Not entirely sure why Flower Crown have this reaction to John Cusack.
Sunday, June 30, 2019
I was in Izmir, Turkey for a few weeks twenty five years ago for a job which didn't work out for one reason or another. It wasn't for me anyhow so that's probably a good thing. But one good memory is being in a taxi in the heat if midsummer with this song blaring out full volume.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Cara Beth Satalino, (who essentially is Outer Spaces), is back with Gazing Globe, her second album. An Athens, Georgia based artist, her work is thoughtful and melodic, pitched somewhere between mid-period R.E.M. and Stevie Nicks fronted Fleetwood Mac and the record is an altogether snug, easy alternative ride.
The essence of what this is about is neatly contained in the two opening tracks I See Your Face and The Truck. If you're not convinced then that you want to stay aboard for the rest of the trip after these then you probably won't be.
Gazing Globe is not always intent on quickening the pulse although it has moments when it does. Mostly this is crafted, elegant, finely tuned stuff. Not an album to shift the world off its axis, but if we were to listen to the kind of music that the likes of Trotsky advocated all the time we'd end up with more than a few headaches. Gazing Globe is something a good doctor would prescribe for the moments that you've got one.
Friday, June 28, 2019
Jane Weaver has put out two of the best albums of recent years in The Silver Globe and Modern Kosmology. Now she's back with a slightly novel concept. Loops in the Secret Society is a 're-imagined journey through these records. As an idea I wasn't sure about it when I first heard of it, but of course it's a great album too.
I won't write about it at length as a friend of mine has already written a definitive review here. Enough to say that Weaver is a quite particular talent and whatever she chooses to do next should be well worth hearing.
A snapshot from the early Eighties UK Pop scene from one who lived through it. JoBoxers, probably all but forgotten, except for those who were actually in JoBoxers or for whom they were the band. And the world is sufficiently diverse and nuanced that there surely must be some who fall into the latter category.
JoBoxers time in the sun lasted for a few seasons and three singles and an album really. 1983 was the year and music here was shifting from Punk and New Wave to sounds of a more Thatcherite hue. The band were made up of Subway Sect cohorts who had tired of Vic Godard's inability to get his act together and get into the actual charts.
In order to help them do so, they recruited American singer Dig Wayne who changed his name to Buzz and together they churned out three hit singles and an album over the course of the calendar year. They all still sound good to me.
Essentially their sound was an amalgam of Kevin, Vic and Paul. Rowland, Godard and Weller. Oh and Sixties Soul of course. The Early Eighties had a musical seam that was very much in thrall to this kind of thing. JoBoxers had clearly seen On the Waterfront, (the look, the song Johnny Friendly, open and shut case frankly), but it had been a good enough image and sound for Dexys Mk 1 another admitted inspiration.
And it all had sufficient legs to get JoBoxers two Top Ten hits, a further Top Forty one and a Smash Hits cover during the year. It also saw them into the US Top Forty with Just Got Lucky their best song. When 1983 was over so were they essentially but they carried on until '85 before giving up the ghost.
I'm listening to their debut album Like Gangbusters now, and it's good. Full of the jaunty blue eyed soul, R&B and a tinge of Jazz, with roving funky bass that was characteristic of a lot of the best contemporary radio pop music of the time. The band are having a ball and are better musicians than they might have appeared to be on the surface.
So what is remembered of JoBoxers now. Very little probably. They are a throwaway repeated line in a Stewart Lee comedy sketch. Their one song on Spotify, Just Got Lucky, is only there because it features on the 40 Year Old Virgin soundtrack. Judging by Like Gangbusters they deserve more.
They're precise and sleek and never commit the sins of self indulgence that was characteristic of so many of those with similar record collections throughout the Eighties. They're never Blue Rondo, Curiosity Killed the Cat or Then Jericho. As for Thompson Twins, frankly they blow them out of the water. I'll be keeping an eye out for second hand copies of this in charity shops from now on,
Thursday, June 27, 2019
Australia really seems to be the place to be at this moment in time. More great bands than you can shake a stick at, apparently having the absolute time of their lives. Melbourne's Cool Sounds are just the latest to take my fancy. A couple of albums down the line and with this neat sparkling three and a half minutes that locates the soft spot between Flying Nun and Haight Ashbury, I imagine ahead of another LP.
