Wednesday, January 22, 2020
From a fabulous compilation, brought to my attention by Michael Kiwanuka. Called Afterschool Special: The 123 of Kid's School it documents the legions of bands and singers who formed across America in the wake of The Jackson 5's emergence. Some quite wonderful stuff to discover.
Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Always great to see fab new Bobby Darin pitch up on the jukebox. What a wonderful and actually underrated performer he was.
Monday, January 20, 2020
Someone brought to general notice by inclusion on the Songs in the Key of Z compilation. This isn't the track of his on there but is my favourite of the songs by him I've heard. Maintains a strange, spooky yet coherent logic like the best of this strain of music.
Sunday, January 19, 2020
2020 really swung into gear music wise on Friday with several excellent new releases taking my fancy as I browsed during the day. Most notably perhaps, Irish singer songwriter Aoife Nessa Frances' first album, the splendidly entitled Land of no Junction. It's already received a fair bit of attention, Uncut Magazine named it their record of the month and its quite deserving to be accorded such status.
Altogether a dignified and stately record, clearly lovingly crafted and defined over a considerable period. Melodic throughout, almost baroque in tone, not a million miles from contemporaries such as Jane Weaver, Weyes Blood or Olden Yolk but most obviously indebted to Sixties melody and Nineties pioneers Stereolab, The Clientele and Broadcast, a debt which Frances was quite upfront about in the interview with Uncut which accompanied their review.
The themes the record explores are not immediately easy to ascertain as vocals are buried deep within the music. Like Weyes Blood's splendid Titanic Rising it seems to offer an escape from the tribulations of the current world into abstraction.The title of the record itself, apparently from a conversation with collaborator and co-producer Cian Nugent where Frances misheard Llandudno Junction as Land of no Junction. This basic premise gives the parties here carte blanche to explore their own realm of subconscious and dream and highly successfully too. The album is full of seductive vistas, and seems like a record you might want to return to again and again over the coming weeks and months.
So, having listened through to it a couple of times from start to finish I'd give it a fairly unqualified thumbs up. It's a sumptuous object. A coherent, accomplished and charming album to fully usher in the new year.
Saturday, January 18, 2020
Life is not an easy road. nor should it be really. But it's important that we realise its miraculous incidental moments and appreciate the fragrant beauty all around us as its seconds tick past. One of my greatest musical discoveries to help me do just this over the couple of years has been Pennsylvania band The Innocence Mission fronted by married couple Karin and Don Peris who have been putting out records which capture this sense of fractured wonder for over twenty five years now and make a welcome return now with their new album See You Tomorrow.
The record is a continuation of what they do rather than a particular refinement or new departure. This would actually be inappropriate for this particular band as they've already achieved a mastery of the form that they specialise in. The best way that I can describe it is that it seems to be apropos to standing at the window of your town apartment on a Saturday morning, regarding the daylight playing on the trees outside your window and living within the space you find yourself in. What I'm doing right now as I listen to the record as it happens.
Karin's voice is clearly one of the band's key strengths. A somewhat less quirky Joanne Newsom, she manages to convey both the magical quality of childhood and the hard won wisdom of adult experience at one and the same time. No small achievement. The musical support that Don and the rest of the band provide is consistently tender and crafted. Songs don't necessarily follow received verse, chorus patterns but achieve a structural unity of their own anyhow which almost invariably make complete sense.
The Innocence Mission don't have an enormous audience. They certainly aren't as well known as they ought to be. What they do have though is an utterly devoted following. Sufjan Stevens counts himself among this number. He calls their music: 'Moving and profound. What is so remarkable about Karen Persis' lyrics are the economy of words, concrete verbs which come to life with melody.' I'm a total convert too. See You Tomorrow is an utterly enchanting new chapter in a steadily blossoming body of work.
