Thursday, June 30, 2022
I have a feed of new music for Friday morning new record releases that I work my way through during the week that follows. It's a necessary element of what I need to do, given the slightly daft remit of what I've set myself to do here.
So yesterday, by chance I started to listen to Lavender Days the latest album from Ohio's Caamp. It's opening song Come With Me was immediately taking. Not so much a song as a permanent build, bedded on a rush of frantically strummed guitarists that never gets and never needs to get to its chorus.
The record spins, it's a nice background record. Based on harmonies and melodies that maybe a hundred bands anchor releases on a hundred times everywhere. Based in some respect on the kind of thing that bands like Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes and The Decemberists brought back into fashion. Because the themes they touch on had never gone away.
Lavender Days is not a record you need to listen to. You've heard it before and you'll hear it again. But you might like to listen to it. It touches on eternal themes. Growing older. Watching the world around you change, while much essantially remains the same.Caamp seem like a bunch of good old boys, and they've made a solid record.
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Norwalk, Connecticut's finest Goose, well I imagine their the finest Norwalk has to offer, strut a confident if fairly generic step on latest album Dripfield. It's that generic, slightly faceless, white guitar large arena sound that has been filling stadiums for over twenty years now. The goose, if you'll forgive the pun,(you probably won't) that layed Kings of Leon's Golden Egg.
It's all perfectly palatable, though it's also equally bland. Like a reasonably filling meal at an unmemorable diner. The kind of thing you might enjoy reasonable if a friend played it to you on a car trip and then forget the name of the band ten minutes after the journey ends. I realise this is a fairly damning review but too many bands are taking this option. I stopped listening after a few tracks in and put on Mild Orange's latest instead. That's my go to record of that description this year. It truly touches on the transcendent which this kind of music at its best can do too.
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
The last few year's experience has led me to develop a pretty assured confidence that I will be in the company of something I'll enjoy pretty much every time I'm in the company of a new record from a band hailing either from Australaia or New Zealand.
The musical output from both countries seems streets ahead of much of what comes from the UK nowadays. I could make a list but instead I'll focus my energies on this. Spacey Jane hail from Fremantle, which is unusual given the utter dominance of Melbourne as the prominent source of so much of Australia's almost production line fecundity over the last decade.
Their second album Here Comes Everybody is not on first play the kind of thing that would immediately appeal to my tastes. It's anthemic and voice of a generation in terms of its general sensibility and approach. Not a ilion miles away from Coldplay, U2, Snow Patrol, Stereophonics and a whole host of other arena merchants aiming at the back row of the arena rather than the front, as I generally prefer my bands to do.
But, but. The album wormed its way into me the longer I wemt to. Although I'm naturally inclined to be turned off by bands that project this kind of everyman emptiness, in the case of Here Comes Everybody I warmed to it the longer it played.
The name of the record was apparently the working title of Wilco's magnificent Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Jeff Tweedy apparently gave permission for Spacey Jane to use it, which strikes me as odd given that it wasn't an expression that was strictly his anywhere, having featured in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake.
Anyway, I'm happy to endorse Spacey Jane and their record. For some reason the album was on the receiving end of a particularly vitriolic review on the part of the Australian Guardian recently. It's possibly a reaction to the series of video's and visualisers connected with the album which strike me as a concerted record label promotion for the record. It hardly seems fair to blame the band for that. Anyway, I'm happy to endorse it. The longer the record plays, the more its humanity and warmth show through. Sure it's youthful. Slightly naive and wet behind the ears. But since when has that been a criticism.
Monday, June 27, 2022
I've very much enjoyed Glastonbury 2022 over the last few days. Not that I was there. I've never been and it's not frankly one of my great regrets or for that matter ambitions. I've only been to one great outdoor music festival and there witnessed, Magazine, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Iggy & The Stooges, Morrissey and the great British comedian Stewart Lee, in quick succession in the company of my late and still dearly missed older brother. How could you possibly beat that.
I also have a deep and quite unshiftable aversion to ever sleeping in a tent again if I can help it, after a childhood of asthmatic family holidays. Also, as a fifty six year old, I'm starting to develop an aversion to large crowds. So, sitting upstairs at my parents home with my laptop while on a short break, stage surfing on the i player was an ideal way for me to experience the return of Glastonbury after the years that we didn't have it, while the world changed.
Of course it was a highly life affirming event. Glastonbury generally is. But there was something special about the return to normality this time. Thousands of people in a huge expanse of fields doing what large groups of people should do but sadly don't always. Enjoy themselves in an inclusive, affirmative. environment. Reminders of the rather less than perfect world outside did surface occasionally this weekend, showing that this is, has been and will always be a festival with a conscience; The Ukraine, the Environment, Roe V Wade. But mostly it was an extended immersion into a vast heterogeneous ocean of music, positivity and joy..
