arctic Monkeys. They dropped out of my Top Ten altogether. Better luck next time boys!
Far out! San Francisco Psychedelicists Wooden Shjips take their time. Both between albums, recently released V, (yes it's their fifth), is their first since 2013's Back To The Land, and also during them. There's only one song on V shorter than five minutes, (it's the one posted here Already Gone), and that's all just as it should be.
V is probably a good record to take drugs to, though I'm not going to road-test that theory. It brings to mind the line in the Chambers Brothers timeless 1967 single Time Has Come Today, 'And my soul has been psychedelicised..' You suspect this happened long ago to Wooden Shjips.
That's not meant as a criticism. Quite the opposite. The band take most spaced out, improvisatory elements of late Sixties West Coast Rock, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Grateful Dead, Santana, fuse them with more disciplined Spacemen 3 and Spiritualised drones, and set the controls for the heart of the sun. From the get go, you feel as if you're in very safe hands. There's not much variety on here, and you may take some time to tell individual tracks apart, but that's very much the point. the band have trimmed back the more punky aspects of their sound from previous records and gone for full beatitude mode without ever losing their distinctive sound, it's quite clear who this is. And I'd say the whole exercise has been highly successful.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
This is surely destined to be one of my favourite records of the year. Blood On The Tracks, the debut album from New Orleans duo Lawn released a couple of weeks back. I'm sorry that I can only post one track here, opener 2000 Boy, because given a chance I assure you I'd post the whole damned thing.
It's full of instant pop inspiration and small moments of genius. Taking The Kinks as a starting point, then leaping forward fifteen years to bands like Wire, Gang of Four, Pylon, Minutemen, The Clean and The Bats, on from there to Fugazi and Deerhunter and fast forward to the present to like-minded contemporaries Hoops, Warehouse and Omni.
But Lawn deserve a lawn or even perhaps a small field all to themselves because Blood On The Tracks is a remarkably accomplished record. Nothing to do with the Dylan classic as far as I can tell. Lawn's, two partners Mac Folger and Rui De Magalahes trade songs back and forth and the mood shifts magically from track to track. Each song wrestles to tear your love away from the last. It's melodic, concise, considered and cool, reminiscent of things you love but carving its own space in the scheme of things. And that's no mean feat!
Twelve songs of restless vigour and invention, just like my favourite album of all, R.E.M's Murmur which changed my life way back in 1983, Lawn's Blood On The Tracks deserves a sizeable, appreciative audience because it's an altogether wonderful statement. Discover its glorious thirty eight minute burst for yourselves and I hope to return to it in my end of year Album List, be able to post more from it for you, and where it seems utterly sure to figure very high in the Top Ten.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Monday, May 28, 2018
Mazzy Star, who have had an intermittent career of almost thirty years now of putting out special, resonant collections of songs, have a new four track EP out shortly. Fittingly, it's called Still, as good a description of what they do as any, and here's the lead off track, Quiet, The Winter Harbor and its wonderful. Absolute grace under no pressure!
Sunday, May 27, 2018
One for James the barman who has romantic tastes. He likes The Carpenters, Nat King Cole, Roger Miller and Dionne among other things. Good for him!
There's a good reason why critics darlings bands are critics darlings bands. Because if the public don't notice how good something is someone has to be there to tell the tale and it might as well be those who write about music for a living. So for Big Star and The Go Betweens before them now we have Cincinnati band Wussy and their new album, (their seventh in all), What Heaven Is Like, just out, a record of blazing, ragged glory that Neil himself might appreciate.
Fronted by Lisa Walker and Chuck Cleaver Wussy are a band in the line of X, Madder Rose and Houndstooth all wailing guitars and keening vocals, the sound of the road, the prairies, late night neon lit bars, cigarettes, plaid shirts, beers and bourbon. You paint your own picture. Walker's evocative voice gives them another dimension, she has something of the trembling quality of Kristen Hersh and as a result the songs here achieve something of the haunted strangeness of that wonderful, first Throwing Muses album.
Remarkably the band still has nine to five jobs to manage the trajectory of Wussy around. This is remarkable and remarkably wrong. They're currently in the middle of a short tour of small UK venues and I envy those who are getting to see them because sadly they're not coming anywhere close to me. What Heaven Is Like is a thing of wonder. Stalwart critic Robert Christgau has called them the best band in America and it's clear to see where he's coming from. I've struggled with the new Arctic Monkeys album over the last couple of weeks, a record that has neither melodies nor choruses, (and seems strangely proud of the lack of either), but I think I'll stop struggling. Wussy answer all my immediate needs.