Iranian Pop Star who was massive before the 1979 Cultural revolution, then found his music suppressed and performances curtailed thereafter. This, his breakthrough debut single from 1973 is enough in itself to prove his merit. It sold five million copies on the domestic market and has a haunting, spectacular quality. Yaghmaei is still alive and the internal Iranian embargo on his music has loosened somewhat since 1994.
Friday, January 17, 2020
An underappreciated marvel. Re-released today. Here's what I wrote about it way back in 2014:
The introverted Stone Roses. I may be bucking a trend here but the Stone Roses could have done with a bit of introversion. A little humility. This sounds like music coming from a teenage bedroom. The Pale Saints hailed from Leeds and released a few, fine records on 4AD in the early Nineties. They received some acclaim at the time but are probably little remembered now. I posted their name on the Greatest Albums Ever website and received a blank.
I saw them with my long term musical com padre Andy at a small venue in Norwich in March 1990. The band did the best part of a hundred gigs in this year. They played with Lush who were also on 4AD. The Comforts of Madness is the band's first record and the only one I've owned and really know.
It's all introverted and wistful but the guitars and drums pound hard enough for it not to be soft. It's echoey awestruck, spacey music. Surprisingly confident given that lead singer Ian Masters seemed to spend most of his time hiding behind his fringe. The first words on the record are, 'This is the way it has to be'
'Time will get you in the end
And take away the things
The things you thought you had
Time will take away your friends
And leave you all alone
Alone until the end.'
And take away the things
The things you thought you had
Time will take away your friends
And leave you all alone
Alone until the end.'
Bleak lines cushioned by the beauty of the music. There's real ambition here for indie kids. The group's first ep was entitled Barging into the Prescence of God. It proceeds like this. The vocals are weightless. It sounds like something you might associate with hearing in a cathedral. Masters comes across like a lost choirboy sometimes. It echoes things you know. My Bloody Valentine, New Order, Stone Roses, Felt, Cocteau Twins but still has an identity all of its own. At this distance hearing it for the first time for years I find it quite compelling. It has an assured, driven, melodic intensity. It made it to Number 40 in the UK album chart. A brief moment on the edge of the spotlight for outsiders.
The band come across as well read. Bedroom plotters. There's something of Greek Myth about some of the sounds they sculpt out (sorry if that sounds posy but these are definite soundscapes and they're crafted). There's a cover of Opal's You Fell from the Sun which evokes the myth of Icarus.
The album is heading towards the band's big song The Sight of You This is I Want To Be Adored, sung and played by the dreamers in the playground.
I've enjoyed very much the day I've spent listening to and thinking about this. It has moments when it becomes a little trapped in its genre, that early Nineties guitar effects and pedal sound. But the Pale Saints were much better than many of the somewhat faceless guitar bands that were round them at the time. They had a bit of the grit of the North to set them apart. When the guitars gather and ring and chime three minutes thirty seconds into The Sight of You they have all the muscle of Television and Joy Division.
I recommend it and the band's website. A little gem.
'When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.' Jonathon Swift
And another from Biff Bang Pow! named for the bassist of The Weather Prophets who went on to join The Rockingbirds. Strictly a team player clearly as I couldn't find a photo of him alone. He's third from left, standing behind Pete Astor in this picture of The Weather Prophets.
Creation band featuring label owner Alan McGee and cohorts Dick Green and Joe Foster. Named after a song by The Creation, personal heroes of McGee's. For the most part Biff Bang Pow! churned out unremarkable jangle fodder and were strictly support band material. They did have a few stand out moments though. Like this from 1986, which has something of The Chills brittle, studied cool.
Thursday, January 16, 2020
Bobb Trimble is something of an early Christmas gift for muso trainspotter types. Obscure as you could possibly want, with a great backstory and the first time you hear one of his records, immediate recognisably quality.
