Thursday, September 19, 2019

Songs About People # 951 Myrna Loy

One for an early superstar of the Silent Screen.

Newport Jazz Festival

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 13 Justin Warfield

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 58 Dolly Parton - Coat of Many Colors

Song(s) of the Day # 2,068 Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval's latest album The Practice of Love starts quite magically with Lions, an electro-pulsed opener that invites us to take notice of the miracle of the universe around us. In terms of the way it sounds, not a million miles away from the fabulous records that Jane Weaver has been putting out over the last few years, it raises the bar high for whatever is coming next. 

Norwegian Hval hasn't really got the strongest voice in the world but it's perfectly serviceable for a really likeable record that pitches her tent somewhere between that of Weaver and Agnes Obel's in the campsite for  reflective contemporary musical existentialists.

Bolstered by guest turns from the likes of Laura Jean, Felicia Atkinson and Vivian Wang. The Practice of Love plays a confident innings. The title track, coming midway through the record, gives Laura Jean a monologue that foregrounds some of the album's main concerns, what it is to be alive, child-bearing or not child-bearing, our purpose of being on the planet and other important quandaries.

The record strides onward, confident but hardly startling, a cool way of starting the day, (at least that's how I started mine yesterday). A fine album without being an exceptional one - though it may be a grower. It would sound just great for a half hour's browse around a Rough Trade Record Shop, perhaps its natural habitat.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Songs About People # 950 Gene Cernan

The last man to step on the moon and the last of this particular mini-series within a series. I'll write about the wonderful record it comes from shortly.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 12 Monie Love

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 57 Grateful Dead Live Double

Song of the Day # 2,067 Gruff Rhys

I planned to write a review of Gruff Rhys's excellent Babelsberg last year but never got round to it. He's back already with a new album, Pang!, powered by Welsh lyrics this time which will probably mean it will gets less critical attention than Babelsberg. This is a shame, but probably matters little to Rhys who has stoically long walked his own path.

Anyhow, it's another record of note, an album of gentle reflection and idiosyncratic whimsy that slots well into the man's noteworthy catalogue, stretching back almost twenty five years now since the first emergence of Super Furry Animals. Pang!, feels like a small declaration of utopian independence. Somewhere between Folk and Krautrock. It's a splendid record. Here's the title track.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Songs About People # 949 Harrison Schmitt

The most recent living man to walk on the moon. A geologist, appropriate given the song title.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 11 Digable Planets

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 56 Gilbert O'Sullivan - Himself

Song of the Day # 2,066 Gerry Cinammon

Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Cinammon has built himself a considerable fanbase over the last couple of years on the base of a word of mouth wave. I hear his songs now all the time coming out of jukeboxes. He's just great. Here's one from his album of 2017 Erratic Cinematic.

Monday, September 16, 2019

New York Dolls

Ric Ocasek 1949 -2019

Songs About People # 948 Charles Duke

'God taught me things that I don't know. God stopped me being an asshole. God gave me strength to start loving my wife. God swept up the dust of my life.'  The opening lines of the song and pretty much the story of Charles Duke and his moon experience.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 10 Naughty by Nature

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 55 Humble Pie - Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore

Song(s) of the Day # 2,065 Those Pretty Wrongs

Jody Stephens is the only original surviving member of Big Star. This is sad but undeniably true. Hearing him sing on his latest project, Those Pretty Wrong's new album Zed For Zulu is a heartening experience. It feels, from the opening strums of the record, that Big Star are in town. This, for me at least, is a very good thing.

The album is distinctly. Big Star, a band who after all, when they put out their first album, (the instant classic # 1 Record), were already nostalgic revivalists, they yearned for the golden age of The Beatles, The Byrds and The Kinks, for lost youth. So it's a joy to report that Stephens understands perfectly the essential kernel of that elixir even all these years down the line and is able to cast a new spell, so much like the one his band did way back then, and never threaten once to put out an ELO record.

Working in partnership with Luther Russell, this truly is a golden project. Those Pretty Wrongs, named after a line in Shakespeare sonnet but sounding like a lost Sixties Garage band, stick effortlessly to their pre-prepared script. Zed For Zulu is the sound of the human heart breaking again and again and relishing the moment. Here comes the sun.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Songs About People # 946 James Irwin

Born again after his moon landing. Irwin was the first of the men on the moon to pass, with his death  in 1991.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 8 Jungle Brothers

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 53 Black Sabbath - Master of Reality

Song(s) of the Day # 2,063 Emeli Sande

In many ways quite conventional Soul and R& B stylings, albeit with modern productions values. But Sunderland born Sande has been around long enough to earn her stripes and some of the songs on display here on her latest album Real Life are really rather lovely. Others spend time in the realms of cliche but Sande has a trouper's voice pitched somewhere between Anita and Whitney.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Pixies meet NME

The NME interview mentioned below.

Pixies - Beneath The Eyrie

Listening to Black Francis and Joey Santiago's long, recent interview with NME is illustrative. They're doing a job. Over thirty years into their career they're not particularly bothered about giving any other impression. They're not on a mission. They're not here to save the world. If that's a let down to you don't bother to buy or even listen to their new album, Beneath The Eyrie, or go see them live. Because of course there are plenty of others who will be more than happy to take that opportunity. Pixies place in the scheme of things in 2019 is utterly secure. Adamantine.