Saturday, May 26, 2018
Cloud was until recently an untaken name in the rapidly diminishing set of choices for band and artists sixty years down the line of Rock and Roll. Now it's been taken. By a young New Yorker named Tyler Taormina, (sometimes joined by co-vocalist Marie Ebacher), who's just released his third and probably last album under the Cloud moniker Plays With Fire.
It all sounds rather like Galaxie 500. Coming to this conclusion is inevitable as you immerse yourself in the record but that's not a criticism by any means. I very much like Galaxie 500 and Plays With Fire is utterly faithful to their spectral qualities. The record is layered with melody and soft texture and comes on to the listener like the best kind of dream.
Other comparison points are also almost as automatic as the Galaxie 500 one. Velvet Underground, Spacemen 3. Low, Yo La Tengo, Mazzy Star, Red House Painters. You know, that lot! The bunch who always understood that it was sometimes more effective to whisper than to scream. That sometimes it's time to dim the lights and just listen.
You get the feeling that the heroine from Juno would probably love the record. It conforms utterly to the sensibilities of innocent but principled and knowing youth laid out in that film. But the fact that Plays With Fire is inescapably reminiscent of other glorious things doesn't for a moment diminish its own glory. And that of course is down to the quality of the songs. Because here is a set of songs as good as any you are likely to hear this year.
So listening to it at work yesterday made me happy. And not just because it was Friday afternoon ahead of a Bank Holiday weekend. But because Plays With Fire is really some achievement. One that I'll be coming back to again and again over the coming months. If it is the last album to be released under the Cloud banner then this is some way to go!
Friday, May 25, 2018
My feelings about Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks' new album Sparkle Hard are pretty similar to my feelings about Malkmus output over the last almost thirty years. What I like, I like very much and what I don't, well I don't! Where Malkmus has a winning way I'd say is with a wistful melody a neat but probably largely meaningless lyric and a gently loping tune that maintains momentum, so whereas I'm more than happy with Here, Gold Soundz, Folk Jam, Cut Your Hair, Shady Lane and Date w/ IKEA, I have little time for Stereo, We Dance, Rattled By The Rush, Grounded or Conduit For Sale where he wanders wilfully into absolute wilderness. Just because he can. My reading of Sparkle Hard conforms very much to the script. Some of it's good, some of it is downright sloppy.
As virtually patron saint for the Pitchfork site and the generation it represents, Malkmus won't be worrying about what I think. He has a guaranteed constituency vote that will ensure he gets re-elected back into the Indie Pantheon just as long as he chooses to stand for re-election. For me I'd say when he tries to move me I'm moved, because I think this is the core to his songwriting gift. When he tries to show me how clever he is and impress me, I'm not impressed and sometimes get downright irritated. At least he and I are both consistent. He in terms of his records and me in terms of my reaction to them. I'd direct you to Solid Silk, Middle America, Brethren and Refute as the best moments on here and Bike Lane as the lowpoint. Not because it's a bad tune but because it's when Malkmus decides to make political comment on the death of Freddy Gray an African American who died at the hands of the police in 2015. He shouldn't trespass on territory like this really. Having spent almost three decades pretending not to care this almost comes across as a case of bad taste even though I don't doubt his sincerity.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
The new Beach House record 7, (well it's their seventh album), is an easy thing to admire and respect but I'm finding it rather more difficult to love. And that's not for the want of trying. I've listened to it several times since it was released a couple of weeks ago and as seductive as its glossy surfaces seem, all sleek melodies and electronic pulses I find it somewhat difficult to warm to because try as I might I can't locate its human heart.
Electronically generated albums naturally can and should have a human heart and the human instinct. Two of the great pioneers of the form that Beach House work within, Kraftwerk and Suicide, always had that in spades. This Beach House record doesn't, certainly not to the extent that other albums of theirs have, 2016's Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars to name just two.
So while I'm still open to persuasion from 7 currently that's just about the mark I'd give it. So while they are an indisputably great band this is an accomplished record I'd say but not a particularly great one, feeling most of all like a gleaming black car, (and hey there's a song called Black Car on the record to underline the point), everything in its place sliding off an ultramodern production line. State of the art, admirable, but not particularly memorable.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Generally I have a rule for songs of my own that I put on that they shouldn't be too long in case the other punters don't like them. That's when I haven't imbibed too much and Marquee Moon, All Blues or when I'm really at my very very worst Sister Ray might go on. But yesterday I hadn't imbibed and all six minutes of this sounded just wonderful with all kinds of great studio effects on the record showing off Rosie's sound system at its very best.