I enjoyed an enormous amount of it. If there was something I didn't, and that particularly seemed to apply this year to the whole raft of Post Punk bands that alternative UK seems so prone to right now, I just needed to change channels.
The first thing that really appealed to me was a chance encounter with Phoebe Bridgers playing with her band in their signature skeleton outfits on Friday evening. I'm vaguely familiar with Phoebe but was unaware that she's pretty much a full on indie phenomenon. This was confirmed the following morning when she featured on the cover of the Guardian Cuture section.
I had a social media discussion with Rod Waterman, one of the great music friends and really just great friends of my lifetime about Phoebe over the weekend. He didn't really appreciate her glum and slightly mannered approach. Having read the Guardian interview I'm possibly in agreement. I won't bother too much with the whole package. But I did enjoy the show, the high tech, (certainly for an 'Indie' act) presentation of it and her own not inconsiderate charisma and I'll pay more attention to what she puts out from now on.
Elsewhere on Friday I enjoyed Rufus Wainwright. The incredible skill of the construction and delivery of his songs is still a thing of wonder, even if he doesn't generate quite the attention and appreciation he deseves these days. Greentea Peng, who was responsible for the album I still treasure most from 2021 was also good value for money. I didn't watch Little Simz though I'm aware she's a huge, huge talent, for reasons I'll return to later on in this piece.
Jesus & Mary Chain bored me slightly after a couple of tracks and I switched over. I didn't even bother with Primal Scream after watching their opening song with Bobby Gillespie stumbling across the stage to Swastika Eyes, wearing a crumpled Screamadelica suit that it looked like he'd been sleeping in for three weeks. It's over thirty five years since both bands first emerged now, claiming most of all to be very, very Punk. I prefer to remember them the way they were rather than watch them now.
St. Vincent seemed alright though I'm still not much of a fan of her records where she seems to me to be trying, much, much too hard. But she gave good set. Didn't watch it all. So on balance, Phoebe Bridgers won my Friday night. Didn't watch Billie. On to Saturday.
Haim was one of the things I enjoyed most on Saturday. I've been vaguely aware of them over the years without ever giving them my undivided attention but they played an excellent late afternoon set at just the point of the day when you'd appreciate them most if Fleetwood Mac weren't available or else too expensive or just too plain old to play instead.
Haim fitted the bill anyhow. They sashayed across the stage in their knickers for quite a while which was nice for the middle aged men in the audience, put on a slick show with plenty of amusing Valley Girl banter that managed to bridge the gap between utterly rehearsed, highly spontaneous and slightly, but not unacceptably risque. They were a drop of pure Californian Sunshine.
Elsewhere, the British Post Punk bands of the moment stalked various stages. Dry Cleaning, IDLES, Squid and Black Midi. Of the four, only IDLES won me over, mainly because they played a damned good set that allowed their audience to hurl themselves into each other for quite a while to their hearts content with great relish and vigour. Angry I suppose. But most of all great fun. You need a good share of both to pull this off.
Dry Cleaning were more puzzling and far more mannered. I still don't really get them though I like their angular, abrasive but also highly melodic mesh of guitar sounds. These come from tattoed, muscled and bearded Tom Dowse. He also supplies a good half of Dry Cleaning's stage act. Gurning, preening and throwing shapes, he's good value for money both in terms of the way he plays and the way he acts.
The other half of the Dry Cleaning live package is singer Florence Shaw and she's altogether more problematic than Dowse. She looks like an Alice in Wonderland in her early Thirties. Forgive me Florence if I've piled on a few years which you haven't actually experiemced. She and Dowse met at the Royal College of Art in round about 2010.
They're clearly an Art project but here comes the issue with Shaw and Dry Cleaning. She doesn't sing. Almost nothing that she does could really be describes as singing. She barely breaks into a sweat. Instead she favours a monotone sprechgesang Post Modernism stream of nonsense approach which leads to her delivery being an odd and mostly incoherent marriage of Grace Jones and John Cooper Clarke's sensibilities. It's often just as odd as that sounds. This by definition limits the band's appeal and unless they find a second string to their bow, and fairly soon, they strike me as a one trick pony and it's not even the greatest trick in the first place.
Still, I preferred Dry Cleaning utterly, to either Squid or Black Midi. The former's main calling card seems to be a singing drummer and a rhythmic line of attack that most obviously brings Can to mind. Unfortunately when the drummer sings he appears to favour a comedy voice that reminds you of the most annoying stand up comedian you've ever had the misfortune to witness. I'll leave it there. They're exceptionally irritating and I do hope they don't thrive because I'd rather take an aspirin.