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Pretty much everything put out on the small but perfectly formed Gare Du Nord record label is worth a listen. Such is definitely the case with Melo Disko the debut album from pianist and composer Rose Chan and DJ Mimmi Xu. Together Carnet De Voyage.
Altogether, as befitting their name and the name of their record label, it's very French. Resembling nothing so much as a movie soundtrack from the Seventies to a Gallic arthouse flick, it sets off with Black Mole, a scene-setting instrumental before really kicking into gear with Radio Shack which on first hearing seemed destined to be one of my tracks of the year.
As good as a long lost Gainsbourg classic with breathy, intoned vocals, it's everything you've ever wanted from French pop music and I wondered upon first hearing it whether anything on the rest of the record could ever hope to match it.
Nothing quite does, though Streets gives it a good shot.The rest of the record is all atmosphere and ticks along nicely without quickening the pulse quite the way Radio Shack had. Still, another fine addition to the Gare Du Nord catalogue.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
I got to know Anton Barbeau's new album Berliner Grotesk at a single sitting, almost without realising it early the other morning. It's a highly listenable record that slots impeccably within a particular tradition. That of Brecht and Weil, Brel, Gainsbourg, Scott Walker, Bowie, Eno, Cave, Hitchcock and Haines.
Arch, bordering on camp, Barbeau adopts a persona from the opening note and maintains it for the course of the record. It's a 'seen it all, done it all' fin de siecle pout, though it's all good spirited, never plunging towards darkness as Cave and Walker do, and you get the sense his tongue is very firmly in his cheek throughout.
Barbeau is from Sacramento, California, though you wouldn't know it. Like Walker, the tone he takes is resolutely European and he pulls off the conceit with considerable elan. The eleven vignettes on Berliner Grotesk pass by in the blink of the eye. This is defiantly cult stuff, for those with particular tastes and Barbeau caters for them impeccably.
Monday, June 24, 2019
Madonna, implausibly but equally inevitably, still making headlines in 2019. Performing at the Eurovision to much criticism and a divided audience reaction, though the general consensus was that she wasn't much good, and now a 14th studio album and a new round of interviews and front covers.
Madame X sounds pretty good to me. Madonna, now living in Lisbon always had a good ear for a beat and a hook. It seems she's been revitalised by her new surroundings. Understanding the essential empty void at the heart of modern dance culture, she still knows how to throw the right shapes and make enormous and empty gestures that will thrill the masses and fill the dancefloor.
The lyrics of global reconciliation on here will annoy many as if all we need is Madonna to heal our increasingly ruptured planet. But she's always had an eye for an opportunity and never given a fig about what others think of her. The first interesting thing I've heard that she's made for many years.
P.S. Meanwhile Uncut Magazine hates and trashes it in their review. What do I know about anything after all?
Patio are a three-piece band from Brooklyn and here are a handful of tracks from their debut album Essentials from earlier this year. Streamlined, angular Post Punk songs done with clinical precision. Sleater Kinney definitely come into the equation. There's something incredibly tasteful about the whole exercise. Like a newly fitted porcelain bathroom.
Although the lyrics sometimes dwell on murderous thoughts, as with the largely spoken vocal. Open, (the best thing on here), you sense that it's something of an exercise and that they're really very nice people. Essentials doesn't really break out into the exceptional apart from Open but it's highly listenable and it'll be interesting to see where Patio go from here. Into the garden perhaps...
Sunday, June 23, 2019
More Titus Andronicus, this time for the Flemish master. Though there's some current debate over whether Brueghel actually painted the work in question in the song's title.