This is unassuming but quite beautiful and notable stuff. Determinedly small in its scope and all the better for that. A Partner To Lean On, the recently released debut album from Trace Mountains, the indie folk project of American Dave Benton, also or formerly part of LVL Up and Double Whammy. It's all sweet guitar led rhythms, hushed ,though sometimes oddly studio treated, vocals, winding melodies and introverted thought processes.
It certainly floats my boat. Benton is an assured and gifted songwriter who pitches his tent somewhere between Sufjan and Elliot's and if either of those artists have ever touched you, (how frankly could they not have done), I'd direct you towards A Partner To Lean On.
Probably a record that will get lost in the rush as the end of the year album lists come to be written, I imagine it will feature somewhere on mine. A charming, thoughful and perfectly crafted record, that had me utterly hooked on first listening and which I'm sure to return to, often!
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
On an evening when the new Courtney Barnett and Parquet Courts albums came on the jukebox at Rosie's, (and I played plenty of them too tonight), I'm choosing this off the first Primal Scream album, Sonic Flower Groove. Ir's a fairly wretched record for the most part, but they had their notable moments in their early days, Velocity Girl, It Happens and the early John Peel sessions for example. But Sonic Flower Groove was pretty poor in most respects but this is probably where they came nearest to replicate the crystalline Byrds sound and feel they were after. And also, as a bonus, played on a Tuesday.
The always excellent Did Not Chart blog, listed to the right hand side of this page, brought my attention to this. From Richmond, Virginia and with a new album following. It's another sign, (as the writer attests), that along with Say Sue Me, Alvvays, and several other notables, the legacy of Eighties Indie jangle is alive and well!
Monday, May 21, 2018
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Recently re-issued 1970 album from Beverly Glenn-Copeland an artist now living as a trans-man. This, the opening track, has a nice soulful feel, somewhere between Tim Buckley's Folk-Jazz inflected records and what Joni was doing at round about the same time.
Saturday, May 19, 2018
And to tell the story, here's what I wrote when I saw them last Autumn:
The Wylam Brewery, across Exhibition Park, next to Newcastle University, is one of a number of new music venues that have been added to the city circuit recently. This is an indication that the live scene is flourishing here, always a good thing, and it's pleasing that alternatives are being supplied to the rather soulless Carling Academy, which for a while was the only venue to see bands like Parquet Courts who'd outgrown The Cluny and Digital Underground's Think Tank in terms of the number of punters they could attract through the front doors.
The Brewery certainly has its share of soul. Set across the lake in the heart of the park, it has rolling gardens, still functions on most nights as a brewery and micro-pub for real ale devotees and has a large, atmospheric hall where the bands play. A number of people had told me that the acoustics were not what they should be, but having been a couple of times I can scotch that rumour, and as the guy who runs the place says to me, 'Opinions are like arseholes...'.
So, to Ultimate Painting, too good a band to be supporting anybody, but it's always great to see a fully formed unit in operation before the main event. I'm reasonably sure in any case that a fair few of the audience are looking forward to catching them just as much as the headliners, a young and very friendly couple I chatted with at the beginning of the evening for example.
Ultimate Painting are a union between the principle songwriting talents from Veronica Falls and Mazes, James Hoare and Jack Cooper. They're nothing if not prolific, having recorded and released three albums in two years together from Hoare's bedroom in London of neat guitar driven pop music of the type they used to make.
Looking, and sounding like a band who Creation Records would have signed up in the eighties, all hooped shirts and fringes, they're the missing link between The Velvet Underground, (during the phase that Doug Yule was in the band), The Kinks and Rubber Soul era Beatles. Neat guitar, lyrics, harmonies and driving rhythm section, they strike me as a group that haven't got the attention and acclaim they deserve, they would have blown many of those eighties acts off the stage for example, and that comes from someone who saw a fair few of them back in the day.
In terms of sheer songwriting, Ultimate Painting knock the spots off most of their contemporaries and a fair few of more revered forbears. Dividing things between Hoare and Cooper, (I'd say Cooper just shades it in terms of songs and charisma, though with these joint operations there's no need to choose, as the fact that they've got the dual point of attack is a central part of their appeal), they're looking back to forge forward, in some ways a simple, melodic response to an age where things are far more cluttered than they need to be.
They blow me away with Central Park Blues, (to my mind their strongest), which they play midset, a song in the spirit of Courtney Barnett doing Dylan, and one that she herself would have been mighty proud of coming up with. Then on to Song for Brian Jones and finishing a set which was just too short, with Ten Street which allows scope for appropriate full on guitar freakout to close.