Black Midi if possible are even worse. They're just show offs. They attended and formed at the BRIT School and are the very definition of pretension.. They seem collectively to own a hell of a lot of unlistenable Free Jazz records. If you're going to listen to Jazz, you're well advised to listen to the countless fabulous and highly enjoyable Jazz records recorded and released down the years and not to the ones which Black Midi own and clearly venerate. They also seem to have the most annoying set of onstage mannerisms I've ever seen in my life. They're truly a waste of electricity and everything else about them is pretty poor too.
The set I enjoyed most on Saturday were Big Thief. They've been a band I've loved for a few years now and it's gratifying to see them getting some critical and commercial recognition recently. They're a band apart. They're not quite like anyone else and what struck me, watching their Saturday evening set was that they were the only artists who played Glastonbury all weekend who could have slotted into the original Woodstock bill, without so much as raising an eyebrow.
They have a lot of that Hippie earnestness, (they're first and foremost Hippies). That idea that it's their god given mission to change the world for the better. They played as if in a trance. Often turned in a circle and playing for and to each other, which is always the sign of a band worth listening to. Lead singer Adrienne Lenker was obviously exceptionally nervous. It was probably the biggest gig and biggest challenge of their career. Lenker limited her interaction with the audience mostly to a few shakey Thank Yous at the end of some songs. I thought they played a blinder, though I'd imagine that a lot of the vast audience at Glastonbury were unconvinced and possibly slightly bemiused or else bored.
On to Sunday. I didn't watch Sir Macca McCartney's headline spot, though I will catch up during the week. Now Sunday was always going to be largely about one artist for me. Courtney Barnett, who headlined her stage late in the evening, I wouldn't make any great claims as to where Courtney stands in the grand scheme of things. She's churned out a reliable set of melodic, thoughtful and occasionally quite rocky songs in the tradition of Nirvana, The Lemonheads and The Velvet Underground over the years. She's a safe pair of hands. She's never put out a bad record over the course of a decade and has been responsible for several very, very good ones.
The difference with Courtney is that I love her. In a way I've probably never loved a musician before. I love her in the way you love a really good friend I hasten to add. She's humane. She's kind. She's very intelligent. She's talented but doesn't show off about it. She's funny. She's good looking. What more could you want in a good friend.
Last night her performance was slightly perfunctory and certainly not flashy or attention seeking really.. I've seen her a few times and she's been much better than this every time I've seen her though it might have seemed different if I'd actually been there. Her set was pretty much of a run through of her Greatest Hits going back to early stand outs like Avant Gardener, Out of the Woodwork and History Eraser. I like her loyalty to these classics. It shows she knows they're part of her story. I also like her loyalty to Bones Sloane and Dave Mudie, the two musicians she's played with for almost all of her solo career. It's an indication that she has integrity and would be the priceless friend I imagine her to be should I ever actually become friends with her which I probably won't.
So Courtney didn't disappoint. I knew she wouldn't really. Elsewhere on Sunday, Jarvis Cocker put on a characteristically Jarvis Cocker performance, demonstrating English eccentricity as well as you could want anyone to do. English Post Punk bands meanwhile were rather thin on the ground. Cate Le Bon was terrific as usual. Decked out in a rather fetching Medieval chain mail outfit ad helmet which she returned to the stage in a few hours later towards the end of CB's set for a thrilling guitar duel. With Courtney of course. It was an elaborately staged draw and then they hugged. Nice moment.
Herbie Hancock was great. Suzanne Vega showed up on the BBC feed, to play and sing Marlene on the Wall, one of my very favourite songs of all. Amyl & The Sniffers showed that there's nothing quite as enjoyable as a loud, rude, unapologetic and sweary Australian Punk band. I didn't watch headliner Kendrick Lamar just as I hadn't watched the headliners for the previous nights, Billie Eilish and Sir Macca McCartney. This says more about me than it does about any of them. The bands that I like most rarely top the bill on the main stages of festivals. This blog after all is named after a line in a Go Betweens song. I'll catch up with them all later in the week. Lamar's performance was apparently outstanding but as with Little Simz I wasn't in the mood for righteous, loud Hip Hop this weekend.
Anyway Glastonbury 2022 was altogether rather wonderful and highly memorable. It did what Glastonbury does better than almost anything else and more. Most of the key performances will be on the BBC i player for a couple of weeks. Make sure you don't miss them. Meanwhile, my enjoyment of just how good it was, certainly isn't over.