Trimble, (hailing from Malborough, Massachusets) recorded the two albums which made his name in the early Eighties, the one featured here, Iron Curtain Innocence and Harvest of Dreams . You wouldn't have thought them of their time listening through to them, as they're much more reminiscent of late Sixties Psychedelia than anything remotely New Wave. There are definite traces of Bolan though possibly more Tyrannosaurus than T. Rex. Plenty of studio effects of chains rattling, maniacal laughter and witches cackling in the background to provide Madcap Laughs mood. They're fine, notable records both, by no means masterpieces but certainly deserving of the increased attention and praise they've had heaped on them over the years since they were recorded.
Trimble didn't have a record deal and released his albums back then off his own back and in miniscule quantities. He never played live outside his local vicinity, not even in Boston as he generally preferred to perform with a backing band of schoolchildren musicians meaning that most clubs were unwilling to book them. Given that the sleeve of Iron Curtain Innocence also features a slightly gormless looking Trimble brandishing a machine gun it's really no wonder he attracted little attention at the time of their release, despite the fact that the music is always interesting and he has at least one genuine classic at his disposal in One Mile From Heaven which would have done Big Star or Badfinger proud.
All these years later Trimble is a recognisable Cult success, (if this isn't a contradiction in terms), given the seal of approval from the likes of Thurston Moore and Ariel Pink sharing a record label with Anthony & the Johnsons. He certainly merits the attention as his songs have a spectral, spooky quality which rewards repeat plays and doesn't blanch in the company of those it's drawn comparisons to. Even that of Bell, Bolan and Barrett.
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
New year. New and pretty good record. Not entirely new, as Portland, Oregon's Alexandra Savior's latest The Archer draws on slightly worn tropes. Most obviously the legacy of David Lynch, who redefined a certain idea of modern, retro cool with Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks over three decades ago, mining a well which others have been relentlessly drawing on ever since.
This kind of art is hardly without precedent. Lynch certainly didn't invent it. Nor would he have claimed to have done so for a moment. Watch Hitchcock, particularly Dial M for Murder through to Marnie. Or the Bond films. Nancy Sinatra. Tarantino. Portishead or Mazzy Star. More recently Mad Men, Arctic Monkeys latest record or Lara Del Rey. Silky, stylish, self contained and self absorbed.
Savior adds nothing in particular to this cultural legacy. The Archer rather, exists entirely, almost self-consciously within it. Not that this is a criticism, this is a very classy record in many respects and certainly much welcome right now given that we're not even halfway through January. Something that'll certainly keep you warm.
The Archer's worth will ultimately be gauged on the strength of its songs. At the moment, on second listening, my own jury is still out. It certainly has a glossy surface. Whether it has liquid beds demanding exploration the coming months will tell. Gets eight for now.
Monday, January 13, 2020
For John Cazale, who was in The Godfather, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, The Deerhunter, and was gone, far too soon in 1978. Every film he was in was nominated for an Oscar Best Picture Award. I can tell you nothing about State Maps who recorded this in 2012. Except that it's great.
Played by Bonnie Greer this Sunday lunchtime on 6 Music. Then rediscovered in an empty Newcastle Arms later on the same afternoon. From Simone's album of the same name from 1978. A record she apparently was not very fond of herself but one that's full of hidden, but wonderful less known pieces from her. This, the titled track is a cover of the Randy Newman song, and seems almost reggae-fied, not a million miles from Grace Jones. Of course it also acts as a precursor for The Wire. Elsewhere she does a great version of Daryl Hall's Rich Girl and the album has countless other treats to uncover. One to track down perhaps... More about it here.
A great internet find for me over the past few days has been Humdrum Hippies, now listed on the right hand side of this page. A beautifully simple concept. A weekly Soundcloud playlist of ten or so tracks, all cherry picked to contribute to a specific vibe which differs from week to week. A treasure trove for the likes of me and a great resource for coming upon artists or songs you were unfamiliar with or have never heard before.
So this is sure to be something I'll plunder constantly over the coming months. We start with the Tall Dwarfs, who I do know as one of the core Flying Nun bands, although I'm not greatly acquainted with their work. This is a good place to start. Wonderful, ominous underground vibe from 1990's Weeville.