'We're the fabulous Parquet Courts from New York City', intones A.Savage into his mic half an hour later after the band have kicked off with Dust and Human Performance, the same one-two that sets off their album from last year. In contrast to Ultimate Painting who are all English self-depreciating diffidence and modesty in terms of their onstage demeanor, the headliners are non-stop 'attitood' from the moment they hit the stage to the moment they leave it and don't return for an encore.
They approach everything, absolutely everything, from an angle. If you like bands that go at everything from an angle, they, more than anyone currently around, are the ones for you. They've certainly got the songs to back up the swagger. Five years of intensively produced back catalogue which now allows them to pick and choose at will rather than kowtow to the demands of an audience baying for Stoned & Starving, to pick one example, (this isn't played).
Plenty from the Human Performance album is, an indication that they rate it as their best, more than a year after its initial release. As with Ultimate Painting, they divide attention and proceedings between Savage and Austin Brown left and right, with bassist and considerable presence Sean Yeaton centre-stage. This three pronged line of attack is considerably effective with drummer, A.'s brother Max providing a driving backbeat but keeping schtum between songs. He probably wouldn't be able to get a word in edgeways anyhow.
The moshpit is small but eager and mostly female, which I imagine the band would have appreciated. The banter comes thick and fast between songs, Brown and Yeaton conduct a bowing competition at one point. They are smart arse and eternally sure of themselves, 'too cool for school' as the girl at the cornershop artisan bakery, (who was also there), says to me when I stop off for my customary pain au chocolat the next morning.
They've earned a right to a certain degree of hubris. Starting off as a DIY proposition, they've come a long way in a short time and done so largely on their own terms. Tonight though I don't always find their cockiness particularly endearing, (I'm in the diffident Englishman camp with Ultimate Painting not unnaturally), I do enjoy the show, apparently the first they've ever played in an octagon-shaped hall.
Towards the end of the show Yeaton shakes himself out of the frantic shugging, frothing mode he operates in for most of the set to remark on the judgmental Santa shadows thrown onto the backwall by the onstage overhead speakers. Brown thanks us for choosing to come and see them rather than Mac DeMarco at the Carling Academy, (he's playing there this evening, it's clearly meant as a slagging), and they're gone after closer One Man, No City, where they do their Marquee Moon style burning inferno, (the comparison is inevitable). As I said, no encore, but they've done more than enough.
So two fine bands and an altogether fine night!
My journey with Parquet Courts. Here is the review I wrote about Human Performance when it came out a couple of years back which I think is a far better than their new one Wide Awake! which I've written about below. Here's why:
'Dust is everywhere. Sweep!'
I'm already deeply enamored with the new Parquet Courts album, which is just out on Rough Trade Records. To such a degree that I'll almost certainly buy myself a vinyl version fairly shortly despite going through a belt-tightening phase at the minute, because the record casts a tighter spell on me every time I listen to it.
Parquet Courts are in an interesting place right now. Their last record made it to # 55 on the American Billboard Charts. Albums by left-field alternative bands don't generally make it so far these days. This record seems sure to go further still as it's a definite stride forward, with several of the best songs they've ever recorded and the whole thing glowing with confidence.
There's an assured clockwork tick-tock efficiency about much of the album, a willingness from the band to not be content with what they've already achieved, stare at their shoes and skulk in the shadows and play for the select few. This is heartening. Of course what they're doing is by no means unprecedented, Far from it obviously, though it's no less thrilling for that. Parquet Courts are working within a finely honed alternative guitar tradition going back to 1967 and the first Velvet Underground record. You'll recognise moments from your own record collection if you come from a similar place to them. At various points I picked up Stooges, Velvets, Modern Lovers, Mission of Burma, Meat Puppets, Television, Sonic Youth, Wire and of course Pavement, an oft-stated influence, though this band are more like Pavement with a heart and devoid of that particular group's superior, entitled smirk.
On second song, the album's title track, they lift the descending melodic line of Wire's Outdoor Miner, one of the best pop infiltrations from the leftfield ever written and augment it to stunning effect to create one of my favourite things from this year. Elsewhere, they plough more familiar furrows, but flesh it all out to a greater degree than they ever have before. They're growing, like all the best bands do. They have something of a swagger about them now. On the record's longest track, One Man No City at differing points of this song their guitars invoke the spirits of first Teenage Riot and then Heroin, and they're no mere steals but testaments to a band entering their imperial phase. It's an album that seems sure to reap further rewards the more it's played. Have a listen!
'You know what they say. No-one's born to hate. We learn it somewhere along the way. Take your broken heart. Turn it into art. Can't take it with you. Can't take it with you...'