Given a chance I would go see them playing live tonight like a shot. Or any other night for that matter. I can remember now, just like it was yesterday, playing Surfer Rosa for the first time at the top of the family house where I spent my late teenage years and early twenties. Hearing Bone Machine and Break My Body ripping forth like  eagles tearing up flesh. Seeing them playing live with Francis's mouth blowing up like a bullfrog. Kim hanging out with the crowd afterwards, They were the best band in the world then and they knew it. For a good five years they stalked the earth.

Now the're well into their second act. That thing which Scott Fitzgerald famously said didn't exist in American lives. In Pixies case this is definitely not so. They're getting their happy ending. Something of the John the Baptist for Nirvana's Christ back in the day, though those that saw them and luxuriated in their records knew just how damned good they were. Now the light is all theirs. Their concerts sell out in hours. I've given up hope of seeing them again in my hometown because the touts snap up everything straight off and then sell them off at exorbitant prices which I'm not willing to pay. I saw them back in the day anyhow. In 1989. That's good enough for me.

Beneath The Eyrie is also good enough for me. It's Pixies being Pixies. Accept no imitations. Because this is the real deal, (apologies). The original article. Well at least three quarters of the original article. Francis, Santiago, Lovering plus a new female bassist who is pretty much Kim Deal anyhow, plays her basslines to a 'T' , does her backing vocals, even sings a song herself on the new record the way Kim did. If a thing ain't broke don't fix it.

Because this is Pixies by numbers, Pixies by cookie cutter. Middle-Aged Pixies. The twangy, desert guitar, the mythological Post Modern take on Rock and Roll. Songs that remind you of Gigantic, songs that remind you of Wave of Mutilation. Shouldn't be a problem when they play this lot on tour. The new songs are the old songs. It's all incredibly knowing. A set of in jokes for those who loved them and will never stop loving them.  That ghostly, Sci-Fi music. If Pixies have film equivalents nowadays they're the Coen Brothers. Because their take on genre and atmosphere is just peerless. Nobody does it better. Makes you feel bad for the rest.

So if they aren't exactly ripping Rock and Roll a new one does anybody really have a right to expect them to? After all they already did that. Thirty years ago. In a way very few others ever did before or since. Pixies have every right to enjoy their extended stage call. Their place in the sun. If they treat it all like a nine to five then frankly we can only be grateful that they're still clocking on.

Songs About People # 945 David Scott

Stayed on the moon for three days with James Irwin in 1971. 

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 7 KMD

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 52 Isaac Hayes - Shaft

Song(s) of the Day # 2,062 Merival

Belated recognition of a record that I took to on its release a few months back. Lesson the debut album from Torontian singer-songwriter Merival, much championed by the Balloon Net website.

It's a sparse, elegant affair that speaks of wisdom beyond her years. Anna Horvath, (for she is Merival), crafts a series of minimal, touching tracks that leave an imprint on the listener's consciousness long after they are gone.

'One of the things I wanted to know was if every spot on earth that someone had walked on became visible, say, bright orange, would there be any spots that weren't. How many? How big? Where?'

Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire. Lesson ponders the imponderable, not coming to any easy conclusions but having great fun not doing so.

It's a graceful and at times weightless album that locates the soft spot between Mary Margaret O'Hara, Jesca Hoop and Hugo Largo if that comparison point makes any sense. An album to be grateful for and an n artist to keep an eye on.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Songs About People # 942 Alan Bean

Thoroughly relishing the opportunity that this mini-series allows me to listen to Darren Hayman's marvellous 12 Astronauts again and again. This one is for Alan Bean, who was Number Four, took to painting his space related experiences in his retirement and passed last year.

Joan Shelley - Like The River Loves The Sea

When I saw Joan Shelley's latest record, Like the River Loves The Sea on top of Rough Trade's new list of albums to listen to last week, I thought, (though probably subconsciously), 'I don't have time for a tasteful, well mannered, crafted Folk album of the old school'. Well as it turns out I definitely do, as I'm discovering on my first listen through to it.

Shelley is not remotely flashy. The songs here are completely pared to the bone. But she understands innately the essence of this strain of Pastoral Folk, in that it's rooted in the eternals, the landscape and cultural consciousness we share, the changing and passing of the seasons and our need to understand processes that we never fully can.

It's a beautiful, lean record, embroidered lightly by Shelley's calm, lilting voice, and an innate feeling and empathy for beauty and the essential verities of things. Altogether a quite lovely album.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 4 Del The Funky Homosapien

1971 - Never a Dull Moment # 49 Moody Blues - Every Good Boy Deserves Favor

Song(s) of the Day # 2,059 Dayme Orecena

A special record in every respect. Soniocardiogram, the new album from Cuban singer and musician Dayme Arocena is a powerful fusion. Going back to her Havana roots, mixing up Jazz, Rumba and Salsa.  Altogether, quite intoxicating.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Cafe Racer, Flatworms & Parsnip

Great line up and artwork. The gig is coming up in a week or so.

Songs About People # 941 Pete Conrad

12 Astronauts the new album from Darren Hayman, is an absolute gift to a series like this particular one. A wonderful record in its own right with a set of twelve songs each dedicated to a different American astronaut, the select group of men who set foot on the moon. So we'll have a few of them   over the next few days (until I get tired of posting them basically), starting with the third man who got there, Pete Conrad.

The Daisy Age (Saint Etienne Presents) # 3 Sunshine Men