An Obelisk The sixth album from Glen Rock, New Jersey's Titus Andronicus, races from the traps utterly devoid of unnecessary trimmings. It is what it is. And what it seems to be initially is Bob Mould and Bruce Springsteen getting together to churn out some Stiff Little Fingers songs.
Appropriate really because Bob Mould is at the helm, producing the record. A blue collar protest album that slows proceedings down for a blues workout with My Body and Me and good time boogie for Hey Ma before returning to the Punk Rock template where it seems most comfortable.
The record lost me at points, then persuaded me back on board. As someone who has a lot more time for The Clash to Ted Nugent I preferred the stuff that veered towards that side of the highway. The political sloganeering throughout is clearly heartfelt but lacking in surgical precision. The world is still a bad place is the overriding message, obvious perhaps, but it's made with no lack of passion.
What An Obelisk lacks in terms of subtlety it more than makes up in spirit. A week on from my review of the latest album from Institute I'm pleased to be able to report that Punk's still not dead!
Saturday, June 22, 2019
Hot on the heels of the wonderful Boogarins album that hit the ground running a few weeks back comes this. A fabulous new record called Foam from Chicago based band Divino Nino .
They're led by Camilo Medina, who grew up in Bogota, Colombia with bassist Javier Forero and then reconnected by chance when their families moved to Miami. From there they moved on to the Windy City where Divino Nino were formed as a quartet and Foam is their first long playing product.
Taking in Spanish and English lead vocals it's a delicious hybrid project. The band are obviously, most clearly informed by the music of their South American youth in addition to the American and British pop music, (Kinks, Beatles and Beach Boys are admitted touchstones), they heard once transplanted to Miami soil.
All in all it's flotation tank soundtrack stuff, the kind of thing that defies the obvious laws of gravity. Aquatic in texture and funky and poppy by turn and often both at once. In short, a joy!
Friday, June 21, 2019
Nostalgia it seems is making a comeback. Though of course it's never really been away. As the tagline on this blog from Nick Cave suggests, memory is utterly fundamental to us all. The prism through which we interact with and exist within the world.
If the point isn't clear, here comes Fruit Bats Gold Past Life to drive it home once and for all. As with similar albums of recent months, Weyes Blood's magnificent Titanic Rising and Drugdealer's slightly more workaday Raw Honey, it inhabits the early Seventies, almost suggesting it to be a lost golden age.
Which it's not of course. But for the duration of Gold Past Life Eric D. Johnson, (ostensibly the man behind the project) makes the illusion last. In order to do so he most obviously owes a huge debt to Harry Nilsson without whom it's difficult to imagine the album existing at all. The man's yearning, wistful spirit leaves fingerprints all over the scene of the crime.
Nilsson himself of course was also a shameless nostalgist. Johnson honours his memory. Most importantly, some of the songs on here are very good. So while never hitting the heights of Titanic Rising, Gold Past Life is a half hour well spent. Whether memories are made of this may be quite another question, but I like it, and if pressed would give it seven.
In 2017 Sydney, Australia band Sachet (who emerged from the ashes of Day Ravies), released a fabulous but very low profile album called Portion Control. Now they're back with a new single called Nets which at least made it onto YouTube and it heralds another LP in September. It's just great anyhow. Busy, tuneful guitar sounds and sweet harmonies that kind of invite the label Post Punk but are definitely on the more melodic side of that equation. Not a million miles away from compatriots Terry, The Stroppies and Parsnip. Fine, fine band.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Big evening for one reason or another at Rosie's. I played this from the second album by the 13th Floor Elevators which I think is generally better than their first.
One of the most interesting Hip Hop albums I've heard for a long time, Quelle Chris Guns, (released a few months back), is a record that examines American gun culture without glorifying it for a single momemt, enough to rarify it in itself. The conclusions it comes to are pretty depressing but the music itself isn't for a moment.
Satirising the music culture that monetises this stuff, the vicious circles that drive the American car down its long highway, as well as the society and politics that perpetuate all the mindless and brutal and often quite unecessary and avoidable violence.