First a disclaimer. Courtney Barnett is probably my favourite contemporary artist. I feel like I know her, which is one of her great gifts. Over the last five years since I first heard Avant Gardener, she's given me an enormous amount of pleasure and no little sustenance as she's travelled from a small time indie singer songwriter and frontwoman for her band in Melbourne to a known force currently making inroads and friends and inevitably detractors wherever she's decided to go as she gains a wider audience.
And so to her second album Tell Me How you Feel out yesterday. It's a shorter record than 2015's Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit the debut which broke her big. I think it's a better one. She's certainly moved away from the narrative songs which marked that record to an inner space which tries to resolve her own evident inner discord while maintaining simplicity, sincerity and lyrical guile and dealing with the arseholes she comes across along the way as best she can. Seeking greater resonance while all the time ensuring she maintains her grace and not taking on meanness in response to the meanness she comes across. Just look at the feedback under The Guardian review of Tell Me for ample evidence of this.
It's a fine balancing act she's undertaking and on Tell Me I think she's done it. The ten tracks here are thoughtful, melodic and sweet, if troubled. She's moving on as an artist, has written several career best songs, kept what was already wonderful about her and supplemented it with greater depth and emotive power.
Nirvana is the obvious touchstone for the angrier songs here as they were from the start with Courtney and her three-piece band. On Hopefulness and I'm Not Your Mother I'm Not Your Bitch and Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self Confidence, In Utero is definitely a starting point, but the end destination is all Courtney's own. In some ways she's gone back to her early simplicity as a way of forging forward and I think that's exactly the right move.These songs don't detonate as Nirvana's later ones often did in unresolved pain, grief and rage. They stay afloat.
So while Courtney's troubled, she's still grounded in friends, family and community in a way Kurt sadly never seemed to be. She's still got a wonderful way with words, a delivery that's warm and affecting, and no little skill as a guitarist, (perhaps her least appreciated talent). These seem like ten friends to get to know and there's nothing on here I'm uneasy with or I think is a false move, the result of overthinking, something she probably was guilty of on occasion on Sometimes I Sit and Think...
The band placed the lead off single from Tell Me last night on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon as part of the album launch in New York last night. The record seems set to shift in large numbers and Courtney's star will surely ascend yet further. If she seems uneasy with this course, (who can blame her?), I'd say she's taken the right approach with Tell Me. Keep it close to home, (final track Sunday Roast well and truly drive this point home), keep it real and try to make it more real, the next step on the journey as the road broadens. It gives more than enough and keeps you wanting more.
In summary, it's a fine record that occasionally howls but maintains its manners and an uneasy smile on its face. This should be another great year for Courtney and she very much deserves it. And for my friend Darran who turned down the opportunity to see her with me in a small venue in Newcastle a few years back, she still doesn't brush her hair and is all the better for it. And she won't ever be back there again...
'Don't come with your arms swinging. Throw them around me...'
Friday, May 18, 2018
Parquet Courts are back with a new record after their longest break between their albums in their career, (though it's only been two years since Human Performance, they're a highly prolific band), and it's not an unqualified success. Wide Awake! is an angry record, angry at the anger and the violence at large in the world just now, and it's also a wordy one, dominated by A.Savage at the expense of their other songwriter Austin Brown and subsequently slightly lopsided in comparison with their other records. It has some of the best songs of their career but I don't think it's their best album.
Total Football, the opening track is typical of the approach and one of the best things on here. A comparison of the collective spirit embodied by the 1974 Dutch World Cup football team that gave name to the term, and an analogy of the old world that the band are railing against and the collective consciousness offered by the New World's youth.The comparison of the team ethos of a football team that can switch positions at will in comparison with the lone wolf American archetype embodied by an American Football team quarterback. It's a laboured metaphor, the band are and always have been 'too cool for school', but it's a good tune and funny too.
Elsewhere the record lacks coherence. As a band they've always hopped from one mood to another but Human Performance for one certainly had a greater sense of balance, which was offered by Brown's melodic nous which counterpointed Savage's barely suppressed wordy rage. The former is largely absent here. The album is produced by Danger Mouse, and his know-how certainly gives the record a polished sheen which contrasts with the band previous lo-fi feel but when they try to bring the funk they don't have the feel for black music, that's required. There have been plenty of white guitar bands who could pull this off, Talking Heads and Gang Of Four for example, but Parquet Courts are far too self-conscious to be able to follow suit. The title track verges on laughable in this respect. There's no comparison point with Pavement here, an obvious reference which plagued the band and obviously irked them greatly. But in attempting to make a brave career shift from the waters they previously occupied they've ended up muddying the waters somewhat. So while several things here add to the band's considerable back catalogue overall this seems like a somewhat missed opportunity.