A new journey with Bob Stanley. This time in the company of Jason Wood. Bothe realise that Europe was really quite a strange place in the Seventies.
After the reminder given, if one were needed, by a wondrous Glastonbury, that this music thing is a truly global endeavour, this is a great new record to chance upon, to drive the point home which I've been very much enjoying over the last few days..
There's a long article in the current Uncut Magazine focussing on the young Brazilian musician Sessa. He's worth extended attention, as he seems to encapsulate everything that makes the traditions, both musical and cultural, of this country so magical.
New album,Estrela Acesa encapsulates the almost aquatic, submarine quality of the best of that tradition. Sessa is clearly versed in the Brazilian canon; Tom Jobin, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa. But he infuses fresh wonder all of his own.
A beautifully crafted remembrance that sometimes you need to make the time. Relax and float downstream.
Sunday, June 26, 2022
Saturday, June 25, 2022
The opening track on Regina Spektor's new album Home, before & after, sum up her and her appeal and charms, better possibly than any track she's ever put out.
Becoming All Alone, comes with a disclaimer. It is cute. Extremely cute. It finds Spektor having a conversation with God walking home one New York morning. He invites her for a beer and they discuss what this life thing is all about and why things can seem so ridiculously unfair. That's what you get. This is Regina Spektor.
Well Spektor is cute but also fiendishly ambitious. It'is something that you have to accept and embrace about her. This is as much West End Musical as it is Pop or Rock record. She was always a talent apart.
I don't have problems with any of this. Since I discovered her a few years back, she's become one of my favourite living artists. But she's probably not for everyone. You have to have a sense of wonder and a special place in your heart for childhood to really have your head fully turned by her.
Emerging with the wave of wonderful talent that exploded so unexpectedly with The Strokes at the turn of the millenium she has ripened and matured since, an astonishing, classically trained talent sat at her piano at the side of stage, one part Carole King, one part Disney or Pixar heroine.
Home, before & after rather overplays the cute card. I don't like it quite as much as 2016's Remember Us To Life, the astonishing record that really made me truly fall in love with her.
She's a little too much ingenue here. She flutters her eyelids one too many times. Nevertheelss it also contains some of her very best songs. It's still a good record, Spektor is such a good artist that I'd say she's incapable of making a totally bad LP. But I have to say I'm slightly disappointed with some of this..
Despite a few quite spectacular tracks here, there's just a bit too much saccharine elsewhere for my taste. I'll play it some more and am hopening it will win me over. But I'll probaly return to Remember Us To Life as my go to Spektor.
Martin Courtney, also of Real Estate, releases his second solo album, which should appeal to anyone who has ever enjoyed the sound of guitars that jangle.
This is hardly earth shattering news for anyone who has ever listened to a record that Courtney has been involved with before. This is what he's like. This is what he does.
This is a sound that most obviously goes back to The early Byrds and the bands they immediately inspired. Then, in Courtney's case, to the Eighties and Nineties, Felt, Ride, The Clientele, bleached out Belle & Sebastian.
This is slightly characterless. Courtney's records often are. The vocals and actual lyrics are somewhere back in the mix, not the main priority, which is the shimmering haze of the guitar sound.
I sometimes find this slightly frustrating about Courtney, Real Estate, Beach Fossils and the whole raft of American guitar bands that showed up around ten years ago and defined a new / old sound.
This record says precious little but sounds nice if this is your thing. It's partially my thing but as with most of Courtney's records, I'm not entirely sure. I wish he'd say a bit more.
Friday, June 24, 2022
It's a walk down Indie Memory Lane. To the moment when the likes of NO, The Lightning Seeds and Oasis begab to corall all of the slightly wistless meanderings of The Railway Childre, House of Love and Sarah Records and turned them into a chart prospect.
Labelled Throwback Indie by the ever perceptive A Pessimist is Never Disappointed site, that's exact;y what this is. It's pieced entirely together from other records. Not essential on any level really but a likeable record for anyone who likes this stuff.
Thursday, June 23, 2022
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Going through a Depeche Mode immersion and rather enjoying it. Their hearts were in the right place.. Here's their first single.
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Monday, June 20, 2022
Any album that begins with musing on Les Chantes de Maldoror the fabled prose poem by The Compte De Lautreamont must have something for me. I love that pretentious nonsense.
New York's Wild Arrows Loving The Void, is not a particularly easy album to listen to. It's one of those claustrophobic, arty Post Punk albums that was in vogue in the early Eighties.
To be admired for its ambition but I won't go back to it. I was struggling for air by the fourth track. Fans of This Heat, Pop Group and 23 Skidoo might find more succour here than I did.