One for an early superstar of the Silent Screen.
Thursday, September 19, 2019
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
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
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
'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.
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.
Sunday, September 15, 2019
Saturday, September 14, 2019
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
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.
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.
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.
Thursday, September 12, 2019
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
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.
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.
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
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.