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Feather light guitar driven indie pop music from Spain that skirts the edges of sounds and atmospheres conjured up in the past by the likes of Prefab Sprout, The Railway Children and The Shins.
Luz y Delirios is Senalada's third album in all. They have a nice way of melody and momentum about them.
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Monday, June 17, 2019
Satis Factory the second album from the Atlanta singer-songwriter Mattiel and her band. A weak joke but a strong record. She made some waves with her eponymous debut a couple of years back and this consolidates things nicely.
Essentially their schtick seems to be that they're a Nuggets Garage Rock band with Loretta Lynn with a modern sensibility at the mic. Because Mattiel has no mean set of lungs on her and no lack of personality to back them up.
This is no mere period exercise though I have little doubt that Mattiel and her compadres have wonderful record collections. All in all, this certainly sounds like a 2019 record. It has a contemporary sheen.
Coming out on a Friday in June which also boasted new records from Springsteen, Madonna and Bill Callahan among other notables this might be one that might be in danger of disappearing back into the pack but it's a far worthier record than that.
Over the course of the album the early Velvets and The Girl Group Sound all make welcome appearances. The record made my smile wider as each track succeeded the last. Perhaps a couple of fillers stop it being as good as it might be but very few of the original Garage Bands produced absolutely classic albums. This will more than do for now. Currently working with Heavenly Records in Europe which should help them broaden their public profile further. Another fine record comes down the pike.
Sunday, June 16, 2019
Brooklyn's Jeanines kick off their eponymous debut album, released on Friday on Slumberland Records, as if they can't decide which Housemartins riff they want to play, Happy Hour or Sheep. Then the female vocalist cuts in and they locate themselves utterly. As C-86, Sarah Records revivalists.
From this point onwards, they never deviate once from that script. Remarkably, there are sixteen tracks in all here but the whole album lasts just twenty six minutes. Perhaps they could have given The Ramones lessons in brevity.
Anyhow, this is certainly a model lesson of sorts. In knowing what you like and doing it, obviously leaning on your record collection, they're clearly Indie completists, but doing it with sufficient vim, vigour and sheer melodic nous to make a record with sufficient qualities to deserve to nestle in record collections, rubbing sleeves with those of your heroes.
Essentially a duo. Jeanines will make many new friends with this album. From people who know all too well where they're coming from but like where they've gone. Jeanines, far from the most original album released this year but one worthy of note anyhow.
Saturday, June 15, 2019
Bill Callahan strikes me as an artist who only seems to get better with time. While other musicians strive to stay relevant with the passing of the years, he only becomes more so. He refines and hones what he does to a point of clarity precious few others achieve or can even aspire too.
His latest album Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, just out, is his first for six years, and is quite worth the wait. In the meantime Callahan has got married, had a son, and found domestic calm, leading him to question whether he should even be creating and recording music anymore, as it no longer has the driving centrality it had previously in a career moving towards its fourth decade.
We can only be grateful that he chose to return. The record is a double, and a feast to relish, dive into and immerse yourself within at repeated sittings. Twenty songs, imbued with the vedic calm and warm, rich irony but also chiselled profundity that has come to be his modus operandi.
The songs come across almost as diary entries. Minimalist, poetic and beautifully self-aware. Opening up like beautifully judged and lovingly wrapped gifts, the perfect things to listen to late at night before surrendering to sleep.
There's a well earned and hard won contentment to the record and you can't help but feel really pleased for the man. Full of lines so perfectly judged and rendered that you want to press pause and write them down. 'I woke up on a 747. Flying through some stock footage of heaven.' To quote just one. He makes it all seem utterly effortless when it's perfectly plain that it's anything but. Otherwise countless others would be doing it too.
Honouring the ghosts of Cohen, Reed and Buckley, Callahan has matured to the degree when the light is utterly his, despite inevitable reminders of his inspirations. Musically his arrangements skirt the borderlines between Folk and Country. Everything is slowed to Callahan's inimitable pace. Frankly it's something of a masterpiece. A book to give pride of place on your shelf and return to whenever you have need of its sustenance.
Austin Texas Thrash Punks consistently take Route One on their new album, Readjusting the Locks their third in all by my reckoning..The approach serves them fine and a mighty fine time is had by all over the course of its thirteen tracks.
The band has taken notes from plenty of old school Punks along the way. I hear Saints, Magazine, Dead Kennedys, Fugazi and The Damned bobbing up at various points. Punks not dead, apparently.
Whether or not they're really angry I couldn't tell you but there's plenty of vim and fizz in their armoury. I like the cut of their jib!
Friday, June 14, 2019
North Carolina's Jakes Xerxes Fussell doesn't play originals. Instead he unearths little known American Country and Folk songs brushes down and restores them with a true craftsman's touch. His latest album Out of Sight is an object of wonder, ten songs that you've probably never heard before, recast, varnished and held up to the light.
This time round, (it's his third album in all), Fussell is complemented by his band. Pedal steel, violin and organ flesh out the sound, each track unfolds at its own leisurely pace, like a ticking clock or a rocking chair. Fussell's voice meanwhile, somewhere in the territory between Dylan, Zevon and Robertson is the glue. Highly recommended.
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Released posthumously after Cline's death in 1963. Used in a quite inspired way by the Coen brothers in Blood Simple.
Looking back to keep moving forward. Where Future Unfolds the new album from Chicago-base improvisational artist Damon Locks and his ensemble of musicians is immediately evocative and stamped with a remarkably vivid consciousness and stark if mystical clarity. It made me think of so many of the great Black American musics and musicians of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies; of Nina Simone, John and Alice Coltrane, Aretha Franlin, Charles Mingus, Mahalia Jackson, Gil Scott Heron, The Last Poets Sun Ra, Curtis Mayfield. And so on. add your own names, I'm sure you get the idea.
It may not always sound like these artists but the record carries the unmistakable stamp of their work and takes forward the torch they first lit. It stirs together Gospel, Soul and Cosmic Jazz remarkably, (plenty of Hip Hop sensibility too), and then makes its own statement fully fluently It's as good a record to summon forth the turbulent spirit of the age we're living through as you'll hear this year. Soothing and empowering music for deeply troubled times. A strange brew but on first hearing I'd imagine one that promises to be a heady and highly addictive.
The album casts a spell of spoken word, chanted vocals and thick hypnotic musical rhythms. It's perfectly clear that this is a call to political engagement and activism. It's wonderful to see the response of these musicians, among a growing sea of voices to the reactionary wave of politics we're currently experiencing. Fight the power indeed.
This is a defiant and declamatory album. It doesn't offer easy answers but does make a stirring, celebratory and remarkable stand. I can only advise you to get with its programme.
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
I know I write about him a fair bit on here but there was something quite unique about Elliott Smith. Although you could tell that he'd listened to a fair bit to The Beatles and Big Star, he did something quite new with their inspiration. He found a way of twisting their source melodies into fresh shapes and taking the listener to a place where you could feel the emotional anguish that he was expressing. As much as any musician I can think of. Such is the gift of the true artist.
Tragically, he's no longer with us. But he has no lack of spiritual heirs. I hear artists and bands all the time and think, 'oh they've been listening to Elliott.' Such was the case yesterday when I made my way through Palehound's new record Black Friday.
Palehound is essentially a vehicle for Boston based singer-songwriter Ellen Kempner. She shares Smith's ingrained introversion, his insecurity, the conviction that the glass is general half empty but every so occasionally half full. There's plenty of wry wit here but also some essentially inadvisable but utterly human wallowing that occasionally achieves real beauty.
It doesn't all work. I'm not really interested that she's 'due for a shitty tattoo,' as she confides on Stick N Poke, but mostly she's pretty good company, like your slightly morose friend, who you realise is self-indulgent but still has the knack of expressing the slivers of acute intelligence you don't really get elsewhere. A lot of damn fine songs on here. I sense that Smith himself might approve.